As the readers of my blog know I prefer to consider arguments with a transversal view with respect to commonly accepted wisdoms. The reason for this is that behind such ways to reconsider an old problem, most of times, a solution may be hidden and this solution could have breathtaking consequences. It is the case for the book “The Constant Fire”.
The authors is Adam Frank, an astrophysicist and, let me add, a courageous one. The reason is that to face the neverending debate between science and religion is, for a scientist, a true enterprise and a lot of hurdles must be faced before someone can take your arguments as something worthless some attention. But the view presented in this book by Adam is really new and worthwhile to be considered to put all the matter in a fresher view.
As scientists we all know what is a constant fire. It is our inexhaustible research of the way the world works and is, on a different side, the same fire that burns for mystics whose experiences are the grounds of all religions.
Adam puts all matter through the view of experience being this the only thing adding value both to science and religion. The reference author for an understanding of experience in religion is Mircea Eliade. This is a Romanian thinker with a bad side in politics. But we are aware of this kind of misbehavior also for physicists and mathematicians so we care only about ideas. The central idea in Eliade’s thought is the hierophany that is the moment of revelation that is central in all religious thought and is also similar to a scientist’s experience when the discovery moment happens. In both cases the consequences can be of great moment changing forever mankind’s history. So, this is the only valor to be considered and common to both human endeavors. This means that those that appeared as opposite sides have a common central aspect.
This commonality can be extended to permit to acquire a unique knowledge element to improve the future of mankind and avoiding further useless fighting between the two sides. Indeed, we are fully aware, being on the privileged side of the scientist, as people needs something that can match their archetype structure and this cannot be simply science with its mathematics. The only element able to produce this food are myths and these supply the same elements mathematics yields in science for the sacred aspect people needs. Science produces new myths, a common behavior with respect to religion.
Scientists have hierophanies as happens to mystical people. Some notable examples are reported in the book. The most relevant one is surely Wolfgang Pauli and his longstanding relation with Carl Gustav Jung. Pauli is surely the scientist that mostly combined the research in the sensible world and his inside world producing a lot of great material about. Indeed, this part of the book was for me a real discover about this great scientist and his ability to produce imaginative ideas both in science and other human endeavor.
The conclusion to be expected is that, in the view of their common experience, science and religion must merge in an unique ethical view of the World forcing mankind into a maturation stage where we will be able to manage our knowledge to improve our pursuing of life on Earth avoiding any risk of self-destruction.
I should say as an essential point that skeptical environmentalists should have some problems here and there in the book. The author has had an experience working in the climate science when he was 24 and since then he got imprinted by this matter. So, someone could not share some conclusions about.
The book contains a lot of anecdotes both for scientists and not scientists and there is a lot to learn in several unexpected fields. It shows quite clearly that the author underwent significant pursuits for his accomplishment. It is surely a worthwhile reading and can be a significant improvement in fields of endeavor where people working in science can be not well accustomed.
A blog of the author can be found here.