Saturday, 26 March 2011

Football and Society

In this exclusive interview, we talk to Jérôme Valcke, Secretary General of FIFA (the governing body of world football). We discuss why football has grown to become the world's most prominent sport, and look at the role it plays within our society. We also investigate the social, economic and political sides of football, its impact on the developing world, and the future of the sport itself.

---------------------------------------------------

Vikas Shah, Thought Economics, March 2011

In any study of human society, the concept of social capital is important. Matthew Nicholson and Russell Hoye, in their 2008 book 'Sport and Social Capital' cite Burt (2000:3) who stated, "...the people who do better are somehow better connected". The authors explain how, "...in other words, there is an inherent logic in the idea that the more connections individuals make within their communities the better off they will be emotionally, socially, physically and economically." Taking this to a more functional level, the authors cite Bourdieu (1986:248) who stated that social capital was "the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalised relationships of mutual acquaintance or recognition." In other words; the collective notional-capacity of any community (whether a family, village, city, company, peer group or country) is linked to the number of connections between the individuals (actors) within that group. It is clear, though, that simply having connections is not enough. The 'quality' of those connections is of critical importance. Nicholson and Hoye took example from Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998:244) who identified that the relational dimension of social capital refers to the "personal relationships that people have developed with each other through a history of interactions". In this sense, they argue "..trust and trustworthiness, norms and sanctions, obligations and expectations, and identity and identification are considered key factors". They conclude by introducing a cognitive dimension to social capital (King, 2004:473) which consists of the "shared meaning and common values" in a community as well as "collective goals and a shared vision among community or network members".

As a species, we have the unusual paradox of being both highly individualistic, yet- in essence- social. We exist in what Peter Corning (and other biologists) describes as a "collective survival exercise." This view however, berates what human-culture has achieved. While at a very primal level we do certainly work as a collective to satisfy our basic needs for food, shelter, reproduction and safety; the real strength of our culture lies in what-happens once these needs are met. As 'social capital' develops, humans become increasingly able to perform feats way beyond the biological and cognitive limitations of the individual; we are the only species who have not only viewed the earth from another celestial body, but have the power to destroy it.

Such capacity requires the level of co-operation and mutuality which can only exist when society has a high level of cognitive bonding and bridging. For thousands of years, sport has existed (some argue alongside religion) as the pre-eminent medium through which such bonding takes place, and in contemporary culture- football (soccer) has become the pre-eminent sport of the world with two hundred and seventy million people (around four percent of the world's population) actively involved in the game of football, and perhaps many magnitudes more in number who enjoy it as spectators.

In this exclusive interview, we talk to Jérôme Valcke, Secretary General of FIFA (the governing body of world football). We discuss why football has grown to become the world's most prominent sport, and look at the role it plays within our society. We also investigate the social, economic and political sides of football, its impact on the developing world, and the future of the sport itself.

Jérôme Valcke began his career with Canal+ as a journalist in 1984, becoming assistant director of its Sports Service in 1991. Canal + then put him in charge of its brand new Sport + channel in 1997, and he held that post until 2002, when Sport + became part of the merger that produced Sportfive. He worked as Chief Operating Officer at the new entity for a year, before joining FIFA as Director of Marketing & TV in June 2003 and being elected to the role of Secretary General in 2007. Based in Zurich, and founded in 1904, FIFA (The Fédération Internationale de Football Association) now has 208 member associations, employs some 330 people from over 35 nations and is composed of a Congress (legislative body), Executive Committee (executive body), General Secretariat (administrative body) and committees (assisting the Executive Committee) who collectively oversee world football, and have been organising the FIFA World Cup since 1930.

Q: How has football grown to become the pre-eminent sports culture in the world?

[Jérôme Valcke] Firstly, football is such an easy sport to play. You can play it from age of around two years old and on any surface; you don't really need anything to play, you could even have a ball made of paper! Football is the easiest game to play- it can be played on sand, concrete, grass, wherever! That is the first reason. The act of playing football, kicking a ball, is incredibly easy and natural. It is a very natural movement, and thus we see football has become a very natural sport. That does not explain the whole story.

If you think back to around twenty five years ago, football was just a normal sport. It was played by a number of people, but it was not as strong as it is today. I definitely think that football became very strong when the world of the media changed. The advance of pay-tv was critical- that industry was looking for a 'product' which was strong and universal to launch across Europe. Whether we are looking at BSkyB, Canal+ or any other channels, the answer to this product challenge was football. When Canal+ was launched in 1984, there was not a single game of normal league football broadcast on TV. Suddenly Canal+ in 1984 said, "We are looking for a product, we need subscribers, and we have to give them something they don't have today to pay for to gain their subscriptions." They went to the French football federation and started to negotiate the broadcast of various football games every weekend, and it was for nothing - maybe a few thousand French Francs! Suddenly it became a product which became their top income stream, and the story was the same for BSKyB. Now, networks pay Euro 600 million for a season- versus a few thousand only twenty five years ago. When all these pay-tv providers arrived and became so strong on football- it contributed to elevating football to its current status- giving it a huge amount of global exposure.

It is important to remember that all the media attention we discussed started around the same time. It is not something which started first in England and then spread. It is a sport which was always there- it was not created by the media. What football had more than any other sport at the time was interest from the media and the exposure that it brought with it. I'm not saying that if Rugby had got the same exposure and attention they would have succeeded in becoming the number one sport in the world- football was already a universal sport, maybe not played everywhere- but definitely a sport which was so easy to understand and play, that it was the best target product for the television channels to develop.

Q: How does football impact human identity?

