The Power of Wonder: Modern Marvels in the Age of Science
Thursday, October 10, 2019 - Wednesday, February 5, 2020
The New York Academy of Sciences, 7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich St Fl 40, New York
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The feelings of awe and wonder engendered by astonishing or mysterious natural phenomena are as old as humanity itself. According to the classical account of rationality, the end of inquiry — the production of a viable explanation — should also serve to diffuse these emotions. Yet, the cultural and spiritual significance of wonder and its psychological underpinnings seem to suggest a different story, one in which the rational and the irrational, nature and the supernatural, and science and religion keep trading places and eclipsing one another. Historically, wonder has also played an important role in relation to moral insights about human nature and self-transcendence.
In an age enchanted with its own scientific and technical achievements, our sense of awe and wonder has seemingly shifted from nature to science, as we marvel at our capacity to know and manipulate our natural environment. Nonetheless, the realization of the sheer extent of how much we still do not understand is not only humbling, but in many cases, the source of great wonder as well. These gaps of knowledge account for our continued interest in a range of scientific theories that are increasingly detached from practical concerns, while fueling the motivation and imagination of scientists working on the cutting-edges of their disciplines.
Led by Steve Paulson, Executive Producer of Wisconsin Public Radio’s To the Best of Our Knowledge, this three-part series on the power of wonder and the role of marvels in the age of science brings together leading scientists and writers for an interdisciplinary exploration of the broader implications of wonder, from its role in inspiring scientific breakthroughs to the many ways in which it connects to aesthetic experience, religious attitudes, and ethical concerns. Beyond the fascination with modern marvels, can the experience of wonder offer a deeper understanding of ourselves and our timeless pursuit of meaning and truth?