Excellent Beauty: The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of the World
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Flipping convention on its head, Eric Dietrich argues that science uncovers awe-inspiring, enduring mysteries, while religion, regarded as the source for such mysteries, is a biological phenomenon. Just like spoken language, Dietrich shows that religion is an evolutionary adaptation. Science is the source of perplexing yet beautiful mysteries, however natural the search for answers may be to human existence.
Excellent Beauty undoes our misconception of scientific inquiry as an executioner of beauty, making the case that science has won the battle with religion so thoroughly it can now explain why religion persists. The book also draws deep lessons for human flourishing from the very existence of scientific mysteries. It is these latter wonderful, completely public truths that constitute some strangeness in the proportion, revealing a universe worthy of awe and wonder.
level are not caused and are instead governed solely by probabilities (it was this fact that prompted Albert Einstein, who hated quantum mechanics, to say, “God does not play dice [with the universe]”). And the Big Bang was, on most theories, uncaused . . . it just happened. That such things are uncaused or acausal only makes matters worse, for now we have to explain what causation is such that it goes away at the quantum level, and such that the universe itself was uncaused. So, humans by and
belong to says we are supposed to behave. Let us suppose, then, if just to explore the idea, that no religion gets its moral authority from any deity. Let us suppose that religions get their moral authority from exactly the same place religions get their very existence: the human mind and the nature of the world. THE IDEA THAT MORALITY is a natural part of the human design is a very hot topic of research these days among anthropologists, biologists, neuroscientists, philosophers, and
that morality is natural? For starters, the basics of morality are ubiquitous. Many kinds of animals—many different species, across many classes (birds, mammals, fish, and so on)—exhibit some understanding of what we call “decent behavior” (being reliable, trustworthy . . . colloquially stated: being a “stand-up guy,” or someone who would “stand up and be counted”). And these animals know when others of their kind are not behaving decently—for example, they know when others are cheating and
not by decree, but by general assent that Cantor was right. Old Aristotle had an enormous amount of influence for someone so wrong. See Dunham, Journey Through Genius, and Wallace, Everything and More. 9. For a very good introduction to quantum mechanics written for lay people, see Al Khalili, Quantum. Wikipedia is also a good place to get started. 10. Perhaps we macro beings don’t even exist; see Merricks, Objects and Persons. 11. The Beauty of Seeing More Than We Can Understand 1. The sheer
transcendental numbers, 138, 150 transfinite cardinals, 135 transfinite realm, 135 UFOs, 13–14, 23, 163 Verbal Kint, 68 Voynich Manuscript, 145 Vyse, S., 66, 177nn1, 3 Wakeless, H., 174n5 Wallace, D., 132, 180nn6, 8 Weinberg, S., 100, 178n3 Wilson, D., 51, 53–56, 60–64, 98, 102, 107, 173n8, 176nn5, 6, 18, 177n1, 178n2 Wolchover, N., 180n2 Xanax, 120 Yoon, C., 176n11 Yourgrau, P., 144 zombies, 123–27