The Awe of Understanding, Good, Sat, Feb 16 2013 #(1901)

Feb 16, 2013

Dear Professor Dawkins,
When I read what Douglas Adams wrote, “I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.” I was moved to tears both by the truth of those words and by yet another reminder of how unbearably early the world lost him. I’ve been trying to come up with a phrase to explain that exact sentiment for months, ever since I read ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. I was already an atheist, but that book, as so many others have experienced with your writing, truly lifted a veil for me… a veil of ambiguity and of murky uncertainty. I went from a lack of belief and a desire to understand the universe and our life in it, to a real sense of possibility and hope that it might really be attainable – even for someone without a Science degree. The pure joy of understanding, the exultation of comprehension, cannot ever be equally by the dumb, blind and deaf reverence of inherited ‘wisdom’ from any religion or authority figure. I think the work you do as a scientist is breath-taking, but I think the work you do as a force for rationality and reason is in some ways more important and definitely much harder. Without reason, without rationality, without logic and a world view based on reality rather than fiction, all the scientific discoveries in the world are meaningless. The endless debates you participate in… the constant uphill battle against idiocy and ostrich-like denial is far too exhausting for most people, and as a consequence the ignorant usually win. I thank you for refusing to be steam-rollered by them and for being tireless in your quest to enlighten as many people as possible in a world where our vast advances in science and other forms of knowledge are often not known to the majority, let alone understood by them. Your books have a beauty all their own – a real beauty that reflects the stunning, awe-inspiring and fascinating universe we call home.
Yours sincerely, Julia Smith (Montreal, Canada)

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