Science: A Love Letter
This sprouted as a refutation to this quote from Angels and Demons:
“Science may have alleviated the miseries of disease and drudgery and provided an array of gadgetry for our entertainment and convenience, but it has left us in a world without wonder… The rift between us grows deeper and deeper, and as religion is left behind, people find themselves in a spiritual void. We cry out for meaning… We see UFOs, engage in channeling, spirit contact, out-of-body experiences, mindquests… They are the desperate cry of the modern soul, lonely and tormented, crippled by its own enlightenment and its inability to accept meaning in anything removed from technology.”
-The Camerlengo’s Speech, Angels and Demons
The speech in its entirety is a tragedy of fallacy that a fellow student at my school had me read as “proof that there is a God”. I found it to be a conglomeration of abhorrently poor reasoning, though admittedly well-worded in parts. Therefore I wrote this in the hopes of responding to Dan Brown’s eloquence with eloquence of my own paired with reason. Herein lies my response to him.
From Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons to the astrology section of Barnes and Noble, creative souls treat the advent of the age of science and technology with the attitude that one would imagine might have accompanied Adam and Eve’s loss of innocence. How fitting that in the Christian mythos it was also knowledge that led to the despair that is paradise lost.
I say innocence is gilded. We may have lost faeries, magical spells, ghosts that give hope for life after death, Kepler’s music of the spheres, and the idea that each of us is chosen for a special purpose for no meritocratic reasons other than destiny (wouldn’t we all like to be here for a reason?). But we’ve also lost the fear of witches that drove so many to burn people at stakes, questionable medical practices like trying to treat smallpox with the colour red, the Spanish Inquisition, the fear shrouding all our superstitions of demons and the dark.
Furthermore, how could we have overlooked the blazing enlightenment that I should think far outshines the glossy bliss of our ignorant youth? Where once we envisioned a world in which all the celestial bodies moved around us and the stars were just points of light that we thought were just outside the orbit of the planets, science has proved the universe to be far greater in immensity than our recent intellectual ancesters perceived. Stars and galaxies are spaced along distances that takes light itself literal eternities to traverse. In our galaxy, one of billions, there are four hundred billion other stars like our sun.
We may have lost the poetry of Genesis, but rather than having had all life planted here six thousand years ago by some man in the sky, the diverse billions of life forms in all their intricacies formed with the finesse of Nature’s hand in a four hundred million year journey. The construct of electrochemical signals in the human brain that creates consciousness, the marvel of an octopus changing its skin within seconds to match its surroundings with precision that fools the human eye, the beauty of a scintillating flatworm as it swims in the seas, all sculpted by an unconscious natural force that we understand as natural selection.
Science brought us the understanding of the ethereal. Newton showed us how to separate light into gorgeous prismatic colours. This concept was used to bring about spectroscopy, un-poetically named despite all the poetry it wields to our body of knowledge. Without getting into details let it simply be pointed out that using high school chemistry and algebra alone you can find out what the stars themselves are made out of.
And for technology’s credit, I would posit it is not technology itself that lures people into distraction from wonder, but rather what people choose to do with technology. All the wonder shared here is being shared by technology. Is it not a fact of wonder in itself that nowadays you can learn this just by accessing the Internet from a palm-held device if you so choose?
Science expanded the limits of the universe beyond the bounds of the comparatively infinitesimal human mind. Even more wonderfully, as with more knowledge comes the knowledge of how much you don’t know. Science points to even more new avenues of discovery. There abound more questions and mysteries than were ever known to the medieval mind, enclosed within shells of the Great Chain of Being. Is there life outside of Earth? Are there more universes out there? Are there more dimensions hidden within our own universe? What exactly goes on in a black hole? How can we advance medicine to save more lives?
It is the utmost disgrace to this splendid, gigantic, ancient, wordlessly beautiful world revealed by science to say that somehow it has been robbed of wonder, that for some reason we need to invent faeries, faith healings, and magic anew. There is more wonder in an atomic nucleus than all the books in the New Age section of Barnes and Noble.
I am not one to force those who do not see things as I do to cling to comfort no longer. I only wish to convey that perhaps there is an alternative to the warm and fuzzy dreams that promise us life beyond death, power in this life when we feel powerless, and wonder when public schooling seems to have drained the vivacious joy from all knowledge. Just think this: medical science has doubled the average life expectancy from medieval times. However you choose to spend your extra lifetime granted by this miracle, whether it be by celebrating scientific knowledge or seeking the magic of the world, I hope you spend it happily.