Awe & Wonder: Scientists Reflect on Their Vocations

Why do science? Why explore the world? In this inspiring short film, scientists describe how their fascination with the beauty and complexity of nature informs their vocations, and how their observations of the natural world cause them to reflect on the bigger questions of life. Exploration of the world evokes a sense of awe and wonder for these men and women, and this emotional response to nature often leads to an exciting journey of scientific discovery. The scientists discuss the way in which problems and failures spur better science, and how one of the great joys of science is to explore the questions and puzzles inherent in the world around us.

Download the study guide here!

Featured Scholars:

Dr. Justin Barrett, Thrive Professor of Developmental Science, Fuller Theological Seminary
Dr. Sean B. Carroll, Vice President, Science Education, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Dr. Allan Wilson, Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Wisconsin
Dr. David Charbonneau, Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University
Dr. Guy Consolmagno, Director of Vatican Observatory
Dr. Georgia Dunston, Professor of Microbiology and Founding Director, National Human Genome Center, Howard University College of Medicine
Dr. Sylvester James Gates, University System of Maryland Regents Professor and John S. Toll Professor of Physics, University of Maryland
Dr. Jeff Hardin, Professor of Zoology, University of Wisconsin William Newsome –Professor of Neurobiology, Stanford University
Dr. Richard Potts, Director of Human Origins Program, Smithsonian Institution
Dr. Michael Ruse, Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, Florida State University
Dr. Neil Shubin, Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago
Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, Astronomer, Director of AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion
Dr. Huda Zoghbi, Professor, Baylor College of Medicine; Director, Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital


Dr. S. James Gates: The instant that one realizes that you’re having a genuinely new thought is essentially indescribable. I’m sure that this is something similar to what people describe as a muse. It seems unworldly.

Br. Guy Consolmagno: I had a little telescope I’d take up country and everybody in the village would come up and they’d look through the telescope and see the craters in the moon or the rings of Saturn. They’d go “ooh” and “ahh,” just like my family and friends back in Michigan do. And it finally hit me – this is what makes us human, this ability to look at the sky with wonder.

Dr. Jeff Hardin: When I look through a microscope, I can’t help but be struck with a sense of awe and wonder about what I’m looking at, and I can’t help but reflect on the larger questions of life.

Dr. Jennifer Wiseman: The human spirit does gain a lift from pure curiosity, trying to understand who we are and where we fit into the larger scheme of things.

Dr. William Newsome: Because if we didn’t have that sense of awe, if we didn’t have that sense of curiosity, we wouldn’t start down this road in the first place. It’s hard to do world-class science.

Dr. Sean B. Carroll: When you look into something, you almost always get a surprise, and then that surprise leads you into new pathways.

Dr. Huda Zoghbi: Are there failures? Absolutely. When you don’t have very firm ground, you’re really searching for a needle in a haystack. I’ve collected a lot of hay before I found that needle.

Dr. Justin Barrett: It sure is fun to play in this space and to make new discoveries and to hopefully make contributions that move us forward.

Dr. Michael Ruse: Science loves problems. Any fool can find the solution – it takes a genius to find the question.

Dr. Neil Shubin: We live in a world loaded with questions and puzzles. If you know how to look, you can begin to see connections in humans and other species, and between humans, other species, and the planet itself. And when you see those connections, it’s hard not to be in awe.

Dr. Richard Potts: That kinship that human beings share with all other creatures on Earth is a very, very powerful thing, and helps us to understand the continuities and to place into context our uniqueness.

Dr. Georgia Dunston: So we get into those philosophical questions of “what is life?” and, within that context, “what is it to be human?”

Dr. David Charbonneau: There’s this incredible universe that surrounds the Earth for us to go and explore and that we as humans have to pick up that charge.

Dr. Jennifer Wiseman: And then it becomes the task of human societies, cultures, and religious communities and philosophers to dig deep and find out what that message is that’s beyond just what science is telling us.

  • Course Categories: General Theology
  • Science Topics: Earth Science & Environment, History & Philosophy of Science, Life Sciences, Neuroscience, Brain, & Mind, Physics and Cosmos
  • Tags:
    evolution, astronomy, philosophy, science and religion, biology, Dr. Sylvester James Gates Jr., Dr. Michael Ruse, Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, Dr. Guy Consolmagno, Dr. Justin Barrett, Dr. Huda Zoghbi, Dr. Jeff Hardin, Dr. Neil Shubin, Dr. Sean B. Carroll, awe and wonder, what makes us human, connections in nature, mathematics, Dr. Allan Wilson, Dr. Richard Potts

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In furtherance of the AAAS mission of advancing science in service to society, AAAS|DoSER’s role in the Science for Seminaries project is to support efforts to integrate science into seminary education. AAAS|DoSER does not advise on or endorse the theological content of the participating seminaries.