Equipped with our five senses - along with telescopes and microscopes and mass spectrometers and seismographs and magnetometers and particle accelerators and detectors sensitive to the entire electromagnetic spectrum - we explore the universe around us and call the adventure science.
Edwin Powell Hubble
The gifts of microscopes to our understanding of cells and organisms is so profound that one has to ask: What are the gifts of the microscopist? Here is my opinion. The gift of the great microscopist is the ability to Think with the eyes and see with the brain. Deep revelations into the nature of living things continue to travel on beams of light.
On the recommendation of my professor in experimental physics, Paul Scherrer, I took an assistantship for electron microscopy at the Biophysics Laboratory at the University of Geneva in November 1953. This laboratory was animated by Eduard Kellenberger, and it had two prototype electron microscopes requiring much attention.
Psychedelic experience is only a glimpse of genuine mystical insight, but a glimpse which can be matured and deepened by the various ways of meditation in which drugs are no longer necessary or useful. If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen.
The foundations of population genetics were laid chiefly by mathematical deduction from basic premises contained in the works of Mendel and Morgan and their followers. Haldane, Wright, and Fisher are the pioneers of population genetics whose main research equipment was paper and ink rather than microscopes, experimental fields, Drosophila bottles, or mouse cages. Theirs is theoretical biology at its best, and it has provided a guiding light for rigorous quantitative experimentation and observation.
And before you say this is all far-fetched, just think how far the human race has come in the past ten years. If someone had told your parents, for example, that they would be able to carry their entire music library in their pocket, would they have believed it? Now we have phones that have more computing power than was used to send some of the first rockets into space. We have electron microscopes that can see individual atoms. We routinely cure diseases that only fifty years ago was fatal. and the rate of change is increasing. Today we are able to do what your parents would of dismissed as impossible and your grandparents nothing short of magical.
To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see over-all patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future. And we need freedom (or, at least, the illusion of freedom) to get beyond ourselves, whether with telescopes and microscopes and our ever-burgeoning technology, or in states of mind that allow us to travel to other worlds, to rise above our immediate surroundings. We may seek, too, a relaxing of inhibitions that makes it easier to bond with each other, or transports that make our consciousness of time and mortality easier to bear. We seek a holiday from our inner and outer restrictions, a more intense sense of the here and now, the beauty and value of the world we live in.
Ingenious philosophers tell you, perhaps, that the great work of the steam-engine is to create leisure for mankind. Do not believe them: it only creates a vacuum for eager thought to rush in. Even idleness is eager now-eager for amusement; prone to excursion-trains, art museums, periodical literature, and exciting novels; prone even to scientific theorizing and cursory peeps through microscopes. Old Leisure was quite a different personage. He only read one newspaper, innocent of leaders, and was free from that periodicity of sensations which we call post-time. He was a contemplative, rather stout gentleman, of excellent digestion; of quiet perceptions, undiseased by hypothesis; happy in his inability to know the causes of things, preferring the things themselves. He lived chiefly in the country, among pleasant seats and homesteads, and was fond of sauntering by the fruit-tree wall and scenting the apricots when they were warmed by the morning sunshine, or of sheltering himself under the orchard boughs at noon, when the summer pears were falling. He knew nothing of weekday services, and thought none the worse of the Sunday sermon if it allowed him to sleep from the text to the blessing; liking the afternoon service best, because the prayers were the shortest, and not ashamed to say so; for he had an easy, jolly conscience, broad-backed like himself, and able to carry a great deal of beer or port-wine, not being made squeamish by doubts and qualms and lofty aspirations.