Adam Frank on spiritual atheism

March 18, 2012

Adam Frank is an atheist with a spiritual bent.  As an astrophysicist, his yearning for the sacred is rooted in science.  He thinks many atheists are too quick to dismiss spirituality.  And he's tired of the way the science vs. religion debate is usually framed, with hardcore atheists like Richard Dawkins squaring off against fundamentalist Christians.



The Taoist view of the world seems to speak to a form of spirituality and acceptance of the physical world that might be appealing to naturalists and scientists--I wonder why that isn't considered more often.

How rare and how gratifying it is to listen to someone who mirrors your own beliefs so well. Thank you Adam, from a former Rochester astrophysics postdoc.

As I have often quoted in research studies, the axiom: "absence of the proof is not proof of the absence...", which would apply in the case of God, Afterlife, and spirituality.
I have often encountered the scientifically inexplicable in everyday life. How can humans , with a finite brain encased in a bony vault, be capable of understanding the Infinite, and all that may go with it.

I agree with Frank that 'personal experiences' are- well - personal, and no one can reduce them to neurological phenomena. If people experience "God" in their personal lives...then "God" exists for them. Science ought not to debate whether God exists or not, it can only debate how useful that knowledge (whether God exists) is.

As a former clergy turned skeptical agnostic, I find Frank to be a breath of fresh air in the religionist-athiest debate. There is a third way and Frank points to it. Great interview.

It seems extraordinary to me that Professor Frank, particularly given that he is an astrophysicist and so whose workaday paradigm, at least, is solidly constructed from the most indirect forms of evidence and a ruthless application of Occam's razor, reverts to a shallow “Russell’s teapot” argument in defense of his professed “agnosticism” on the question of unembodied consciousness. It makes it extremely difficult for me to view him as a particularly deep thinker on this topic.

Frank is right that there is no theory of consciousness and there is no data on consciousness, but's that because there is no definition of it science either and therefore no way to collect data or develop a theory. As a scientist, he should be saying that it is not a scientific question.

I really appreciated this interview as it gave me a nice perspective. I'm a scientist that falls into the Adam Frank camp. But listening to the discussion brought me to the realization that the need for certainty re. one's method of search or one's distrust of such is something that's probably akin to genetic determinism. And though Dawkins rubs me terribly wrong there's probably no more that can be done about it than his likely irritation with my ilk's aversion to self assured certainty re. all things ontology and epistemology.