Many of history's greatest scientists considered their work to be a religious endeavor, a direct search for God. Pioneers like Newton, Copernicus, and Galileo believed that their discoveries told humanity more about God's nature than had been known. Beginning in the early 18th century, science and religion came to be at odds — the gap widening most famously with the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.
In recent years, a new dialogue has begun, driven by leading scientists across the world. Host Krista Tippett explores with three scientists, each of whom is working in a field that's rapidly advancing our understanding of what it means to be human. From very different perspectives, they suggest that our most sophisticated 21st-century discoveries may be driving us back to questions of faith.
Jon Kabat-Zinn has learned, through science and experience, about mindfulness as a way of life. This is wisdom with immediate relevance to the ordinary and extreme stresses of our time — from economic peril, to parenting, to life in a digital age.
As a theoretical physicist, Janna Levin probes whether the universe is finite or infinite. As a novelist, she explored the separate but parallel lives of two influential 20th-century scientists: Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing. Their work laid the foundations for computer intelligence while challenging fundamental notions about how we can know what is true.
What Adele Diamond is learning about the brain challenges basic assumptions in modern education. Her work is scientifically illustrating the educational power of things like play, sports, music, memorization and reflection. What nourishes the human spirit, the whole person, it turns out, also hones our minds.
What happens when you bring together science and poetry on something like color or light? Arthur Zajonc is a physicist and contemplative. And he says we can all investigate life as vigorously from the inside as from the outside.
Xavier Le Pichon, one of the world's leading geophysicists, helped create the field of plate tectonics. A devout Catholic and spiritual thinker, he raised his family in intentional communities centered around people with mental disabilities. He shares his rare perspective on the meaning of humanity — a perspective equally informed by his scientific and personal encounters with fragility as a fundament of vital, evolving systems. Le Pichon has come to think of caring attention to weakness as an essential quality that allowed humanity to evolve.
Four Jesuits in history have had asteroids named after them. Our guests are the two living astronomers with that distinction. Brother Guy Consolmagno and Father George Coyne study the composition of meteorites and the life and death of stars. They share their observations of life, faith, friendship, and the universe from their seats in the Vatican Observatory.