On Wonder
#1
From the Mere Comments blog, posted by Anthony Esolen:
 
 
The Sentimentality of Scientists      This week I gave a talk on Shakespeare and wonder, for the Maclaurin Institute at the University of Minnesota.  (While I am at it, I'd like to thank them publicly for their good cheer and hospitality, and I urge anyone in the Twin Cities area who wishes to see how Christians can help irrigate the desert of higher education to pay them a visit; they are doing extraordinary work.)  The thesis of the talk was that in our grade schools and secondary schools we have scorched the fields of the child's imagination, mystifying the self while slandering or stifling three principal objects of wonder: the hero, the beloved, and God.
     I'd been told that there might be a few opponents in the audience.  In fact, the first man to speak up objected, "I'm a biologist and I do not believe in God, yet when I look at the beauty of nature I think I can feel that wonder you are talking about.  So, obviously, belief in God is neither here nor there."  Although I had said that "God is the source of our wonder, and the guarantor of its truth," I'd been careful also to note that there would always be a few souls, though only a few, who could respond fully to the wondrous beauty of nature or of man while denying the ground of that wonder.  In any case, I responded by noting that at all costs I wished to affirm that what I was talking about was not a mere sentiment, but a reverence for nobility or grandeur that an object actually does possess.  My fear, I said, is that the unbeliever who begins with that reverence will end, by the force of his logic, by consigning it over to irrelevance.  It will be a kind of neural tic; it will depend wholly upon the disposition, even the gastric temperament, of the unbelieving beholder.
     I am well aware that atheistic scientists can be enthralled with the complexity and magnificence of natural phenomena.  The late Carl Sagan was such a man; yet as he grew older he also grew sourer and angrier, more and more determined not to show how beautiful nature was, but how beautiful it was not, lest the beholder be brought to the threshold of belief.  In that sense he was a sentimentalist, as was my interlocutor in Minnesota.  Such men want to bask in what they must concede is simply a feeling, pleasant enough, but not logically or empirically warranted by the object.
     How far such a feeling can take you, as you grow old and your bones ache, or cancer ravages your body and you confront the great fact of death, may be shown by my favorite materialist, the ancient poet Lucretius.  He too, as logically ruthless as he thought himself, was another sentimentalist, and he too had a keen eye for the glories of the natural world.  So his poem On the Nature of Things begins with a hymn to Venus, an allegorical representation of the fecundity of nature:
     Mother of Romans, delight of gods and men,
     Sweet Venus, who under the wheeling stars of heaven
     Rouse the ship-shouldering sea and the fruitful earth
     And make them teem -- for through you all that breathe
     Are begotten, and rise to see the light of the sun;
     From you, goddess, the winds flee, from you and your coming
     Flee the storms of heaven; for you the artful earth
     Sends up sweet flowers, for you the ocean laughs
     And the calm skies shimmer in a bath of light.
But the sixth and final book of the poem ends with a horrible description of the great plague of Athens in 430 BC.  The dead and dying are everywhere, and there is no remedy, no consolation, no Epicurean calm; only miserable mankind born to die:
     Many lay flat in the street for thirst, lay prostrate
     Before the fountain-statues of Silenus,
     Breath choked by the great desire for that sweet water.
     And strewn about in the roads and parks you'd see
     Legs and arms, nerveless, attached to half-dead bodies,
     Ragged and dirty, clothes caked with excrement,
     Dying, with only bare skin left to the bone,
     Nearly buried already in pus and sores and filth.
     Yes, all those holy temples of the gods--
     Death stuffed 'em with corpses, and the shrines of heaven
     Were charnel houses, burdened by cadavers,
     Places the priests had filled with worshipers.
     Now their religion, now the will of the gods
     Meant nothing: present pain was conqueror....
     The suddenness and poverty incited
     Horrors.  On funeral pyres heaped up for others
     People would lay their own kin down, and wail,
     And set their torches underneath, and sometimes
     Brawl and shed blood, rather than leave their dead.
So the poem ends.  Me, I prefer not the sentiment of wonder, so quick to flee, but the real thing, granted by God and affirmed by the testimony, objective testimony, of those apostles who have made known to us the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who were eyewitnesses of his grandeur.
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#2
Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder. -- Plato, Theaetetus
 
Our modern science is a withered fig three precisely because it lacks wonder.  They started putting nails in the coffin of wonder in the so-called Enlightenment, continued through Communism, and now moreso in secular humanism.
 
Wonder is the desire to know, and it ultimately leads to a wonder of God if it is not sterile.  Wonder is how the great pagan Philosophers Plato and Aristotle found God through reason even though they lacked the truth of divine revelation.
 
 
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#3
QuisUtDeus Wrote:Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder. -- Plato, Theaetetus
 
Our modern science is a withered fig three precisely because it lacks wonder.  They started putting nails in the coffin of wonder in the so-called Enlightenment, continued through Communism, and now moreso in secular humanism.
 