[Jérôme Valcke] The beauty of football is that it is not just one level. It "starts" from the club level, but there I'm not just talking about 'top clubs'. You see this at the weekend when you drive in the country- and you see that football is played everywhere. It's played by everyone from kids aged five, to men aged seventy five. The number of football games played over an average weekend is truly amazing. Football is the first thing to bring people together at least once a week. It brings families and whole communities together. Football represents the identity of their city or village or whatever the size of their group is. The main part of this identity is "your club". You are not just the fan of a national team- it doesn't work like that. You are the fan of a club, a region, where you are born maybe- or the team of where you have been living for a large number of years. That is the team you typically support. From there it progresses to the level of national teams. There are less games at that level- maybe a dozen at most for a national team. In essence, it comes down to two different things. Either you support your country because you are very patriotic and want to support your country against another- or you support the players of your club in the national team and for you it is just an extension of what they are doing every weekend when they play for the national team.

I'm not used to seeing many games outside where I am born in France, but it's true that when you are going to Marseille or when Olympique de Marseille are playing, it's the only one time when all the different cultures of the city are together in one place, and the only one time when there is no question about colour or race. There is a phrase used often by French player Lilian Thuram which says, "the only race in the world is the human race" and while it would be naive of us to think the world could be as utopian as this, I am always amazed to see how, in cities which are a "melting-pot"- football is the only time that people can be together. They enjoy it when their team scores a goal, and there are no more colour or race distinctions.

Q: Does football provide a social proxy to eliminate differences and conflict?

[Jérôme Valcke] The world is not that nice in reality. We should not be naive.

Football can, for sure, help. During these ninety minutes or more, people are brought together- but the world is a very difficult place, facing very difficult times, and football cannot just solve the problems that exist between people. Yes, it can provide a great medium when people are in the stadium, but outside the stadium? during the rest of the week? I'm not sure it helps.

It's important to remember, for the days and weeks before the match- everyone has the same goal- that their team has to win. And look what happened in Germany and South Africa. We had fans from Holland, Germany, England and France together- and there wasn't even a fight! When you have a sporting event at the size of the World Cup, for example, you have this feeling that everyone wants to work together- that there are no more problems between these people- but I do believe this is limited to the time the events take place. Maybe if we all played football every minute of our day, it would help the world to become more peaceful!

Q: How does football sit alongside Arts and other aspects of human culture?

[Jérôme Valcke] You see clearly how, in all senses, the cultural worlds come together. You have painters who now focus on football- and even artists such as Dali have produced works on the sport. Football has been part of our culture for years, decades in fact. In music, you see there is a link with the sport- a number of artists are football fans such as Sir Elton John who, himself, owned a club. Football is an intrinsic part of our social culture- it's what you do, what you watch! There is not a single weekend where people do not talk about the sport, so clearly it has formed part of our cultural world. To cut a long story short, football is entertainment and brings people together- just as music does.

Today we, as people working in football, are very lucky to have not been impacted by the problems of the world today in economics and other areas- but football, as entertainment, is a way of bringing smiles on faces- and allows people to forget about their week and their lives for a short while, and whether people are young or old- football retains the power to give them a dream. That's why football is not just a game- it's an entertainment programme, and a way for people to enjoy life. Football gives all that.

Q: How is football affected by global issues such as urbanisation and climate change?

[Jérôme Valcke] I don't know if football is affected per-se, but as a sport we cannot close our eyes and say, "we are not interested in environmental issues." We must take care of our environment, and looking forward to 2014 the World Cup will have a green programme in place to make sure that, for example- any time we do something to burn carbon- we will plant trees in the Amazon. There are many such programmes in place.

Football potentially, in many cities, could become the only one green pitch or green-area you see when viewing overhead from a plane. You will see a few green spots, which are football pitches! and that's it. In areas like the centre of Sao Paolo, apart from the richer suburbs which have nice green residential areas, the rest of the city is just towers and it's true that the only one thing you see apart from helipads are green spots- which are football stadiums.

That's where artificial pitches come in. There are relatively low maintenance costs, and they can be built and used anywhere- regardless of the weather- and whether it is rain, snow, cold, hot- it provides a surface for people to play. It's a magnet. Just put twenty kids somewhere, they will be sitting and bored. Just throw in a ball, and within half a minute you will see that all of them will stand up and try to play, putting two or four jackets down to create goals, and start a game- with one guy in charge as referee! That's why these pitches are so important- and our programmes in Africa and around the world have proved this. This also impacts health-related matters. If you talk about health issues such as HIV, the only way to succeed is education. If you don't tell people what something is about, how will they be able to decide what to do!. When you see, for example in South Africa- where even some high-ranked officials said that you don't need to be protected to prevent HIV- it's a nonsense! Education is the only way for people to understand how you can avoid being infected by any disease, and that must start at schools and, again- football acts as a magnet to bring people together- so just use football, put people on a seat to have some education, and then put them on the pitch to enjoy!

Looking at the developing world:

Q. What is the social & political role of football within developing economies?

[Jérôme Valcke] The role of football is huge. Football is the best platform for development programmes. Not just for our programmes at FIFA, but I am talking about any number of programmes. It's the best way to bring people together, the best way to push kids to go to school- if you give them the chance to play football, they will love to go and play, and they will engage in courses at school.

Football is a way for governments to bring people together. I would not say it is “l'opium du peuple” as some say Religions are, but it's something which is at such a level. Football is maybe the only one thing in the world which can bring so many people together without conflict. It is very well understood by a number of governments, but also foundations. All the large global philanthropic funds run by people such as Bill Gates and Bill Clinton know, exactly, the power of football- and how it can bring people together. That's why they are asking us to use this platform to help them develop their programmes against malaria and all these other various diseases- as it brings the community together to deliver programmes.

