I increasingly notice the things that I think I understand but really have no clue about.

Science has done so much for us but the biggest downside is thinking that it explains everything. I often talk about this with the kids, that we are fooled into thinking that because we have words like conception, and gestation, and cells, and DNA and on and on that we “understand” where new life comes from. Looking at them and falling into the trap of thinking that it had anything to do with it I realise that I have literally NO CLUE as to how things really work. I have all the words but no real understanding.

The same is true as I look out of my, rather grubby, window this morning at the sun rising over the horizon. I know about photons, and energy, and molecules and on and on… but I have NO CLUE as to what is really happening before my very eyes as life awakens under the gentle blush of that remote star.

I am coming to the conclusion that the greatest casualty of the scientific world view is wonder, the ability to be truly humbled by the wonderfulness of this planet and our life on it. Wonder is not some reverence for an imaginary beardy guy in the sky but it is a celebration of not knowing, of being part of something so much bigger than our small self, and of allowing what is to be simply bloody amazing.

14 thoughts on “Clueless

  1. Imho that the ability to be truly humbled by the wonderfulness of this planet is exactly what science brings to the table. Not knowing and challenging what we think we know is what science is really about.


  2. Euan

    A great piece but playing with words ‘I feel science is the greatest causality of wonder’ as it provides the scaffold for our thinking. Even for the bits we don’t know!

    We need to know the ordinary to appreciate the extraordinary



  3. Walking my dog yesterday, a sparrow hawk flew by my face, coasting by my surprised nose … giving me a slow-motion view of its perfect plumage. I then dove deep in my grey matter, without even realizing, and spent a moment correcting myself – science has renamed the Sparrow Hawk, changed it to “American Kestrel”, because it is actually a falcon. But in the flash of that thought, the bird was gone – flown beyond my sight behind some trees.

    I had a split second to appreciate it before my ‘scientific’ mind kicked in and made me blind to the miracle of a sudden encounter with such an amazing creature.

    There’s a time and place for poking, prodding, labelling, analysis.

    This wasn’t it.


  4. I don’t think many scientists would support the proposition that “ but the biggest downside is thinking that it explains everything”. Some think that it may possibly at some distant time in the future but that is a hypothetical. Yes you get scientism in the sense that Midgley uses it of Dawkins but even that position is unlikely to make such an extreme claim.


    1. Scientists might not but I suspect that the general non-religious public err in that direction. In the absence of God science will eventually plug the uncomfortable gap of not knowing.


      1. Well the political evidence says they are going for populism. It is common if foolish to take the science replaces religion stance but that is very culturally specific as a creed


  5. I think a key issue for people is control. What we don’t know and understand is a problem – a loss of being in control. In matters regarding life, wonder takes a back seat to the need to know everything about the universe and why we are here. The bearded chap was answer 1.0 and science is taking over the challenge to provide answer 2.0 in what will be a never ending task. A good example of what you and I have been involved in is knowledge. Something wonderful that we will never fully understand , but we reassured ourselves that it could be tamed like a wild horse by creating knowledge management . And then science could provide the final way of achieving control by opening the path to knowledge management systems. Then we are back in control and can sleep happily in our beds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. And a big part of knowledge is the ability to slap a label on things and in doing so objectify them and see ourselves as separate from them. This is the story of Adam and Eve.


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