So much of science consists of things we can never see: light "waves" and charged "particles"; magnetic "fields" and gravitational "forces"; quantum "jumps" and electron "Orbits." In fact, none of these phenomena is literally what we say it is. Light waves do not undulate through empty space in the same way that water waves ripple over a still pond; a field is only a mathematical description of the strength and direction of a force; an atom does not literally jump from one quantum state to another, and electrons do not really travel around the atomic nucleus in orbits. The words we use are merely metaphors.


On Imagining the Unseeable (p. 70) December 1982

Moore, James R.

Clever metaphors die hard. Their tenacity of life approaches that of the hardiest micro-organisms. Living relics litter our language, their raisons d'etre forever past, ignored if not forgotten, and their present fascination seldom impaired by the confusions they may create.

The Post-Darwinian Controversies Chapter I (p. 19)

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