Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for July 31st, 2016

The wandering naturalist

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Niko Tinbergen

The reward of becoming aware of the variety of life patterns comes only when one is prepared to combine concentration on one special thing with what we could call an “open interest.” Scientific examination naturally requires concentration, a narrowing of interest, and the knowledge we gained through this has meant a great deal to us. But it has become increasingly clear to me how equally valuable have been the long periods of relaxed, unspecified, uncommitted interest…Also an extremely valuable store of factual knowledge is picked up by a young naturalist during his seemingly aimless wanderings in the fields.

Nor are the preliminary, unplanned observations one does while relaxed and uncommitted without value to the strict experimental analysis. I believe strongly in the importance of natural or unplanned experiments…The difference…is one of degree mainly and this difference is often slight. In the planned experiment all one does is to keep a few more possible variables constant; but it is amazing how far one can get by critically selecting the circumstances of one’s natural experiment.

Niko Tinbergen, Curious Naturalists

Written by nevalalee

July 31, 2016 at 7:30 am

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