training of my unruly mind and emotions, I could refrain from wanting things that cannot. Similarly we accord laws spontaneously to the perceivable physical world, which in fact does behave predictably - at least as far as the physical world of our senses is concerned. And I do not believe in the existence of a Being who lives beyond matter and energy, even if that Being refrains from entering the fray of the physical world. But even if there is only a single universe, there are many universes within our one universe, some visible and some not. Alan Lightman (Photograph courtesy of MIT). As the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote a century ago, We should try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Alan Lightman celebrated author of both nonfiction and novels, one of the finest science essayists writing today, the very first person to receive dual appointments in science and the humanities at MIT, an extraordinary storyteller, and one of my favorite minds explores in one. The essay explores a profound contradiction of human existence our longing for immortality.
Guest Review of The Accidental Universe, by Alan Lightman. Theoretical physicist and novelist Lightman (Mr.
be not deceived, Epictetus writes in The Discourses, every animal is attached to nothing so much as to its own interest. We are like a pilot relying our our incomplete mental instruments to guide. We try to impose order, both in our minds and in our conceptions of external reality. As a scientist and self-professed humanist himself, Lightman exorcises his lifelong struggle to reconcile these conflicting worldviews by proposing a set of criteria for the kind of religious belief that would be compatible with rather than contradictory to science: The first step in this journey. The Lawful Universe: The human mind is evolved to seek out laws. In some, awnings and porches have already slid over the side and into the sea. If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, Carl Sagan wrote in his timeless meditation on science and religion, we will have failed. The Accidental Universe: Uses the fact that most of the physical conditions that allowed this universe to sustain life or even exist could be purely accidental (the multiverse conjecture) and thus goes onto to wonder about the beauty and randomness of our lives on this. Adult and baby ospreys in nest, Maine, 2007.
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