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The different facets of Ultimate Reality


Ultimate Reality
Christian de Duve Scientist
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I don't know exactly how to... to explain this, but my own thinking was, of course, the one that I... that I have just summarised and explained but, contrary to what many of my colleagues, or contemporary colleagues, claim, I don't think this gives a final answer. In Britain, for instance, militant atheism is characteristic of quite a number of scientists – I mean, Richard Dawkins, Atkins and others actually go out preaching atheism, which is a sort of a religion too. And I don't think there is justification... there is justification for... for, sort of, removing from the physical or the chemical universe and the biological universe... removing intervention by some extra material force, but there remains... there remains even if everything that we... that we see and experience is natural, including life, including even the operation of our brain, there is... finally the unanswered question is: what is it – why is there something instead of nothing? Where does the something come from? So the... the basic mystery remains, and so I have sort of constructed for myself a kind of non-theistic mysticism which my friends tell me approaches the philosophy of the Spinoza, which is pantheism or panentheism, and what I do not accept is the existence of a god, the way... the way most people identify it – that is, a being that has all the qualities that we appreciate in a human being, but at the infinite power. That is, he's infinitely good, he's infinitely true, he's infinitely powerful, he's infinitely everything including infinitely existing. And that sort of anthropomorphic attitude, figure, representation, of a divine being, I think, is an invention; it's a human invention. When... when we read in the Bible that God created man in his own image, it's obviously the... the opposite that's true: man created God his own image. And... but, nevertheless, I see there is a mystery somewhere and I call it... because I don't like the word God, I call it Ultimate Reality. The Ultimate Reality is something... it is what exists – that’s why I call it reality; everything is part of you and me and the leaves and the trees and the worms and the ground and the rocks and whatever, the... the galaxies, the stars, all that is part of Ultimate Reality. And Ultimate Reality, what it actually is, we don't know, because all we see is manifestations of Ultimate Reality. Not creations; that's the difference. I don't see God as a creator of all this reality, because then I have to ask, who created God? And so this is an endless series – it's like a Russian doll kind of thing – and therefore, at some stage, you have to stop. And so why not stopping at just what is? And so Ultimate Reality is what just happens to be. Now, physicists... I have elaborated extremely complex theories on what is and, of course, I'm not competent to go into string theory or the theory of everything and so on, but to me this is just Ultimate Reality.

Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve (1917-2013) was best known for his work on understanding and categorising subcellular organelles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for his joint discovery of lysosomes, the subcellular organelles that digest macromolecules and deal with ingested bacteria.

Listeners: Peter Newmark

Peter Newmark has recently retired as Editorial Director of BioMed Central Ltd, the Open Access journal publisher. He obtained a D. Phil. from Oxford University and was originally a research biochemist at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School in London, but left research to become Biology Editor and then Deputy Editor of the journal Nature. He then became Managing Director of Current Biology Ltd, where he started a series of Current Opinion journals, and was founding Editor of the journal Current Biology. Subsequently he was Editorial Director for Elsevier Science London, before joining BioMed Central Ltd.

Tags: Bible, Richard Dawkins, Peter Atkins, Baruch Spinoza

Duration: 4 minutes, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008