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无神的宇宙:一位物理学家在自然世界里找寻意义

Godless Universe: A Physicist Searches for Meaning in Nature

The natural world is the only world, theoretical physicist Sean Carroll argues in a new book

无神的宇宙:一位物理学家在自然世界里找寻意义

理论物理学家Sean Carroll在自己的新书里提出,物质世界是唯一的世界


Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It is time to face reality, California Institute of Technology theoretical physicist Sean Carroll says: There is just no such thing as God, or ghosts, or human souls that reside outside of the body. Everything in existence belongs to the natural world and is accessible to science, he argues. In his new book“The Big Picture: On the Origin of Life,Meaning, and the Universe Itself,”out this week from Dutton, Carroll describes a guiding philosophy along these lines that he calls poetic naturalism. It excludes a supernatural or spiritual realm but still allows plenty of room for life to have a purpose.

是时候面对现实了,加州理工学院理论物理学家Sean Carroll说:根本就没有上帝这回事,在人的肉体之外也不存在鬼或灵魂。一切存在都属于物质世界,且都能被科学解释。本周杜登出版社发行了Carroll的新书《大画面:生命的起源,意义,宇宙》,书中提出他称之为“诗意自然主义”的指导思想。诗意自然主义不接受任何超自然的或精神世界的东西,但仍然允许生命在很大程度上去寻求意义。

“I think we can bring ideas like meaning and morality into our discussions of the natural world,”Carroll says.“The ways that we talk about the universe are what make it meaningful. He eloquently argues that point in his far-ranging book, which takes on the origins of consciousness, the likeliness of God based on a rigorous application of Bayesian probability statistics, and many other“big”questions that scientists are often loath to tackle.

“我认为我们可以把意义、道德这些理念纳入到物质世界的讨论中,”Carroll说,“我们探讨宇宙的方式就能产生意义。” 在他涵盖极广的书中,有力地阐述了这一点:从意识的起源,到贝叶斯统计学论证上帝存在的可能性,还探讨了其他一些科学通常不愿触及的“大问题”。

Scientific American spoke with Carroll about his philosophy and how we can all take a closer look at just what we truly, deeply believe.
[An edited transcript of the conversation follows.]

《科学美国人》就Carroll的理念以及我们如何审视自己真正的信仰对他进行了采访。(以下是编辑过的访谈实录)



Naturalism is the viewpoint that everything arises from natural causes and that there is no supernatural realm. You coin the term“poetic naturalism”for your own particular brand of this guiding philosophy. Why the need for a new term?

自然主义的观点是万物的诞生都源于自然因素,没有任何超自然的世界。你提出“诗意自然主义”作为指导思想,为什么要发明这个新的术语?

Naturalism has been certainly been around for a very long time, but as more people become naturalists and talk to each other, their disagreements within naturalism are interesting. I thought there was ajudicious middle ground, which I call poetic, between“the world is just abunch of particles,”and“science can be used to discover meaning and morality.”

自然主义确实已经存在了很长时间,但是当越来越多的人成为自然主义者,他们相互交谈产生的分歧很有趣。我认为有一个明智的中间立场,我把它叫做诗意,介于“世界就是一堆粒子,”和“科学可以发掘意义和道德”之间。

To me the connotations of“poetic”are that there's some human choice that comes into how we talk about the world. In particular, when it comes to questions of morality and meaning, the way we go about deciding what is right and wrong, and meaningful or not, is not the same as the way we discover what is true and false.

“诗意”对我而言是指人类的某些选择形成了我们谈论这个世界的方式。具体说,当讲到道德和意义时,我们脑子里有关对与错、有意义与否的判定与我们研究真与假的判定方式是不一致的。

Just because we have no evidence of another realm of reality beyond the physical world, how can we conclude it doesn't exist?

仅仅因为没有证据证明物质世界之外存在另一个世界,就能得出它不存在的结论?

It's not a matter of certainty, ever. I would make the argument that if there were a supernatural element that played a role in our everyday life in some noticeable way, it's very, very likely we would have noticed it. It just seems weird that this kind of thing would be so crucial and yet so difficult to notice in any controlled scientific way. I would make the case that it is sufficiently unlikely in a fair Bayesian accounting that we don't need to spendany time thinking about it anymore. Five hundred years ago it would have been a possibility. I think these days we're ready to move on.

