Is a Scientist Allowed to Wonder, Love, or Grieve?On December 3, 2021 by Amy BurginReading Time: 2 minutes
What in our experience comes together to form and function without a designer and creator at the root of it?
I am a Senior Computer Scientist, a full-stack software developer at a top-tier research and development organization. I work on a team to create web applications to support NASA and ESA space missions. That may sound glamorous to some people, but all it means is that I spend a lot of my time determining what symbols I should type in an intentional way to achieve a desired result, namely a web application that meets a vast array of requirements. Suppose I were to press the keys on my keyboard randomly. In that case, there is a 0% chance any sensible or even barely functioning web application would appear. We could never take such a random approach and expect to please NASA or the ESA. No one needs to be a computer scientist to know this.
Imagine cooking without a design. Blindfold a stranger. Invite them to your pantry to choose the first three things they touch. Guide them to your refrigerator, open the door and let them choose the first two things they feel. Now put these five ingredients in a pot. Spin a wheel to select a temperature setting. Roll some dice to choose the cooking time. We need no trained scientist, mathematician, or statistician to know the odds are low that this meal will bring pleasure. But take a trained chef. Invite them into your house with their eyes open to design and create a meal for you, and the odds are high that the meal will delight you.
Music also is made by design. Allow a small child who has had no piano lessons to bang on the keys. Although we may take some pleasure in their delight of finding the power to make a cacophony of noise, we do not expect the resulting sound to please us. But, bring in a pianist who plays a song composed, and our ears are delighted.
One of the most pleasurable, glorious light shows in existence is the total solar eclipse when seen from the path of totality. This light show requires precise positioning of the observer, earth, sun, and moon. Its raw beauty surpasses that of any choreographed fireworks show. Yet, much literature describes it as a random accident. The Special Time Edition titled Beautiful Phenomena Discovering Nature’s Most Exotic Wonders states with confidence, “the moon was not placed in space for our entertainment. In fact, it was placed there by accident.” The article goes on to imply its sinful to view the total solar eclipse as more than a lame accident by using the word temptation in the following sentence: “Even for scientists, there can be a temptation to see the eclipse as something intended to thrill, a sky show put on for the only species in the solar system able to appreciate it.”
Why is it wrong for a scientist to view the eclipse as a purposeful light show?
Given much of our experience in life, from coding, to cooking, to composing, does it not seem a reasonable hypothesis?
Is a scientist allowed to wonder, love, and grieve even though science can explain none of these?