“We need to begin at the beginning. We need to begin at our beginnings”, writes Adam Frank in a recent post on the NPR.org blog 13.7: Cosmos and Culture, to which he is a regular contributor. Frank, an astrophysicist and author of The Constant Fire, argues for a new perspective on the relationship between science and religion—one that looks beyond the debate to find a common truth.
To take this new approach, says Frank, means looking back in time, to the emergence of human culture. He finds that archaeological evidence from Paleolithic sites reveal the origins of both mythology and technology: cave paintings reveal symbolic thought, while tools reveal that our ancestors were inventors, and lunar calendars suggest that they looked up into the sky and tried to understand it, just as we still do. (They may have also crossed the seas to find what was on the other side, as stone tools recently discovered in Greece suggest).
Frank describes how the same sense of wonder we feel at the top of a mountain, gazing at faraway planets and galaxies, or marveling at strange and wonderful new species discovered deep in forests, oceans, and deserts, also inspired our earliest ancestors to embark on the pursuits that we now call religion and science, as ways of approaching the answer to the ineffable question posed by our existence.
He writes: “Those experiences drove our ancestors, as it drives us, to an all important aspiration, a desire to draw closer to the source of that tremendous awe. That aspiration—what I call the Constant Fire—contains the original and braided roots of science and religion.”