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Posts Tagged ‘curiosity’

“… the moon, sublime, purposeful suddenly steps out over the peak, bringing the night to serene completion.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

We spent Thanksgiving at a colleague’s house. The food was delicious and the company and conversation were heartfelt. After dinner we went outside and gazed through a large telescope to view the moons of Jupiter and our own moon. It was quite moving to stand outside and view these celestial bodies.

I was reminded of Galileo and how science has evolved, since he first looked at Jupiter and its moons in 1610. Galileo’s observations supported the Copernican view of the solar system, not the reigning Church approved paradigm of Ptolemy, in which all planets were believed to orbit Earth. Galileo was tried for his heretical planetary views and forced to recant his observations.

We also had a chance to look at our moon. What a sight to see the craters of the moon in such detail. The surface of the moon has a rich diversity of light and dark regions. Galileo also looked at our moon and saw these features. This too upset those who believed the moon to be a perfectly smooth glowing sphere in space. So, again Galileo was in the proverbial doghouse for upsetting prevailing beliefs.

Such is the role of science in the world, for science often comes along and upsets a reigning worldview. Science has spent the past 500 years physically displacing us from the center of the universe. First, Galileo and others proved that we do not sit at the center of the universe, Kant came along to show that we are limited in how we know the world, Darwin came along to show we are not a separate species in the world, and finally Freud and Jung came along to show that we are not in complete control of our personal world. This is quite a series of blows to our place in the universe.

But I felt something completely different Thanksgiving evening as I gazed at the celestial sphere hovering above me. I did not feel small and displaced as I stared at the moons. On the contrary, I was filled with the wonder in the structures of our solar system, the wonder of our ability to build devices to look so closely at these bodies, and the wonder of our ability to construct theories that accurately predict the motions of the moons of Jupiter. If anything the past 500 years has shown how imaginative we humans are at building models of the universe. Our imagination is a precious facility that we often forget about in a world so focused on practicality. Galileo, Kant, Darwin and many others were filled with curiosity. Their curiosity and imagination led to wonder filled ideas about the universe. I am thankful for these two gifts: curiosity and imagination, may they continue to make us a creative part of the Universe.

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