At the heart of every scientific inquiry is a deep spiritual quest — to grasp, to know, to feel connected through an understanding of the secrets of the natural world, to have a sense of one's part in the greater whole. It is this inchoate desire for connection to something greater and immortal, the need for elucidation of the meaning of the 'self', that motivates the religious to belief in a higher 'intelligence'. It is the allure of a bigger agency — outside the self but also involving, protecting, and celebrating the purpose of the self — that is the great attractor. Every culture has religion. It undoubtedly satisfies a manifest human need.
But the same spiritual fulfillment and connection can be found in the revelations of science. From energy to matter, from fundamental particles to DNA, from microbes to Homo sapiens, from the singularity of the Big Bang to the immensity of the universe .... ours is the greatest story ever told. We scientists have the drama, the plot, the icons, the spectacles, the 'miracles', the magnificence, and even the special effects. We inspire awe. We evoke wonder.
And we don't have one god, we have many of them. We find gods in the nucleus of every atom, in the structure of space/time, in the counter-intuitive mechanisms of electromagneticsm. What richness! What consummate beauty!
We even exalt the `self'. Our script requires a broadening of the usual definition, but we too offer hope for everlasting existence. The `self' that is the particular, networked set of connections of the matter comprising our mortal bodies will one day die, of course. But the `self' that is the sum of each separate individual condensate in us of energy-turned-matter is already ancient and will live forever. Each fundamental particle may one day return to energy, or from there revert back to matter. But in one form or another, it will not cease. In this sense, we and all around us are eternal, immortal, and profoundly connected. We don't have one soul; we have trillions upon trillions of them.
These are reasons enough for jubilation ... for riotous, unrestrained, exuberant merry-making.
So what are we missing?