According to François Jacob, Nobel Prize for Medicine, “scientists have renounced the idea of an ultimate and intangible truth . . . They now know that they must content themselves with the partial and the provisional” (“Le Jeu des Possibles”, Fayard, Paris, 1981, p. 11). He added that “the fact that life and man have become objects of research and no longer of revelation, few accept” (ibid). But a pearl in the same text must give pause to both the believer and the atheist : “Nothing is as dangerous as the certitude of being right” (p. 12). The same author suggested that “one of the principal functions of myths has always been to help human beings accept the anguish and absurdity of their condition” (op.cit. p. 29). We are here at the heart of blindfaithblindfolly.
Is the universal need to make sense of ourselves and of our world part of our genetic code ? Both believers and scientists (the mystery, of course, is how one can be both) want explanations. The difference, according to Jacob, is that those whose approach is magical, mystical or religious, claim to have answers to every question, whether it concerns the origin of the Universe, or its present and even ultimate destiny (p. 26). Rationalists like myself, on the other hand, are less ambitious. We know we will never have certitude about the ultimate questions, but we are fiercely dedicated to the search for partial, provisional, revisable answers as to how and why things, including ourselves, happen.