Galilean and Franciscan Naturalism

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Stephen Jay Gould divides the genre of popular science writing into two modes: Galilean (intellectual essays about nature’s puzzles) and Franciscan (lyrical pieces about nature’s beauties). I am divided as I am drawn toward both men and their forms : Galileo was brave and courageous with his science while St. Francis of Assisi contributed to our love of nature.

I wanted to be a scientist until the pull of social and political philosophy piqued my interest in college. I turned my attention to the legal system, hoping I could make the world a better place through legitimate means. My love of nature has roots to my young childhood, swimming with my brothers and sisters during the afternoons of our family camping trips, hiking in the Blue Mountains, later throughout the Pacific Northwest, catching and (trying to) identify local butterflies, picking wildflowers for May Day baskets to hang on neighbors’ doors, exploring the fields and streams near our house.

Today I immerse myself in nature, whether strolling through city parks, hiking a Colorado peak, climbing Mt. Whitney, or early morning runs through our neighborhood (where I am amazed at the diversity of plants and trees, a rare sighting of a black fox, mature bucks, moose, and the ubiquitous squirrels). I strive to put into words what Charles Darwin, John Muir, Stephen Jay Gould and many other naturalists seemed so easily able to do. Maybe one day I’ll be successful.

[Vogelsang Lake, Yosemite National Park, California]