Wonder is the desire to know, and it ultimately leads to a wonder of God if it is not sterile.  Wonder is how the great pagan Philosophers Plato and Aristotle found God through reason even though they lacked the truth of divine revelation.
 
 

 
Obviously you have not read much quantum physics....it is all about "wonder"....
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#4
[excerpt from above] " How far such a feeling can take you, as you grow old and your bones ache, or cancer ravages your body and you confront the great fact of death, may be shown by my favorite materialist, the ancient poet Lucretius.  He too, as logically ruthless as he thought himself, was another sentimentalist, and he too had a keen eye for the glories of the natural world.  So his poem On the Nature of Things begins with a hymn to Venus, an allegorical representation of the fecundity of nature:"
 
P.S. Lucretius is one of my most prominently-displayed and read "scientific" books of all time!  I hope, even though he did not believe in the pagan gods, to meet him in Heaven some day. 
 
Brian Greene, a modern physicist, has written some great books, namely, "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of the Cosmos."  I doubt if he is a believer, but he IS a great physicist. 
 
You want the "awe" that enables belief?  Read modern physics!  I'm NO mathematician, but there are, like Greene's books, lots of "popular" science and physics books out there.
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#5
alice Wrote:Obviously you have not read much quantum physics....it is all about "wonder"....

Yes, my education is obviously lacking.  I always thought that big ring at FermiLab was a dog track and quantum entanglement was photons playing Twister.  [Image: tiphat2.gif]
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#6
bupanishad2012 Wrote:[excerpt from above] " How far such a feeling can take you, as you grow old and your bones ache, or cancer ravages your body and you confront the great fact of death, may be shown by my favorite materialist, the ancient poet Lucretius.  He too, as logically ruthless as he thought himself, was another sentimentalist, and he too had a keen eye for the glories of the natural world.  So his poem On the Nature of Things begins with a hymn to Venus, an allegorical representation of the fecundity of nature:"
 
P.S. Lucretius is one of my most prominently-displayed and read "scientific" books of all time!  I hope, even though he did not believe in the pagan gods, to meet him in Heaven some day. 
 
Brian Greene, a modern physicist, has written some great books, namely, "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of the Cosmos."  I doubt if he is a believer, but he IS a great physicist. 
 
You want the "awe" that enables belief?  Read modern physics!  I'm NO mathematician, but there are, like Greene's books, lots of "popular" science and physics books out there.
One geat popular science book by a believer (don't know the denomination) out today is "The Mind of God:  The Scientific Basis for a Rational World" by Paul Davies.  Well worth reading!
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#7
bupanishad2012 Wrote:
bupanishad2012 Wrote:[excerpt from above] " How far such a feeling can take you, as you grow old and your bones ache, or cancer ravages your body and you confront the great fact of death, may be shown by my favorite materialist, the ancient poet Lucretius.  He too, as logically ruthless as he thought himself, was another sentimentalist, and he too had a keen eye for the glories of the natural world.  So his poem On the Nature of Things begins with a hymn to Venus, an allegorical representation of the fecundity of nature:"
 
P.S. Lucretius is one of my most prominently-displayed and read "scientific" books of all time!  I hope, even though he did not believe in the pagan gods, to meet him in Heaven some day. 
 
Brian Greene, a modern physicist, has written some great books, namely, "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of the Cosmos."  I doubt if he is a believer, but he IS a great physicist. 
 
You want the "awe" that enables belief?  Read modern physics!  I'm NO mathematician, but there are, like Greene's books, lots of "popular" science and physics books out there.
One geat popular science book by a believer (don't know the denomination) out today is "The Mind of God:  The Scientific Basis for a Rational World" by Paul Davies.  Well worth reading!
One more note:  reading modern, or even ancient insofar as I understand either, science, and esp. Physics, has always led me toward God rather than away from Him.  What a marvelous world God has made to keep us totally occupied with His Beauties!  To me, Physicists are just secular mystics, no matter what they call themselves.
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#8
bupanishad2012 Wrote:
bupanishad2012 Wrote:
bupanishad2012 Wrote:[excerpt from above] " How far such a feeling can take you, as you grow old and your bones ache, or cancer ravages your body and you confront the great fact of death, may be shown by my favorite materialist, the ancient poet Lucretius.  He too, as logically ruthless as he thought himself, was another sentimentalist, and he too had a keen eye for the glories of the natural world.  So his poem On the Nature of Things begins with a hymn to Venus, an allegorical representation of the fecundity of nature:"
 
P.S. Lucretius is one of my most prominently-displayed and read "scientific" books of all time!  I hope, even though he did not believe in the pagan gods, to meet him in Heaven some day. 
 
Brian Greene, a modern physicist, has written some great books, namely, "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of the Cosmos."  I doubt if he is a believer, but he IS a great physicist. 
 
