To accuse science of robbing life of the warmth that makes it worth living is so preposterously mistaken, so diametrically opposite to my own feelings and those of most working scientists, I am almost driven to the despair of which I am wrongly suspected. But in this book I shall try a more positive response, appealing to the sense of wonder in science because it is so sad to think what these complainers and naysayers are missing. This is one of the things that the late Carl Sagan did so well, and for which he is sadly missed. The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. […]

My title is from Keats, who believed that Newton had destroyed all the poetry of the rainbow by reducing it to the prismatic colours. Keats could hardly have been more wrong, and my aim is to guide all who are tempted by a similar view towards the opposite conclusion. Science is, or ought to be, the inspiration for great poetry, but I do not have the talent to clinch the argument by demonstration and must depend, instead, on more prosaic persuasion. A couple of the chapter titles are borrowed from Keats; readers may also spot the occasional half-quotation or allusion lacing the text from him (as well as others). They are there as a tribute to his sensitive genius. Keats was a more likeable character than Newton and his shade was one of the imaginary referees looking over my

– Richard Dawkins: “Unweaving The Rainbow” (Preface)

Dawkins refers to Keats' poem “Lamia”, namely the passage:

Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomèd mine—
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person'd Lamia melt into a shade.

The question is: Is Dawkins correct in believing that reductionism should not stand in conflict with our sense of wonder and awe?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Please do not add further comments and ping the author in the chatroom for further clarification. For reference, see this Philosophy.Meta post
    – Philip Klöcking
    May 4 '18 at 10:24

In his "Lecture on Ethics" Wittgenstein makes some similar points about wonder and miracles, first defining miracles:

Let me first consider, again, our first experience of wondering at the existence of the world and let me describe it in a slightly different way; we all know what in ordinary life would be called a miracle. It obviously is simply an event the like of which we have never yet seen. (10)

He gives an example:

Now suppose such an event happened. Take the case that one of you suddenly grew a lion's head and began to roar. Certainly that would be as extraordinary a thing as I can imagine. Now whenever we should have recovered from our surprise, what I would suggest would be to fetch a doctor and have the case scientifically investigated and if it were not for hurting him I would have him vivisected. And where would the miracle have got to? For it is clear that when we look at it in this way everything miraculous has disappeared; unless what we mean by this term is merely that a fact has not yet been explained by science which again means that we have hitherto failed to group this fact with others in a scientific system. (10--11)

And concludes:

This shows that it is absurd to say "Science has proved that there are no miracles." The truth is that the scientific way of looking at a fact is not the way to look at it as a miracle. For imagine whatever fact you may, it is not in itself miraculous in the absolute sense of that term. For we see now that we have been using the word "miracle" in a relative and an absolute sense. And I will now describe the experience of wondering at the existence of the world by saying: it is the experience of seeing the world as a miracle. (11)

Earlier in the lecture he talks more about the different varieties of wondering, relative:

I wonder at the size of this dog because I could conceive of a dog of another, namely the ordinary size, at which I should not wonder. (8)

And absolute:

If for instance I had this experience [the experience of relative wonder] while looking into the blue sky, I could wonder at the sky being blue as opposed to the case when it's clouded. But that's not what I mean. I am wondering at the sky being whatever it is. (9)

It's obvious that relative wonder is compatible with a scientific perspective. My first instinct was to say that Dawkins only feels relative wonder, while Keats feels absolute wonder. But I don't think that has to be true.

There's a way in which the scientist's rainbow is no longer absolutely wonderful. One of the great things about rainbows is that they don't require any analysis; just look at them and you'll feel joy. The experience is sort of unmediated. But then look at the rainbow through the eyes of a physicist. The rainbow is no longer mysterious and no longer experienced unmediated. That's not to say a physicist can't enjoy rainbows; they can, but not in the same way as usual while they are investigating its electromagnetic properties.

But I think Keats goes too far if he says that science must destroy miracles. Instead it can defer them. The miraculous thing is no longer: Look, a rainbow!, but: Look, the amazing intricacies of refraction and wave motion! This may well be the wonder Dawkins is describing. I know some mathematicians who feel the same way.

