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Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine af…
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Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine (original 2018; udgave 2018)

af Alan Lightman (Forfatter)

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1153182,476 (3.97)3
From the acclaimed author of Einstein's Dreams, here is an inspires, lyrical meditation on religion and science that explores the tension between our yearning for permanence and certainty, and the modern scientific discoveries that demonstrate the impermanent and uncertain nature of the world. As a physicist, Alan Lightman has always held a scientific view of the world. As a teenager experimenting in his own laboratory, he was impressed by the logic and materiality of a universe governed by a small number of disembodied forces and laws that decree all things in the world are material and impermanent. But one summer evening, while looking at the stars from a small boat at sea, Lightman was overcome by the overwhelming sensation that he was merging with something larger than himself--a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute and immaterial. Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine is Lightman's exploration of these seemingly contradictory impulses. He draws on sources ranging from Saint Augustine's conception of absolute truth to Einstein's theory of relativity, from the unity of the once-indivisible atom to the multiplicity of subatomic particles and the recent notion of multiple universes. What he gives us is a profound inquiry into the human desire for truth and meaning, and a journey along the different paths of religion and science that become part of that quest.… (mere)
Medlem:starlight17
Titel:Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine
Forfattere:Alan Lightman (Forfatter)
Info:Pantheon (2018), Edition: 1st Edition, 240 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:to-read, published-2018

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Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine af Alan Lightman (2018)

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"I will admit that the incoming stimuli are not forming patterns to my personal satisfaction. A major obstacle is this (and now I am truly baring my material soul): I've always thought that for something to have meaning, it has to be permanent, or at least last a very long time. (I'm aware that a whole branch of philosophical thought deals with the question: What is the meaning of meaning?) Permanence is the Absolute that attracts me the most. What's the point, I ask myself, of anything that's here today and gone tomorrow-like a meal or a letter or a pair of shoes? By contrast, people still discuss and perform King Lear hundreds of years after it was written. People still gaze in awe at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. People still study the ideas of justice and government of Confucius and of Plato. Isn't that longevity a sure sign of meaning? I've always believed so. And, unconsciously, I measure my own strivings and the strivings of others on that basis. But I'm a materialist. And as a materialist I know that nothing lasts. Even King Lear might be forgotten in a thousand years. Or if a thousand isn't long enough for your personal idea of a long time, what about ten thousand years? Ten thousand years is the blink of an eye to the cosmos. Everything I see around me at this moment- the trees, my house, the books on my shelves, my children and their children and their children- will be gone without a trace in a few thousand years.

Sometimes I ask myself: Does meaning require some external agency, capable of recording events and precious moments in a permanent repository? God, if such a Being exists, could be that agency. Wouldn't any other agency also pass away after a certain lapse of time? What if we had a second external agency, grander and far longer-lived than the first, and suppose all the information and meaning recorded by the first agency was eventually inherited by the second? Yet this new arrangement would save the situation for only a limited time. Because the second agency, being finite, would also pass away after a time.
In fact, does anything we do on our modest planet- only one among billions of planets in our galaxy, which is only one among billions of galaxies in the observable universe - have any meaning on a grand scale? What do creatures on planet XUFK, a thousand galaxies away, know or care about anything that happens on earth? Unless there exists an infinite and permanent observer such as God - some absolute authority or scaffold by which to judge and preserve meaning- then the situation seems hopeless to me. On the other hand, perhaps my starting assumption, that meaning requires permanence, is erroneous. Or perhaps meaning itself is an illusion. After all, why should I insist on meaning? Fish and squirrels get by quite well without it."

---

  runningbeardbooks | Sep 29, 2020 |
Searching for stars on an island in Maine byLightman_ Alan P
Enjoyed listening to this book because of the area and also other certain chapters of things we treasure in our lives.
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device). ( )
  jbarr5 | Nov 28, 2018 |
This book is a rare example of a scientist being honest about belief in God. Although in practically every chapter, Lightman declares his lack of any such faith, that he is committed to a scientist’s materialistic view of the world, and that he believes in the finality of death, each of these declarations is counterbalanced by a “yet” or “but”: He personally feels something greater than himself, "a hint of something absolute", when he lies on his back staring at the stars from a boat near his island summer home off the coast of Maine; although he knows that his mind is no more than a “hundred-billion odd neurons” directed by “chemical and electrical flows”, he admits “I feel, therefore I am”; and when he thinks about his deceased parents, he cannot bring himself to believe the “impossible truth” that they no longer exist.

