Sunday, June 15, 2008

The imposition of science and reason.



I took a picture of the above little creature yesterday in my garden and posted it on a photographic forum with the title, 'Little furry friend'. A member asked, 'any idea what kind it is?' to which I replied, 'Someone suggested today it might be a Red Admiral, but I am as ignorant as the day is long about such things, only a recent country boy. I'm still in the generic stage, trees, plants, flowers, grass, a low tech yokel.' Another member responded with, ' I think what you might have here is actually a moth - Rusty Tussock Moth or Vapourer Orgyia antiqua.'

As I read these responses I discovered something about myself. I am entirely incurious about what kind of caterpillar/moth/butterfly it might be and will almost certainly not retain the information that it is a Rusty Tussock Moth and definitely not the
'Vapourer Orgyia antiqua' bit. It is not yet, as pictured, a moth of any description.

It may matter to some people, gardeners, perhaps, and scientists, to know what kind of creature this is, but that isn't why I took the picture and it isn't how I function as a person. In naming this creature and supplying other information that I have not bothered to include here, this person has distracted and, I feel, detracted, from the story the picture is telling. I took the picture because I appreciated this little creature, it's colour, the light and, indeed, the vibrant life going on in and around it and me.

I do appreciate that people have gone to a great deal of trouble to name this creature and all (as many as they have 'discovered') the creatures that fill our world, but I have to wonder what real relevance that had in this case and in this situation? Does it matter in the least to know that in this picture is a Rusty Tussock Moth, or, if it is relevant, is it not equally relevant to ask what leaf it is on? Why be curious about the moth and not the leaf? If I knew what leaf it's on I might assume that if I could spot the plant again I might find another such creature on it. But again, I have no real interest in taking another shot of such a creature, my only interest was in this one, in that moment and in the very particular situation I was in.

I feel oddly let down in all this, as if science and reason have somehow intruded once again where they should not have done without my permission and without thought or consideration. I am, in fact, offended. This is my picture and the imposition of science and reason was entirely unnecessary and unasked for.

The picture requires no more information than it contains to be the very picture it is. If the viewer is curious about what kind of creature it is or what leaf it is on, then that is entirely their business and none of mine. And there's an end to it.

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