|"We wish to pursue the truth no matter where it leads, but to find the
truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact." Carl Sagan, Cosmos
People throughout the ages, from every point of the earth, have sought answers to
why this astonishingly complex world of ours should exist at all. Its overall immensity,
and our smallness in comparison to it, stir us profoundly to the core. And when
confronted with the universe's exquisite beauty, its many mysteries, and all the elegant
structures within, we cannot help but to inquisitively ask: how did it all happen,
why are we here, what is our purpose in this life? And of course that
irresistible—if unanswerable—question: why is there something at all rather than nothing?
These questions emerge almost involuntarily, and ever since the human
species has been capable of pondering such mysteries, explanations naturally have been
ever numerous and ever diverse. But now a troublesome problem arises. How do we, in our clumsy but honest search for the truth,
distinguish the genuine facts of nature from the myths and legends humans have imposed upon it?
If answers are indeed ascertainable, by what method can we discover these truths? Where can we look for guidance?
Are the answers to our deepest questions found in the holy books of the world's religions? Mysticism?
Or the sages of antiquity? And what of science, can that give us answers? Or maybe
they lie waiting somewhere else (or possibly nowhere at all). These tantalizing questions
rest at the heart of our present intellectual inquiry.
"I know not who put me into the
world, nor what the world is, nor what I myself am. I am in terrible ignorance of
everything. I know not what my body is, nor my senses, nor my soul, not even that part
of me which thinks what I say, which reflects on all and on itself, and knows itself
no more than the rest. I see those frightful spaces of the universe which surround me,
and I find myself tied to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am
put in this place rather than another, nor why this short time which is given me to
live is assigned to me at this point rather than at another of the whole eternity
which was before me or which will come after me. I see nothing but infinities on all
sides, which surround me as an atom, and as a shadow which endures only for an instant
and returns no more. All I know is that I must die, but what I know least is this very
death which I cannot escape." Blaise Pascal,
"There is a grandeur in this
view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed
into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on
according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most
beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved." Charles Darwin,
On the Origin (1859)
"Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding;
for the gain from it is better than gain from silver and its profit better than gold."
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