To your last thought: On what principled grounds can we say rainbows are wonderful but the US tax code is not? I'm not sure that any exist, but do we need them? It doesn't seem to me that there's an exact science of wonder. Nor should there be. Part of the wonder of wonders is their fuzziness, the way they appeal to me, not some lifeless objective standard.

  • Lecture on Ethics is from 1929, Wittgenstein changed his outlook a lot by the time of Philosophical Investigations. Late Wittgenstein would consider it possible that as an empirical fact science has such an effect on most people that the "awe and wonder" are reduced, and that "proving" and "logic" are based on similar empirical facts about us and our form of life. I suspect that empirical psychology would bear out the former at least. Awe and wonder are not about what one can or can not prove, whether Keats is right is an empirical question.
    – Conifold
    May 3 '18 at 23:18
  • And Dennett should worry about more than science:"Do not all charms fly At the mere touch of cold philosophy?.. Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings, Conquer all mysteries by rule and line, Empty the haunted air, and gnomèd mine — Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade." If the compartmentalization you suggest is to succeed it would have to be less logical and cerebral.
    – Conifold
    May 3 '18 at 23:44
  • @Conifold I'm not sure I feel the force of your first comment---I haven't put anything that disagrees with it as far as I can tell. And I didn't include W's (more controversial) statements about the relationship between necessity and absolute wonder for just that reason.
    – Canyon
    May 4 '18 at 0:50
  • @Conifold it's Dawkins, not Dennett. ;-) And though it's a bit archaic even at Keats' time, “philosophy” seems still to refer to “natural philosophy” i.e. science.
    – viuser
    May 4 '18 at 3:58
  • @wolf-revo-cats My bad, but today at least the cold touch seems to extend way into philosophy proper.
    – Conifold
    May 4 '18 at 4:06

You are talking not about science but the faith of determinism. In the deterministic mindset, everything is made up merely of the physical interaction of objects, which can be subjected to experiments, which will definitively show how they behave and why.

The true statement should be, the physical world can be approximated to rules that consistently are obeyed in defined circumstances, which are useful for our control of the physical world.

Why is it the moon exactly covers the sun in the eclipse? You can describe the how, but this does not remove the wonder of its existence, and a statement as to the vastness of our solar system and how small the world truly is.

The determinist believes if they describe something, that is its meaning, like a description of a steam engine removes the wonder of the engineers who brought it into existence and keep it functioning.

The more we discover about life and existence, it is much more complex and vast than we ever imagined, and governed by rules we are just beginning to grasp. Take two simple points. Matter is 99% nothing. The known universe is only 5% of what we believe is truly there. DNA that defines our life, is so complex, evolutionists believe 500,000 base pairs came into existence randomly and life began. Nihilists believe nothing has meaning yet they live as if they have true affection and love for others, which is a denial of their very own belief.

To know who we are in ourselves is as important as learning how the world works and how we can use it to our social benefit. Determinists have turned science into a weapon against purpose and intent, which is how we as humans operate, and has nothing to do with science.



In aesthetic contemplation one considers an object - a natural object or an artefact - in detachment from all practical or explanatory motivations or attitudes. The object may be regarded purely as a presentation or an exercise in symbolism, or as embodying certain techniques. The response may be an experience of awe or wonder that anything can be so beautiful, so elegant, so intricately symmetrical, so skilful, so original.

It is impossible to adopt an attitude of aesthetic contemplation of this kind towards an object at the same time as one immerses oneself in its natural or technical origins, composition, physical effects - in a word, in its scientific aspects.

I cannot, the fact is plain, regard the rainbow purely in its presentational beauty (just to take this aspect) at the same time as I am considering it in terms of the reflection, refraction and dispersion of light. Equally I cannot relish the adjustment of the pitch to the strength of a sound, or the harmonious combination of violin, clarionet, flute, and oboe if I am thinking of the explanation of sound in terms of Ohm's Law, Fourier's Law or Helmholtz's physical explanations of my auditory experience.


