Science And Wonder

Symphony of science.


What strikes me about old school prophets was how inquisitive and iconoclastic they were. If we had a prophet today I’m sure she would not reject science but fold that reality into something greater, and no not like Scientology. People talk of science destroying wonder or somehow sterilizing what’s natural, and I think nothing could be further from the truth. Science is awesome and inspires awe. For example, outer space.

This conception of science as fixed and boring is entirely artificial. It’s only in magazine articles that you get conclusions of that sort. Even if you just read a Wikipedia article, you’re struck by threads branching out in multiple directions which offer amazing insights and yet don’t end. Take evolution.

Evolution

I’ve never got how evolution is any less amazing than creation. The fact is that we are related to all living creatures and have, through a glacially slow process, formed into a particular networked adaptation suited to a place and time, amidst a sea of pulsating change. This is awesome and I think, if anything, more exciting than the idea that someone very much like us made us as we are and everything as it is. Any God who can design a system like evolution is, IMHO, far more impressive than one that, essentially, cast a film.

Astronomy

Astrology, also. I think it has great value in that people mapped and thought about the stars, but it’s been obviously and magnificently superseded by astronomy. I mean, it’s cool that some constellations look like crabs, but isn’t it cooler that the image we see is backwards in time, and that there are black holes and quasars and wormholes and stuff out there? I understand that these aren’t connected to the individual, or your love life, but still. There’s plenty of social and even weather science that can tell you about who and how you’re going to meet.

Apocolypse

Also, the apocalypse. Fringe groups say it’ll be 2012, or last year, but even mainstream Judeo-Christian religions and Hinduism (cyclicly) have ideas about an end. With basic science, however, we know the sun will explode in about 5 billion years, boil off all the oceans and probably swallow the earth whole. So that’s a pretty definite end of the world.

Story Telling

One argument is that religion has more beautiful stories and language, but I don’t think it’s a matter of more. Both are beautiful. For most questions a child asks – why is the sky blue, what happens when we die? – you can give them a scientific story as easily as an Aesop’s fable and you can include the perspectives of multiple religions where they’re relevant. Kids are not dumb and they can get it, and it makes for a good story as well.

This is not to say that science should exclude religion. Almost by definition, science doesn’t tell you how to live your life but rather about life in general (Religion In Human Evolution). I just don’t think it’s the case that science is dull and true on one hand while religion is fascinating and false on the other. I think both have their truth and both have their wonder and both are immensely useful for living happily and living together.

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14 Comments »

2011-11-28 14:11:13

+1 excellent and much needed writeup!

 
shammi
2011-11-28 15:39:11

I hear that astronomers are saying that there’s going to be an alignment of the sun, earth and the central plane of the galaxy on the exact date 21/12/2012, and that it happens only once every 25000 yrs and geologists think it may even cause the poles of the earth to shift. I’m treating the Mayans with a little more respect these days.

 
2011-11-28 16:08:50

This myth that science is fixed and boring has been perpetuated by the media and pop culture. In the X-Files for example Dana Scully’s hard nosed (and relatively dull) character was juxtaposed against Fox Mulder’s curious, driven and lighthearted character, this used to annoy me a lot because Dana Scully was a terrible caricature of what a scientist “ought to be like”, read any biography on any scientist and you will know what I mean. Things are changing though Neil De Grasse Tyson, Prof Brian Cox and a whole bunch of people from Carl Sagan onwards have made science more appealing and engaging to the masses :)

2011-11-28 16:53:05

Also, CSI and even Breaking Bad

 
2011-11-29 12:50:28

I’ve had a man-crush on Neil De Grasse for a very long time now.

 
 
2011-11-28 17:53:13

I used to read Erich von Däniken’s books religiously. But the truth is Mayans vanished due to their own internal problems.. Not due to any extra terrestrial reason. So I’m no longer interested in UFOs, pre historic lost technologies etc..

shammi
2011-11-28 20:20:15

But that Mayan calendar is awesome, highly accurate too apparently. Even Tin Tin met an ET (in Flight 714 , among some Inca ruins I think, not Mayan ).

 
 
2011-11-29 12:50:54

:D

 
Oshada
2011-11-30 09:22:33

That’s one of my favourite memes! His appearances on The Daily Show are always fantastic as well.

 
 
the way of the dodo
2011-11-28 22:00:26

aesthetics are often a matter of perspective. Many a mathematician would say Euler’s equation is the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen, and many physicists would say that they are ‘maxwell’s equations’. But layman would rarely be able to the beauty of either of those.

 
2011-12-01 13:44:56

[...] I’ve said before, science and wonder are not incompatible, indeed, they’re almost [...]

 
2011-12-21 10:52:51

[...] wider, it becomes more accurate, and your heart gets wider as well. This to me is part of the connection between science and faith, and how the former can enrich the latter. From the understanding that we’re all connected, [...]

 
2012-07-05 11:35:49

[...] universe from pure, massless energy to matter. Which is still pretty trippy on a spiritual level. Science is wonderful. [...]

 
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