Trevor Quirk at Harper's:
For the majority of his writing career, Alan Lightman has been quietly introducing fissures of ambiguity into the scientific community’s pronouncements on art, religion, technology and American culture. The Accidental Universe (Pantheon), Lightman’s recently published collection of essays, belongs to this endeavor, establishing thematic connections between scientific abstractions and inner experience with the warmness and rationalist melancholy that’s characteristic of his work. I put six questions to him about his new book.
1. I suppose my first question has to concern the assembly of this collection. Did you write these essays in thematic isolation at first? Did you have any notion of employing the Universe as their organizing agent?
I wrote “The Accidental Universe” and “The Spiritual Universe” first, both concerning areas of thought that had been under my skin and disturbing me for some years. I published the first in Harper’s and the second in Salon. At that point, it occurred to me to write a series of connected essays, all with “Universe” in the title, that explored the philosophical, moral, and theological issues raised by modern science.