One can switch between the aesthetic and the scientific attitude although they are mutually exclusive at any given time.

Dawkins' own celebration of science provides evidence of this. I can quite see his point that one can (as he might say) appreciate the beauty and elegance of a theory - scientists often do and mathematicians even more often. But they can do so, not while they are producing it or concentrating on understanding it, but only when they detach themselves from all such practical interests and contemplate it as an intellectual production. Then and only then can they adopt an aesthetic attitude to it. The passage from Dawkins is not itself a bit of science; it is an aesthetic reflection on science.

Quite in parallel, take a passage from Darwin in which he talks of the human eye in The Origin of Species, ch. 6 : he stands amazed at 'such [a] wonderful structure, as the eye, of which we hardly as yet fully understand the inimitable perfection'.

This is not science; it is an aesthetic reflection on the eye and he can offer this reflection only because, briefly at least, he has detached himself from his practical scientific concerns and taken up the aesthetic attitude.

I agree with Dawkins that science does not undermine the aesthetic attitude. He simply shows, which I imagine is all he wants to do, that science no less than the arts provides material for the aesthetic attitude.


The view of the aesthetic attitude as detached from practical concerns derives from Kant's 'The Analytic of the Beautiful' in the Critique of Judgement. It stands opposed to the standpoint of (say) socialist realism, which regards detachment from political concerns as decadent and pernicious. But there is no indication that Dawkins' celebration of the aesthetic is linked to socialist realism ! I can't see that his view of the aesthetic diverges from the aesthetic attitude as I have described it. It appears to fit it rather well.


Thanks for valuable comment from Canyon.

  • 2
    I like this in general but I take issue with your use of the word "aesthetic". For many great works of art our aesthetic experience is improved by going beyond the level of pure presentation and into symbolism, themes, technique, etc
    – Canyon
    May 4 '18 at 20:53
  • 2
    @Canyon. Thanks for this. I stressed the role of pure presentation but my real, my major, point was the detachment of aesthetic experience or judgement from practical concerns. Pure Kant. So, yes, consideration of symbolism, themes, technique, &c., all belong in the aesthetic realm. It's detachment that I should have underlined rather than 'pure presentation'. I concede totally. Best : GT
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    May 4 '18 at 21:24
  • @Canyon. I have incorporated your objection, at least as best I can, into my answer - with acknowledgement. My thanks. Best : GT
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    May 4 '18 at 21:46

"The question is: Is Dawkins correct in believing that reductionism should not stand in conflict with our sense of wonder and awe?"

I would say he is exactly right. But he seems to have no idea of how wonderful and awesome the universe is. He is a materialist and cannot imagine anything more wonderful or awesome than atoms in a void.

In the end, if we keep going to the end, reductionism and holism lead us to the same place so there's no reason to suppose the former robs the world of its magic. It's just that scientists do not push reductionism to its end. They stop where they cannot think of how to reduce Matter, at the doorway to metaphysics, which is a deliberately non-reductive approach.

For a fully reductive approach we have to turn to metaphysics. The most complete reductionist explanation of the world is given by Nagarjuna in his Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way, where he reduces everything. This lays out the foundation of Buddhist philosophy and it is a clear demonstration that Dawkins is right, reductionism does not rob the world of wonder and awe but reveals just how wonderful and awesome it really is.

I truly believe that Dawkins has no conception of just how wonderful and awesome is the world. The way in which scientists so often defend their unimaginative metaphysical conjectures by appealing to how wonderful it makes the universe appear to them is desperately sad. They seem to have no idea of what wonder and awe really are. If they really did practice redcutionism they might find out.

The problem for scientists is that reductionism leads immediately into metaphysics and most don't want to go there. So they are left endorsing reductionism but not practicing it. If they pursued it all the way to the conclusion that the Universe is a Unity, where and no further reduction is possible, they would find out what wonder and awe really are.

As it is I find Dawkin's views astonishingly naive and patronising and they indicate a very low wonder and awe threshold. He does not seem to have studied philosophy or to know anything much about how the world works, or even to want to know. Perhaps it's something in his genes.

