First follow Nature, and your judgment frame
By her just standard, which is still the same:
Unerring nature, still divinely bright,
One clear, unchanged, and universal light,
Life, force, and beauty must to all impart,
At once the source, and end, and test of art.
Cosmic evolution may teach us how the good and evil tendencies of man may have come about; but, in itself, it is incompetent to furnish any better reason why what we call good is preferable to what we call evil than we had before. Some day, I doubt not, we shall arrive at an understanding of the evolution of the aesthetic faculty; but all the understanding in the world will neither increase nor diminish the force of the intuition that this is beautiful and that is ugly.
“When I tell you that war is the foundation of all the arts, I mean also that it is the foundation of all the high virtues and faculties of men. It is very strange for me to discover this, and very dreadful, but I saw it to be quite an undeniable fact… I found, in brief, that all great nations learned their truth of word and strength of thought in war; that they were nourished in war and wasted in peace; taught by war and deceived by peace; trained by war and betrayed by peace; in a word, that they were born in war and expired in peace.”
Yeah, it’s not really science. But interesting.
For a stone, when it is examined, will be found a mountain in miniature. The fineness of Nature’s work is so great, that, into a single block, a foot or two in diameter, she can compress as many changes of form and structure, on a small scale, as she needs for her mountains on a large one; and, taking moss for forests, and grains of crystal for crags, the surface of a stone, in by far the plurality of instances, is more interesting than the surface of an ordinary hill; more fantastic in form and incomparably richer in colour—the last quality being, in fact, so noble in most stones of good birth (that is to say, fallen from the crystalline mountain ranges).
It doesn’t have to be pretty to be true. But if it’s true it’s beautiful. Truth is beautiful. And so my whole work is about what amounts to a reverence for life itself.
I heard this from an artist I follow on tumblr. Of course, he’s talking about his art, but it could equally apply to any scientist. Science is motivised by a reverence for truth and for life.
Despite this uninterrupted uniformity, life is anything but tedious owing to nature’s inexhaustible richness which, time and again, produces ever-new, beautiful and fascinating forms that provide new material to speculate and ponder over, to draw and describe. Indeed, this is just the right sort of work for me because, in addition to the scientific element, it involves artistic matters to a large degree. At the same time, I have once again completely reconciled myself to my dear science in loyalty, which shall, throughout my entire life, take the highest priority and which I had seriously begun to doubt owing to your artistic-aesthetic influences.
I heard that Haeckel became a science zealot after his wife died; that it was his love of science that held him together.