Thursday, October 27, 2005

Evaluation Versus Appreciation

One of the things which really identifies a scientist is that he or she will be constantly evaluating. It is part of the scientific method to evaluate, to quantify. Hence, I found myself the other day counting up the number of fat people walking past and expressing the results as a percentage. In my head, I was drawing up an equation between what I saw as an epidemic of overweight people and an explosion in fast food outlets and snack mentality. That was my scientific side coming out.

The poetic side of me is appalled by such fruitless observations. The poetic side knows that evaluation serves for nothing. That the only thing that matters is appreciation. Appreciation of life in its diversity, its junk shop variety, the fat and the thin together, the colourful and the drab, the scorched and the flooded, the noisy and the calm. The relative or absolute proportions of these things are of little interest,
although I sense that a certain balance between them must be maintained.

What good does evaluation do us? I often find myself thinking about other societies, for example, in a way that seems to me to be rather fruitless. What does it matter whether people are more racist, less aggressive, friendlier, more intelligent etc. What does it serve to make such evaluations? And how can we be sure that the tiny part of society that we are evaluating is in any way representative?

Making such judgements can only turn us back upon ourselves, on our own set of values. Looking intimately at our own shortcomings and foibles, we realise how quickly our own greenhouse windows will be broken. And anyway, I feel that society is a mirror which shows us only the face we present to it. The way we look at it is what comes back to us. If I smile at other people, they will smile back. All is relative to our own attitudes, and a response to our own approach.


Andrea said...

I think that evaluation, in the good and the bad sence, helps get ride of the black and white of thinking.
evaluation makes rainbows.

appreciation ? acceptance? understanding?

Jonathan Wonham said...

My thought was that evalutation isn't much use for poetry. Appreciation is much more important.

Critics evaluate poetry, but I don't think that serves for much either, apart from making friends and enemies...