The forefronts of science concern not only the physical universe but also the place of human beings in that universe. How did our cosmos begin? How special is life? Are we nothing but atoms? What about our consciousness and thoughts? How should we regard an organism created from scratch in the lab? In an era in which science and the humanities are often segregated, there is a need to explore and confirm their deep interconnections.
We propose a 90-minute feature documentary with the working title “SEARCHING: Our Quest for Meaning in the Age of Science.” Physicist and essayist Alan Lightman, our host, will take viewers on a journey around the world to both experience cutting edge science and discuss some of the philosophical and theological questions raised by that science. We will travel from prehistoric paintings in the caves of France to a giant subatomic particle accelerator in Switzerland, from Harvard laboratories where researchers are attempting to create life, to the giant gravitational wave detector in Louisiana. We will go from the infinity of the small—at so tiny a scale that time and space disappear in the chaos of quantum gravity—to the infinity of the large, where theoretical physicists conjecture universes spawning new universes. And always, we ask the haunting question: What is the larger meaning for us humans?
Our program, already selected for distribution to PBS stations nationwide by American Public Television, will include vivid scenes of contemporary scientific research, spectacular astronomical computer graphics, natural history, personal stories of discovery. And reflections by philosophers, rabbis, and monks as well as physicists, biologists, and cosmologists on the human meaning of recent discoveries in science. Our project also involves a number of outreach activities, including providing segments of the documentary and associated activities to schools and science museums, and presentations at colleges and universities.