Natural Science
by Rush

Album: Permanent Waves (1980)
Play Video


  • This song is about how people can forget about nature because of technology, and how we must value the Earth.
  • There are some odd 7/8, 6/8 and 3/4 time signatures in this song along with the normal 4/4. Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson told Songfacts: "I can pick a song that was a hard song to play and feel that was what was challenging and developed a particular style and difficult songwriting. 'Natural Science' from those days is one of those songs. Hard to play, the parts were really interesting to develop and were challenging, and the songwriting itself was a challenging experience."
  • Neil Peart had been tinkering with an epic song interpretation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The song never panned out, but parts were later pulled out and woven into "Natural Science."
  • Producer Terry Brown and assistant Kim Bickerdike used oars in lake water to make the splashing sounds at the beginning of the song.
  • This is Voivod drummer Michel Langevin's favorite Rush song.

Comments: 14

  • Brian from NcThe beginning “tide pools” is a metaphor for how people get wrapped up in their own lives and forget about the world around them. Like those little microscopic organisms, once they become wrapped up in the tide pool they forget about the ocean.
  • Jpr from UkRush's greatest ever song, I never tire of listening to it.
  • Mike from Ottawa, OnNatural Science (for me) has always provided a scientific conscience for progress without restraint. I think that it's always been a concern, globally, that we advance technologically without the proper understanding of the power we have discovered or now wield. Peart's in-sight into that penchant for man's indiscretion, and towards adopting a reckless attitude towards the future, has been a consistent theme in many of his songs. "Science like nature, must also be tamed, with a view toward it's preservation"

    He also tasks the listener to consider "the most endangered species, the honest man" where he will guide us along to redemption.

    He pulls no punches when he describes the effect the the tides have on the microcosms where the only enduring factor is "life itself" and reducing our (humanities) value to the chance or fate of the ebbing tide "leaving life to the one as it was".
  • Arf from Los Angeles, Ca"Wheels within wheels In a spiral array A pattern so grand And complex Time after time We lose sight of the way Our causes cant see Their effects."

    This could be one of two things, yes DNA but the Wheels Within Wheels is also from the Bible:
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
    -- Ezekiel 1: 15-17
    As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces.

    This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel.

    As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went.
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
    No Rush is not going religious but maybe they've seen a UFO?
  • Jason from Florence, Ky"Wheels within wheels In a spiral array A pattern so grand And complex Time after time We lose sight of the way Our causes cant see Their effects."

    The "Wheels within wheels" part is describing how there are increasingly large sets of orbiting objects. Electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom, moons orbit planets, planets orbit stars, stars orbit the galaxy center. There may even be larger "wheels" that we can't see because of their scale. Perhaps the universe is orbiting something even larger.

    As for the "Time after time we lose sight of the way" part, it is saying that we just go about our lives not consciously thinking about what we need to do to live. Our causes (our atoms, our cells, our organs, etc. can't see their effects). In the same way, we, as humans, don't know what effects we may be having on the world or the universe.

    This song is epic, especially live.
  • Bret from Coos Bay, OrThe various moods in this song are great. It starts out soft then hits you with a fast pace melody. This song is easily their best on Permanent Waves, and one of my favorites of all time! Songs like Natural Science will always be with me. Rush phucking rules!
  • Mike from Boulder, Co6 is an even number, not odd, hence 6/8 is not odd time. 3/4 is not considered odd time either, (c.f. every waltz ever written)
  • Steve from Annapolis, MdI believe that this song has alot of deep meaning to it it and its objective changes a little throughout the song. In "1. Tide Pools" i believe that the main point being made is how tiny our own little worlds can be. Neil references "each micro-cosmic planet, a complete society" living in these little tide pools "soon forget about the sea". I think that his point is how we get so caught up in our own small world we forget the big picture. Also it is possible that he is making a point that this planet called Earth that we are spinning around on may just be a speck in a tide pool of the sea that is the universe. Brilliant song by a brilliant band.
  • Louis from Glendale, AzTo Adrian:

    The lyrics explain a DNA strand. It's complex, and even with technology, we can't understand it, so our attempts understand it is ludacrous.
  • Adrian from Brantford, On"Wheels within wheels
    In a spiral array
    A pattern so grand
    And complex
    Time after time
    We lose sight of the way
    Our causes cant see
    Their effects."

    May someone explain this piece of lyric from the song. Thank you
  • Josh from Grand Rapids, MiThis is one of my all time favorite Rush songs
  • John from Asheville, NcA real proggy masterwork by Rush. One of my favorites...! Period.
  • Michael from Frederick, MdAbsolutely love Alex's guitar in the "Hyperspace" section... great live song as well.
  • William from Twin Falls, IdI believe this song points out the fact that no matter how scientifically advanced we become, we will never be able to fully tame it. The line "Science, like nature, must also be tamed." means that just because we have discovered or invented some marvelous new technology doesn't mean that we are actually in control of it. The book 2001: A Space Odyssey points this out and I think this song may allude to it. The monolith is placed in 3 different spots, on earth for primitive man, on the moon for our next stage in scientific evolution and then on Jupiter, representing ironically where we virtually are now, studying the potential of visiting and colonizing other planets. The story shows how primitive man touches the first monolith and is bestowed with the intelligence to pick up a bone and use it as a tool. At the end of that act, the bone is tossed into the air and turns to a spaceship, technology sprung from nature. cut to the scene inside and the astronaut loses his pen and becomes the victim of the cosmic powers of space. The simplest of our tools lost to the effect of Nature. We have not tamed it and we can never tame it. The song goes on to say that there's an "ebb and flow" of the natural tide. "Living out their lives in the pools, they soon forget about the sea." The idea of making tools from something we dont understand shows just how infantile we are as a species.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Is That Song Public Domain?

Is That Song Public Domain?Fact or Fiction

Are classic songs like "Over The Rainbow" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the public domain?

Steve Cropper (Booker T & the MG's, Blues Brothers)

Steve Cropper (Booker T & the MG's, Blues Brothers)Songwriter Interviews

Steve Cropper on the making of "In the Midnight Hour," the chicken-wire scene in The Blues Brothers, and his 2021 album, Fire It Up.

Bryan Adams

Bryan AdamsSongwriter Interviews

What's the deal with "Summer of '69"? Bryan explains what the song is really about, and shares more of his songwriting insights.

Who Did It First?

Who Did It First?Music Quiz

Do you know who recorded the original versions of these ten hit songs?

Michael Schenker

Michael SchenkerSongwriter Interviews

The Scorpions and UFO guitarist is also a very prolific songwriter - he explains how he writes with his various groups, and why he was so keen to get out of Germany and into England.

Harry Shearer

Harry ShearerSongwriter Interviews

Harry is Derek Smalls in Spinal Tap, Mark Shubb in The Folksmen, and Mr. Burns on The Simpsons.