Reductionism leads inevitably to maximal simplicity and it is the simplicity of the Universe that is revealed by it. This is what is so awesome, and if we do not see it then we do not see its awesomeness. The way Dawkins argues for the wonder and awesomeness of the universe reveals nothing but that he is easily impressed. From a mystics' point of view he doesn't even have his eyes open.

It is possible that ranting like this against a particular person's view is bad manners on the forum but I'll risk it because this person is a danger to intelligent thought everywhere. He should become competent at philosophy before talking about these important matters but researching views he does not like is not his strength.


Reductionism leads to division, division leads to separation and to partition, partition fences the whole with its partition and results in objection from the subjection because of the division and its incompleteness in its own argument, and an nature of the innumerate quantity of it and its premise. Wholism comes from no pretence of its own absolute and disregards that nature of quantity from a reference of reduction and its negation but in a quality that transcends the material to give value to its conception not by a quantitative measure of that value but an intangeable quality determined without reference to scale or similar measurement. Are you happy on a scale of one to ten? are you fing kidding me!!

Newton gave rise to an exlanation of the world from his three laws and the consequence give rise to determinism and a fact upon his argument of the past the present and future.

The spectrum reduced colour as a fraction of vibration but colour may as well be a degree of black and white because of infinite division and a quantity associated with that division as well as the whole spectrum of EMR. Our consiousness gives rise to colour and sound and attributes value from the properties of our senses and is more important than the mechanism that affords it explained by science in the nature of its process. Quality in my mind preceeds quantity and has a greater importance than the measure that science atemmpts and uses as an explanation.

Reductionism in its own definition allows the concept of wholism and vice versa but is more mechanistic in its approach and leads to measurement which is a product of division with no absolute scale that a whole gives no value to other than the presence of its quality.

I dont think that what we observe is reduced to mechanism and construction it can be argued that the reality we observe is artificial compared to God and we are subject of that artificialality in its creation unless its a perfect example of Gods judgement upon his own enviroment and unquestionable replication, but explanation leads to an argument of fact and just where does the fact lie within the pyramid.


A few years back on worldbuilding, I answered a question: What's the smallest change to physics required to allow magic? I find it is a solid argument in favor of Dawkin's perspective.

To summarize here, I argued that just because one could reduce everything to mere physics, that does not mean that one cannot still choose to find wonder in the complex nuances which supervene upon this underlying fabric. Indeed, as the details of such a reduced system are often vast and wide, it is impossible to not focus on the complex patterns which emerge, and categorize them as such.

The key to such a sense of magic is sensitivity. Sensitivity to everything in the environment around you. If you'll notice, magicians in the fairy tale books often wont cast a spell unless the time is right for it.... I'm not going to do a "pull a quarter out from behind your ear" trick unless I'm confident I can palm the quarter there in the first place.

Is it magic? Well, I know the trick, so it's just an illusion to me. However, if I do that to my daughter, and she smiles, that's magical to me! So if I can do an illusion that she thinks is magic, and she can distort her face into a smile, and I think its magic, how badly do we want to draw the lines between the events. Can we just say "Me producing a quarter from her ear causing her to smile" is actually magic? Am I really forced to put a line between those two parts, and make the magic go away?


Is Dawkins correct in believing that reductionism should not stand in conflict with our sense of wonder and awe?

Reductionism is based on an unjustified and unjustifiable assumption, that wholes are completely explainable by parts. This Methodological reductionism, the process of simplifying systems and reducing them to an assembly of parts, has been mistakenly taken to demonstrate ontological reductionism.

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour" -William Blake

Holism can stand in contrast to Keats', and Dawkins, visions of science as purely reductionist. Every particle is acted on by every other particle. The universe appears to be holographic in nature, and the human brain (holonomic model), where parts represent the whole but with less resolution. The tools we have used to make understanding the world tractable, have been misused to say that we like Hilbert with his doomed program understand everything in principle, only lacking detail. But in the detail we must return to the whole.

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.” - Einstein

Science is not dependent on reductionism. Such narrow simplifications of science inevitably limit the scope for encountering wonder.