Also, look at the case study of South Africa. Suddenly, after hosting the World Cup, South Africa became a top-country in the world's eyes. This doesn't just mean that it is now known by a number of people who otherwise would not know where the country is on a map- it's also because South Africa got a seat at the G20, a non-permanent seat at the UN security council, and joined the Brazil, Russia, India, China group- which is now called BRICS. South Africa got a benefit from the World Cup which is not a direct benefit, but is clear nonetheless. These benefits happened after the World Cup, but I am sure the event itself gave South Africa the attention from the world- not in this case from the fans or people watching TV- but from nations and states who suddenly said, "...wow, South Africa is a strong country- and we should involve them and include them in a number of things." So that, again, is the power of football on an economic, political and social level. The number of corporate social responsibility programmes we, as FIFA, have assisted around the world connected with football is also amazing.

Looking at differences such as gender, race and so forth- whatever is happening in the world in these dimensions will not change without education. Whatever people are saying, none of the kids around the world who are suffering will have any chance to move-on and change their lives unless they receive education. I think that education is a top level priority- it gives you a chance in life, and can also give you the potential to understand how the world works and how to respect the differences within it while working together. More important than all of this, is the fact that it gives you the chance to read. I think around ninety million children in the world do not have access to schools- and this was one of the statistics which spurred the goals of our "1Goal" Education for All programme. These programmes are not just about "talk", it's not fair to make that assessment. You have to move from getting support from states, to the level where you bring these kids to school. Remember also, you cannot bring ninety million kids to school without the number of teachers to support them- so you have to train, educate and create all these teachers and then bring all these kids to school. It's a long process!

The way it fits into education is thus. If you bring kids somewhere to play you can make a pact and say, "look, you play football in the afternoon, but you go to school in the morning, and on top of that we will give you something to eat at lunchtime which means your family doesn't have to support you and how to give you the food you need twice a day." You can use football to create something which is unique in its ability to give kids a better chance in our world.

If you look at teams from the UK and USA doing tours of developing nations, this is not necessarily a negative thing- but if you are a team from Europe, say Chelsea or Real Madrid, going to play a game in Africa- you have the feeling, as a spectator, that you are in a dream. It's like being in a Rolls Royce showroom in Africa when what you would like to have is a bike- you may think, "yes, this is a wonderful thing, but I will never access this level". I don't know whether from a development perspective this is particularly helpful. One thing is for certain though, which is that it gives dreams, and dreams are important- without them, your life would be sad and poor, but these sort of tours are dreams more than anything else.

The main goal to give hope is not just to communicate to people "what the west is" and to give them the dream of flying to Europe with or without a chance to find a club- but rather, to make sure that all the continents learn to play football so an African kid feels he can play football in Africa, for a team in Africa, and can have a future in that continent. We are not succeeding in delivering hope if the only future we give him is the dream of flying to a country where all these stars come from, with a dream-like club brand such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United. If you want to work on grass root programmes with education and development- these are not the strategies which will help you succeed. It's good, no doubt, to show football at the highest level when explaining to the world what the game is, but- again- I don't think it's part of the success strategy of developing football in a country just to showcase the game without considering the delivery.

Q. What is the economic impact of football and it's competitions within developing economies?

[Jérôme Valcke] Whenever we organise an event in a country, we put in place a number of projects that create business, infrastructure and other items needed to host the event. Whenever we are building something through our Goal programme, there are also a number of companies from the country who are involved in the construction. The impact can also be seen in companies who use football to promote their brand- and they are using people on the ground for this too. If you see the number of people working directly or indirectly in football, this is clearly one major area where impact exists- but beyond that, and for the future of that country, you see a wide range of facilities, such as training centres- which are built and used to play football and host events on an ongoing basis.

If I refer to the most recent event we hosted in South Africa, there were thousands of people employed- not just during the four weeks of the World Cup, but also during the four years prior to the event which is about stadium building, hotels, and all the things which were created. On top of this, there were thousands of people trained before and during the World Cup where the focus was on hospitality, accommodation and stadiums. There are many people now who really are professionals in their fields following the World Cup, because most of the people who we use when we host an event in a country are, of course, local to that country. We take a minimum of staff with us, just the very senior team- but most of the people working around the event are people from the country.

You also create business wherever you create football. Look at the case study of New Zealand where the “All-Whites” qualified for the World Cup. Suddenly, a number of companies in New Zealand moved to football. At schools, football is growing in strength too as previously children playing sports at school only had a single dream, which was to play rugby for the “All-Blacks” once in their lifetime. Football therefore helps. Suddenly, in New Zealand, there is a new economy about football not just rugby- which creates new economic and business opportunities; and these opportunities are bolstered when their team qualifies for the World Cup.

Looking at the "developed" world:

Q. How has the influx of wealth (sovereign, investor, corporate and media) into football affected the sport?

[Jérôme Valcke] Wealth in football? It's big, but limited to a few countries. We are talking mainly about England- and starting to see additional wealth-impact occurring in top European countries.

I've seen very few people, though, who have not become completely crazy when they get involved in football! I've not seen anyone who just says, "I will invest into football, and buy a club." thinking it will be a good business investment! You go to football with your heart, and most of the time you are losing a lot of money.

Most individuals have to put a lot of their own money into clubs. Look at what happed to Robert Louis-Dreyfus and Marseille, look at Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City. The UAE, for example, are spending huge amounts of money in Manchester City.

