Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Advantage of Being Awestruck - by @Jason_Silva on Vimeo

Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small...
Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small region of space in the constellation Fornax (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I found the following video very interesting.The argument is that because of humanity's ability to be inspired by our very existence and the universe around us, we are able to grow technologically and scientifically and driven to learn more as a species. By and large I agree, but I don't think that evolution can adequately explain this trait. I observe this quality more prominently in children and less in adults. Here is the video.
The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck - by @Jason_Silva from Jason Silva on Vimeo.

Here is the notes given with the video on Vimeo

This video was created by @Jason_Silva and shot and edited with my friends at Bravo Media, and is non-commercial and for educational and inspirational purposes only. Full credits and clip attributions can be found below. This video was inspired by three big ideas:
1) The ideas of psychologist Nicholas Humphrey who has written of "THE BIOLOGICAL ADVANTAGE OF BEING AWESTRUCK". Basically, our ability to awe was biologically selected for by evolution because it imbues our lives with sense of cosmic significance that has resulted in a species that works harder not just to survive but to flourish and thrive...
"Humphrey refers to consciousness as a magic show that you stage for yourself inside your head, which lights up the world and makes you feel special and transcendent... this magical theater provides a reason to live, a love of occupying the present moment, and a desire to sustain it into the future, that over time has proved stronger than anything else, and accounts for humanity’s swift and triumphant success--
Humphrey says “being enchanted by the magic of experience, rather than being just an aid to survival, provides an essential incentive to survive.”
"We relish just being here. We feel “the yen to confirm and renew, in small ways or large, our own occupancy of the present moment, to go deeper, to extend it, to revel in being there, and when we have the skill, to celebrate it in words..”
Our desire to understand brings exquisite pleasure... and feeds our exploratory voyage, our scientific inquiry, our technological development, and even our poetic self-regard..

I would argue that this what drives science. But how did it get there? And not everyone has these feelings and desires in equal measure. I think those who love arts, science, and engineering the most have the strongest case. It truly is another way humanity expresses itself. 

2) The Stanford study that found that AWE is clinically good for you, expanding perception of time, increasing compassion and empathy and promoting well being:

I think that it's this benefit is why we find the inquisitive nature and traits being discussed ingrained in Children. They are like sponges for information. We all should never forget what it's like to have your mind blown by learning something that impresses you. What I love is that you never have to give that up just because you grow up. What I love about musicians, artists, scientists, and engineers is that they never do.

3) Ross Andersen's rapturous meditation on the ontological awakening of our psyches provided by the Hubble Space Telescope: "At first glancing the Deep FIELD “one might mistake it for gemstones scattered across black velvet, but a closer look reveals that each smudge of light, 2,600 in all, is a galaxy dense with billions of star-fired worlds, pinwheeling in deep time. … To that point, astronomy had imaged objects only four billion light years away, and poorly at that. Here a telescope reached 11 and a half billion light years into space and delivered an image legible to the layman: an unprecedented expansion of human vision."

I agree.
**Music by John Murphy - "Kaneda's Death Pt 2" from Sunshine Soundtrack
**Featuring Stock Footage from Shutterstock
Still images courtesy of THE IMAGINARY FOUNDATION -
And clips from Knate Myers' "ISS at Night" featuring NASA
Camera: Liam O' Sullivan
Edited by Jess Betz and Jason Silva
Shot and edited at BRAVO MEDIA -

I think a far more interesting question is where does this trait go in so many adults? I think society bludgeons  most of it out of us when we are told to stop asking questions and to stop dreaming - in other words: school. One thing I've noticed is that many anti-theists will agree that the ability to be awed is an integral part of being human that we can recognize beauty. They say that we have no need of God in order to enjoy beauty or to be blown away by the universe. Yet they also argue that no one's life has transcendent value. How can you be amazed and awed by your existence and yet deny that there is anything of purpose or transcendent value (i.e. created). For example, here is Christopher Hitchens making the same argument against Douglas Wilson as the above video.

Awe is important for what it means to be a human being - all seem to agree but the question of how it got into us seems to be ignored. Does anyone think that an eagle or a vulture has an emotional response as it flies over the Grand Canyon?  Or is a bird impressed by it's own ability to fly? But can a person be impressed or emotionally touched by his/her own athletic ability, or by his/her poetry or any talent for that matter? Have you ever said or done something so brilliant that it shocked you that it came out of you or through you? That is why people create art and study science and make machines to solve problems.

The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck - by @Jason_Silva on Vimeo
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Superb, what a webpage it is! This blog gives useful data
    to us, keep it up.
    Here is my website - watch nfl games online

  2. I read this piece of writing completely on the topic of the difference of most up-to-date and previous technologies,
    it's remarkable article.
    My web site: direct download movies

  3. If you would like to grow your knowledge only keep visiting
    this web page and be updated with the most up-to-date news
    update posted here.
    Here is my blog Work from home jobs