This is a response to the New York Times article “Does Science Matter?” written by William J. Broad and James Glanz.
Science and religion have never been the best of friends. While they are both concerned with some common issues, they represent two very different ends of a spectrum. At one end of this spectrum lies a world wholly devoted to science, in which knowledge of the world around us abounds. Societal and political obstacles in tackling the unknown seem to be nonexistent. The article includes a quote from Steven Weinberg, though, in which he writes that “the more the universe becomes comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” There is a certain wonder to the unknown. There always has been and always will be. Having that presence of the unknown still in this world is what keeps scientific interest and discovery chugging along. If we knew everything there is to know, that wonder would disappear. There would be no magic in the mysteries of the universe, only a book full of the facts and theories, or as many people would see it, just a bunch more facts that they don’t need to know.
Now, this seems to present a fairly strong argument for the religion side of the spectrum, for the willing suspension of disbelief of the unknown in the universe, for faith in the fact that although we may not know everything there is to know, we don’t need to. We can just enjoy the miracles of existence. For this side of the spectrum there is also a sanctity in what lies beyond our planet, in the heavens. And probing into this with scientific feelers can be seen as trying to understand something that we are not supposed to.
That said, I personally am not a religious person in the least. My initial thought is that I want to know everything there is to know about the universe. But, I do see the validity to the argument that, with knowledge, there is also a sense of pointlessness. Why should we care about what we already know if we can’t build upon it to discover more? As I said before, science and religion represent the ends of a spectrum. My opinion is that scientific discovery is at its apex of interest and knowledge somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. The desire for knowledge is exacerbated by knowledge itself. The more we know, the more we want to know. That is where interest in science comes from. There will always be the scientific types who want to know everything. There will also always be those who are content with the level of knowledge available and who will leave the rest to wonder. In my opinion, the perfect scientific balance lies with a society in which there is a constant desire to learn more, but at the same time an awareness that we will never know everything, and a level of contentment in the wondrous awe that comes with the mysteries of the universe.