Aristotle & The Gap

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Here’s the beginning and end of Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder, a 1996 talk by Richard Dawkins WP on the wonders of science, transcribed and made available online on Edge (which I’m reading a lot these days). What can I say — breathtaking.

You could give Aristotle a tutorial. And you could thrill him to the core of his being. Aristotle was an encyclopedic polymath, an all time intellect. Yet not only can you know more than him about the world. You also can have a deeper understanding of how everything works. Such is the privilege of living after Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Planck, Watson, Crick and their colleagues.

I’m not saying you’re more intelligent than Aristotle, or wiser. For all I know, Aristotle’s the cleverest person who ever lived. That’s not the point. The point is only that science is cumulative, and we live later.

It’s often said that people ‘need’ something more in their lives than just the material world. There is a gap that must be filled. People need to feel a sense of purpose. Well, not a bad purpose would be to find out what is already here, in the material world, before concluding that you need something more. How much more do you want? Just study what is, and you’ll find that it already is far more uplifting than anything you could imagine needing.

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