In a series of engagingly written chapters, the author ranges across the history of scientific discovery and explores the boundaries of modern scientific understanding. He covers the Galilean "revolution", that finally put paid to the notion of the earth-centric universe, the unlocking of the secrets of the once indivisible atom, Darwinian evolution, and Quantum Mechanics, which demonstrates that, at some level, nothing is certain. These all challenge religious certainties and spiritual beliefs, but the author does not mock or disparage the fact that many people - including many scientists - cling to them. He interleaves the science with chapters on transcendence, or the certainties of religious faith articulated by great religious leaders, and he speculates on the nature of humanity. He recognizes, from his own experience of staring at the stars, the validity of personal experience as a basis for faith: " No other person can deny the validity of what you have felt. The feelings cannot be disproved."

Although religion – unlike science – is based on personal experience and belief, the two do have something in common. The author describes the Central Doctrine of Science; that all properties and events in the physical universe are governed by immutable laws that apply everywhere. He observes that the Central Doctrine of Science is as much a matter of faith as is belief in God; it cannot be proved or disproved it just has to be accepted. Belief in this doctrine is so fundamental to science, he says, that most scientists would attempt to explain a phenomenon – like “if a wheelbarrow began to float” - by assigning it to some new kind of, as yet unknown force, a natural and lawful force, not a supernatural one. Whether you want to call it belief in God or belief in immutable laws of the universe, it is all a question of faith.

The thrust of much of Lightman’s book is that, in spite of science’s ability to reduce everything to its materialistic foundation, in spite of its progressive dismissal of what were once thought of as “absolutes” - the planets and stars that will eventually die, living species, including humans, that evolve and change, the atom that is no longer the smallest quantity of matter, time itself that is no longer a constant – there is something else, something that cannot be explained away or reduced to the explainable.

Many scientists talk about God, but there is a lack of conviction in what they say. They invoke the name of God in relation to things they don't yet have an answer to - like the Grand Unifying Theory, which will account for all known forces of nature and explain the first few microseconds after the Big Bang. The implication is that, as science advances, it progressively takes over the responsibility from God for the phenomena that it can explain, and that once there is a final theory of everything, God will be completely dispensable. Lightman avoids both this type of condescension towards religious belief as well as the dogmatism with which many scientists dismiss it completely. His knowledge and training do not encourage belief, but his personal experiences leave him open-minded. ( )
3 stem maimonedes | Jul 16, 2018 |
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1979. Smell of damp earth and stone. In the dim light, a small group of people talk in hushed voices as if entering a church, spellbound by the paintings on the rock wall: bison and mammoth and horse, colored with red ochre made from dirt and charcoal and bound with saliva and animal fat. I am without words, another ghost in this primordial cave in southwestern France. Font-de-Gaume it is called. The cave paintings date to 17,000 BC and were discovered by a local schoolmaster a century ago.
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From the acclaimed author of Einstein's Dreams, here is an inspires, lyrical meditation on religion and science that explores the tension between our yearning for permanence and certainty, and the modern scientific discoveries that demonstrate the impermanent and uncertain nature of the world. As a physicist, Alan Lightman has always held a scientific view of the world. As a teenager experimenting in his own laboratory, he was impressed by the logic and materiality of a universe governed by a small number of disembodied forces and laws that decree all things in the world are material and impermanent. But one summer evening, while looking at the stars from a small boat at sea, Lightman was overcome by the overwhelming sensation that he was merging with something larger than himself--a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute and immaterial. Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine is Lightman's exploration of these seemingly contradictory impulses. He draws on sources ranging from Saint Augustine's conception of absolute truth to Einstein's theory of relativity, from the unity of the once-indivisible atom to the multiplicity of subatomic particles and the recent notion of multiple universes. What he gives us is a profound inquiry into the human desire for truth and meaning, and a journey along the different paths of religion and science that become part of that quest.

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