In March of 2021, Garvin McCurdy published “A Boffin and Subtle Energies”. He wrote that in calling himself a “boffin” he was using a World War II term for “useful nerd”. It would be a good idea to read the post so you can learn he is so much more than that: www.WINNpost.org/2021/03/05/a-boffin-and-subtle-energies/ Like the two men he writes about in this post, Garvin has long followed his curiosity, sense of wonder, and dedication to scientific inquiry.
On Science and Wonder
By Garvin McCurdy
When I set about writing this post, my first step was to look again at the WINN website where I encountered the July tribute to Claude Swanson, a physicist with a sense of curiosity and wonder. He had been a major source of much little- known, significant science for me, most clearly in the case of Han Bon Kim, the North Korean biologist who was ‘disappeared’ in the 1960s seemingly for having become too much of a hero for his national leadership. He had done significant work in describing structures that linked the acupuncture system to the distribution of stem cells throughout the body. Although he discovered an unmatched amount of unrecognized science, Han Bon Kim’s work lacked a sense of wonder, of connection to something beyond his specific studies.
Who did tackle this need head on? None so clearly as Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who made his wonder apparent for all to see. And he paid a price for the effort.
I was drawn to Father Teilhard’s work immediately after his well-publicized death in 1955, decades before my own immersion in subtle energies. Certainly, his work was responsible for the way that I responded to my subtle energies epiphany in 1997 when Reiki discovered me, an M.I.T. guy steeped in standard science and technology, its quirks and capabilities, and a very good Cold War warrior working closely with others involved in shutting down the Viet Nam war, its last expression. During that period, I had learned to pray strongly for wisdom for the leaders of both sides, and on several occasions experienced miracles-in-retrospect. My assignment to the U.S. Embassy, Saigon involved a series of at least eight long- and short-term synchronistic coincidences that decided the very messy, but successful evacuation strategy.
My early assessment was that Teilhard had been the Vatican’s man assigned to keep an eye on the evolutionists, but after my experiences in 1997, my understanding became much more complex. A Jesuit, he had been educated in several schools in France and England but is usually associated with the University of Paris. He was a paleontologist, theologian, philosopher, author, and teacher. Early in his studies he became convinced of the truth in Darwin’s theory of evolution, which did not endear him to Church reviewers. Then, his emphasis on the Christian religion did not endear him to most scientists.
By about 1910 he had become involved with studying cave paintings and human fossil findings from Europe and Africa. In WW I he became a very highly decorated stretcher-bearer, what we would call a ‘medic,’ one of those unarmed men beloved by soldiers who take the wounded from the battlefield to hospital.
He was quite likely exiled in 1926 to work in ‘out-of-the-way’ China. There he participated in the discovery of Peking (now called Beijing) Man and established that they had chipped stone tools and made fire. Though Teilhard was formally assigned to China, he made trips as far away as Java and India, as well as relatively short trips to France and the U.S. He passed WW II near Beijing under a not very restrictive diplomatic umbrella administered by Japan. Being exiled had not been enough to suppress him and by 1947 his Church had forbidden him to publish or teach. He then moved to the U.S., and arranged for his books to be published after his death. Born in 1881, he died in 1955 and his funeral was very widely attended.
He wrote The Phenomenon of Man in Peking between 1938 and 1940. It is the most complete expression of his thought and is based on his concept of the Earth’s being enveloped, over cosmic time, in three figurative emergent spheres he named the geosphere, the biosphere, and the noosphere that all exist and inter-operate. That third sphere, the noosphere of thought or consciousness, Teilhard envisioned as converging into an Omega Point. Although his view of the three spheres seems useful still, convergence of thought toward an Omega Point doesn’t seem to be happening.
In the last few pages of his book, Teilhard de Chardin wrote,
“We need and are irreversibly being led to create, by means of and beyond all physics, all biology and all psychology, a science of human energetics.”
Teilhard knew little or nothing about the energies of life, but as his writing shows, he was anxious to have scientists address this vital subject. His noosphere predicted that there would be a convergence of science and reflective thought that would bring about “spiritual renovation.” Although some of what he foresaw has not occurred, science and wonder continue to proceed together in creating new perspectives. It is because of Teilhard that I myself have worked to build a scientific structure for life and consciousness. Beyond physics, biology, psychology, and all our new areas of science there is something greater that we might call “The Great Unknown” or “The Great Mystery” or perhaps just “God”. Scientific studies often begin with curiosity, but it is wonder that takes us further in exploring all the energies of life.
Going back to Claude Swanson – he was guided by an overriding curiosity about scientific perceptions that did not fall into the realm of recognized science as had been described by Thomas Kuhn in a cultural relations way in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. There, science is operationally defined as a group of individuals working on a generally accepted paradigm with a common measuring method. Whether an effort is acceptable or not is controlled by the scientific authorities. Kuhn noted that younger and/or “different” persons with varying views are not brought forward until the elders resign or die, then the nonconformists struggle to attain authoritative stature. Claude didn’t struggle with prominence; he was unconcerned about his standing in the standard hierarchy. He used his conventional scientific expertise to earn money to finance the explorations he truly valued without becoming embroiled in wrangling with the standard authorities.
It is not sufficient for humanity to be solely concerned with science and finding ways to be able to define, explain, and measure everything precisely and completely. We are also drawn to following our sense of wonder to explore something greater than ourselves.
* * * * *
Garvin McCurdy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The image that accompanies this post is from Pixabay and was chosen by the editor because the beautiful two-sided door is a symbol for the truth that we need to open the way forward through both science and wonder.