Dawkins is on less secure ground when he claims that "science is the poetry of reality". Poets would no doubt claim that poetry is also a portrait – sometimes of a scientific sort – of reality, since it seeks to express in precise words emotions that otherwise defy categorisation. Mathematicians often assert that certain equations or solutions are beautiful, and I believe them, even though that beauty is understandable to perhaps one person in 10,000. That is a pretty esoteric kind of poetry. I suspect this neat phrase is what Dawkins's friend Daniel Dennett recently termed a "deepity" – sounds profound but fades under closer examination. I once spent an enjoyable evening with mystics in India swapping deepities such as: "The tree has many branches, but the trunk is one … "

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A quote saved on Aug. 9, 2016.


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