Review of ‘The Accidental Universe’ by Alan Lightman

Emily Rapp in the Boston Globe:

Accidental_universeOn Christmas Day I stood on a slow-moving conveyor belt in Mexico City at the modern shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, surrounded by penitents clutching rosaries, all of us inching by the centuries-old image that attracts millions. A woman standing next to me closed her eyes and voiced ardent prayers for protection and healing. I looked with a skeptic’s eyes. The scene puts me in mind of what Alan Lightman terms the “boundaries between science and religion” in his new collection, “The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew.” Regardless of outstanding interests in science or religion, any reader will enjoy pondering, through well-organized and graceful prose, what can be objectively proven about the world in which we live and what remains a mystery.

Can science prove the existence of God? Is this universe we inhabit the only one? Can a religious experience be scientifically proven? Lightman ponders these timeless, unanswerable questions using his training as both a scientist and a novelist, always careful to include historical and contemporary perspectives on each argument or idea. Lightman’s style is wonderfully readable; he writes about quantum physics and religious philosophical traditions with equal grace and enthusiasm. He delicately probes the emotional questions raised by genetics, molecular biology, and other scientific disciplines, maintaining that despite a preponderance of scientific advancement and evidence about specific aspects of the world, “we must believe in what we cannot prove.”

More here.