Marcelo Gleiser – Science as Engagement with the Mysterious!

Augustine Pamplany CST

Brazilian theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Marcelo Gleiser, is announced as the 2019 Templeton Prize Laureate. He became internationally known through his books TV documentaries, and conferences in which he treats science as a spiritual quest to understand the origin and nature of the universe and the life. As a scientist his researches and publications cover various fields such as quantum field theories, particle physics, early-universe cosmology, the dynamics of phase transitions, astrobiology, and information theory. He is the first Latin American to receive the prestigious Templeton prize.

Gleiser rejects any kind of scientism that thinks science alone can lead us to ultimate truths. He shows how science is linked to humanities, spirituality and culture. He holds a complementary approach to knowledge. For him, science is an “engagement with the mysterious.” With his doctrine of “humancentrism” he makes an inversion of Copernicanism. It means that humankind is a sort of metaphorical centre of the earth in terms of the improbable unicity of our planet and the exceptional rarity of the humans as intellectual beings. It “prompts the need for a new cosmic morality where the sacredness of life is extended to the planet and all living beings.”

He writes in The Island of Knowledge, “Awe is the bridge between our past and present, taking us forward into the future as we keep on searching.” In his acceptance of the Prize he said, “My mission is to bring back to science, and to the people that are interested in science, this attachment to the mysterious, to make people understand that science is just one other way for us to engage with the mystery of who we are.”

His first book The Dancing Universe, conceived as a textbook for non-science students, explores the philosophical and religious roots of scientific thinking. According to Templeton briefing, “He became a critic of blanket pronouncements about unknowable matters such as the inevitability of the unification of forces and the certainty that physics has solved the question of the universe’s origin. He also increasingly rejected the claims of fellow scientists who asserted the irrelevance of philosophy or religion.”

He describes himself as an agnostic, and at the same time an avowed non-atheist. In an interview with Scientific American, he said, “I see atheism as being inconsistent with the scientific method as it is, essentially, belief in non-belief. You may not believe in God, but to affirm its nonexistence with certainty is not scientifically consistent.”

Leave a Comment