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Science destroys sense of wonder?

Michael McCarthy writes a weekly piece called "Nature Studies" in the Independent. In yesterday's contribution he endorsed the view that "science gives us knowledge but takes away meaning." He goes on to link this idea explicitly with religion. And not just religion. McCarthy endorses the value of traditional beliefs such as alchemy, magic, the power of curses, and the story of Adam and Eve.

This way of thinking is widespread today but is seldom expressed as explicitly as here. For an opposite point of view, see Brian Cox's current TV series on the universe. Cox takes the position that the modern understanding of cosmology is far and away more stimulating to the imagination than the prescientific outlook favoured by McCarthy, and that is my feeling too. Far from taking away a sense of wonder, an understanding of science can enhance it immeasurably.

The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that makes life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living it is finite. [Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow]

My objection to supernatural beliefs is precisely that they miserably fail to do justice to the sublime grandeur of the real world. They represent a narrowing-down from reality, an impoverishment of what the real world has to offer. [Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale]


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