Curiosity is sacred


EXCERPT: . . . Scientists are professionally curious. [...] In his 1955 speech to the National Academy of Sciences titled “The Value of Science(PDF),” Richard Feynman uses a Buddhist proverb to elucidate the blind nature of science: “To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven; the same key opens the gates of hell.” Of course it is wise to caution against unleashing hell, but if we throw away the key, then we cannot get into heaven. Feynman, who helped invent the bomb, insists that science is worthwhile...

[...] Of course, not everyone learns humility from pursuing knowledge. ... But, on balance, science has done more good than harm. Feynman’s entreaty is supported by Steven Pinker’s tome Enlightenment Now ... The information compiled in Enlightenment Now demonstrates how invaluable science has been to human flourishing; science-driven advancements have saved hundreds of millions of lives.

[...] Feynman describes curiosity as a “religious experience,” expressing the feeling in a poem as “atoms with consciousness; matter with curiosity. Stands at the sea, wonders at wondering: I, a universe of atoms, an atom in the universe.” ... The same thrill, the same awe and mystery, comes again and again when we look at any question deeply enough. With more knowledge comes a deeper, more wonderful mystery, luring one on to penetrate deeper still. Never concerned that the answer may prove disappointing, with pleasure and confidence we turn over each new stone to find unimagined strangeness leading on to more wonderful questions and mysteries—certainly a grand adventure! ... To anyone who values truth, curiosity is sacred.

Sacred values hold society together. Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt compares sanctity to a maypole dance in The Righteous Mind, “As the men and women pass each other and swerve in and out, their ribbons weave a kind of tubular cloth around the pole. The dance symbolically enacts the central miracle of social life: e pluribus unum.” He theorizes that sanctity evolved to foster cooperation and that sacred values are indispensable to social cohesion. We should bind society together with the yearning to understand.

If curiosity is sacred, then its associated values—falsifiability and uncertainty—are moral imperatives. Speaking sixty years before the publication of "Enlightenment Now", Feynman’s urgency expresses his fear of losing the kind of progress Pinker charts, unless we honor those moral imperatives. Like Pinker, Feynman bundles reason, science, humanism, and progress together: "What can we say to dispel the mystery of existence? If we take everything into account—not only what the ancients knew, but all of what we know today that they didn’t know—then I think we must frankly admit that we do not know."

But, in admitting this, we have probably found the open channel. This is not a new idea; this is the idea of the age of reason. This is the philosophy that guided the men who made the democracy that we live under. The idea that no one really knew how to run a government led to the idea that we should arrange a system by which new ideas could be developed, tried out, and tossed out if necessary, with more new ideas brought in—a trial-and-error system. This method was a result of the fact that science was already showing itself to be a successful venture at the end of the eighteenth century.

Even then it was clear to socially minded people that the openness of possibilities was an opportunity, and that doubt and discussion were essential to progress into the unknown. If we want to solve a problem that we have never solved before, we must leave the door to the unknown ajar. Understood this way, curiosity should be sacred to liberal democracies because it is part of their ethos. Curiosity’s characteristic behavior of breaking ideas to solve problems is how liberal democracies course correct while navigating disparate interests in a diverse society. The truth provides a common ground among disparate interests. By desiring honest explanations of how the world works, curiosity expands this common ground. This is how curiosity can bind society together, and why it is worth sacralizing... (MORE - details)
The irreligious find odd things sacred.

Science wouldn't have likely saved many if it were not for the free market, exemplifying voluntary transactions and individual rights which are hallmarks of Judaeo-Christian thought.
Curiosity is natural, I'd say...not necessarily ''sacred,'' in my opinion. One could choose to ''satisfy'' that curiosity in a number of harmful ways, all leading to potential disaster.

The word sacred is one of those terms that has been stretched so much, it's just another meaningless term.

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