Richard P. Feynman on wonder in the universe

Loop Trail, Enchanted Rock, Texas (May 15, 2010 7:58:23pm)

Loop Trail, Enchanted Rock, Texas (May 15, 2010 7:58:23pm).
Photograph by: Gregory Foster

…he learns about the size of the universe. The size of the universe is very impressive, with us on a tiny particle that whirls around the sun. That’s one sun among a hundred thousand million suns in this galaxy, itself among a billion galaxies. And again, he learns about the close biological relationship of man to the animals and of one form of life to another and that man is a latecomer in a long and vast, evolving drama. Can the rest be just a scaffolding for His creation? And yet again there are the atoms, of which all appears to be constructed following immutable laws. Nothing can escape it. The stars are made of the same stuff—but in some such complexity as to mysteriously appear alive.

It is such a great adventure to contemplate the universe, beyond man, to contemplate what it would be like without man, as it was in a great part of its long history and as it is in a great majority of places. When this objective view is finally attained, and the mystery and majesty of matter are fully appreciated, to then turn the objective eye back on man viewed as matter, to view life as part of this universal mystery of greatest depth, is to sense an experience which is very rare, and very exciting. It usually ends in laughter and a delight in the futility of trying to understand what this atom in the universe is, this thing—atoms with curiosity—that looks at itself and wonders why it wonders. Well, these scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man’s struggle for good and evil seems inadequate.
Richard P. Feynman in his essay “The Uncertainty of Values”. Available in The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist, (Reading, Massachusetts: Perseus Books, 1998), p. 38-9.

Richard P. Feynman Posted on behalf of on Monday, May 17th, 2010 under Quotations.

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