Archive for November, 2009

Naming NatureNaming is a way of knowing something. When fifth and sixth graders come here to the Schoodic Education and Research Center they learn, among other things, how to recognize spruce trees. If you say “Ouch!” when you shake hands with the tree, it’s a spruce.

Knowing that a tree is a spruce, and that another is a balsam, and yet another is a birch, and a fourth is a maple — rather than all just being plain old “trees” — gives a child a way of seeing a forest differently. Naming creates connection. (It is probably one reason that farmers raising pigs for slaughter generally call them “Pig” rather than “Charlie.”)

Carol Kaesuk Yoon, who has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from Cornell and who writes for Science Times for the New York Times, has written a new book about our human impulse to order the world by naming it. It has the title Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science (W.W. Norton, 2009). (more…)


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