“The great believers in the wonder of the universe, as revealed to us by science, seem to have considerable difficulty in either galvanising us to social solidarity, or providing us with true solace. I’ve yet to hear of anyone going gently into that dark night on the basis that she or he is happily anticipating their dissolution into cosmic dust, nor do I witness multitudes assembling in order that they may sing the periodic table together, or recite prime numbers in plain chant. By contrast, religious beliefs continue to offer many people genuine succour, and they do this, I think, as Dostoevsky realised, not because of the specific concepts they appear to enshrine –such as an afterlife or eternal judgement– but because they place the human individual in a universal context, and thereby give her life meaning.“
But is social solidarity what science is about? Maybe it’s about answering questions we don’t know the answer to.