To the Best of Our Knowledge
Public Radio International

Science and the Search for Meaning:
A Five-Part Series

To the Best of Our Knowledge, Wisconsin Public Radio and Public Radio International's Peabody Award-winning magazine of ideas, presents a major 5-hour series on the complex relationship between science and spirituality. Through a series of in-depth interviews with leading experts, executive producer Steve Paulson examines 5 central ideas in modern science and their impact on some of the most profound questions facing philosophers and religious thinkers today.


1) What is Life?

Scientists can now explain virtually every stage of the evolutionary process. But there's a basic question that still mystifies even the best scientists: How did life first begin on Earth? Or to put in another way, how did non-life somehow turn into life? And can we say the Earth itself is alive? This hour explores some of the fundamental mysteries of life - from how it first started on Earth to the possibility of supremely intelligent life on other planets and why technology is evolving like life itself.



2) What Does Evolution Want?

Are human beings just an evolutionary accident? What if the evolution of humans, or some brainy creature like us, was inevitable once life first appeared on Earth? In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, maverick paleontologist Simon Conway Morris explains why he believes evolution must ultimately lead to intelligent beings.



3) Does the "Soul" Still Matter?

For centuries, we've been told the soul is what makes each of us unique. It's why we have moral responsibility. And it's the part of us that lives on after we die. But many scientists now say the soul is just an outdated myth, an idea that can be explained away by new insights from neuroscience and evolutionary biology. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, the question of whether the soul still matters is discussed with scientists and philosophers.



4) Can Islam and Science Coexist?

Islamic culture was once the center of the scientific world. During Europe's Dark Ages, Baghdad, Cairo and other Middle Eastern cities were the key repositories of ancient Greek science. Muslim scholars themselves made breakthroughs in medicine, optics, and mathematics. Today the Islamic world lags far behind the West in science and technology. What happened? This hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge looks at the challenges facing Muslim scientists.



5) Can Science Be Sacred?

What if you don't believe in God, and the thought of church makes you queasy? Can you still experience the sacred? There's a growing movement of secular scientists who revel in the awe and wonder of nature. In fact, many consider this a religious experience - without God. This hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge examines the search for a science-based spirituality, and a leading animist philosopher gives his point of view.


Science and the Search for Meaning: Five Questions
Perspectives on the Self: Conversations on Identity and Consciousness
What is Life?
November 21, 2010
What Does Evolution Want?
November 28, 2010
Can Science Be Sacred?
December 19, 2010


The Nour Foundation: Exploring Meaning & Commonality in Human Experience
The John Templeton Foundation
Promega Corporation
Listen to excerpts from Steve Paulson's interviews with:

Listen to a full episode of To the Best of Our Knowledge on the conflict between faith and reason, featuring: Karen Armstrong, Russell Shorto, Hope Edelman, Steven Pinker, and Rebecca Goldstein.