So is it good? or is it bad? I think it's good- at least for the players. There is more competition, and while transfer fees went through the roof over the past year- it seems they are now getting more controlled not only because UEFA is pushing for financial fair-play but because people are more reasonable and realise that you cannot have eighty percent of your income allocated just on salaries- and you have to bring an economic system into your club which is more in-line with the wider business community. It's important to consider whether these investors are in the game for the long-term. If a person is leaving the club- so if, for example, a wealthy club owner suddenly said, "I am no longer interested, and I'm going to go." then you are left with a club who either must find another suitably wealthy individual to buy the club, or there will be a great deal of hardship. In the meantime, we see that all the investors at this level always say they don't want to disappoint the fans- and they don't want to leave the club. It's always a race to keep the club at the highest level- which is rather the point of their involvement. Nobody is putting money in the club just to play in the second league, all of them dream of winning the champions league which- of course- costs a lot of money.

Against that, it's not good if it just becomes a permanent competition to pay "whatever price" you have to pay to get a player, not because the player is worth that price, but just to make sure that the club who sells him will make tonnes and tonnes of money- you have to find the right balance and I think we are on the way to finding it. I agree, though, that in the past five or ten years, things went too far and too high.

Q. What are the key challenges faced by the sport?

[Jérôme Valcke] I think that if we have one obligation- I would say that FIFA and other structures involved in football such as member associations and confederations have an overwhelming responsibility to protect the sport, to protect football. The sport is beautiful- we as organisations are all making a lot of money and so we can invest in grass-roots football, we can organise events and campaigns to fight things such as racism- but the most important thing is to protect the sport. Today, football is such a big sport- that we face the same problems as wider society. When you are talking about corruption, we are talking about match-fixing. When you are talking about drugs, we are talking about doping. We cannot afford to have anything which gives a doubt about the sport. These are the main fights. Racism, for example, will be a permanent fight. Who can say that in five, ten or twenty years that there will be no more racism. I don't think anyone can say that- that is the unfortunate human condition- and so this is a fight we must continue from Monday to Sunday, from the first of January to the thirty first of December, it's a permanent fight- and we have to put in place a number of structures in our statutes and systems so that any time we have an incident, we can sanction the club, the player or the fan. For us as an organisation, the main fight is to make sure our sport is not killed by a few people because there is so much money in the game that people are just looking at football as a potential way of making money. There are too many things around football which are dirty, and that is where we have to put in place all the systems to combat issues such as match fixing, doping, violence and anything which could create a kind of doubt about the sport and which could possibly make people say, "wow, football is not what it was." It's tough! We are not talking about Rugby which, with all respect, is still relatively unchanged from its original form- we are talking about a universal sport which is played all around the world in a difficult society, in a difficult time, and definitely football is a magnet which attracts our problems.

Q. How has technology impacted football?

[Jérôme Valcke] I think television has definitely helped the sport to grow, this is what we said at the beginning. I mean no disrespect to any other sports- but certainly football has attracted more interest than any other sport- and you have more football on TV than any other sport in the world. I'm not sure if there is a single day in the week when football is not being broadcast in one country in the world. We also have an average of fifteen cameras in most matches, with up-to thirty two at the World Cup. This gives fans the opportunity to feel like they are the coach, the player, the fourth referee- ultimately, the feeling that they are a complete part of the game. The other areas such as goal-line technology are just to support the referee, and to support the game in avoiding mistakes such as those seen occasionally at the World Cup. What is interesting in football also is that when you consider a typical Monday morning where people go for a coffee in their regular-venue- what is nice is that everyone is talking about what happened in the past weekend and not the game. Often the point of discussion is not the game itself, but mistakes made by players, the referees and so forth. It's part of sport and part of football to discuss for days and days and days what has happened before. I mean, we are still talking about 1966 and England! We will be talking about 2010 in South Africa over the next twenty years! If suddenly the game is too clean, and too clinical- where whatever is happening is already solved by technology- by video or other sources- the game is finished! I'm sorry, but something which is too clinical has no interest. A person who, as we describe in France is "Lisse", meaning they have nothing- no character- after one day you become bored, and you want to progress to someone who has character. It's like food- you don't eat something with no taste, you go for food with flavour. What I want to say here is that ultimately we are no longer aiming to bring about a "popular interest" in football, in essence we need to make sure that football is so popular that nothing will go against football. That's where we are today. It's not to 'develop more football' but to ensure we have more and more kids playing football- developing more grass-roots programmes and to ensure that these kids have the dreams to play at the highest levels without having to fly around the world to find a club. You have to make sure that you give them a structure where they are learning what life is all about, and you can't educate players aged twenty to be a nice referee, for example- it is something they have to learn when they first start playing. So that is a number of things where we see football as a "school of life."

As I said, the goal is not making football more popular- it's making football stronger and using it as a way of making the world a better place. I don't know if we can achieve it alone- but it is a tool to bring people together, and pass messages, give education- and that is clear. I don't know if will change the world, but I think it would be sad not to use the power of our game to do so.

---------------------------------------------------

Professor Grant Jarvie in his 2006 book 'Sport, Culture and Society' describes how, "...it is impossible to fully understand contemporary society and culture without acknowledging the place of sport. We inhabit a world in which sport is an international phenomenon, it is important for politicians and world leaders to be associated with sports personalities; it contributes to the economy, some of the most visible international spectacles are associated with sporting events; it is part of the social and cultural fabric of different localities, regions and nations, its transformative potential is evident in some of the poorest areas of the world; it is important to the television and film industry, the tourist industry; and it is regularly associated with social problems and issues such as crime, health, violence, social division, labour migration, economic and social regeneration and poverty. We also live in a world in which some of the richest and poorest people identify with forms of sport in some way." Looking at the role of sport economically he continues, "...in some ways global sport has never been more successful. The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games involved 10,300 athletes from 200 countries, attracted more than US $600 million in sponsorship and was viewed on TV by more than 3.7 billion people. Sport's social and commercial power makes it a potentially potent force in the modern world, for good and for bad. It can be a tool of dictatorship, a symbol of democratic change, it has helped to start wars and promote international reconciliation. Almost every government around the world commits public resources to sporting infrastructure because of sport's perceived benefits to improving health, education, creating jobs and preventing crime. Sport matters to people. The competing notions of identity, internationalisation, national tradition and global solidarity that are contested within sport all matter far beyond the reach of sport." In this context, it was seen that Ernesto 'Che' Guevara himself said (of football), "It is not just a simple game, it is a weapon of the revolution."

