Where are we? Who are we? Do our beliefs, hopes and dreams mean anything out there in the void? Can human purpose and meaning ever fit into a scientific worldview? Acclaimed award-winning author Sean Carroll brings his extraordinary intellect to bear on the realms of knowledge, the laws of nature and the most profound questions about life, death and our place in it all. In a dazzlingly unique presentation, Carroll takes us through the scientific revolution’s avalanche of discoveries, from Darwin and Einstein to the origins of life, consciousness and the universe itself. Delving into the way the world works at the quantum, cosmic and human levels, he reveals how human values relate to scientific reality.
An extraordinary synthesis of cosmos-sprawling science and profound thought, The Big Picture is Carroll’s quest to explain our world. Destined to sit alongside the works of our greatest thinkers, from Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan to Daniel Dennett and E. O. Wilson, this book shows that while our lives may be forever dwarfed by the immensity of the universe, they can be redeemed by our capacity to comprehend it and give it meaning.
Carroll (The Particle at the End of the Universe), a theoretical physicist at Caltech, marshals an impressive array of scientific information to convince readers that the universe and everything in it can be explained by science. He posits "poetic naturalism" as a philosophy, which for him serves as a way to figure out "the best way to talk about the world." He distinguishes his poetic form from other variants of naturalism by affirming that there is an underlying physical reality that exists independently of the human mind, and that there are "many useful ways of talking about it." His determination to counter supernatural ontologies drives the book, and Carroll acknowledges that his philosophy may seem like "an appealing idea" to some and "an absurd bunch of hooey" to others. Carroll can be repetitive, and some of his the anecdotes, such as the connection between Elisabeth of Bohemia and Ren Descartes, are interesting but tangential. Much of the material here will be new to many readers, but regardless of familiarity, Carroll presents a means through which people can better understand themselves, their universe, and their conceptions of a meaningful life: "It's up to us to make wise choices and shape the world to be a better place."