The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate

The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate

The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate

The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate

Synopsis

Eloquent, urgent, and inspiring, The Constant Fire tackles the acrimonious debate between science and religion, taking us beyond its stagnant parameters into the wider domain of human spiritual experience. From a Neolithic archaeological site in Ireland to modern theories of star formation, Adam Frank traverses a wide terrain, broadening our sights and allowing us to imagine an alternative perspective. Drawing from his experience as a practicing astrophysicist and from the writings of the great scholars of religion, philosophy, and mythology, Frank locates the connective tissue linking science and religion--their commonality as sacred pursuits--and finds their shared aspiration in pursuit of "the True and the Real." Taking us from the burning of Giordano Bruno in 1600 to Einstein and on to today's pressing issues of global warming and resource depletion, The Constant Fire shows us how to move beyond this stale debate into a more profound experience of the world as sacred--a world that embraces science without renouncing human spirituality.

Excerpt

Newgrange, Ireland. The entrance was barely wide enough for a grown man to pass through. Unlike the bright Irish summer day behind us, the path ahead was dark, cool, and damp. The ceiling hung low, and the walls pressed in close. We threaded single file down a narrow passageway. The stone walls around us had been set in place a full half millennium before the pyramids were finished. The passageway opened into a low circular chamber set into the stone. As my Irish astronomer colleagues and I circled the chamber to make room for our guide, the silence of five millennia settled on us like a layer of ash.

“One morning each year,” our guide intoned in a rich baritone, “on the day of the winter solstice, the rising sun aligns with the passageway you just traversed. On that morning, and a few others before and after, a beam of sunlight pierces the twenty-four-meter-long hallway and falls here in the central chamber. The light within this black chamber flares for a mere fourteen minutes. Then it passes. The sun rises above the hill, the alignment is broken, and the chamber remains dark for another year. What rituals and practices were carried out here in that brief period of illumination we do not know.”

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