If we understand broadly-human culture as "the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterises an institution, organization or group", it becomes acutely apparent that within this broad definition, we are to see elements such as language, art, music and sport as the vehicles through which these shared values (and in turn, shared experiences) are communicated.

The influence of each 'element' of human-culture on the shape of society varies, but we see that the elements which act as the greatest equalisers (insofar as those which attract the greatest level of participation from all levels of society) are the components which have the most profound impact.

As a paradigm let us consider language which, in general, is spoken by everyone in a given society. Visiting a Brazilian favela, for example, you will speak essentially the same form of Brazilian Portuguese as if you were speaking to a member of Brazilian high-society. In the latter case, the language may be more refined- but your ability to communicate and find common ground remains unchanged. "Mutual confirmation..." as Buber described in 1958, "is the most important aspect of human growth. An I-thou relationship involves real knowledge of another, and requires openness, participation and empathy"

So perhaps we see football as having achieved a similarly profound cultural status. The language of football is spoken by people across cultures, classes, religions, continents and any other form of division you care to mention. The language itself remains relatively unchanged; and though we may see more refined variants (such as the UK premier league) versus basic levels (such as a few children kicking a crumpled-paper ball around) the content and ability to communicate- the rules, metaphors, drama, and social elements- all remain the same. It is a natural and accessible language rich in metaphor which has the unique pull to bring individuals together, as a society for whatever purpose they wish.

As Bill Shankly (1913-81, one of Britain's most successful and respected football managers) once said, "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that."


Click to read full article...

Friday, 4 March 2011

Unlocking the Universe.

In this exclusive interview, we talk to Professor Neil Turok, Director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and member of Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation Council. We discuss some of the most fundamental questions about the origins of life, the universe, and look at some of the profound ways in which physics could be about to change our world.

---------------------------------------------------

Vikas Shah, Thought Economics, March 2011

In the estimated life of the known universe (around fourteen billion years), humanity (as we know it) has existed for an insignificantly small length of time (around two hundred thousand years). To put this in context, were the life of the universe, from its emergence to present day, presented as a complete year, humanity would have progressed from its emergence, through over one hundred and ten billion individual souls, generating the total sum of everything we know as a species- in around seven and a half minutes.

Describing the profound impact of our species, V. S. Ramachandran in his 2011 book "The Tell Tale Brain" describes how, "...humans are apes. So too are we mammals. We are vertebrates. We are pulpy throbbing colonies of tens of trillions of cells. We are all these things, but we are not 'merely' these things. And we are, in addition to all these things, something unique, something unprecedented, something transcendent. We are the first and only species whose fate has rested in its own hands, and not just in the hands of chemistry and instinct. On the great Darwinian stage we call Earth, I would argue there has not been an upheaval as big as us since the origin of life itself. " he continues, "Any ape can reach for a banana, but only humans can reach for the stars. Apes live, contend, breed and die in forests- end of story. Humans write, investigate, create and quest. We splice genes, split atoms, launch rockets. We peer upward into the heart of the Big Bang and delve deeply into the digits of pi. Perhaps most remarkably of all, we gaze inward, piecing together the puzzle of our own unique and marvellous brain. How can a three pound mass of jelly that you can hold in your palm imagine angels, contemplate the meaning of infinity and even question its own place in the cosmos." This profound reasoning, he says, is made more so when one realises that the very matter which our brain is made of was "forged in the hearts of countless far-flung stars billions of years ago. These particles drifted for eons and light-years until gravity and chance brought them together here, now. These atoms now form a conglomerate- your brain- that can not only ponder the very stars that gave it birth but can also think about its own ability to wonder."

Our innate curiosity, combined with dextrous ingenuity, has allowed us to practically describe the laws which exist in the natural world here on earth, and throughout the universe. These observations have been applied to deliver practically everything around us from our technology, to medicines, and even the way we communicate. The past century, in particular, has delivered some of the most profound advances in our species ability and left us on the cusp of potentially some of the most important discoveries since we emerged from the primal soup of life.

In this exclusive interview, we talk to Professor Neil Turok, Director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and member of Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation Council. We discuss some of the most fundamental questions about the origins of life, the universe, and look at some of the profound ways in which physics could be about to change our world.


Dr. Neil Turok earned his PhD at Imperial College. After a postdoc in Santa Barbara, he was appointed Associate Scientist at Fermilab before moving to Princeton where he became Professor of Physics in 1994. In 1997 he was appointed to the Chair of Mathematical Physics in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at Cambridge. In October, 2008, he moved to the Perimeter Institute as its new Director. Among his many honours, he was awarded Sloan and Packard Fellowships and the 1992 James Clerk Maxwell medal of the UK Institute of Physics. For this work and his contributions to theoretical physics, Dr. Turok was recently awarded a prestigious TED Prize, and a “Most Innovative People” award at the 2008 World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (WSIE). Dr. Turok also sits on the Canadian Government's Science, Technology and Innovation Council.

Q: Why Research the Universe?

