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Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

When you believe strongly in an idea, how do you shepherd it into being? As senior editor Trent Gilliss explains, sometimes it takes years of perseverance and framing.

“Every single thing that religion provides, rationality, empiricism, and science can provide. And not only that — they can provide it better.” ~Dr. Lawrence Krauss

The physicist and atheist talks with Krista Tippett about what science may reveal about the origins of life and human consciousness.

Listen to these sounds of black holes merging and falling into one another and the "white noise" of the Big Bang. A TED Talk with Janna Levin that stirs the mind.

A guest contributor reflects on how being still with life's deaths and resurrections connects her to the universe.

Comments from two cosmologists and NASA's images from a refurbished Hubble.

Our senior editor's five-word acceptance speech for our Webby Award was highlighted as one of the better speeches of the night by USA Today, PC Magazine, Yahoo News, and Stephen Colbert. Watch it here.

Watch Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers sing a special song, since they say atheists don’t have any.

Visualizing responses to a Physics World survey on religion and science.

Martin Marty highlights "one of the best short criticisms yet of the old/new or new/old atheism" by Jackson Lears, "whose critics describe him as a 'man of the left' in a 'magazine of the left.'"

Acknowledging a spiritual dimension may have more positive effects on physical and mental health than most people realize.

Images of thundersnow in Minnesota, cherry blossoms in Japan. Words on science and truth from Auden and Krauss. Time-lapse graphic recording on vulnerability. And sometimes healing is a process never-ending. Our capsule of all things On Being.

About the Image

A woman walking near the world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet, at the European Organization for Nuclear Research's Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator in Geneva.

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

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I enjoy reading Krauss. I love his Passion, and dare I say his spirituality. I would count myself as a student in this school of wonder and awe. I am thankful that reality is so much more than we can imagine and I am grateful that we possess the gift of speaking nature's language and learning of her beautiful, sublime secrets. Reality truly is more than we could have ever dreamed. To be open to possibility is something my religion, my faith, teaches me. My religion and Krauss' have this in common.

Yes, I said religion, because when Krauss says that meaning is something that we create for ourselves with the love we share he reveals, not a lab report, but a faith. He says science does have something to say to a person on their deathbed and that it is this: there is no afterlife and the meaning of your life is whatever you judge it to be. Krista is correct in pointing out that this claim is a non scientific one.

I sympathize with Krauss. It is understandable to want to turn everything into science as a way of avoiding uncertainty and error but the inescapble truth is that when it comes to the most important events and experiences of our lives, we all act on faith, like it or not. To quote William J Broad, the 2-time Pulitzer Prize winning science writer of the NYTimes who rightly says, “The scientific process is unable to answer the most important questions in life.”

There is no escape from the dilemma of being human.

What Krauss said about love was quite inadequate and very disappointing. He is not a neuroscientist or an evolutionary biologist so he claims he cannot speak with authority. But he believes love is largely a matter of chemistry, hormones and psychological projection. I suppose his promise in marriage would then be, so long as these hormones continue at their present levels in my bloodstream and so long as you continue to conform to my ideals I will "love" you. This is a good example of the inadequacy and inability of positivist philosophy (and the reductive religion of scientism) to fully respond to the mystery of the human being. The covenant of marriage does not depend on hormones, otherwise there is no covenant. You cannot promise your blood chemistry.

Krauss also tells us we are more insignificant than we realize. Indeed we are a speck, but the measure of mankind has never been a matter of quantitative size, or mass. Otherwise we had always been eclipsed by every small tree. It is not our size but our rational nature that makes us special. We uniquely recognize (which means to know again) the beauty and order of the cosmos. Without us, the universe would have no one to reveal herself to. Perhaps this alone explains our existence - perhaps the universe was lonely! The beloved needs the lover to share the love. Oops, I didn't mean to bring up the Trinity here, it just slipped out.

Krauss claims to believe that in the grand scheme of things we are just specks of stardust, grit for the universal mill. But what is more precious in this universe than the one speck capable of recognizing her? And surely Krauss does not mean to say that the human is so insignificant that we need not worry about suffering and genocide. Of course not. Surely Krauss knows in his heart that human life is the most precious thing in the universe. Despite what he has said, I believe he knows this.

At any rate, let us agree to be open to the possibility that there is much more to the human and to the cosmos than our little philosophies will allow. Curiosity, wonder, awe, science, religion. What special little specks we are!

I think this is the only time I have ever come away from one of Krista's interviews with an active dislike of a guest on the show. Not only did I find Dr. Krauss' eager contempt for religion annoying, but his sexism was on full display as well, as he continually interrupted and talked over Krista.

