Over at Reality Base, Melissa has invited Adam Frank to contribute a series of guest posts related to his new book: The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate. Adam is an astrophysicist at Rochester, a smart guy, and a great science writer; he interviewed me for this story in Discover, and it was the most conscientious bit of science journalism Iâ€™ve been involved with.
There is a copy of Adamâ€™s book lying around here somewhere, but I canâ€™t find it right now; Iâ€™ve looked through it, but admittedly havenâ€™t read it closely. You can get some feeling for where heâ€™s coming from by checking out his blog devoted to the book. Roughly: â€œSure, simple-minded creationism and a naively interventionist deity is crazy. But there is something valuable in notions of the sacred and spiritual endeavor that captures something important about being human, and itâ€™s a mistake to simply dismiss it all under the same umbrella.â€ There is a family resemblance to the argument made (in very different words) by Stuart Kauffman in his recent book Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion. Kauffman points out an indisputably true fact: there is such a large number of possible configurations of the genetic material in a complex organism that we will never come anywhere close to exploring every possible arrangement. Therefore (he leaps), we have to look beyond simple determinism to understand our world. There is (he bravely continues) a radical contingency in the way life actually plays itself out, and it makes sense to grapple with this contingency by turning to concepts such as â€œthe sacred.â€