Today's tale looks at whether ancient Sufi mystics predicted the current climate for science in the Western World.  Some see science as an ivory tower pursuit, others as a way of achieving technological advancement, still others as a path to personal glory.  But some of us see more.

A quick look at the top ScientificBlogging stories this week gives us titles seemingly ripped from summer blockbusters and beach reading.  Shark Week, Chemistry of Love, Moral Lessons, the Indiana Jones Method of Science, Super Sexy.

Sensationalist titles aside, they all strive to put scientific meaning into an understandable context.  I would argue science has no use save for meaning, but meaning can be elusive.  Here is start of 'The Story of Fire', abridged from Indries Shah's excellent book "Tales of the Dervishes".

"Once upon a time a man was contemplating the ways in which Nature operates, and he discovered, because of his concentration and application, how fire could be made.  He decided to travel from one community to another, showing people his discovery.

Some took advantage of his knowledge.  Others drove him away, thinking he must be dangerous, before they had time to understand how valuable this discovery could be to them.

Centuries passed.  The first tribe which had learned about fire reserved the secret for their priests, who remained in affluence and power while the people froze.

The second tribe forgot the art and worshipped instead the instruments.

The third worshipped a likeness of the discoverer himself.

The fourth retained the story of the making of fire in their legends; some believed them, some did not.

The fifth community really did use fire, and this enabled them to be warmed, to cook their food, and to manufacture all kinds of useful articles."

Which respresents scientific knowledge, to you?

Alex, the daytime astronomer

The Daytime Astronomer, Tues&Fri here, via RSS feed, and twitter @skyday