Why SCIENCE? Prosperity, Pleasure, Profundity

Dear Wonderfest friend,
Wonderfest calls itself the “Beacon of Science.”  Why science?  Among all human endeavors, what makes science particularly worthy of illumination?
PROSPERITY.  Coupled with human freedom, science has been the driving force behind global prosperity. Learning how the world works has helped both culture and comfort to flourish. Since the time of Galileo, our understanding of the natural world — including of ourselves — has grown fantastically.  Is there even one person alive today who would honestly prefer to live in the 16th century? I mean this quite literally: Better a pauper today than a prince only a few centuries ago! Why? Because of science — and the technology (from cotton underwear to electricity to anesthetics) that it has made possible. Science is the engine of prosperity.
PLEASURE.  Richard Feynman, we are told, did physics not for the glory or the prizes but for the fun of it. Lacking Feynman’s genius, the rest of us may find science’s fun to be even more accessible. Whether I am grasping the mind-boggling scope of the energy conservation law, or, through neuroscience, finally seeing how a magician’s sleight of hand plays with my powers of perception, I take great pleasure in finding things out. And this is a pleasure that neither poverty nor infirmity can deny me. Science is as basic a pleasure as music, sex, and even dessert!
PROFUNDITY.  Ideally, to paraphrase Carl Sagan, science is skepticism married to wonder. Note that wonder comes first: it is probably the first emotion we experience after birth! It is certainly the emotion that Wonderfest strives to nourish beyond childhood. With humility, science asks some of the deepest questions. And it often provides wondrous, natural, even mechanistic answers that make mysticism and the supernatural seem banal. Our species yearns for transcendence, and, strangely, science delivers. Not in the afterlife, but in THIS life — as it helps us to transcend personal egocentricism, conceptual anthropocentrism, and cosmic geocentrism.  Sometimes, at its best, science also fills us with awe — with deep acknowledgment of the mysterious rather than the mystical.
“All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike,” said Einstein, “and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”
Happy new year, and wondrous regards! 
Tucker Hiatt
Founding Executive Director
P.S.  To help Wonderfest continue its pro-science mission, please make a year-end, tax-deductible gift here. Or, for as little as $1 per month, become a formal Wonderfest patron here. Finally, if you shop at Amazon.com on this last day of 2013, AmazonSmile will donate $5 to Wonderfest. No matter how you choose to give, with every penny Wonderfest will help to promote the scientific outlook — in the Bay Area and beyond.