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Isaac Asimov's Empire of Reason

"A sane person is a man who knows his place"

Isaac Asimov, It's Been a Good Life

Isaac Asimov was a prolific writer of science fiction and popular science, who wrote or edited about 500 books in his lifetime.

I grew up reading Isaac Asimov's books and short stories. He was brilliant, gifted by God with intellect and creativity.

Yet dispite his brillance he failed to see God in his life or creation.

This perhaps is the greatest and saddest aspect of the lives of creative men like Asimov.

His writings gave us reasons for thinking and understanding and still worth reading.

Religion vs. Humanism: Isaac Asimov on Science and Spirituality

"Science and religion have a long history of friction as diametric opposites. But some of humanity’s greatest minds have found in science itself a rich source of spirituality, from Albert Einstein’s meditation on whether scientists pray to Richard Feynman’s ode to the universe to Carl Sagan on the reverence of science to Bucky Fuller’s scientific rendition of The Lord’s Prayer to Richard Dawkins on the magic of reality.

Here comes a wonderful addition from the mind of beloved science fiction author Isaac Asimov, found in the altogether indispensable It’s Been a Good Life (public library) — a revealing selection of Asimov’s letters, diary entries, and his three prior autobiographies, In Memory Yet Green (1979), In Joy Still Felt (1980), and the posthumously published I. Asimov: A Memoir (1994), edited by his spouse, Janet Jeppson Asimov, a decade after his death.

Asimov succinctly recapitulates his philosophy:

I have never, not for one moment, been tempted toward religion of any kind. The fact is that I feel no spiritual void. I have my philosophy of life, which does not include any aspect of the supernatural and which I find totally satisfying. I am, in short, a rationalist and believe only that which reason tells me is so.

Indeed, rather than suspending his conviction in the ether of vacant self-righteousness, it is with amiable reason and clever logic that Asimov responds to his inquisitors: Shortly after writing Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, he appeared on the David Frost Show and delivered his irreverent wit in full brilliance when badgered with the G-question. The author recounts:

[Frost] said, with neither warning nor preamble, “Dr. Asimov, do you believe in God?” “That rather took my breath away. It was a dreadful way of putting a person on the spot. To answer honestly, “No,” with millions of people watching, could arouse a great deal of controversy I didn’t feel much need of. Yet I couldn’t lie, either. I played for time, in order to find a way out. He said, “Dr. Asimov, do you believe in God?”..from the article: Religion vs. Humanism: Isaac Asimov on Science and Spirituality

Isaac Asimov's Empire of Reason

Isaac Asimov: Centenary of the Great Explainer

The indefatigably curious chemist and science-fiction icon championed rationality for the common good in 20 million published words. By David Leslie

"On 24 December 1968, astronaut William Anders took a photograph of Earth from the observation window of Apollo 8. The picture, now known as Earthrise, became one of the most iconic images in human history — later credited with catalysing the environmental movement. Is Earthrise a product of science or a work of art? Isaac Asimov, the Russian-born chemist and science-fiction colossus (1920–92), had an answer: the two are, in fact, the same.

Asimov spent more than half of the twentieth century cultivating that transformative unity of art and science. He wrote and edited around 500 books and penned myriad stories, articles and essays. They spanned the rich microscopic worlds of cytoplasm, cells and subatomic particles, and ventured into the boundless wilds of space. Throughout, Asimov razed the make-believe boundary between imagination and reason. As he wrote in the gemlike 1978 essay ‘Art and Science’, the artist’s work suffers if knowledge is deficient; the scientist’s suffers if leaps of intuition, which so often outpace the leaden trot of rationality, are ignored. Advance in these arenas is often synergistic, and scientists can “make great leaps into new realms of knowledge by looking upon the universe with the eyes of artists”.. from the article:

Isaac Asimov on His Faith in the Power of Human Reason

Beloved science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, remembered for his classic works like the Foundation and Robot series, was described as “the greatest explainer of the age” by a peer. Bill Moyers spoke to him in this 1988 interview for his World of Ideas series that featured the world’s leading literary voices on wide-ranging conversations about life, art and contemporary issues.

In part one, Asimov explains why he believes that scientists are among the most moral people, why he doesn’t feel science and religion are at odds, and why empowering women is the way to secure our very survival on the planet.

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