[Professor Turok] This is a difficult question, but I think we can draw some insight from someone right at the beginning of modern mathematical science, Isaac Newton. People have regarded as a paradox- the fact that Newton spent most of his time doing alchemy, which doesn't sound very scientific, and only part of his time doing mechanics and gravitation. Of course, his discoveries in mechanics and his law of gravitation were absolutely foundational to all of quantitative science, engineering, technology and, indeed, everything that came afterwards. Why was he doing alchemy? I think some insight into that is the fact that he was interested in magical things. He was interested in powerful and mysterious phenomena which somehow are beyond our everyday experience. The goal of alchemy- to create gold from base metals- was never realised, but I see his physics in exactly the same way. His physics was the part of his attempt to find magic which actually worked! I see science similarly to that. This is still a magical and mysterious thing that we are able to understand the world in very powerful and predictive ways- that is the foundation of all of our technologies today. Sometimes it's not appreciated what a miracle and privilege it is to control, manipulate and understand the world in the way we can- through science; but the fact that we can is as mysterious as it ever was. Why should a creature that evolved out of slime, which has all the limitations which we do, be able to access this fundamental information about the universe which allows us, for example, to be able to predict the magnetic moment of the electron to a trillion decimal places on the basis of purely mathematical calculation. Why does that work? It is a miracle, it is magic, but it works- and that's the part of magic that's real. The rest, of course, is a hoax.

Q: How are our views of the origins of the universe changing?

[Professor Turok] It's incredible to look back on just a hundred years of history because you realise very quickly that our view of the universe has been utterly transformed in a hundred years. That makes you wonder about what's going to happen in the next hundred. A hundred years ago most of the astronomers and physicists in the world believed ours was the only galaxy; that there was just one galaxy in the universe. They saw these little blobs of stuff in the sky called nebulae which they thought of as some kind of spread out gas, or maybe a collection of stars which they couldn't resolve with telescopes, but nobody thought of these nebulae as other galaxies, or that there would be over a hundred billion other galaxies outside our own. So, our own galaxy has a hundred billion stars, and then it turns out there's a hundred billion other galaxies beyond ours. This began to be appreciated in the late nineteen twenties by Edwin Hubble- who had the most powerful telescope in the world- and later on, by others. That's not so long ago that we realised the scale of the universe, which makes us look very puny indeed! The second thing was the expansion of the universe, again discovered by Hubble. In the time when Einstein invented his theory of general relativity around 1917 he, like others, believed the universe was static and must have existed forever in a constant state. Einstein's own equations, as an example of the magical power of theoretical physics, were generated through rational thinking and mathematics based on observations of our world. These theories were then able to predict other features of the world in entirely unexpected ways. Einstein's equations for gravity are a very good example. He invented them with the goal of explaining phenomena in the solar system and gravity on earth- then he began to apply them to the universe and he realised that they did not allow the universe to be static- the universe had to be expanding or shrinking. He didn't like that implication, and he never wrote anything about it. Instead, he added a "fix" to his equations called the "cosmological constant" to try and make the universe static. It didn't work, but it was his attempt to fix up the situation. Later, of course, other people forcefully explained that his equations do not allow the universe to be static- and that was confirmed in the late 1920's. So less than a hundred years ago we learned that the universe is truly enormous, possibly infinite, that we are insignificant within it, everything is changing with time, and that everything we see came out of a mysterious event called a "singularity" about fourteen billion years ago. What the implications that are, we are still struggling to come to terms with. That's on the one side- on the side of the universe. On the other side, looking at how physics works- just over a hundred years ago, quantum theory was invented by Albert Einstein. This was an attempt to resolve some deep contradictions in the laws of thermodynamics- the laws of heat, electricity and magnetism (which were discovered in the nineteenth century). These contradictions were slowly dawning on people- that the framework for physics they had developed, didn't really work at a deep level. Einstein came up with this notion of "quanta"- that everything, including energy, must come in discrete packets- it can't really be continuous. This very simple idea, at some level, ended up utterly transforming our picture of the universe. It turned out that in order to develop a mathematical theory which incorporated that idea of fundamental discreteness- that energy comes in lumps- it had to revisit the whole notion that there is a single reality- that in fact the world is not just the place we picture it as where everything has a definite existence. The world, instead, seems to consist of all the bodies within it constantly exploring all the configurations they might have. So when I throw a ball at a wall- in the classical picture of the universe, before quantum theory, the picture was that the ball would not know about the wall until it hit the wall and bounced off it. In quantum theory that is not at all true. The ball knows the wall is there all the time. It knows the wall is coming and, in a sense, there is premonition. This is the only way we have to make sense of physics at a fundamental level, and furthermore it gives predictions which are accurate to one part in a trillion- so we are pretty confident that this is really the way the world works.

So just in a hundred years, our views were utterly transformed. What is coming next is hard to say- we can't predict. To me it seems very unlikely that this was a one off event, that our views were transformed and that's the end of it. There was a famous book by John Horgan called "The End of Science" where he was predicting the golden age has come and gone. To me that seems extremely unlikely given that we have similar fundamental contradictions in our understanding of the world to those which gave rise to quantum theory. We have the modern day versions of those, which we are struggling to deal with and to solve. I firmly believe that when we do so, similarly revolutionary changes occur in our view of the world.

Q: What is the nature of matter, time and of existence?

