Here is a powerful and beautifully written essay by Marilynne Robinson about the state of Western Culture and why we must maintain a relationship with and reverence for mystery- even in the face of the great accomplishments of "materialist" and reductive science. .


 I am a theist, so my habits of mind have a particular character. Such predispositions, long typical in Western civilization, have been carefully winnowed out of scientific thought over the last two centuries in favor of materialism, by which I mean a discipline of exclusive attention to the reality that can be tested by scientists. This project was necessary and very fruitful. The greatest proof of its legitimacy is that it has found its way to its own limits. Now scientific inference has moved past the old assumptions about materiality and beyond the testable. Presumably it would prefer not to have gone beyond its classic definitions of hypothesis, evidence, demonstration. And no doubt it will bring great ingenuity to bear on the questions that exceed any present ability to test responses to them. It seems science may never find a way to confirm or reject the idea of multiple universes, or to arrive at a satisfactory definition of time or gravity. We know things in the ways we encounter them. Our encounters, and our methods and assumptions, are determined by our senses, our techniques, our intuitions. The recent vast expansion and proliferation of our models of reality and of the possible bring with them the realization that our situation, on this planet, and within the cocoon of our senses, is radically exceptional, and that our capacity for awareness is therefore parochial in ways and degrees we cannot begin to estimate. Again, to have arrived at this point is not a failure of science but a spectacular achievement.

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That said, it might be time to pause and reflect. Holding to the old faith that everything is in principle knowable or comprehensible by us is a little like assuming that every human structure or artifact must be based on yards, feet, and inches. The notion that the universe is constructed, or we are evolved, so that reality must finally answer in every case to the questions we bring to it, is entirely as anthropocentric as the notion that the universe was designed to make us possible. Indeed, the affinity between the two ideas should be acknowledged. While the assumption of the intelligibility of the universe is still useful, it is not appropriately regarded as a statement of doctrine, and should never have been. Science of the kind I criticize tends to assert that everything is explicable, that whatever has not been explained will be explained—and, furthermore, by its methods. Its practitioners have seen to the heart of it all. So mystery is banished—mystery being no more than whatever their methods cannot capture yet. Mystery being also those aspects of reality whose implications are not always factors in their worldview, for example, the human mind, the human self, history, and religion—in other words, the terrain of the humanities. Or of the human.

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