How do you view the world? For most people, the answer to this question likely involves science, religion or both. Yet discussing the relationship between these dominant worldviews remains a touchy subject. Our profile of faith/science navigator Jim Gates drew some of the loudest responses we’ve ever received to an interview (Gates told us that he believes “both faith and science are both essential to the survival of our species”). Likewise, our profile of Christian climate evangelist Katharine Hayhoe were mixed and passionate, featuring plenty of capital letters and explanation points. When our readers got feisty, we knew we were onto an interesting topic.
A year later, the unofficial spokesperson for science (and Secret Life subject) Bill Nye debated Christian creationist Ken Ham. Suddenly, science and religion were having a moment. With the mainstream media stoking the “us verses them” fire, we weren’t convinced that the discussion was unfolding in an entirely reasonable way.
In search of clarity, we came upon the work of philosopher Gregg Caruso, who studies free will and the philosophy of mind along with cognitive science, metaphysics, and free will. In other words, Caruso studies the big questions, the type that keep you up at night. His interests align at the intersection of science and religion, forcing him to take a closer look at how both domains shape our world.
Caruso has his opinions – many of which are included here – but he’s not out to convince others of anything. Instead, he wants to start a discussion. In his new book, Science and Religion: 5 Questions, Caruso interviewed thirty-three of the world’s leading philosophers, scientists, theologians, and atheists, including a Nobel Prize winner, three Templeton Prize winners, the “Most Influential Rabbi In America” (according to Newsweek), the “leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism” (according to the New York Times) and one magician. That’s right, a magician (more on that guy later). Representatives from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and atheism were all included.
Each were asked five simple questions about science and religion. Some wrote emails that could fill an academic journal. Others shared personal stories in Skype interviews. Together, the book is a cacophony of ideas from the world’s smartest people on how science and religion shape how they see the world.
We got heavy with Caruso by e-mail about “big questions,” his own path to knowledge, and what’s next for science and religion.
Part 2: Becoming a philosopher