The Beauty of Science According to Asimov

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Asimov’s thesis is that the beauty of science is the same as the beauty of nature. He expands on this theory with a in depth explanation of the vast happenings in nature and the universe, such as the speed of light and sound, and the truth that the stars are really amazingly large suns like our own. He presents these facts in such a way that one could almost gather a sense of poetry. This mildly suggests that Asimov is critical of what he calls Whitman’s “convenient point of view.”

Asimov present’s many facts about the universe to refute the view that science drains the beauty from beauty from the stars. He does this by using references to:

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  • Some stars are planets “with thick atmospheres of carbon dioxide and sulphuric acid.” He describes them as “worlds” and mentions their stormy surfaces and super-volcanoes that,”could gulp down the whole earth.”
  • Some stars are suns like our own, some of which are “merely red-hot coals doling out their energy stingily.” He then goes in to explain that some suns have the mass of our sun, “squeezed into a ball smaller than the earth.” He continues, “Some are more compact still, with the mass of the sun squeezed down into the volume of a small asteroid.”
  • Some stars can be seen from billions of light years away.
  • All of this was discovered after Walt Whitman’s death. All of these examples are used to prove Asimov’s theory which refutes Whitman’s opinion that science does dilute the beauty of the stars, by expressing his view of the unbelievable beauty that is the involved in the science of the stars themselves which was not revealed during Walt Whitman’s life.

The purpose of Asimov’s rhetorical questions is to make the reader contemplate what the world around us is really made of instead of simply dismissing it as “boring,” or claiming it is draining the beauty of something.

Refers to Walt Whitman’s poem

  • Makes point that it is convenient not to have to deeply contemplate the stars or hard science, indirectly deeming it an easy way out.
  • Explains that he himself likes to stare at stars and get lost in the wonder also, but he also likes to hear the science behind them
  • Goes into deep explanation of the science that is so mystifying and makes him sense something beautiful in that alone
  • Explains that the “learn’d astronomers,” (as Whitman calls them) are really actually responsible for discovering the facts about the universe.
  • Mentions most of this was learned after Whitman’s death, making it hard for him understand the beauty in the science of the stars.

Asimov builds unity and coherence by taking Walt Whitman’s original theory about science ruining the beauty of the stars and poetically expressing the beauty in all of the facts discovered by the astronomers.

Example of Ethos persuasion in Asimov’s theory

Asimov uses Ethos persuasion by mentioning that Walt Whitman was not able to form a proper theory on the beauty of the science of the stars because Whitman did not “know any better,” as he died before the real facts about the stars were presented. Example of Pathos persuasion in Asimov’s theoryAsimov uses examples of Pathos persuasion by putting a lot of emotional, dramatic language in his description of the science and the stars. An example is when he is describing the stars and says some of them as containing “incomparable grandeur.”

Example of Logos persuasion in Asimov’s theory

An example of Logos persuasion in this essay is when Asimov mentions the lack of rationality and level of shallowness in simply getting pleasure out of looking at something in nature and not getting any joy out of the descriptions of what creates that beauty. He shows that this is what Whitman is guilty of using hypothetical situations, such as, “Should I stare lovingly at a single leaf and willingly remain ignorant of the forest?” to compare the rationality behind looking at the stars and deciding to be ignorant to their truth to maintain their “beauty.”

Some of the pros of writing with multiple forms of persuasion is that it becomes possible to reach many different audiences. This is because you address many different ways of thinking and analyzing information and put your own, personal spin on them. This can, at the same time, cause some people who have very specific ways of thinking to dismiss the information being presented because they disagree with the method of delivery. In writing with different methods of persuasion, one should consider if their audience is a target audience, or just a broad or general audience.

I did find Asimov’s essay persuasive. He made relevant points all the way through the essay about how it is dismissive and simple to deny the beauty in science. He does a great job of portraying the beauty and wonder he finds in the vastness of space. He offers a lot of perspective about how dismissing science actually diminishes a lot of the beauty and allows somebody to remain ignorant and not have to think very hard about it. I feel that Asimov, overall, makes all the important points one could make in favour of science and the beauty of the stars being one, against Whitman’s opinion.

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