Recent debate in the letters pages of the press about Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion has several times referred to a sense of wonder at natural phenomena: their size, their beauty, their complexity.
Letter writers have claimed that such a sense is a sense of the numinous and demonstrates the likelihood of there being a creator. Others have replied, saying that atheists experience wonder too, but draw different conclusions from this fact.
Is this outcome intended as a concession to those few proposing the introduction of so-called intelligent design (aka creationism) into the science curriculum? Or is it a response to such a position, which reclaims a sense of wonder as a human capacity without any necessary religious significance?
Regardless of the authors' intentions, I wonder what teachers will make of something the Scottish philosopher Sir William Hamilton said in 1859: "Wonder has been contemptuously called the daughter of ignorance; true, but wonder, we should add, is the mother of knowledge."
I choose to be optimistic about Scottish teachers' handling of this astronomical outcome.
Sharon Jessop, Department of educational and professional studies, Faculty of education, Strathclyde University.