Accidental or just Mysterious?

Bernard-I came across this book and thought you might find it a good read.  The writer seems to strike the balance you are looking for.  From here:
“Readers will appreciate the passionately argued belief that human perception and understanding can accommodate a physical and a spiritual universe, and that both the known and the unknown are causes for scientific speculation as well as pure wonder. It was a visit to one of the most famous religious sites in Latin America that helped me understand Lightman’s refreshing sentiment that we are connected to others precisely because “we are haunted by the suspicion that what we see and understand of the world is only a tiny piece of the whole.” There exists no obligation to formulate strident definitions of what is true or false. Instead, we must continue to explore and attempt to understand the world in which we happen to live [emphasis added]. In the thinking of this scientist, and perhaps to the relief of every reader of this book, Lightman’s accidental world is never a set of givens, but a series of questions that rather than beg to be answered simply long to be asked.”
As an aside, the above sentence regarding no “obligation” is pure postmodern sensibility.  The modern was the very attempt to formulate “strident” definitions and clear boundaries and divisions—“a set of givens.”  This is not to say Lightman or the writer would call themselves postmodern; it is simply to note how far the view permeates to have writers make these sorts of comments or observations.
And here:
“Especially welcome is Lightman’s repudiation of the strident, even mocking certainty espoused by some self-appointed crusaders for the scientific worldview against what they view as the plague of religion. ‘I am an atheist myself,’ he writes. ‘I completely endorse the central doctrine of science. 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…I believe there are things we take on faith, without physical proof and even sometimes without any methodology for proof. We cannot clearly show why the ending of a particular novel haunts us … We cannot prove the meaning of our life, or whether life has any meaning at all.’ Some evolutionary psychologists seem to be doing their darnedest to prove Lightman wrong in that, but even their theories require a certain amount of belief in what can’t, ultimately, be proven.”
Another aside, it is this level (theoretical physics) Caputo is addressing in those passing references to physics.  He is not addressing general science as a methodology or practice at the every-day level and every field.
Sorry about the minor rabbit trail, but I did think you might (others out there may too) like this book.  Comments welcome but I don’t plan to respond to any simply for time reasons.
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Wait, one more rabbit trail: This is interesting just in the sense that atheism does seem to be predominately white, western, male, and financially secure.  Perhaps atheism isn’t based, finally, upon rationalism or empiricism, but is simply a product (in its current dress) of late capitalism, whereby if one has enough resources and financial security, he can simply avoid the struggles so many others face all the time, especially non-white, non-western, poor females/children/families.  Or, as they are described in other places, the “least” among us.
So, perhaps the best strategy for atheists is not secular education but promoting and working for the Republican Party, Libertarians, and their corporate partners.  A capitalistic world of the very rich (the new colonialism) would probably promote atheism (maybe capitalism is just practical atheism applied to material exchange?), while the tiny powerless minority (the ones left to do the work) would continue their pitiful belief in fairy tales as they pray for someone to deliver them from the new slavery.  No worries there.  Who could possibly overcome something as powerful as the Empire of Capitalism/The State and the Military Industrial Complex?  Let them pray.  No one will come…
Said Egypt…and then Rome… 

I’m joking.  Well…
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3 Responses to Accidental or just Mysterious?

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Atheism is also predominantly educated. Indeed, your author equates ignorance with mystery .. with wonder, a “whole”, and a “spiritual world”. Ever wonder why everything on the empirical side of this equation is well-attested, while everything on the spiritual side of the equation is not? … Is so “mysterious” and hard to pin down? Perhaps because we are making it up.

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  2. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    I have enjoyed Alan Lightman a lot in the past but it's been a while since I read anything by him. I will certainly have a look at this one.

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  3. Darrell says:

    Hi JP,

    Yes, I will add it to my list. After you've read it, it would be great to hear your thoughts.

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