“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” ~ Albert Einstein.
A History of Curiosity
Curiosity is a scientific virtue; it is generally praised today as a first step in understanding the world around us. But it may be surprising to discover that this was not always the case. For nearly two millennia, curiosity was a Christian antagonist—a vice.
Early Christian theologian Tertullian dismissed curiosity as the tool of Athens (Greek philosophers) but not Jerusalem (the church). Augustine called it a disease, a distraction, allowing astronomers to take pride in predicting eclipses rather than in relishing the mystery of the divine.
In the medieval world, Thomas followed Augustine in frowning on curiosity but more emphatically praising the idea of wonder. In his view, wonder was similar to curiosity in its inquisitiveness but more comfortable living with divine mystery.
Wonder and curiosity were competitors until the Enlightenment, when wonder traded roles as the bad guy. David Hume called it a thing of our “ignorant and barbarous ancestors,” a relic of religion and superstition. For him, curiosity was a “love of the truth.”
Which brings us to Einstein’s scientific love of curiosity.
This website celebrates curiosity, an inherent human drive inducing us to close our gaps in knowledge, to know ourselves, and to pursue explanations of the universe around us.
A Personal History
All of the great apes show some level of curiosity, but humans are by far the most ambitiously curious among them. Curiosity is an attribute that primates embody, a natural part of our evolutionary past, and essential for our survival as a species. It took us from the trees, to the oceans, to new continents, to life in orbit, and on to journeys beyond our own solar system.
And it took the editors of this website on a long personal journey.
A married writing team with nine books between us, we have blogged together for years. Our previous site, The Discarded Image, was our most-recent effort to publicly explore the intellectual discoveries that urged us to change our thinking. That site was named after a book by C.S. Lewis, in which he argued that old worldviews, or “images,” are discarded when they collapse under the weight of new information. With some irony, our public pursuit of a better understanding of the world and the constant discarding of old ideas also eventually led us to discard The Discarded Image.
We felt we needed a place that no longer focused on what we had been—circumscribed by the limits of our backgrounds—but one that looked forward to what we could become. A place to celebrate human curiosity broadly and demonstrate that inquisitiveness in action. A place to question and reason. A place to explore science, philosophy, literature, food, art, sex, and anything else that happens to capture our attention.
The Curious Ape is our next chapter, and we welcome other curious apes.