I've got nothing against atheists--it's the "evangelical atheists" (Krauss, Dawkins, etc.) I find every bit as obnoxious as fundamentalist Christians and Muslims. If you want to hear a conversation with an atheist who makes sense and doesn't have to be a jerk while he's doing it, I recommend Krista's interview with Alain de Botton. http://www.onbeing.org/program/alain-de-botton-school-life-atheists/4821

Thank-you for this show. I appreciated this impartial examination of the man. I should say I appreciate most the ability to download and re-listen to the man for any inconsistencies. Have to say I found a bunch. No worries for Lawrence, however, his book contracts must have made him a fairly rich man. I worry more for his followers missing out on religious wisdom. Now to read all these comments!

This show really stuck with me, and I truly feel it was a very good episode of this fine program. Perhaps the best of the fifteen or so episodes that I have heard.

I, too, was shocked and insulted by Dr. Krauss' provocations (the extent surprised me). I am not an orthodox practitioner of any religion, but am Jewish and am saddened by yet another fine mind of the Jewish people who has lost connection with the tradition.

On further reflection, the problem that I have with Krauss' argument has nothing to do with him personally, nor with anything akin to racism, bigotry or some other inappropriate bias. I felt he made great arguments. My problem is that I wanted to argue with him and I felt powerless to interject (because I truly was!).

To me, this is a sign of a great program, not a bad one.

For the record, my argument, after weeks of thought, is that Dr. Krauss does not engage with the essential concept of community that fosters both religion and science. After all, his love of science would have no place in a society that lacks an organized scientific community, as would someone's practice of anything resembling organized religion.

He makes reference to debates and bets he has with his friends in the scientific community, and clearly he gets tremendous value out of the sharing of scientific values and ideas. Importantly, religion has provided this service for a very long time, and people greatly value it. Some recognition of the value he gets not from science but from the community of scientists, would help reflect an appreciation for the value of religion to people.

More to the point, the uncertainty that Krauss implores us to celebrate provokes real sensations of anxiety and distress in people (not all people, but I would argue many). These feelings can cloud judgment and inhibit the ability to perform even scientific action.

It is hardly unscientific to have personal or shared explanations of the world that are not in accord with scientific consensus. It may be proven false by science, but that does not preclude an appreciation for and use of science.

It would be unscientific to present religion as science, or to use religion to silence or deny the validity of well-practiced science. I would argue on behalf of Mr. Krauss against such evidence-denying orthodoxy. But to me, this is not the norm of religiously engaged people that I know.

I don't think science precludes the use of metaphor, allegory or even myth.

It simply means that those explanations, when taken literally, will become increasingly burdensome to argue as science's explanations gain evidentiary support.

"One of the values of science is to make us uncomfortable. Somehow that's supposed to be a bad thing for many people, being uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is a good thing because it forces you to reassess your place in the cosmos. And being too comfortable means you've become complacent and you stop thinking. So being uncomfortable should be a spiritually uplifting experience."

-Lawrence Krauss

This was one of my favorite On Being broadcasts that I have ever listened to. It could have been the fact that Dr. Krauss is a very entertaining speaker, and that many of my views align with his, but nonetheless very interesting interview that touches on various subjects including Star Trek which he is an avid fan. Lawrence Krauss is Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Department, and Inaugural Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. From what I ascertained he is an atheist, or agnostic, but he seems to have a respect for religion and it's place in the world.

"Spirituality isn't having the answers before you ask the questions. . . Real spirituality comes from asking the questions and opening your mind to what the answers might be."

He says here what I have been trying to say for some time now, and much more elegantly I might add. There is nothing wrong with asking questions about subjects that are controversial in society. Why wouldn't you want to learn and grow in your faith (and any other area of life) by asking questions and reviewing your opinions?

I believe Krista was a little taken aback and could not keep up with the fast, informative way that Dr. Krauss talks. She would usually probe a little deeper in to the minds of her interviewees and ask them questions that make these experts in their fields of study stop and think a little deeper than they are used to, but like I said he talks way too fast and with such enthusiasm that it was probably tough for her.

I listened to this episode for no other reason than it was Krauss. I've been reading him since the Physics of Star Trek twenty years ago. In the Youtube era, though, I've heard a number of his lectures which have disillusioned me a bit on his perceived rock star status: as a science educator, I don't consider him to be all that articulate; as a de facto public representative of skepticism, I find him combative and off-putting. Richard Dawkins is another example of a scientist who openly attacks religion, but he is much more eloquent and calculating in his approach. This episode is sadly indicative of Krauss' tendency to resort to snarky asides. It's not always bad: he recently appeared at a debate at a Muslim university in Britain, and upon discovering that the audience had been segregated by gender, he walked out. That's important, but here he's just trying to construct opportunities where he can poke at religion, and that's not constructive.

