Written by Riley Black
To repeat a line from my book Written in Stone, we are creatures of time and chance. How wonderful is that? Out of all the innumerable possibilities in the history of life on Earth, a string of circumstances billions of years long transpired in such a way as to allow the origin of our species (and also accounts for the loss of all our human relatives along the way). And this unintended state of nature makes a humble bee pollinating a flower, a sunrise, the division of a cell, the jagged outline of a mountain in twilight, the petrified record of the dinosaurs, and everything else in existence all the more spectacular. (Paleontology and natural history are what I love most; we all admire different aspects of nature.) None of that was ordained to exist, and yet evolution and other ongoing natural processes have nonetheless generated phenomena which are not only beautiful, but comprehensible to us.
There is no need for the supernatural to invoke or appreciate wonder. And rather than reducing nature to equations and graphs, I truly believe that science – our ability to actually understand why bees pollinate flowers, why mountains rise, and how remnants of ancient life became locked in stone – makes the world all the more exquisite by not only giving us clues, but new questions to ask.