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Booknotes: The Constant Fire

January 27th, 2009 · 1 Comment

The Sacred

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 I’ve been involved with.

There is a copy of Adam’s book lying around here somewhere, but I can’t find it right now; I’ve looked through it, but admittedly haven’t read it closely. You can get some feeling for where he’s coming from by checking out his blog devoted to the book. Roughly: “Sure, 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 it’s a mistake to simply dismiss it all under the same umbrella.” 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 “the sacred.”

Tags: Booknotes · Evolution

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 James // Jan 27, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    “When you start talking about “spirituality,” people are going to take you to mean something that goes beyond the laws of nature, in the sense of being incompatible with them, not just “hard to understand in terms of them” — something supernatural.”

    Many thanks to Sean Carroll for informing us that we can close the coffin on the Kantian Antinomies.

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