This song is on Permanent Waves (1980) as referenced in my sources below...
When the ebbing tide retreats
Along the rocky shoreline
It leaves a trail of tidal pools
In a short-lived galaxy
Each microcosmic planet
A complete society

A simple kind mirror
To reflect upon our own
All the busy little creatures
Chasing out their destinies
Living in their pools
They soon forget about the sea

Wheels within wheels
In a spiral array
A pattern so grand and complex
Time after time
We lose sight of the way
Our causes can't see their effects

A quantum leap forward
In time and space
The universe learned to expand

The mess and the magic
Triumphant and tragic
A mechanized world, out of hand

Computerized clinic
For superior cynics
Who dance to a synthetic band

In their own image
Their world is fashioned
No wonder they don't understand

Wheels within wheels
In a spiral array
A pattern so grand and complex
Time after time
We lose sight of the way
Our causes can't see their effects

Science, like nature
Must also be tamed
With a view towards its preservation
Given the same
State of integrity
It will surely serve us well

Art as expression,
Not as market campaigns
Will still capture our imaginations
Given the same
State of integrity
It will surely help us along

The most endangered species
The honest man
Will still survive annihilation
Forming a world
State of integrity
Sensitive, open and strong

Wave after wave
Will flow with the tide
And bury the world as it does
Tide after tide
Will flow and recede
Leaving life to go on
As it was


Lyrics submitted by shed27

"Natural Science" as written by Gary Lee Weinrib Neil Elwood Peart

Lyrics © OLE MEDIA MANAGEMENT LP

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Natural Science song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentThe song has three subsections (beginning of the universe, the time of man, the uncertain future and the end results).

    In the beginning, life emerges from a frothing tide. It begins to form its own patterns, losing track of the complexity that it spawned from.

    We make a 'quantum leap' to the time of man: ideas like the Big Bang, mysticism/theology, computers, machinery - all human constructs build on top of what was once just tidal pools. We fashion "our world" in "our image", so that we can't see what is really in control: nature.

    The conclusion offers up 'the moral of the story' - Ultimately, our species will end and be recycled into nature with the tide, as part of a larger pattern. We can't stop it, because we can't supercede nature. In the mean time, we should pursue science/knowledge in a way that's harmonious with nature (rather than trying to fighting it, effectively running into a brick wall). Art should follow the same path - rather than serving human ends ("market campaigns") which are constructed on top of nature, it should be 'expression', i.e. intimately connected with the human experience.

    Very similar to "Hemispheres" - an ethos for whole-brain thinking. Science and art in harmony with nature.
    johnstton January 05, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI get chills EVERY time the songs cranks up near the end of Tide Pools and I agree with everyone else, this song rocks LIVE!
    mustang37on January 18, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is unbelievable live. The version on the Snakes and Arrows DVD is fantastic.

    BTW, the line definitely says "In their own image, their world is fashioned". It is talking about the Bible saying man is made in God's image. Neil is saying if you start from idea that we are made in God's image, then you won't understand (or even try to understand) science.
    Zepfreakon March 10, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentYou all have done a great job interpreting the lyrics.... I am still trying to figure out the time changes!!! Lol
    Seanycon October 11, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song over the past few months has increasingly grown on me. I think Permanent Waves is Rush’s most impressive, artistic, and meaningful album to date. While others will say Moving Pictures or 2112 I have to stick by Permanent Waves because of the themes it crosses and the amazing lyrics present in every single song…especially in Natural Science.

    Musically, Natural Science is genius. Lyrically it’s beyond genius.

    Part 1: Tide Pools
    The first two stanzas Geddy Lee has soft, slow, and quiet vocals. Lifeson strums his acoustic guitar slowly…nothing too advanced or complicated. Peart isn’t even in this part as there is no presence of drums. Listening to this song you’re not sure if this is actually a Rush song because of everything it encompasses and everything it doesn’t encompass.

    The first two stanza’s set up the philosophical lyrics as well. The analogy between the tide pools as microcosms to the sea as the wider universe. The concept is quite interesting and extremely true when you think about it. Because those small little creatures “chasing out their destiny” (living their life) are not aware of anything outside their environment. They are not aware or “forget” about the big picture, about our big world, our society. The most essential line in the first two stanza’s is “living in the pools, they soon forget the sea”. Here we have the main focus of this song. And not only is this about the tiny little creatures and their own microcosms but as well as the human race and our world.

    Then all of sudden it cranks up and within 5 seconds, Geddy’s real voice is back. Neil’s drums kick in and Alex is given another guitar. It is heavier and more alive. This is the Rush we know. Lyrically, this is another important part to the song. Our life is hectic… “wheels within wheels”…it never stops. It keeps going and going. Time passes and we are not sure about the magnitude of our causes. We just allow the world to move as it is without thinking exactly what were doing.

