Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine - Alan Lightman

Staff Pick

The twenty essays in this thought-provoking and very personal collection explore the insights and limits of science and religion. Lightman, a physicist and novelist, views these disciplines as two different but equally essential routes to the truth. Science describes and explains the physical world. Its discoveries are always provisional and are constantly being tested and revised. Religion looks inward. Its truths are unprovable but incontrovertible. The universe has room enough and questions enough for both, and though reason and spirituality operate in distinct spheres, they touch on similar matters. What existed before the Big Bang? Where was the creator before creation? Does the Buddhist belief in an endless cycle of death and rebirth, one that had no beginning but just WAS, match quantum theories that have seemingly disproven causality? Lightman’s pursuit of certainty involves explorations of infinities, large and small; meditations on the problem of consciousness and humanity’s bio-tech future; field trips around Pole Island to look at hummingbirds and ants; and vivid glimpses of his heroes, among them Galileo, Einstein, St. Augustine, and his friend Yos Hut Khemacaro, a Cambodian Buddhist monk. As he has in previous books, Lightman gives us vast, complicated subjects in lucid, engaging prose.