The FQXi Contest for 2018 is underway, with 166 essays attempting to answer the essay question – “What is Fundamental?” My contribution is titled “ Faith is Fundamental”. As a reminder, the Foundational Questions Institute is an elite collection of cosmologists and physicists, led by Max Tegmark of MIT, Anthony Aguirre of UCSC and a board of some of the world’s top scientific minds. The essay contest is open to anyone, but each essay goes through an intense inquiry and rating process by the community of essayists, with final awards determined by an FQXi panel. Last year my essay The How and the Why of Emergence and Intention ranked #5 in the Community Rating process but won no prize. In 2016 my first essay The Tip of The Spear won a fourth place prize.
This is my fourth FQXi essay and the ranking process is fully underway, with winners to be announced later this spring. This year I have once again discussed the limits of what I call the empirical enterprise of science, citing critical constraints in both mathematics and physics. I argue that these contraints call into question several fundamental assumptions at the heart of modern theoretical physics, and that these unexamined articles of faith need to be subjected to open and honest inquiry. If we follow this inquiry, I believe we can all regain some of the sense of wonder and mystery that initially stimulated our interest in the natural sciences and that gives meaning to our lives.
Albert Einstein once said:
… science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
My essay concludes:
Ultimately, I hope we may find, in all of our hearts, a set of beliefs that would meet Einstein’s definition of religion as the source of ‘our aspiration toward truth and understanding’ and ‘the faith in the possibility that… the world… is comprehensible’. I can only imagine that this would reignite our shared sense of wonder, and encourage us to embrace the human experiences of joy, love, beauty and meaningful participation, including the full and enthusiastic pursuit of science, in this most marvelous world we live in.