Whenever science and religion get up in each other’s faces in the schoolyard and start swatting at each other like two gradeschool children battling in snowsuits, it gives me a chuckle. Anyone who has studied science, particularly the quantum physics and really intensive stuff, realizes that the further you go out in science the closer it begins to resemble religion. There’s far more overlap than dichotomy. It’s like when two rival teams play football. The fans are the ones in the stand slapfighting and screaming swears. The two teams have a job to do, and they go out and do it. It’s not personal. It’s only the really asshole idiots who make it so.
But this has nothing to do with this book. It’s just my stupid opinion based on stuff I heard about once. And that’s kind what this book is about. Boy, that’s a dick statement to write about the highest member of a major religion. The Universe in a Single Atom reads mostly like what it is: a learned religious scholar, and really a very nice old man, talking about all the famous people he talked to. It’s kind of like watching television with your grandfather, if he were one of those people fond of pointing out the obvious.
The Lama spends most of the book discussing a scientific theory, and then discussing a Buddhist tenet, and then saying see? Aren’t they similar? Shouldn’t we all be friends? I’m grossly oversimplifying matters, but really, each chapter is him saying, In Buddhism we say emptiness. In physics, they are studying the space between atoms. It’s very much alike. Would you like a flower?
I admire the fact that a religious scholar is trying to openly bridge the gap between faith and science. And the Dalai Lama is an extremely well-studied man. But really, the book seems incredibly unnecessary, and I didn’t feel like I learned anything from it. It was more like a thoughtful discussion with an old person who’s been well travelled and who is well read. I didn’t come away with any great insights. But it’s not like the Lama is preaching some sort of radical tenet of string theory. So he’s got that going for him.
This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Brian’s reviews, check his blog, The Gospel According to Prisco.