In Plato’s “Apology,” the Greek philosopher quotes Socrates, who is having one of his famous discourses with another philosopher, as saying, “Although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is — for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know.”
Sadly, the “Socratic Paradox” is not much taught in schools these days. And that’s a shame because Socrates — who was forced to drink a fatal dose of hemlock after being charged with not believing in “the gods of the state” — has much to teach us about the true nature of knowledge.
Some, though, appear to still be reading Socrates’ works. Like Marcelo Gleiser.
Gleiser is a physics and astronomy professor who teaches at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, specializing in cosmology. The 60-year-old professor was born in Rio de Janeiro and has been teaching there since 1991.
On Tuesday, he won the Templeton Prize, which rewards an individual “who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.” While the prize is nice in itself, it also comes with $1.5 million — more than the winners of the Nobel prizes receive.
The esteemed group — with past winners that include theologian Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and Soviet author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn — awarded Glesier for his work that shows science and religion can co-exist. While the professor is an agnostic, he, like Socrates, knows that he simply does not know.
“Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method,” Gleiser told the Agence France Presse on Monday. “Atheism is a belief in non-belief. So you categorically deny something you have no evidence against.”
“I’ll keep an open mind because I understand that human knowledge is limited,” Gleiser said, according to Yahoo News.
Gleiser has focused on the parallels in science and religion’s search for answers about the origin of the universe and life, noting that “everybody wants to know how the world came to be.” This question drives and, as Gleiser maintains, potentially unites both science and religion. But science, he says, has its limits.
“Science can give answers to certain questions, up to a point,” Gleiser said, Yahoo reports. “This has been known for a very long time in philosophy, it’s called the problem of the first cause: we get stuck.”
For those who believe the earth was literally created in six days, Gleiser has a few thoughts. “They position science as the enemy … because they have a very antiquated way of thinking about science and religion in which all scientists try to kill God,” he said.
“Science does not kill God.”