National Book Award winner Richard Powers (The Echo Maker, Galatea 2.2, Generosity) has been hailed as the smartest novelist of our time. Few writers have bridged the gap between art and science so compellingly, so passionately, and with such inimitable precision.
In Genie, a short story of epic proportions, Powers ventures into science-fiction: he turns a failing relationship between a randy scientist and a staid statistician into a quest—not only for love and connection but for a way to connect to intelligent life in the universe. Has Anca, a rising star biologist, found proof of intelligent design, the signature of the Creator himself? Or is it a message left by an unknown—and unearthly—life form?
In 2010, Kurt Andersen sought to answer some of those questions when he interviewed physicists at CERN who were searching for the elusive Higgs boson—the so-called God Particle. "The concepts [of particle physics] are so beautiful in their simplicity," CERN scientist Fabiola Gianotti told Andersen. "And they answer the most fundamental questions. Physics and art are two forms of the same wish of human intuition, to understand nature.”
In Esquire, [Tom Junod(/tom-junod)] tried to reconcile religion and intelligent design—by dropping acid to find God. "Religion can't change science because it can't change the terms of creation, and science is creation's handmaiden," Junod reasoned. "Can science change religion? Of course it can; everything can change religion, which is one of the reasons religion is so pissed off."
Fifteen years ago, the late Stephen Jay Gould explored the rise of Darwinian fundamentalists. "Why then should Darwinian fundamentalism be expressing itself so stridently when most evolutionary biologists have become more pluralistic in the light of these new discoveries and theories?" Gould asked. "I am no psychologist, but I suppose that the devotees of any superficially attractive cult must dig in when a general threat arises. 'That old time religion; it’s good enough for me.'”
And in 1900, Henry Adams attended the Paris Exhibition and marveled at the machines that would define the twentieth century. In "The Dynamo and the Virgin," he compared the energy of modernity to the faith of the medieval era. "The dynamo, next to the steam-engine, was the most familiar of exhibits," Adams wrote (in third person). "For Adams’s objects its value lay chiefly in its occult mechanism. Between the dynamo in the gallery of machines and the engine-house outside, the break of continuity amounted to abysmal fracture for a historian’s objects. No more relation could he discover between the steam and the electric current than between the Cross and the cathedral. The forces were interchangeable if not reversible, but he could see only an absolute fiat in electricity as in faith."