[Professor Turok] The people who have thought the hardest and deepest about quantum theory do feel that at some level, our existing views need replacing. There are two categories of people who work on quantum theory. The first category are the technicians who work away using the standard rules, which continue to be extremely successful. So far there is no evidence against these rules. and they are being tested to ever greater degrees of precision. For example there is a fundamental aspect of quantum theory called entanglement which means that the state of two different particles, for example the direction of their spin, can be tied together in a way which is impossible to visualise classically. Neither of them has a definite spin in quantum theory. Typically they will have all possible spins What happens is‐ a measurement of the spin of the one will, in a sense, determine the spin of the other‐ even though neither of them had a definite spin before the measurement. This entanglement seems to operate over arbitrarily large distances. For example, we can create these two particles which fly apart from each other, hundreds of kilometres. They are then measured when they are hundreds of kilometres apart, and it is found that if you measure one in a certain state, the other one is found, apparently instantly, be in a corresponding state. You can't actually use this to communicate‐ it is one of the most important aspects of quantum theory‐ it does not allow you to communicate faster than the speed of light‐ it never allows that. It does mean, however, that information is correlated on huge distances. There are proposals, for example, to test this using a satellite, which may ultimately be useful for communication and data encryption. The outer limits of quantum theory are being investigated and tested, and so far it has survived all tests. But many people who have thought deeply about it and worried about whether it really makes sense as an ultimate theory of reality- many of them have come to the conclusion that there has got to be something more sensible!

Looking at time and existence. What Einstein understood, for example, is that time should not be thought of on its own- there is no absolute time. Isaac Newton believed it was an absolute. He believed that if you had clocks all across the universe, they could be synchronised, and you could discuss all phenomena as if there was a universal time which everyone would agree on. Einstein discovered his laws of relativity by thinking about James Clark Maxwell's laws of electromagnetism and light. The only way he could reconcile them with Newton’s laws of mechanics was to suppose that time was not absolute, that different clocks and different observers would inevitably measure different times. If you started out with two clocks next to each other and put one of them on an aeroplane, and you fly it round the world and bring it back to the first clock, the times are not going to agree. This disagreement gets worse in more extreme situations; if you fly near a black hole, you will be vastly younger than other people when you return. Time is not at all absolute, and this is now tested experimentally. GPS systems incorporate this correction to time which Einstein discovered in an intrinsic way, they just wouldn't function properly without the corrections made using Einstein's theory of time and space. So we have learned that time is not absolute‐ but we have also learned the fundamental fact that the universe seems to have come out of an initial singularity fourteen billion years ago. Many people, including Stephen Hawking, have interpreted it as the beginning of time but I don't believe that view is yet warranted. The only thing we are sure of is that at the initial singularity from which everything arose, all of our standard laws of physics break down. We are trying now to develop a more powerful theory than Einstein's which will be capable of describing the singularity. The two types of theories we have – and neither is yet fully convincing - suggest that either time did have a definite beginning, or that there was another universe before the big bang and that the big bang singularity was a special moment, a very violent moment, where the pre‐existing universe collapsed and created this blinding flash of energy which then seeded the creation of the universe we see today. I think this is one of the most important issues we are struggling with- whether time had a beginning or not. The really amazing thing is not so much that we can make mathematical models, although that is a new thing‐ even ten years ago, we could not make consistent mathematical models, and now we can. The even more amazing thing is that observations capable of telling the difference between the two possibilities, that time began or it didn't, are around the corner. In the next ten or fifteen years, we will have satellites in space, measuring gravitational waves- the ripples in space and time- which would have emanated from the big bang itself. The characteristics of those ripples will tell us whether the big bang was the beginning of time, or not- or at least- those observations will distinguish between the two leading theories; one of which says the big bang was the beginning, and the other which says it was not. We may learn over the next one, two or three decades, whether our universe began fourteen billion years ago- or whether there was a universe before the big bang.

Q: Is there a single unifying 'theory of everything'?

[Professor Turok] What is certainly true is that the pursuit of a unified theory, in the twentieth century, was incredibly successful. Even in the nineteenth century, electricity and magnetism were thought to be completely different phenomena. Maxwell's discovery was that they are all part of the same thing. That electric and magnetic phenomena are all connected and described by a single unified theory. Maxwell was the first "unifier" as it were. Einstein's discovery of relativity was similarly unifying as he essentially described gravity as being the physical manifestation of the fact that space and time can fluctuate and are not, therefore, absolutes. This again unifies the fact that physics lives in the arena of space-time and there is this source of gravity- Einstein unified those ideas. Subsequently the laws of nuclear physics, particularly the weak interactions that give rise to radioactivity, were unified with electricity and magnetism, into a single theory- the "electro-weak" theory which has been phenomenally successful, and verified experimentally. This leads into the strong-interactions in nuclear physics, which cause protons and neutrons to be held together. Each of these are made out of smaller particles called quarks. Three quarks are held together in a proton and in a neutron. The protons and neutrons are then stuck together to form atomic nuclei. This whole process is described using the 'theory of strong nuclear interactions'. Attempts to unify that with the electro-weak theory have been pretty successful, but as yet there is no true experimental confirmation. We are hoping to learn more from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The reason we are so excited is that it is now probing energies such that we will learn whether our standard picture of unification of electricity, magnetism and the weak force is valid or not. The fundamental prediction it makes is that there should be a new particle, the Higgs Particle, which is key to the whole theory. The Higgs Particle is associated with the origin of mass, it explains why particles have a mass at all- and that is one of the most important physical characteristics of matter- that matter has mass and inertia. We are on the threshold of this either being confirmed, or even more excitingly being refuted. We are all holding our breath because the framework of unification, which was so successful during the twentieth century, rests on the Higgs particle. If the Large Hadron Collider confirms that this theory is correct and that there is a Higgs particle, it will show the pursuit of unification was on the right lines. The next step is then to unify with the strong‐force of nuclear physics, leading to what is termed the "grand unified theory". There is also the possibility that Large Hadron Collider will discover a new symmetry of nature called "Supersymmetry" and then we will be looking for a super unified theory. A huge amount is at stake at the collider, and we are ninety-nine percent sure we are really going to learn some new physics there.

