The feelings of awe and wonder engendered by astonishing or mysterious natural phenomena are as old as humanity itself. According to the classical account of rationality, the end of inquiry—the production of a viable explanation—should also serve to diffuse these emotions. Yet, the cultural and spiritual significance of wonder and its psychological underpinnings seem to suggest a different story, one in which the rational and the irrational, nature and the supernatural, and science and religion keep trading places and eclipsing one another.

This three-part series brings together leading scientists and writers for an interdisciplinary exploration of wonder, from its role in inspiring scientific breakthroughs to the many ways in which it connects to aesthetic experience, religious attitudes, and ethical concerns. Beyond the fascination with modern marvels, can the experience of wonder offer a deeper understanding of ourselves and our timeless pursuit of meaning and truth?

 

Unpacking Wonder: From Curiosity to Comprehension
Thursday, October 10, 2019 | 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

From the macrocosm of the universe to the microcosm of the human body, our discoveries about ourselves and the natural world continue to spark our experience of awe and wonder. But how exactly does science define and explain the experience of awe and wonder? Social psychologist Michelle Shiota, writer Caspar Henderson, and astrophysicist Alex Filippenko unpack the emerging science behind the emotions of awe and wonder, including their role in our ongoing quest for understanding and knowledge. Learn More

 

Beyond Oneself: The Ethics and Psychology of Awe
Wednesday, December 4, 2019 | 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Awe and wonder are powerful emotions that can inform and shape our attitudes toward ourselves and others, especially in relation to the larger meaning and purpose of our lives. What are the psychological underpinnings of these universal emotions? And do they lie at the root of the religious impulse in humans? Prof. of religious studies Lisa Sideris joins psychologists Jennifer Stellar and Piercarlo Valdesolo to explore how awe shapes our perspectives and views on everything from science to morality. Learn More

 

The Enigma of Life: Confronting Marvels at the Edges of Science
Wednesday, February 5, 2020 | 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

If the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible, as Einstein famously claimed, what then is the role of awe and wonder within the framework of contemporary science? How do awe and wonder inform scientists’ understanding of the phenomena they are researching? Ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer, physicist Marcelo Gleiser, and physician Gavin Francis analyze the impact of awe and wonder on their own work and on the mindsets of their colleagues carrying out cutting-edge scientific research. Learn More

 
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The Nour Foundation | NYAS | To The Best of Our Knowledge
 
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Where can we turn to find the story of our lives, an existential roadmap that explains where we have come from, why we are here, and where we are headed? Must each of us discover meaning within the context of our individual lives, or are there universal sources of meaning that we can all access? Is there any relationship between living a meaningful life, and the quality of our health and well-being? Neurologist Jay Lombard, philosophers Massimo Pigliucci and Michael Ruse, and author Emily Esfahani Smith join forces to shed light on these perennial questions from their respective disciplines.

 

The notion that humans, in all their complexity, are merely an evolutionary accident, an insignificant speck in a boundless cosmos, is deeply unsatisfying for most non-scientists and fails to resonate with their life experience. What, then, can evolutionary biology ultimately tell us about the meaning of our lives? Paleoanthropologists Melanie Chang and Ian Tattersall, and paleontologist Simon Conway Morris share their insights on these competing concepts, and explain how meaning and purpose can be gleaned from the remarkable story of life itself.

From the birth of galaxies to the self-organizing dynamics of our planet to the ongoing expansion of the universe, the more we discover about the evolution of the cosmos, the more acutely we realize the enormity of what remains to be known. Remarkably, over the past 100 years we have learned more about life in our universe than the entire history of humanity put together. What guidance or wisdom can the study of cosmology and astrophysics offer us in our search for meaning and purpose? Theoretical physicists Paul Davies and Ard Louis, and astrophysicist Lucianne Walkowicz tackle the “big questions” of existence.