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From the acclaimed author of Einstein’s Dreams comes a rich, fascinating answer to the question, Can the scientifically inclined still hold space for spirituality?
“Lightman…belongs to a noble tradition of science writers, including Oliver Sacks and Lewis Thomas, who can poke endlessly into a subject and…stir up fresh embers of wonder.” —The Wall Street Journal
Gazing at the stars, falling in love, or listening to music, we sometimes feel a transcendent connection with a cosmic unity and things larger than ourselves. But these experiences are not easily understood by science, which holds that all things can be explained in terms of atoms and molecules. Is there space in our scientific worldview for these spiritual experiences?
According to acclaimed physicist and novelist Alan Lightman, there may be. Drawing on intellectual history and conversations with contemporary scientists, philosophers, and psychologists, Lightman asks a series of thought-provoking questions that illuminate our strange place between the world of particles and forces and the world of complex human experience. Can strict materialism explain our appreciation of beauty? Or our feelings of connection to nature and to other people? Is there a physical basis for consciousness, the most slippery of all scientific problems?
Lightman weaves these investigations together to propose what he calls “spiritual materialism”— the belief that we can embrace spiritual experiences without letting go of our scientific worldview. In his view, the breadth of the human condition is not only rooted in material atoms and molecules but can also be explained in terms of Darwinian evolution.
What is revealed in this lyrical, enlightening book is that spirituality may not only be compatible with science, it also ought to remain at the core of what it means to be human.