Then you also appreciate how much effort he [Kepler] wasted making his models, and how much grief it caused him when the "perfect solids" failed to line up with measured planetary orbits; when the seductive idea proved false. Should we really, then, all pursue such chimerae?
In the end, Kepler, a true scientist and honest man, had to settle for untidy fact over harmonious fancy.
But at least, when we shoot off a Cassini probe, it goes where we intend to aim it.
Yes indeed. It is perhaps the classic example of the triumph of pragmatism over idealism - of the idea that if we want to learn something about the world we have to actually look at it! And not necessarily expect it to conform to our pr-conceived ideas of harmony or beauty.
But I think it actually illustrates the balance
that has to be struck between the two. Kepler perhaps wouldn't have been inspired to make his discoveries in the first place without the desire to uncover the beauty in the simplicity of the orbits of the heavenly bodies. The idea of beauty in simplicity seems to be largely rooted, in human history, in this contrast between the movements of heavenly bodies and the messy world on the surface of the Earth. It's interesting to wonder how the human race would have developed if our atmosphere was permanently opaque.
-- Updated Tue Oct 03, 2017 8:56 am to add the following --
On the predictive power, and beauty, of symmetry:
In many ways, it seems, symmetry is
beauty. It seems to be intimately tied to our conception of what is beautiful. Because symmetry is repetition and therefore symmetry is simplicity. Since prediction is, by its nature, made possible by repetition, I guess we can then also say that symmetry is
predictability. (I'm claiming an awful lot of synonyms here, aren't I? I don't mean those words mean precisely
the same thing. That would never do. Just that they naturally lead to each other.)
We have to embrace our finitude and therefore moral relativism as part of our daily existence, but it is not an absolute. Relativism by itself amounts to little more than intellectual conformity and passive assent to the values of those around us. Religion is the impetus to move beyond that.
The funny thing is that some people would say the exact opposite of this. They would say that it is moral absolutism
that represents passive assent. Passive, unquestioning assent to the dictates of people who claim to be the interpreters of the objective moral authority.