I will argue that Dawkins is wrong in the sense that his notions of warmth and awed wonder refer to something entirely else than those implied by at least some opposing views.

What's immediately obvious is that some people feel that science takes something away from life. This goes at least as far back as 19th century romanticism (1):

One of the romantics’ central aims was to (re)enchant nature in the face of what they regarded as a threat from modern science. The threat was embodied primarily in the worry that modern science alienated (rational and free) human beings from nature, which, through the lens of this new science, had been viewed as a domain of brute, determined, mechanical causality (§5.1). Aesthetics is capable of (re)enchanting nature insofar as it brings out a different conception of nature as organic rather than mechanic.


Through the lens of modern science, nature was regarded as an inanimate, mechanistic domain of dead and meaningless matter that is composed of separate atoms and thoroughly determined by efficient causality. Modern science “dissected [nature] atomistically like a dead corpse” (Eichendorff, EW 5: 423). The romantics regarded this approach to nature as reductive as much as they regarded it as “dissecting”: it reduces nature to mere matter, devoid of the features that the romantics took to be essential to it, like holistic unity, self-organization and life. The growing sense of man’s alienation from his natural surrounding was seen as a product of this reduction of nature: human beings seemed alienated from nature exactly because the rational, soulful and sense-making character that is usually associated with them is opposed to a mechanistic and deterministic domain.


Third among the consequences is the threat to any awe-inspiring stance towards the world. Not only can the divinity once attributed to nature no longer be found therein, but modern science was also seen as posing a challenge to any attempt at a secular alternative to religion. Seen as fully accessible to the calculative part of the human mind, nature becomes transparent and devoid of any mystery or human-transcending power. Are we left without a source of wonder, awe or reverence in our modern world? According to the romantics, the way out of these worrisome consequences requires that we recognize that modern science is reductive not only in terms of its object—nature—but also in terms of its methodology: modern science employs merely what Wordsworth called the “independent intellect”. The romantics understood this as calculative reason when it is isolated from non-calculative reason, sensibility and imagination.

Are such accusations of science justified and arise due to its inherent nature, or are they instead based on a misunderstanding of it?

Phenomena such as warmth, awe, wonder, inspiration, fear, hope, meaning, love, grief etc. are the domain of our primary subjective experience. Scientific understanding can be interpreted as a move from subjectivity towards objectivity; in the process, our subjective experience is abstracted away. Science doesn't attempt to explain the world as it is to us, but as it really verifiably is. Scientific approach to understanding the world as it is to us refers merely to understanding of why and how the world is to us as it is (e.g. in neurobiological terms), but in a universal manner agnostic of individual experience. Thus, science objectifies nature, or in more romantic terms, depersonalizes it. The move away from subjectivity can be understood as a reduction of experienced warmth in some sense of the word. This is probably why Edgar Allan Poe calls science “a vulture, whose wings are dull realities” (2).

For example, consider a relationship someone has with her loved ones. This relationship is significant to the person because it involves shared experiences, appreciation of character traits, etc. The loved ones are appreciated as individuals. Thinking of them only in terms of organized organic matter that is perceived as appreciated due to evolutionary benefits is a dehumanizing abstraction. Similarly, contrast marveling at a magnificent old tree that has provided shade to generations and withstood decades of storms to viewing it in terms of biophysical interactions.

What about the argument that scientific understanding enhances our appreciation of perceived reality, instead of diminishing it? This is the problem that Richard Feynman talks about in (3):

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say "look how beautiful it is," and I’ll agree. Then he says "I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing," and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe, although I might not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is, I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

Like Feynman, it is this appreciation of scientific description that Dawkins is talking about, and feels awed wonder towards. If we define awe and wonder as in (4):

Awe: a direct and initial experience or feeling when faced with something amazing, incomprehensible, or sublime

Wonder: a reflective experience motivated when one is unable to put things into a familiar conceptual framework – leading to open questions rather than conclusions

then reductionist science is in conflict with neither; it's possible to experience both awe and wonder while trying to understand a phenomenon in scientific terms. Perhaps a more fundamental question would be whether the ultimate goal of science is to eliminate all space for awe and wonder by providing a complete understanding of everything; i.e., is it possible, assuming the definitions above, to experience awe and wonder about something when it is understood completely? But that is a different question.

