This I Believe

Scott, Peter


  • Peter Scott describes his belief in painting and science as a means by which to discover truth, and describes the wide variety of interests that provide him a busy life.
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Peter Scott is an English artist and naturalist. His bird paintings have been widely reproduced, and he gives a good deal of his time and talent to portraiture and the illustration of books, including Paul Gallico's The Snow Goose. He is also the author of a number of books on wildfowl. Well-known as a sailor of small boats, he became a popular war hero, because of his daring command of light coastal forces to harry the Germans in the channel. He was decorated three times. After the war, he stood for Parliament as a Conservative, but was defeated. The son of the famous polar explorer Captain Robert Scott,
Peter Scott has himself done a certain amount of exploration in the Canadian arctic and in Iceland. Here now is his creed.
You should perhaps know at the outset that I’m a professional artist and an amateur scientist, and that natural history and the conservation of wildlife are my special interests. It may also be relevant that I’m a happy sort of person by nature, you know, sunny disposition and all that, which perhaps arises from the good fortune that what I enjoy doing most is also my job.
Like probably the majority of people, I’m usually too busy getting on with life to have much time for wondering what I’m really living for, and whether my ultimate ends and objectives are worthy of the effort. But long ago, I concluded that the pursuits of truth and of beauty were the most exciting and adventurous aspirations of the human spirit, the road without end to the
unattainable city of God.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the urge to use such talents as I possess to travel that road. It’s a sort of creative itch. I’m not really happy unless I’m making something, whether it’s a picture, a book, a scientific paper, a wildlife movie, or a research station. And my perpetual concern is that life is too short for all the things I want to do. Perhaps I should do some of them better if I didn’t try to do so many.
I paint because I enjoy it, but I also paint because—although as a painter I’ve a good many limitations of which I’m all too conscious, and I know my paintings are extremely unlikely to be admired by future generations—yet painting, like music and poetry and exploration and scientific discovery and all other creative things—together with the love of living people—
constitute the only kind of life after death in which I really believe.
I’m a scientist because I believe that adding to knowledge is worth doing for its own sake. That must be the first aim of science. The application of that knowledge to the material welfare of human beings is secondary, just a useful byproduct. But the main object is something much more important and majestic: the search for truth.
And for faith, well you’ll find Church of England on my passport, and the Christian faith is responsible for my general conception of right and wrong, and for much more besides which is to be found in the background of anyone brought up in a
Christian country. Yet, my picture of the power and the glory which unites humanity is not the Bible’s picture. I believe in the basic goodness and greatness of man. I believe in a lot of simple things, beliefs which are common to most of us: that good ends do not justify evil means, and that love and tolerance and kindness make the world go round—kindness, how important that one is.
And above all, and this I believe implicitly, that in the evolution of the human race, as in lesser fields too, good must ultimately triumph over evil. And if I didn’t believe that, I should be a much less happy man than I am.
That was Peter Scott, an English artist, sailor, author and naturalist, who is the founder of the Severn Wildfowl Trust.