    Part 2: Hyerspace.
    Musically, there is a bit of special effects. A nice uitar rift by Alex is added and it sounds like there are other voices in the background. All of those weird, unique sounds in the background add to create a deeper meaning to this song; the theme that is so prevalent in Permanent Waves becomes clear with this track. The meaning is quite scary and eerie: our would has expanded and become a “mechanized world out of hand”. This part continues on with the last part of part 1 concluding that this, in fact, is about the human race. That our world, our society is out of hand. The lyrics of “their world is fashion. no wonder they don’t understand” shows that we are not in it for the right reasons. We have forgotten about the real reasons and have filled our minds with essentially nonsense aka fashion. The repeat of “wheels within wheels” forces more stress with what Neil Peart is saying. Time is passing and we are losing site of the way. The right way. This concludes this part well since the above stanzas of Part 2 are all examples of how we are losing the way. And how were aren’t paying attention to what our causes are doing to the grand scheme of the things (our world, our society)

    Part 3: Permanent Waves
    Here it is. This is the most important part (lyrically) in the whole song. Here we understand the tone, the attitude, and what is going in Neil Peart’s mind. While the first part introduced the song, and the second part created an eerie and scary feeling for the future and what has happened in our society, the third part shouts out a sense of optimism. Maybe we do have a chance…? There is hope for the human race.
    First we get the lines shouted by Geddy… “science like nature must also be tamed”…stating we must watch what were doing. We must be aware of our surroundings and what is happening in order to secure our futures. Not only must we be aware but must have integrity. And there it goes with that word, integrity, it’s in a lot of Rush songs. Must be an important word for Neil. The next stanza also says a lot. “Art as EXPRESSION, not as market campaign”. It’s the same as Spirit of Radio…creating art for money even if it’s a job is not for the right reasons. Do it for yourself, what makes YOU feel good…not just to appeal to the masses. And again integrity is used restating that integrity “will surely help us along”. The third stanza is great to understand where Neil is coming from. Simply the first line says how few “honest men” there are. However, they are the ones that will survive the destruction and can help our society, our world. Saying to form a new world, that of a descriptive purpose; a word state that has “integrity” (not surprised by this word), and is “sensitive, open and strong”

    The last two lines are the most thought-provoking and confusing as the audience is left to wonder the fate of the human race. Time passes and the waves go on as it was. It’s permanent in that sense. Permanent Waves. It’s always happening. The last lines are “leaving life to go on as it was…”. Maybe it’s in our nature to lose our way and then find ourselves in the end…? Honestly I believe that last two lines are up for interpretation. I think the “…” in the end and the sound effects of water prove that it left to your own interpretation. Like to believe in the optimistic ending.
    steel07on July 05, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe Earth is just a small "Tide Pool" in the greater Universe, left over from the Big Bang.

    All we know is our own little Tide Pool, our planet, far flung from the rest of of the Universe that we know nothing about and don't feel we are a part of.



    BeefSupremeon August 16, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis is the absolute TRUTH of our existence...infinite possibilities constantly playing out in the SAMSARA, the cycle of existence...Birth, Life, Death and Re-Birth...and along the way we become lost, tricked by all those false words designed to deceive us...only to eventually remember what we truly are...

    ALL THAT IS...Eternal beings...Photons of Light, capable of anything in any moment when we clear our minds from all the distractions and focus upon what is our only Truth...LOVE!
    CharlieFreakon December 22, 2016   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe essence of the song is in the refrain, "Wheels within wheels . . ." continuing withTime after time; We lose sight of the way; Our causes can't see their effects." So science natural science at that is critical to advance but not without checks and balances. And if the causes don't see their effects (think global warming) science will undo itself. So science like natural must be tamed to survive annihilation. Whose? Ours? Earth? Both. The most endangered species is the honest man - the one who has the bold audacity to say "WAIT! We must stop this."

    All should strive to be part of that species. Only then will we survive annihilation.
    TheFreshnesson December 23, 2017   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMy dad and I both used the lyrics:

    "The most endangered species
    The honest man
    Will still survive annihilation
    Forming a world
    State of integrity
    Sensitive, open and strong"

    as our senior year yearbook quote. I really feel it is important for people to understand that being a sensitive, compassionate, and open minded man is a sign of strength, not weakness. Absolutely love this song :)
    JakobieJoneson September 08, 2018   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI cna't believe no one has posted on this yet. I think this song is the ultimate relax music, not like their other stuff, but Live in Rio and Vapour Trails both show this song as a balld almost sung to the sciences. I think the meaning of it is more at 'back off investigating the world, learn to love it' naturist-type dal, but it's inherently felt and has as much passion behind it as the harder-core RUSH songs.
    apettythiefon October 29, 2004   Link

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