“Science and the Search for Meaning: 5 Questions” grew out of our continuing fascination with the interplay between science and spirituality. As well all know, the relationship between science and religion is complicated and often strained. We covered many of the core issues in the science & religion debate in our 2006 series “Electrons to Enlightenment.” This time, we wanted to move beyond the usual arguments between atheists and religious believers to explore some even more provocative questions.
In the first two hours, we examine a few of the most far-reaching and controversial questions in the biological sciences: What is life? And does evolution have any particular direction? In our third hour, we take a fresh look at the old religious idea of the soul in light of the latest findings from neuroscience. In the fourth hour, we shift the focus away from Christianity -where most debates about science and religion end up - and look instead at Islam, which has its own fraught relationship with science. Finally, in our last hour, we take stock of the emerging movement among secular scientists and philosophers to create a new science-based spirituality. There’s an underlying question in each of these hours: Where do we look for meaning in today’s scientific age? Is it possible to find some sense of purpose within nature itself?
TTBOOK has always been a radio show that loves to dive into the biggest ideas, so it’s not surprising that we keep coming back to questions about science and spirituality. It’s hard to find questions that get much bigger! Since intellectual curiosity is one of our core values, we’ll never try to tell our listeners what is right or true. That’s for you to decide. And it’s why we explore these questions from so many different angles and perspectives.
What if you don't believe in god and the thought of church makes you queasy? Can you still experience the sacred? There's a growing movement of secular scientists who revel in the awe and wonder of nature. In this hour from To the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll search for science-based spirituality and try to answer the question: can science be sacred?
Islamic culture was once the center of the scientific world. During Europe's Dark Ages, Baghdad, Cairo and other Middle Eastern cities were the key repositories of ancient Greek science. Muslim scholars themselves made breakthroughs in medicine, optics, and mathematics. Today the Islamic world lags far behind the West in science and technology. What happened? In this hour, we'll look at the challenges facing Muslim scientists.
For centuries, we've been told the soul is what makes each of us unique. It's why we have moral responsibility. And it's the part of us that lives on after we die. But many scientists now say the soul is just an outdated myth, an idea that can be explained away by new insights from neuroscience and evolutionary biology.
If there's one strand of evolutionary theory that sticks in the craw of nearly every religious believer, it's the idea that human beings are just an evolutionary accident. But what if we aren't? What if the evolution of humans, or some brainy creature like us, was inevitable once life first appeared on Earth?
This hour explores some of the fundamental mysteries of life - from how it first started on Earth to the possibility of supremely intelligent life on other planets and why technology is evolving like life itself. We begin with a rare recording of Nobel Prize winning physicist Edwin Schrodinger and comments on his book "What Is Life?" from Nobel Prize winning biologists James Watson and Harold Varmus. We also hear from Ken Miller, co-author of the most widely used biology textbook in American high schools, and Craig Venter, widely regarded as one of science's leading innovators. Venter, who's come as close as anyone has to creating life in a test tube, tells Steve Paulson what drives him. And we hear from some ordinary people about what they think life is.