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PRINT Summer 1989

WONDERING ABOUT SCIENCE

IN ONE SENSE, THE purpose of science is to do away with wonders: science is a discourse of explanation, and one definition of a “wonder” is a thing not yet explained. Science is said to “enlighten” us because it allows us to understand and master phenomena, instead of wondering about them. Thus, as scientific knowledge advances, the world grows less and less “wonder-full,” and more and more wonder-empty.

On the other hand, however, our feeling of wonder deepens as science develops. Science can’t explain everything—it cannot erase wonders from our consciousness, but must content itself with pushing their boundaries ever farther into the background. Our feeling of wonder follows this progress toward the abyss, and as the world, and we within it, grows ever more wonder-empty, we are ever more bewildered. The less wonderful the world is, the more we wonder why it is there—and even, indeed, if

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