Sean Carroll: How the World Really Works

Sean Carroll the Caltech Physicist, cosmologist, science promoter, speaker and author delivers 5 informative and insightful Gifford Lectures at Glasgow University, Scotland. Unfortunately the 1st lecture had a recording glitch, but the next four are available on You Tube. Here’s the link to Gifford Lecture #2 The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. YouTube per usual will play the next three if you have the inclination to catch nearly 5 hours of excellent lecture and Q&A. Carroll definitely gives us all our money’s worth and the content is not limited to just cosmology and particle physics, but takes the empirical knowledge of the world we find ourselves in and does philosophy from there. He does give it the “Big Picture” treatment.

If you don’t have 4-5 hours to spare (tho it is well worth it, Carrol is a clear and engaging structured speaker, who doesn’t digress and ramble like the equally engaging and educating Lawrence Krauss) check out this video of the AronRa podcast #22 with Sean Carroll, Why we Know There is No Afterlife. This video is just under an hour in length and is a much easier intro into some of the ideas about science and the soul that Carroll explicates in impressive detail in the Gifford Lectures linked above.

One tidbit is Carroll’s explication of the “Core Theory” of particle physics that explains what matter is made of and the four forces that hold atoms together and how all of matter’s interactions in chemistry, biology, even psychology stem from this theory. There are no spiritual entities found in our world, no souls and no afterlife for some nebulous “energy” to reside in. Carroll explains why despite the fact that we have so much to learn about the universe, the Core Theory is not going away, and the supposing of gods and souls are just leftover early explanations of how the world worked before humans discovered the constituents of, and developed the interactions of the Core Theory over the last 2,000 years of empirical observation. Carroll’s presentations are another example of what we have available from all the fine science educators who have come to the forefront just in the past decade.
I thoroughly enjoy both Lawrence Krauss and Carroll, and the equally captivating Brian Cox, when they relate to us so well the arcane and intricate and often so counter-intuitive findings of modern physics. We are “blessed” (Ha! It was there, I had to use it) to have 3 such accomplished science educators giving us the scoop in the 21st century of what we as a species have learned about our existence. Some of you may note, I didn’t include the popular Michio Kaku in the above list of physics educators. Kaku is doing a great service in popularizing science, no doubt, but he tends to lean toward the spiritual nonsense end of things and I daresay is not a fav.
The last and maybe the most energetic and emotional of the physicist-science communicators is of course, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who may be more popular than all 3 combined and who as much as anyone, pulls no punches as to what we know and don’t know about the universe and the human condition. How fortunate we are in the 2010’s to have four prominent science educators just from among the physicists!! When I was a kid we had the eccentric, tho brilliant Richard Feynman and that was about it. Nowadays we have a whole host of science educators explaining the intricacies of science, among them of course, the incomparably popular Bill Nye and many others.

My usage of the word “blessed” above echoes a theme of Carroll’s talks. We are still living under the assumptions of old religious suppositions, that from what we have discovered and replicated on a daily basis about matter and energy, the constituents of our bodies and brains, there is no evidence of and no room for spirits, souls, afterlives nor gods of any kind, yet our culture is still infused with 2,000 year old language and ideas that hold sway from ancient tradition and mere cultural inertia. We are at a tipping point in history where the scientific, materialistic world view is slowly encroaching on the old view of causal Dieties making the world work. So much of the science Carroll elucidates is so new. It is not millennia old culturally ingrained truisms, but recent merely decades old discoveries, much of it of the past century or two at most. Carroll’s perspectives are not merely a competing world view to the old religious god and soul ontology, they are based in what we actually know, not what we suppose or hope for from religious indoctrination and cultural diffusion. They exemplify the clear, un-fanciful approach of the New Enlightenment secular movement, which is so new, barely a decade old and just beginning to finish the work begun in the first Enlightenment: the questioning old religious claims and authorities, supplanting such with what we truly know about reality.

The Gifford Lectures linked above are well worth your time. They are challenging in their depth, but Carroll makes the complexities of modern physics and philosophy as clear as anyone we have out there speaking to us today.






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