You want the "awe" that enables belief?  Read modern physics!  I'm NO mathematician, but there are, like Greene's books, lots of "popular" science and physics books out there.
One geat popular science book by a believer (don't know the denomination) out today is "The Mind of God:  The Scientific Basis for a Rational World" by Paul Davies.  Well worth reading!
One more note:  reading modern, or even ancient insofar as I understand either, science, and esp. Physics, has always led me toward God rather than away from Him.  What a marvelous world God has made to keep us totally occupied with His Beauties!  To me, Physicists are just secular mystics, no matter what they call themselves.

 
Have you read astrophysicist Bernard Haisch's book "The God Theory"? Very good book....At one time he wanted to be a priest...or at least his mother wanted him to be a priest....he now says physics is not "all there is"...although his ideas/theory of God is hardly Catholic....but I tend to agree with him....in the past we have limited God through the catechism or dogma, etc.....and there is no limit to God....as there is no limit to the universe. I may get blasted for that statement but I believe it to be the truth....
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#9
alice Wrote:
bupanishad2012 Wrote:
bupanishad2012 Wrote:
bupanishad2012 Wrote:[excerpt from above] " How far such a feeling can take you, as you grow old and your bones ache, or cancer ravages your body and you confront the great fact of death, may be shown by my favorite materialist, the ancient poet Lucretius.  He too, as logically ruthless as he thought himself, was another sentimentalist, and he too had a keen eye for the glories of the natural world.  So his poem On the Nature of Things begins with a hymn to Venus, an allegorical representation of the fecundity of nature:"
 
P.S. Lucretius is one of my most prominently-displayed and read "scientific" books of all time!  I hope, even though he did not believe in the pagan gods, to meet him in Heaven some day. 
 
Brian Greene, a modern physicist, has written some great books, namely, "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of the Cosmos."  I doubt if he is a believer, but he IS a great physicist. 
 
You want the "awe" that enables belief?  Read modern physics!  I'm NO mathematician, but there are, like Greene's books, lots of "popular" science and physics books out there.
One geat popular science book by a believer (don't know the denomination) out today is "The Mind of God:  The Scientific Basis for a Rational World" by Paul Davies.  Well worth reading!
One more note:  reading modern, or even ancient insofar as I understand either, science, and esp. Physics, has always led me toward God rather than away from Him.  What a marvelous world God has made to keep us totally occupied with His Beauties!  To me, Physicists are just secular mystics, no matter what they call themselves.

 
Have you read astrophysicist Bernard Haisch's book "The God Theory"? Very good book....At one time he wanted to be a priest...or at least his mother wanted him to be a priest....he now says physics is not "all there is"...although his ideas/theory of God is hardly Catholic....but I tend to agree with him....in the past we have limited God through the catechism or dogma, etc.....and there is no limit to God....as there is no limit to the universe. I may get blasted for that statement but I believe it to be the truth....
I doubt if you get "blasted" here and certainly not by me.   I agree wholeheartely!  No, I haven't read the book, but will look for it.  Everytime we try to limit God or His universe, we seem to find new "corners" that we didn't know were there.  I personally believe that the Beatific vision of God is just the Gate to forever more wonderful things that God has in store for us.  (Please don't blast me!)  One fellow told me once that his grandmother told him that if we find the "end" of the universe, we will find it pasted over with old newspapers!  But, THEN we punch our finger through them . . .
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#10
Quote:Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder. -- Plato, Theaetetus
Every child is born a philosopher.  It is passive entertainment and institutionalized schooling that destroys that sense of wonder.
 
Quote:Have you read astrophysicist Bernard Haisch's book "The God Theory"? Very good book....At one time he wanted to be a priest...or at least his mother wanted him to be a priest....he now says physics is not "all there is"...although his ideas/theory of God is hardly Catholic....
 
I haven't read the book, but if he is speaking of the existence of a spiritual world beyond that of the material, he is of course correct.  We err when we equate the two.  If he can realize that not all things have a material cause, he is one step closer to believing in God.
 
 
Quote:
in the past we have limited God through the catechism or dogma, etc.....and there is no limit to God....as there is no limit to the universe. I may get blasted for that statement but I believe it to be the truth....
 
Catholics believe that God is infinite, yet our understanding of him must be precise, because our finite intellects can err very easily.  It is incorrect to say that he has a body, for instance.  We must "limit" our notion of God in this way, because he cannot be God and have a body, for an infinite thing cannot have a finite part. 
 
The mystery of the Incarnation is just that- a mystery- something that we cannot comprehend.  Yet with revelation and reason, we can come to know certain attributes of Christ Incarnate, such as that he is true God and true man (something Catholics must believe as a dogma) even though it is an impossibility to understand something as being fully two different substances at the same time.  Catholics must define our understanding of God in this way, because we can only believe in what is true.
 
The universe, as a created thing, has to be finite, and therefore has limits.  We may not ever discover those limits, and we may not ever be able to comprehend it, but it is limited.  If it weren't, then you would have to posit that the universe was God.  You may do that, but then you will come to the other reductio ad absurdum that a material thing cannot be the Prime Mover, and so the Prime Mover must be something beyond that, that was uncreated, and something other than matter.  We call this Spirit. 
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