Carlo Rovelli offers vast, complex ideas beyond most of our imagining — “quanta,” “grains of space,” “time and the heat of black holes” — and condenses them into spare, beautiful words that render them newly explicable and moving. He is the scientist behind the global bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, and for him, all of reality is interaction — an everyday truth as scientific as it is philosophical and political. This physicist’s way of seeing the world helps make sense of what he calls “the huge wave of happenings” that is the human self.
At the turn of the year, we look at how American culture’s encounter with religious ideas and people has evolved in the past decade — and this radio project with it.
Born in slavery, the Negro spiritual conveys a generous understanding of the nature of God and of human life. A celebration in word and song — through its hidden meanings, as well as its beauty, lament, and hope.
One of the world’s leading experts on torture, Iranian-American political scientist Darius Rejali discusses, in particular, how democracies change torture and are changed by it. In the wake of Wikileaks revelations about torture in U.S.-occupied Iraq, we explore how his knowledge might deepen our public discourse about such practices — and inform our collective reckoning with consequences yet to unfold.
Using stem cells, Doris Taylor brought the heart of a dead animal back to life and might one day revolutionize human organ transplantation. She takes us beyond lightning rod issues and into an unfolding frontier where science is learning how stem cells work reparatively in every body at every age.
We delve into the world and meaning of the Jewish High Holy Days — ten days that span the new year of Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur’s rituals of atonement. A young rabbi in L.A. is one voice in a Jewish spiritual renaissance that is taking many forms across the U.S. The vast majority of her congregation are people in their 20s and 30s, who, she says, are making life-giving connections between ritual, personal transformation, and relevance in the world.
The devastation of the Haiti earthquakes and the lack of infrastructure for responding to the disaster have deepened an ongoing debate over foreign aid, international development, and helping the poorest of the world’s poor. Jacqueline Novogratz, whose Acumen Fund is reinventing that landscape with what it calls “patient capitalism,” is charting a third way between investment for profit and aid for free.
A conversation about climate change and moral imagination with a leading environmentalist and writer who has been ahead of the curve on this issue since he wrote The End of Nature in 1989. We explore his evolving perspective on human responsibility in a changing natural world.
Rachel Naomi Remen’s lifelong struggle with chronic illness has shaped her philosophy and practice of medicine. She speaks about the art of listening to patients and other physicians, the difference between curing and healing, and how our losses help us to live.
Kingsolver describes an adventure her family undertook to spend one year eating primarily what they could grow or raise themselves. As a citizen and mother more than an expert, she turned her life towards questions many of us are asking. Food, she says, is a “rare moral arena” in which the ethical choice is often the pleasurable choice.
Shane Claiborne is a leading spirit in a gathering movement of young people known as the New Monastics. Emerging from the edges of Evangelical Christianity, they are patterning their lives in response to the needs of the poor — and the detachment they see in our culture’s vision of adulthood.
More and more people in our time are disconnected from religious institutions, at least for part of their lives. Others are religious and find themselves creating a family with a spouse from another tradition or no tradition at all. And the experience of parenting tends to raise spiritual questions anew. We sense that there is a spiritual aspect to our children’s natures and wonder how to support and nurture that. The spiritual life, our guest says, begins not in abstractions, but in concrete everyday experiences. And children need our questions as much as our answers.
Auburn’s Rural Studio in western Alabama draws architectural students into the design and construction of homes and public spaces in some of the poorest counties. They’re creating beautiful and economical structures that are not only unique but nurture sustainability of the natural world as of human dignity.
Saint John’s University and Abbey in rural Minnesota houses a monastic library that rescues writings from across the centuries and across the world. There are worlds in this place on palm leaf and papyrus, in microfilm and pixels. And the relevance of the past to the present is itself revealed in a new light.
With an Argentinean scientist, we explore the human landscape of forensic sciences and its emergence as a tool for human rights. Doretti has unearthed bones and stories of the dead and “the disappeared” in more than 30 countries, including victims of Argentina’s Dirty War, over two decades. She shares her perspective on reparation, the need to bury our dead, and the many facets of justice.
A filmmaker and scholar gives us a parallel story to the ubiquitous news of China’s economy and politics. Mayfair Yang discusses the ancient and reemerging traditions of reverence and ritual — revealing background to its approach to Tibet. And, she tells us how China gleaned some of its recent dismissive attitudes towards religion from the West.
The word “healing” means “to make whole.” But historically, Western medicine has taken a divided view of human health. It has stressed medical treatments of biological ailments. That may be changing. Mehmet Oz, a cardiovascular surgeon, is part of a new generation of doctors who are taking medicine to new technological and spiritual frontiers.
Robert Wright charts an intellectual path beyond the faith versus reason debate. He takes a relentlessly logical look at the history of religion, exposing its contradictions. Yet Wright also traces something “revelatory” moving through human history. In this public conversation — recorded before a live audience — we explore the story he tells, the import he sees in it for our culture, and where it has personally taken him.
Part two of this series delves into Einstein’s Jewish identity, his passionate engagement around issues of war and race, and modern extensions of his ethical and scientific perspectives.
A poet and self-described literary activist, E. Ethelbert Miller attended Howard University in 1968 — the age in which Black Power was finding its voice. He has remained there ever since, observing and making sense of the trajectory of black history and culture. He pushes at the parameters within which mainstream America routinely sees what he calls “blackness.”
British activist Ed Husain was seduced, at the age of 16, by revolutionary Islamist ideals that flourished at the heart of educated British culture. Yet he later shrank back from radicalism after coming close to a murder and watching people he loved become suicide bombers. He dug deeper into Islamic spirituality, and now offers a fresh and daring perspective on the way forward.