August 27, 2008

Science and Wonder in a Post-Modern World

When we look at the wealth of opportunities hovering on the horizon of science - genomic sequencing, personalized medicine, nanoscience, quantum computing, space technology - we realize how crucial it is. But the reason science really matters runs deeper still. Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner that's precise, predictive and reliable - a transformation, for those lucky enough to experience it, that is empowering.

As every parent knows, children begin life as uninhibited, unabashed explorers of the unknown. Science is a great adventure story, one that's been unfolding for thousands of years as we have sought to understand ourselves and our surroundings - to look out on the world, and see that the wonder of the Kosmos transcends everything that divides us.

Columbia University physicist Brian Greene reflects further on science and wonder in this New York Times article:

Put a Little Science in Your Life
By Brian Greene

A COUPLE of years ago I received a letter from an American soldier in Iraq. The letter began by saying that, as we’ve all become painfully aware, serving on the front lines is physically exhausting and emotionally debilitating. But the reason for his writing was to tell me that in that hostile and lonely environment, a book I’d written had become a kind of lifeline. As the book is about science — one that traces physicists’ search for nature’s deepest laws — the soldier’s letter might strike you as, well, odd.

But it’s not. Rather, it speaks to the powerful role science can play in giving life context and meaning. At the same time, the soldier’s letter emphasized something I’ve increasingly come to believe: our educational system fails to teach science in a way that allows students to integrate it into their lives.

Allow me a moment to explain...

Read More: Here

Science has gifted our species with many kinds of knowledge, and therefore power, but we might do well to remember that the scientific view is only a part of a much richer story. Science can’t tell us how to feel, and science cannot guide us in how we treat each other as human beings. Values, emotions, creativity and personal meaning do inform scientific projects but they cannot be determined by scientific data. Life overflows all such categories and practices.

Yet without science we are blind to much of the deepest nature of our world. It is an ironic condition: with science we have become global tyrants, but without it we may not survive the millennia.

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