The enigma of life: confronting marvels at the edges of science

Steve Paulson, Marcelo Gleiser, Tania Lombrozo, Gavin Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Einstein famously claimed that “the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” This statement suggests that no amount of scientific explanation will suffice to make sense of the bizarre situation of the human mind within the universe. So what are the actual roles of awe and wonder within the framework of contemporary science? How, for instance, do awe and wonder inform scientists’ understanding of the phenomena they are researching? What aspects of contemporary science are more likely to elicit wonder, and why? Is science rechanneling our innate thirst for knowledge and understanding toward more concrete and palpable realities, or is it aggravating the tension between truth and meaning by revealing the scope of our ignorance when it comes to probing the ultimate nature of reality? Physicist Marcelo Gleiser, experimental psychologist Tania Lombrozo, and physician Gavin Francis analyze the impact of awe and wonder on their own work and on the mindsets of their colleagues carrying out leading-edge scientific research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-66
Number of pages19
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Rachel Carson
  • artificial general intelligence
  • artificial narrow intelligence
  • awe
  • curiosity
  • free will
  • the hard problem of consciousness
  • the universe
  • wonder


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