Scientists have long been depicted as mainly rational, bereft of emotional and personal commitments, and disenchanted. Such a view assumes the practice of science as sterile and inoculated from aesthetic and spiritual experiences. This article questions such assumptions by investigating how scientists experience beauty, wonder, and awe in their work as a source of enchantment—a sense of awe and wonder that connects the human being to one or more objects or agents beyond the self that are perceived as having intrinsic meaning. Analyses are based on 205 in-depth interviews with biologists and physicists from India, Italy, the UK, and the US. Building on the works of Peter Berger and Charles Taylor, we develop a theoretical framework of enchantment, which we use to illustrate the different ways science is compatible with an “enchanted” worldview, even when scientists do not explicitly talk about religion. We also contribute a new typology of three modes of enchantment—transcendent, immanent, and liminal—that enriches the sociological understanding of the relationship between science and religion.

The Enchantment of Science: Aesthetics and Spirituality in Scientific Work

Stefano Sbalchiero;
2024

Abstract

Scientists have long been depicted as mainly rational, bereft of emotional and personal commitments, and disenchanted. Such a view assumes the practice of science as sterile and inoculated from aesthetic and spiritual experiences. This article questions such assumptions by investigating how scientists experience beauty, wonder, and awe in their work as a source of enchantment—a sense of awe and wonder that connects the human being to one or more objects or agents beyond the self that are perceived as having intrinsic meaning. Analyses are based on 205 in-depth interviews with biologists and physicists from India, Italy, the UK, and the US. Building on the works of Peter Berger and Charles Taylor, we develop a theoretical framework of enchantment, which we use to illustrate the different ways science is compatible with an “enchanted” worldview, even when scientists do not explicitly talk about religion. We also contribute a new typology of three modes of enchantment—transcendent, immanent, and liminal—that enriches the sociological understanding of the relationship between science and religion.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11577/3509848
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