Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Pursuit of Knowledge

The author of my Astronomy textbook sometimes appears to confuse his opinion and scientific fact. Suffice it to say that I'm very glad that humility is not an examinable topic, despite the book's content. In today's reading he said something implying that curiosity is one of the noblest human sentiments. (If my book had a search function I could go into more detail. Unfortunately it's not that advanced.)

Later in the day I had a discussion about how we appreciate good more because we know evil. I find that worship can stem from awe at what God isn't almost as much as from what he is. My dad pointed out to me that the forbidden tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Although eating the fruit was a sin and introduced humankind to the knowledge of evil, it also introduced us to the knowledge of good.

The idea of a world devoid of wonder at the pure and holy, in which righteousness is unremarkable, bemuses me. My first reaction is that it would be bland. It doesn't seem complete. On reflection, though, I think that response is part of my imperfection.

In Malacandra, C. S. Lewis paints a convincing picture of a society which is good and yet fulfilled. That is a tangible way of knowing I am wrong. More certainly, but less tangibly, I know that God chose not to give that knowledge to Adam and Eve. I know that evil can never be good, even it unwittingly causes good.

Knowledge, in fact, is not always good - although even the forbidden fruit was desirable. Curiosity is not always a noble sentiment: it can be a vice. This is so counterintuitive that it takes me a while to understand, although I realise that I already have some experience with the concept.

Usually when something interests me, I fond out more about it. I don't believe that's a bad thing: God gave me the faculty of reason and the ability to learn so that I could use them. There are some interests, though, that I don't indulge. Occult rituals, for example, hold a weird fascination. They also happen to be entirely opposite to God. For that reason, I choose to starve my interest, rather than to feed it. I don't research that topic and I'm wary of anything that approaches it. I've already recognised that some knowledge is not good; some curiosity, in fact is not noble.

That recognition couldn't kill an innate love of learning and knowledge, though. In fact, I find that I can't believe that curiosity isn't good. Instead, I find myself going back to Lewis. In Malacandra, the characater Weston is driven by his desire to ensure the survival of humankind. This is his justification for the many atrocities he commits. Oyarsa says that the good which is love of kin has become evil, because it was blown out of proportion.

The same thing can happen with knowledge. In themselves, curiosity and reason are surely God-given gifts. It is when our search for knowledge becomes too important that it is wrong: when we value it more than God Himself; when it is a justification for things we know are wrong.

I think curiosity can be noble. I will keep on learning as much as I can, but I will do it in Christ. What I can't learn in Christ, I most emphatically do not want to learn.

No comments:

Post a Comment