这从来都不是一个确定的问题。这么说吧,假设我们日常生活中存在着某种超自然的力量,并且这种力量某些方面是能够引起注意的,那么我们察觉到这种力量的可能性就非常非常大。但奇怪的是,在任何可控的科学方法下,如此至关重要的事情却难以被观测到。超自然的事情如果用一个客观公正贝叶斯定理来计算,可能性几乎为零。所以,我们无需再花时间去琢磨这种事了。这种事放到500年前还算有点可能,今天我觉得我们已经可以放下它了。

All I can say at the end of the day is we should all be trying as hard as we can to guard against our individual cognitive biases, the things we want to be true. The existence of life after death, for example, I would love that to be true. My cognitive bias is in favor of that. And yet I don't think it is true. The best we can do is try to be honest.

我最后想说的是,我们要警觉自己的认知偏见,警觉那些我们希望成真的事情。比如,死后生命的存在,我也希望那是真的,我认知的偏见倾向于那样认为。但我并不认为那是真的,最好的做法就是尽量让自己诚实。

So do you think it's impossible for a religious person to believe in poetic naturalism?  

那么对一个有宗教信仰的人来讲,相信诗意自然主义是不是一件不可能的事情?

Of course that depends on what you mean by religious. There's actually a movement called religious naturalism. Religion involves a whole bunch of things—practices, casts of mind, morals, etc., so you can certainly imagine calling yourself religious, reading the Bible, going to church and just not believing in God. I suspect the number of people who do that is much larger than the number of people who admit to it.

这要看你所说的宗教的含义。实际上有一场运动就叫做宗教自然主义。宗教包含很多内容——实践,性情,道德等等,所以你可以想象一个称自己有宗教信仰的人,读着圣经,去教堂礼拜,但并不相信上帝。这样的人很多,只是没有多少人原意承认。

The mistake comes when we try to pretend that it doesn't matter what our view of the ontology of the world is. I think it does matter. But having made those decisions [about your worldview], there are many ways you can live a life that's meaningful and socially relevant and familial. I think we have a misunderstanding of meaning because we relate it to something outside the natural world, when it doesn't have to be that.

当我们假装不在乎世界的本体论时,谬误就产生了。我认为本体论很重要,你对自己世界观做出了决策,有很多方式可以让你活得有意义,并对社会和家庭有益。我们对意义有误解,因为我们将意义与物质世界之外的东西联系在一起,其实意义并非只有那种形式。

This argument for naturalism feels particularly timely, when politicians and many in society are increasingly hostile to science and evidence-based thinking. How receptive to the approach of naturalism do you think most people are?

随着政客和各种社会阶层对科学和基于证据的思维越来越排斥,自然主义来的正是时候,你觉得人们对自热主义的接受程度如何?

I think that scientists have a sort of professional level of understanding of the universe, and scientists are overwhelmingly naturalists. Whereas people on the street, or in Washington, D.C., still don't admit to this. There aren't a lot of naturalists in Congress. The way we talk about these things in the public sphere has not caught up with the way we understand the universe as it really is.

科学家有一套专业的学识去理解宇宙,科学家几乎都信奉自然主义。然而在民众当中,无论是大街上走的或者是来自华盛顿特区的,都不愿相信自然主义,国会议员中自然主义者也不多。我们在公共领域谈论的东西与我们所理解的真正意义上的世界相去甚远。

As a physicist, what inspired you to write a book essentially on philosophy?

作为物理学家,什么东西激发你去写一本主旨为哲学的书?

It evolved over a very long time. I've always been interested in not only physics directly, but also the wider consequences. I was a philosophy minor as an undergraduate. I always have thought that doing physics was part of a larger intellectual project of trying to understand the whole world in different ways.

很久之前就有这个想法,我的兴趣不局限于物理,我需要找到更宏大的答案。我在大学时辅修了哲学,我一直认为,研究物理学是人类通过智力去理解整个世界的一种方式。

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

你希望读者从这本中收获什么?

I think there's a bunch of people who still, because they just haven't thought about it that much, have the informal idea that science can explain what happens when two atoms bump into each other, but it can't explain how the universe started or how life began. I hope people get the idea that we're well on our way to answering those questions. There's no obstacle in our way that says we're just not going to be able to.

有不少人,因为缺乏一定的思考,仍然认为科学只能解释两个原子撞击时会发生什么,无法解释宇宙的起源,生命的起源。我希望大家能明白我们已经做好充分的准备去回答这些问题。有些人说我们就是没有那个能力,我想说我们所用的科学方法已经不存在他们所说的种种障碍了。

原文来自科学美国人

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