Killer or Revealer: Some Reflections on Science and Mystery

by Adam J. Pearson

The physical universe is awe-inspiringly vast, rich, diverse, intricate, detailed, and amazing. Every scientific inquiry into one of its infinite facets further opens our hearts to its wonders by opening our minds to its workings. While some say that science is the slayer of all mysteries, my experience suggests, on the contrary, that science is not a killer of mysteries, but a revealer of them.

Scientific inquiry clears up one mystery in the most precise language and testable predictions of which human beings are capable, and in so doing, reveals countless others. Studying the science does not extinguish awe at the universe; it deepens it.

Scientists and Inventors on Mystery

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” —Albert Einstein, ‘The World As I See It’, Forum and Century Oct 1930), 84, 193-194. Albert Einstein and Carl Seelig. Ideas and Opinions, based on Mein Weltbild (1954), 11.

“Decades spent in contact with science and its vehicles have directed my mind and senses to areas beyond their reach. I now see scientific accomplishments as a path, not an end; a path leading to and disappearing in mystery. Science, in fact, forms many paths branching from the trunk of human progress; and on every periphery they end in the miraculous. Following these paths far enough, one must eventually conclude that science itself is a miracle—like the awareness of man arising from and then disappearing in the apparent nothingness of space. Rather than nullifying religion and proving that ‘God is dead,’ science enhances spiritual values by revealing the magnitudes and minitudes—from cosmos to atom—through which man extends and of which he is composed. ” —Charles A Lindbergh, ‘A Letter From Lindbergh’, Life (4 Jul 1969), 60B.

 “It is sometimes said that scientists are unromantic, that their passion to figure out robs the world of beauty and mystery. But is it not stirring to understand how the world actually works—that white light is made of colors, that color is the way we perceive the wavelengths of light, that transparent air reflects light, that in so doing it discriminates among the waves, and that the sky is blue for the same reason that the sunset is red? It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it.” —Carl SaganPale Blue Dot (1994), 19.

“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve. —Max PlanckWhere is Science Going?, trans. James Murphy (1933), Epilogue, 217.

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