Reading the Book of Nature

From "NASA's New Telescope Will Show Us the Infancy of the Universe" by Rivka Galchin in The New Yorker, a beautiful concluding metaphor:

The seventeenth-century astronomer Johannes Kepler studied the physical world for the messages he felt that God had written into the Book of Nature. Galileo, in fact, had supporters inside and outside the Church. Sometimes people in power have been reluctant to acknowledge the truths that science uncovers. Each time we look farther, our universe gets larger. Or, depending on your perspective, we get smaller. Astronomers take the position–an incidentally ethical one–of being radically in favor of knowing.

Bob Williams, the former head of the Space Telescope Science Institute, grew up in a Baptist family in Southern California, one of five children. He'd wanted to be an astronomer since the seventh grade, when he received a pamphlet on astronomy in science class; he then saved his paper-route money to buy a telescope. He earned a scholarship to U.C. Berkeley and studied astronomy there. "My father didn't want me to go to college," he said. "He told me that if I went to get an education I would lose my faith. And he was right about that. We were raised to take every word in the Bible as literally true. But then I was learning about continental drift. About evolution." Williams said that he is often asked about faith. Many traditions use the term "God" to mean, basically, everything that is. In that view, the universe itself is the Book, and astronomers are reading it as it is.

(cf Edge of the Universe (1999-06-08), Seeing Stars 3 (2000-01-14), You Must Believe (2004-12-28), Gravitational Waves - Thirty Years Later (2011-07-15), Humility, Physics, and Philosophy (2011-11-13), David Schramm (2014-09-14), Feynmanisms (2019-05-06), ...) - ^z - 2021-09-10