As far as physics, he's definitely a deserved leader, extremely bright and poised to succeed Hawking as the public's image of "really smart science dude." At his best, Krauss can explain with excitement and passion how the frontiers of science have pushed so far into the extremes of the Universe, and answered so many questions critical to the layman's understanding of everything, that the remaining questions (of which there are impossibly many) can only best be adequately answered with a temporary "I don't know" without the need for "here's where God comes in." He, along with many other popular scientists and reasoners, are proselytizing to a congregation that finds plenty of meaning just in being alive, in experiencing the world, and learning more about it. I feel what some might call the "holy spirit" whenever I see a sunrise or understand an equation, not because I think the experience was meant for me but because I was lucky enough to be a part of such a Universe and witness this little tiny portion of it for an infinitesimal speck of time.

I found this interview to be very fascinating, mainly because I've been following him and his works for some time. I've listened to his lecture series "A Universe From Nothing" and many of his other lectures and debates, so it's always a treat to hear him speak.

I really appreciate his views and outlook on life and our understanding of it. I love how he says that science shapes our understanding and perspective of ourselves in the universe, and that's beautiful. The way he speaks, it's as if he views life as an art in our human perspective, and I couldn't agree more. He describes theology as early human's construction to understand the world and science is the final frontier to understanding the world around us. I also agree with this. I see science to be just as beautiful as any religion.

Very interesting talk, very glad I listened. Lawrence has a way of making science appear so transcending, and I love that about him.

A new book argues that the root of the conflict between science and religion is the reductive modern understanding of causality—which many scientists are now rejecting.
http://themarginaliareview.com/archives/2323

A new book argues that the root of the conflict between science and religion is the reductive modern understanding of causality—which many scientists are now rejecting.
http://themarginaliareview.com/archives/2323

I have listened to Dr Krauss over the years, and I have appreciated his explanations of scientific phenomena. Lately, his interviews have become unbearable, and this particular one was so bad I had to turn it off half way through. I listen to all of Krista's unedited interviews, and this is the first time I have taken such displeasure in a guest. He was clearly just there to grandstand. He barely listened to her questions or let her finish them, and took every opportunity to get the conversation off the course she was trying to steer him down. He choose a very specific type of simplistic, fundamentalist religious view to argue with and can't see to understand the more sophisticated religious perspectives; to him, science is truth, and that's that. I found him disrespectful and his answers rote--I've heard them all before from Christopher Hitchens (in a MUCH more entertaining way), Richard Dawkins (in an equally annoying way), and Daniel Dennett. Boring and annoying. I felt bad for Krista; how rude he was to her.

I did a google on myself and your named showed up. I do not agree with Lawrence Krauss. I believe in Intelligent design You are entitled to your beliefs that is fine but I am also entitled to my beliefs ultimately it comes down to faith in what you believe. Yes you have a lot of book knowledge but you lack any experience try studying ki or chi for 10 plus years coupled with Calculus which you already have also study IT networks Computer Science and you may open your eyes and gain better understanding of sub-atomic particles and metrics you will come to the understanding Energy is dynamic and Non-Symmetrical Atomic level and below not using constant motion equations with 1 space http://All4webs.com/2/6/bcrouse2010ad

The fact that Krista has Atheists on On Being lends validity to her claim to explore, through her podcast, "the big questions at the center of human life." If she only included Theists and the religious, it wouldn't be a valid exploration. Similarly, only including Atheists/Agnostics wouldn't be a valid exploration. Exploring all the ideas helps the listener decide for him/herself what to think and believe.

Bare in mind, this podcast was recorded at a Theology school. They knew what they were doing when they invited a non-religious person to speak there. Krauss sought to challenge the universally religious people present at the podcast, which is valid.

I love science and the human impulse to learn whether it is qualitative or quantitative ! I was attracted to this dialogue because the image (not sure if intentional) reminded me so much of the Rose Window of Chartres Full circle I suppose.

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Lawrence Krauss is Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Department, and Inaugural Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. His books include The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing.

Production Credits

Host/Producer: Krista Tippett

Senior Editor: Trent Gilliss

Senior Producer: David McGuire

Technical Director/Producer: Chris Heagle

Producer: Nancy Rosenbaum

Associate Producer Online: Susan Leem

Coordinating Producer: Stefni Bell

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