I've gotten at least a few comments from people along the lines of, "I'm still not sure what to make of wonderism." In my attempts to explain it, I find myself writing longer and longer articles, with more and more detail. Sometimes it's harder to express an idea in just a few words, than in many words! Pascal's famous quote comes to mind: "I am sorry for the length of my letter, but I had not the time to write a short one."

So, in the meantime, I'm going to try to answer one simple question, "What is wonderism?" Unfortunately, there is no one simple answer. Instead, there are many answers. The following answers are boiled-down, short, simple, summary answers. They are necessarily incomplete descriptions; for each one, I could write pages and pages more. They represent my own personal variation of wonderism, i.e. how I personally conceive of what wonderism is. Others who agree with the basics of wonderism will have different opinions on specific points. No worry! I imagine that, over time, we will collectively be able to distill a much simpler, foundational wonderism that a wider variety of people can agree on together, with each person holding their own variation and elaboration upon the foundation. Consider the following answers as coming from the perspective of, "I've made my own explorations of wonderism, and here is what it looks like from where I've come to." Ideas, questions, comments, and criticism are welcome.

What is wonderism?

In my view, wonderism is ...

A Philosophy
  • An attempt to identify core ideas shared by many of the greatest defenders of science and reason. E.g. Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman, Richard Dawkins, and countless others.
  • An intuitive, conceptual framework. The concept of 'wonder' brings together many useful ideas into a strong, coherent whole.
  • An informal philosophy supporting rational, evidence-based thinking. Though not a formal, academic philosophy, it is a philosophy in the sense that something like existentialism is a philosophy. Its central concepts and themes lend support to more rigourous formal philosophies such as pragmatism, naturalism, philosophy of science, and physicalism.
  • A philosophy of intuition. Intuition is the brain's natural ability to make pretty-good guesses. Themes related to intuition include: Exploring, hypothesizing, speculating, imagining, creativity, visualization, communication, et al.
  • An aesthetic/value philosophy. We seek to bring about greater wonder in the world, and appreciation of the natural universe, including humanity's accomplishments.
  • A communication philosophy. Using intuition and wonder for effective communication: Metaphor, rhetoric, pragmatics, word-smithing, etc.
  • An inter-personal philosophy. A set of concepts for understanding, relating to, and communicating with people.
  • A personal 'way of life' philosophy. Addressing personal experiences and practical ways of dealing with daily life. A comprehensive worldview.
  • A philosophy for popular media and creative arts. Use of art and media to express ideas related to science and reason, a message of wonder.
  • A philosophy for science fiction in particular. Represent possible futures according to mainstream, consensus science, with only a small number of speculative ideas added. Use of metaphor and other techniques to express ideas in support of reason and science. Bringing science back to science fiction.

A Worldview
  • A recognition that we do, in fact, experience awe and wonder at the universe. We do not experience it as cold and empty. This self-recognition can open up further self-reflection on our human nature.
  • A foundational choice. As described in Taking a Step Beyond Awe, when faced with the unknown, we experience the awe of both terror and wonder, and then make a conscious choice to reject terror in favour of seeking wonder.
  • An attitude towards life, of fearlessly seeking knowledge in order to overcome adversity.
  • A naturalistic worldview, embracing the natural universe. Wonder is a natural emotion that all humans can experience. No non-natural explanation is needed for it.
  • An embracing of a scientific 'way of thinking'. Understanding how science works sheds light on how our own minds work. Adopting a science-based mindset can trigger profound changes in one's worldview.
  • An embracing of the reality of shocking scientific truths. We really are related to all other life on Earth, via evolution. We really are all one human race. We really are 'star stuff'. We really do live precariously on a pale blue dot. And so many more!
  • A rejection of dogma, oppression, bigotry, violent conflict, and other forms of terror.
  • A self-descriptive identifier for how one views the world. Describes a worldview in which natural wonder is highly valued. Useful in conversation and as a way to bring many science-minded people with similar philosophies together to share ideas.
  • A movement with the goal of popularizing science and reason. Dogma and ignorance are too popular in our culture today.

A Communication Strategy
  • An answer to many common objections to atheism, such as, "Well, what do you believe in?" or "Without god, my life would be empty."
  • A counter-argument to the last refuge of religious apologetics, the Argument from Wonder aka the Argument from Religious Experience. Atheists can experience wonder, too. And the wonders discovered by science are greater and more numerous than the wonders derived from religious myth.
  • A general strategy for engaging in discussions with believers of all kinds. Intuition plus reason makes a powerful combination.
  • An articulation of the principles of science and reason in an intuitive way. E.g. explaining fallacies as systematic flaws in natural human intuition.
  • An approach to communicating a greater appeal of reason and science to other people. Science is not cold, hard, dark, evil, oppressive, empty, or any of the other stereotypes that permeate our culture. On the contrary, science opens up vast and vivid experiences of wonder at our universe. More so, I would claim, than the narrow and shallow myths of our religions and other dogmas.
  • An approach to education. Tap into the natural wonder of children. Keep wonder alive in adolescents. Bring wonder back to jaded adults.
  • A foundation for inter-cultural communication, understanding, and non-violent conflict resolution. We are all humans, and recognizing that fact has certain implications for peace in society.

A Goal
  • A desire to bring about a future of greater wonder. To create a great work, to influence the world in positive ways, to reduce suffering and conflict, to take positive action. A rejection of apathy and unquestioned complacency.
  • A set of related values. Examples: Openness, honesty, clarity, reality, self-reflection, humility, appreciation, curiosity, vividness, attraction, et al.
  • A vision for the future. Actually, many visions for the future -- some to avoid, some to strive for -- based on the best scientific understanding of today.
  • A call to activism and public criticism of dangerous ideas. While respecting people as people, we do not grant undue respect to ideas as ideas. Many different approaches to this are needed, from gentle to unapologetic, provided we act legally and ethically.
  • A call to produce popular media supporting science and reason. Fiction and non-fiction books, music & poetry, movies & TV, film & literature, visual art, dramatic art, magazines, blogs, videos, games, toys, etc.
  • A call to advance the scientific study of conscious experience as a natural phenomenon.
  • A call to advance the scientific study of intelligence, intuition, and reasoning as natural phenomena.
  • A call to advance the scientific study of religion and other cultural phenomena as natural phenomena.

I hope this helps to give a more concrete idea of what wonderism is. Of course, many details are missing, and many differences of opinion are bound to arise. This is intended to be a starting point for further discussion and collaboration. Feel free to comment.


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Tags: communication, foundationism, intuition, philosophy, reason, science, summary, vision, wonderism, worldview

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