The World Split OpenAdmiring the cosmos carries certain risks in these contentious times. It sounds like piety. It sounds, more specifically, like an argument for intelligent design. Oddly, great areas of science are closed off from consideration by people who take themselves to be defenders of science, precisely because it is impossible not to marvel at the things science reveals. Controversy has not gone well in this country for some time, and there could be no better illustration of that fact than that, at this moment, when gorgeous hypotheses bloom day after day, when the heavens should be as wonderful for us as to the Babylonians, we refuse to look up from a quarrel we’ve carried on now for 150 years. Anyone who reads an occasional article on genetic research knows that both change and stability are more mysterious than the simple mechanisms of Darwin, championed by writers such as Richard Dawkins, can acknowledge.  On the other hand, anyone who has read a little good theology, or encountered a devout mind, is perfectly aware that religion does not hang on the question of the origin of species. I have read that there are great spiral structures in space so vast that no account can be made of them, no hypothesis made to describe their formation, and they appear somehow to have their own weather, so to speak. to what can we compare these things but to the mind that discovered and described them, the human mind, which, over the centuries, has amassed by small increments the capacity for knowing about them.  Planet earth is not even a speck of dust in the universe, and how uncanny it is that we have contrived to see almost to the edge of what time and light will allow, to look back billions of years and see suns forming.  When I read about such things, I think how my own heroes would have loved them.  What would Melville have done with dark energy, or Poe with spooky action at a distance? Whitman could only have loved the accelerating expansion of the universe. Dickenson probably knew already that our sun is atremble with sound waves, like a great gong.  It is a loss of the joy of consciousness that keeps us from appropriating these splendours for the purposes of our own thought.

Marilynne Robinson, Portland Arts and Lectures, January 19, 2006

What would happen if one woman told the truth about herself?

The world would split open.

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