We cannot focus our attention unless we know what to look at and how to look at it.
Sparks of Genius, p. 42
There’s a concept in biology which says that structure and function are inextricably linked. In fact, you can boil down any part of the study of life into looking at the structures of plants, animals, insects, cells…even molecules – and analyzing what they do in their environment. For instance, the structure of DNA – repeating nucleotides in specific sequences – makes it uniquely adept at storing information. Structure and function.
Much of biology is done with our eyes. We have to look at a structure or observe a behavior in order to find the links. Analytical tools and measurements are a key components of studying living systems. Smell and hearing also play a major role. If you talk to an ornithologist, most of the identification they do in the field is based on the bird’s song because seeing them through dense foliage is difficult.
Rather than discussing biology, let’s use a more accessible model: a car.
Cars are described all the time with terms like “horsepower, “average MPG,” and “torque.” You can look up specs, schematics, and plans online for the newest models. Top Gear, a top-rated British television series specializes in reviewing luxury and performance cars each week (among other things).
Let’s get visceral.
Perception is more than seeing what’s in front of you.