The Big Questions: Probing the Promise and Limits of Science is a book written by Richard Morris. In it he describes what science is doing to try to answer the great metaphysical questions.
Richard Morris gives us a fascinating view of the physics, biology, and cognitive science that allow scientitsts a tantalizing glimpse into the some of the answers to the big questions.
"The big questions," such as "What is time?", "What is mind?", "Why is there something rather than nothing?", and "Is there a God?" are questions that traditionally belong to philosophy, but which modern practioners have shied away from tackling.
Modern science however, have begun to consider some of the questions. Physicists are looking into "the arrow of time:" why does time have a preferred direction? They are also looking at how the universe came to be, both trying to understand what happened in the earliest stages of the big bang, and also what was there before the universe, if there is a "before". Evolutionary psychology and cognitive science are trying to understand our nature as human beings.
Those who are looking for definitive answers will be disappointed with this book. While Morris describes active research that begin to attempt an answer to the big questions, most are still at an early stage. The book's afterword is full of phrases like "Scientists have not penetrated all the mysteries of time," and "all the various theories of the origin of the universe remain speculative".
Morris writes in an engaging and accessible style, and his text will be easy for the layman to understand. Sometimes, though, I get the feeling that he is talking down to his audience. He is most comfortable writing about quantum physics, and the topic dominates most of the book.
He seems to put great store into evolutionary psychology though. And since the field is still new, and the results of this fledgling science are mostly preliminary, I cannot help but think that his enthusiasm may be misplaced.
Overall, the book is good and surprisingly light reading. The discussion of how science is tackling these age old questions is informative, but don't expect any definite answers to them.
Information about the book:
Richard Morris, The Big Questions: Probing the Promise and Limits of Science
, Times Books, New York, 20002