Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Holy Curiosity

Not everyone has a good grip of science. But these children’s scientific musings at least show a healthy dose of creativity.

To explain nuclear reactions, one young scientist said, “When they broke open molecules, the found they were only stuffed with atoms. But when they broke open atoms, they found them stuffed with explosions.”

Concerning astronomy, one child said, “Most books now say our sun is a star. But it still knows how to change back into a sun in the daytime.” And another added, “Some people can tell what time it is by looking at the sun. But I have never been able to make out the numbers.”

“Evaporation gets blamed for a lot of things people forget to put the top on,” said a young physics student.

“H2O is hot water, and CO2 is cold water,” a young chemist said. Another student offered this advice: "To collect fumes of sulfur, hold a deacon over a flame in a test tube." (Ouch.)

“Rain is often known as soft water, oppositely known as hail,” reported a budding meteorologist. Another added, “Thunder is a rich source of loudness.”

These young people are just starting a path of life-long learning, and I applaud their efforts to learn more about the universe. Scientific illiteracy will not serve us well in the 21st Century.

But I wonder, as they learn more and their grasp on science becomes firmer, will they still feel awe when they see a falling star? Even if they are able to describe a rainbow in scientific terms, will they still be amazed at its incomparable beauty? I hope so.

And what about matters of the heart and the spirit? Not everything we experience can be measured. How does one measure love and beauty and faith? I wonder if today’s children will also nurture their hearts as they nurture their minds.

I am not one who feels that a scientific mindset and a spiritual outlook are incompatible. I appreciate Albert Einstein’s thoughts on the merging of the spirit and science. He called scientific curiosity “holy.” The physicist said, “The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”

I love science, and I want to learn as much as I can. But as I do, I still want to wonder and stand rapt in awe before the splendor of life and the universe. This is a place of holy curiosity; a place where spirit and science merge. And it’s a place where my soul can be at rest.

-- Steve Goodier


Deborah Greniman said...

As someone who rubs shoulders daily with the scientific commmunity, I appreciate this post. Science has done wonders for us; let's keep some wonder for the universe as well as for science.

We might remember that the Internet, by which your beautiful messages reach me, was invented by atomic physicists involved in the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Steve Goodier said...

That's a fascinating point, Deborah. We depend on science and technology, even in our correspondence.

And I DO love science and try to keep abreast (as much as a lay person can) of scientific developments. But I am also a person of faith. They are both integral to my life.

princesslindy said...

What about science could possibly cause you fear of losing your faith? Gallileo was imprisoned for the same notion that was held in the middle ages regarding unweaving of the magic of the universe, would essentially unweave faith in God. Does discovering the truth of something like the sun being orbited by the earth rather than the other way around really make it any less magical? of course not, it only adds to the magic...keeping truth sheilded by faith has no benefit to mankind.

princesslindy said...

must one be sacrificed to the other? I notice that as each new scientific discovery comes to light, the Christian community puts a spin on it in order to maintain the structure of the belief system. I am a lapsed catholic and have never had more awe in the universe or more peace in my heart at being a part of such an awesome time and place. After reading several books on quantum physics and starting to "get it", I see the world in a much more magical way than before. I see my place in it having far more meaning than simply as a stepping stone to eternity..that others see it only as that, are wasting an opportunity to discover in themselves and others the truly noble and unique experience of being fully actualized at this moment and that the experience of eternity, is not the most important meaning of our human existence.