Once we reject the absolute truth of one thing, whatever it might be -- God, a holy book, a law of nature -- then everything, even the smallest element of reality -- an insect, a leaf, a grain of sand -- becomes infinitely interesting. The physicist Heinz Pagels put it this way: "The capacity to tolerate complexity and welcome contradiction, not the need for simplicity and certainty, is the attribute of an explorer. Centuries ago, when some people suspended their search for absolute truth and began instead to ask how things worked, modern science was born. Curiously, it was by abandoning the search for absolute truth that science began to make progress, opening the material universe to human exploration."

If one wanted to describe this in religious terms, it would go something like this: The absence of God makes everything holy.

...

All gods are idolatrous, especially any god we personify with a capital G. The great service to humanity of science has been to sweep the anthropomorphic gods away, or, at the very least, to show them for what they are, phantoms of the human brain. What we are given in their place is not Truth, but reliable empirical knowledge of the world, tentative and evolving.

Science Musings by Chet Raymo


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