However, I think both Feynman and Dawkins (assuming he would agree with Feynman) miss something crucial here. For scientific understanding to add to the appreciation of an experience, two conditions must be met:

  1. explanatory reductionism, rather than ontological reductionism is assumed;
  2. one is at peace with potential implications of scientific understanding, and does not experience cognitive dissonance because of it.

Regarding point 1, I refer to the following definition of explanatory reductionism and ontological reductionism from (4):

Science is typically considered to be reductionist, although there are also anti-reductionists among scientists and philosophers of science. What does it mean to be reductionist or anti reductionist? One can typically find statements such as “heat reduces to kinetic molecular energy” which means (1) scientists can offer an explanation of heat in terms of kinetic molecular energy and/or (2) heat just is kinetic molecular energy. The first is a form of explanatory reduction; the second, ontological reduction.

Explanatory reduction means, on a somewhat standard view, that one theory or vocabulary can be translated into another more basic theory or vocabulary.

We know more about what heat is if we say ‘kinetic molecular energy,’ than if we just say ‘heat.’ There is more to say, of course, and someone might object that to know that heat is kinetic molecular energy doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about heat – e.g., that it makes us sweat, that too much of it is not good for our health or for the earth, that too much of it may cause the icecaps to melt and lead to geopolitical crises, and so on. Supposedly, some of this could be explained in terms of kinetic molecular energy, but not all of it. One could argue that even if we have a reductionist story about heat in physics and chemistry, we would still need further explanations in biology and political science, and it’s not at all clear that the concepts we would need in political science to explain the social effects of a local drought or a global crisis, for example, could be reduced to an explanation in terms of elementary particles.

In philosophy of mind and cognitive science, reductionist positions usually claim that mind is reducible to physical processes, and these physical processes are standardly understood to be neural processes, which in turn are reducible to molecular processes. Materialism or physicalism are standard in cognitive science, and these positions are usually thought to be reductionist so that neuronal (or, according to some, perhaps molecular or quantum) processes are thought to be the base level to which one reduces everything else. Looking in the opposite direction, one might think that idealists are inflationists rather than reductionists, but in fact anything like a claim that everything is mind (as one might find in the eighteenth century idealist, George Berkeley) is just another form of reductionism where the base is composed of mental events. Again, however, scientific materialism is generally the rule in science.

Note that I am using the term ontological reductionism interchangeably with eliminitavism (4):

Eliminativism is a form of reductionism that denies the reality of the thing that is reduced. If the mind is reduced to the brain, then the mind is not real; only brain states are real.

If we assume explanatory scientific reductionism, then the fact that objective mechanisms predeterminate subjective experience doesn't automatically negate the reality of subjective experience, or its importance. If instead we assume ontological scientific reductionism, subjectivity becomes a mere emergent illusion underpinned by a more fundamental reality.

Point 2 refers to personal beliefs impacting the response one has to scientific claims. For instance, similarly to what atheists like Dawkins and Feynman are describing, a deeply religious person may experience more awe and wonder because of an added scientific perspective, although for a different reason: she may marvel at how a deity has constructed the world to be full of such and such physical interactions, etc. However, some people may feel that ontological reductionism imposes materialism, which is in contradiction with some beliefs or hopes. In this sense, scientific knowledge can taint experience as a harbinger of unpleasant truths, and stands in opposition to the type of awe and wonder grounded on convictions that science undermines.


(1) 19th Century Romantic Aesthetics. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aesthetics-19th-romantic/

(2) Edgar Allen Poe, “Sonnet—To Science”. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48625/sonnet-to-science

(3) Richard Feynman: The Beauty of the Flower. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbFM3rn4ldo

(4) A Neurophenomenology of Awe and Wonder: Towards a Non-Reductionist Cognitive Science.

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