A new, three-part series, “Searching, Our Quest for Meaning in the Age of Science,” now airing on public television, features MIT physicist and author Alan Lightman, who explores timeless and deep questions about man and the universe with ethicists, philosophers, faith leaders and Nobel Prize-winning scientists.
According to American Public Television, distributor of the series, among the places it visits are “the prehistoric caves of Font-de-Gaume in France, where drawings and symbols suggest that—as long ago as 40,000 years—our early human ancestors were also searching for meaning”; Florence, Italy, where Galileo researched telescopes; “the giant atom smasher at CERN on the Swiss-French border, where physicists are trying to find the smallest particles of nature”; and “the laboratory of Nobel laureate Jack Szostak, who is attempting to create a living cell from chemicals present on primitive earth.”
In addition, Lightman speaks with an advanced android, Bina48; ethicist Ruth Faden; Nobelist Rai Weiss and MIT dean of science Nergis Mavalvalaw. He also asks Robert Desimone “about the possibility of understanding the brain well enough to predict whether two people will fall in love”; the Dalai Lama about the nature of consciousness; and philosopher Rebecca Goldstein “about meaning and the spectacle of existence.”
In a recent interview series host and co-writer Lightman suggested it raises “a lot of questions but it doesn’t give a lot of answers—the deepest questions have no answers.”
He said it explores “how human beings fit in the grand scheme of things, and what they will become in the future,” with new science and technology.
He also said he wanted it to be “cinematically beautiful. I hope it provokes thought in viewers.”
Lightman is professor of the practice of the humanities at MIT and author of non-fiction and fiction books, including Einstein’s Dreams, an international bestseller, and The Diagnosis, a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction.