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Wondrous TruthsThe Improbable Triumph of Modern Science$
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J.D. Trout

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199385072

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199385072.001.0001

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Wonder and the Feeling of Understanding

Wonder and the Feeling of Understanding

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 Wonder and the Feeling of Understanding
Source:
Wondrous Truths
Author(s):

J.D. Trout

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199385072.003.0001

All animals learn, but only one yearns to. Humans are the primates that explain. For humans, few products of intellectual life are more exhilarating, more pleasing to give and receive, than an explanation that produces a strong sense of understanding. And to scientists, there is no other occupation where explanation is so ubiquitous. Marie Curie likened the pleasure of scientific explanation to the wonder of “a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale.” Copernicus was transported to the heavens where, “side by side with Zeus himself, I take my fill of ambrosia, the food of the gods.” But few people are consistently motivated by high-minded pursuits. Most have at least a little cash on the table. And for scientists, the cash comes in the form of the sensation of certainty, or of understanding: a fitting explanation feels good.

Keywords:   wonder, sense of understanding, pleasure, explanation, certainty

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