God and Man at Cambridge


The Old Faithful of H&R argument starters: religion vs. rationality. Freeman Dyson, legendary physicist, futurist, and developer of the Dyson Sphere, gives a believer's charitable dissent from Daniel C. Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon:

Science is a particular bunch of tools that have been conspicuously successful for understanding and manipulating the material universe. Religion is another bunch of tools, giving us hints of a mental or spiritual universe that transcends the material universe. To understand religion, it is necessary to explore it from the inside, as William James explored it in The Varieties of Religious Experience. The testimony of saints and mystics, including the young lady at Sergiev Posad, is the raw material out of which a deeper understanding of religion may grow.

The sacred writings, the Bhagavad Gita and the Koran and the Bible, tell us more about the essence of religion than any scientific study of religious organizations. The research that Dennett advocates, using only the scientific tool kit that was designed for a different purpose, will always miss the goal. We can all agree that religion is a natural phenomenon, but nature may include many more things than we can grasp with the methods of science.

So fight over that, yuh misshapen things!

Virginia Postrel interviews Esther Dyson, a chip off the old sphere.

Ron Bailey interviews Daniel Dennett.

A cool java applet catches a Type 1 Dyson Sphere (or "swarm") on the wing.

Special guest star James Doohan rides along as the Next Generations crew explores a Type 2 Dyson Sphere, and does disappointingly little with the concept.

Original tripmaster Ken Kesey believed scientists would never comprehend acid either unless they tried it themselves.