It is fascinating to observe that, in the very dawn of science, Bacon, the spokesman for the empirical approach to nature, shared with Shakespeare, the poet, a recognition of the creativeness that adds to nature, and that emerges from nature as “an art which nature makes.” Neither the great scholar nor the great poet had renounced the Kingdome of Fayrie. They had realized what Bergson was later to express so effectively, that life inserts a vast “indétermination into matter.” It is, in a sense, an intrusion from a realm that can never be completely subject to prophetic analysis by science. The novelties of evolution emerge; they cannot be predicted. They haunt, until their arrival, a world of unimaginable possibilities behind the living screen of events, as these last exist to the observer confined to a single point on the time scale.
Oddly enough, much of the confusion that surrounded my phrase, “a nature beyond the nature that we know,” resolves itself into pure semantics. I might have pointed out what must be obvious even to the most dedicated scientific mind: namely, that the nature which we know has been many times reinterpreted in human thinking, and that the hard, substantial matter of the nineteenth century has already vanished into a dark, bodiless void, a web of “events” in space-time. This is a realm, I venture to assert, as weird as any we have tried, in the past, to exorcise by the brave use of seeming solid words. Yet some minds exhibit an almost instinctive hostility toward the mere attempt to wonder, or to ask what lies below that microcosmic world out of which emerge the particles that compose our bodies, and that now take on this wraithlike quality.
Is there something here we fear to face, except when clothed in safely sterilized professional speech? Have we grown reluctant in this age of power to admit mystery and beauty into our thoughts, or to learn where power ceases?
Loren Elseley, “The Illusion of the Two Cultures,” The American Scholar (1964)