Sunday, April 29, 2007

Feeling forward

He says
  • "Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error and is personal."
  • "Science is a tribute to what we can know, although we are fallible."
  • "We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power."
  • "We have to touch people."

He steps into the pond of ashes, shoving his hand into the mud, touching the dead, bringing up the life that is them transmogrified, redefined, yet still lost because of drooling hate. Each life full of joys and fear and everything else gone with the gas, with the "itch" for ultimate knowledge and power.

Touching them. And he says he owes them. He owes them and us, perhaps, what? Respect? Care? Dare I say Love? No he owes them the right to live and to find their way in this world. He owes them the freedom to exists, which was denied them by people pretending to knowledge they did not have, nor ever pursued. He owes them, as we owe them, life.

Now that is humanity and that is exactly what no religion can give.

I'm still moved by this sequence. Bronowski's points apply equally as well today as they might have 38 years ago when this was filmed.

Update: Jacob Bronowski was also a poet. I had no idea. I thought he was just a mathematician and an all around brilliant human being.


  1. wow, that was amazing--I'd like to see the whole thing. I love the Cromwell line "hope from the bowels of Christ that you will remember that you might be wrong."

    In this light religion can be so amazingly anti-human, anti-knowing, anti-forgiving.

  2. While watching the clip, I was reminded of a slim book I'd picked up at a library sale some yrs ago. I was pretty sure it was by Browowski. Sure enough: The origins of knwoledge and imagination. I think I will put it in my to read summer pile.

  3. This clip is from his Ascent of Man series. They used to have it on VHS at the Salt Lake City Library. I have used this episode quite effectively in classes to talk about anything from the concept of evidence and proof to the immorality of absolutist (black & white) thinking.

  4. Oh and that is really cool you found a Bronowski book. When your done with it, I'd like to borrow it.

  5. Since my summer pile is already quite big, you are welcome to it now if you like. Lately I've been buying and finding books but not really reading them...