Whether this pursuit of unification is correct or not remains to be seen. It is a guiding principle, and it does force us to try and simplify our equations and laws and make them more mathematically consistent- and that's a good thing. When you try to rewrite your theory and make it simpler, neater and more powerful and, of course, less arbitrary- quite often you discover contradictions, logical flaws and so on. This is all part of the landscape of possibilities for theories which is a very useful thing to do. If we're lucky, we may hit on a really compelling framework which, intellectually, will just look so beautiful and satisfying that we will think it must be true. That will stimulate experimentalists to test it and verify it. I would say there has been a tendency to claim success too early. Part of the bad press that super-string theory has brought upon itself, for example, is that it made too bold claims. People thought that super-string theory was the final theory‐ it's all over, this really makes sense. But then, as time went on‐ people discovered flaws and weaknesses.

I also feel that one of the real tragedies of the modern world is that science and the public have become disconnected. Science has become this technical endeavour done in laboratories by people in isolation, and the rest of the world really doesn't really understand what's going on. It is very hard, for example, for the general public to judge whether or not the claims being made for any unified theory of physics are really justified.

Q: What are your views on the Universe being a quantum computer?

[Professor Turok] I think the idea some people are promoting, that the world is a quantum computer, made by some higher intelligence, is very farfetched. What is true is that if the universe obeys quantum laws, and we think it does‐ then you have to use equations of quantum theory to describe it. Furthermore the evidence is that quantum theory plays a role, not only at the sub‐atomic scales of particle physics, but also on the scale of the whole universe because we see the deviations of temperature and density from place to place in the very early universe which seem compatible with what you would predict in quantum theory. This has actually been an amazing‐advance of the past two decades, to see that quantum theory may be relevant on extremely large scales. But saying the universe is a quantum computer, or that we are all living inside a 'Matrix' sounds pretty wild and speculative to me. I think what we can say, with some certainty, is that nature follows mathematical rules which are hard for us to conceptualise because they involve notions like parallel universes and there not being a single reality. These rules work, and they describe the world. I don't think these rules are telling us that the universe is an artificial construction‐ we don't need to conclude that. That is akin to a giant conspiracy theory, and I think generally conspiracy theories are wrong.

Q: How does science sit alongside religion and philosophy?

[Professor Turok] I would say it quite simply: science is the part of our intellectual endeavours which works most successfully. We don't really know why it works, but we have learned how to do it, to develop rigorous, mathematical ideas and to test them experimentally. It takes me back to the point about Newton insofar as science really is the magic that works. But there are many aspects of human thought and discourse that science cannot tackle such as morality, aesthetics, and ethics. Science can inform those areas, but does not tell us how to live our lives.

Another example is free will. This is something on which physics has very little to say as yet - well, it may have something to say, but we don't quite understand what it is yet. The transition from classical physics- the clock work universe where everything was determined by its prior state- to the quantum world where everything is possible, but with a different probability does seem to have something to say about free will but I think that nobody has any idea about how the mechanism of free will would operate within quantum theory. This is another fascinating challenge, but at the moment we do not have clues to which way we begin to address the problem- and it is a long way off.

Q: What are your views on the nature of Life?

[Professor Turok] From a physicist’s point of view, life is a deeply paradoxical thing. It doesn't violate any of the laws we know‐ but it is not what we would have expected: its what we refer to as an "emergent phenomenon". This means a phenomenon where even if you understand the laws and rules of a system at a fundamental “microscopic” level, you may not be able to predict what that system does at a large "macroscopic" level. To understand life, you have to understand the world at a series of different levels, not just in terms of molecules and how they interact with each other. You have to understand how, when large numbers of molecules gather together, and they have a source of energy and sufficiently complicated networks of interactions, then all of a sudden self‐organising phenomena can happen. A cell can maintain itself, maintain its pH, water content and so forth in an active manner. So far, physics has not yet proven itself in the realm of biology. The litmus test for physics is if you can predict something reliably and accurately, and if the predictions always turn out to be true. When you try to apply physics thinking to living systems- they are, so far, too complicated for that kind of prediction to be possible. This is similarly true of areas such as financial markets. Many physicists have gone into financial mathematics and prediction of financial markets, and they have often gotten egg on their faces. The market is too complicated and driven by all kinds of psychological and other pressures which we cannot yet describe in an accurate mathematical way.

Personally, I am fundamentally agnostic about this. I think it is so far too complicated for physics and mathematics to offer much insight on. For reasons we do not yet understand, the world on the very tiniest scales, sub-atomic, seems to be incredibly simple and we can make predictions which are accurate to a trillion decimal places and verified by experiments in an utterly reliable manner. Likewise the universe on the very largest scales, over fourteen billion light years, is astonishingly simple. It is almost the same everywhere and in all directions. We can calculate from basic theory what the variations in density in the universe are from place to place, how they give rise to galaxies, stars and so on. At the very large scales, the universe seems very simple and comprehensible. It is the intermediate scale where there are living things and very complex phenomena such as the weather and chaos‐ where the world is much harder to describe accurately. My own inclination as a scientist has been to focus on the simpler problems where we can understand something of fundamental importance, but in an arena where we can trust the equations, where the physics is simple and robust enough and can be tested with experiment. For somebody interested in fundamental physics that means to focus on the very smallest or largest scales. The very complex phenomena on intermediate scales, such as life and intelligence, are so far beyond our abilities to tackle. I would love to think about those‐ but so far, we don't have a good thread or core idea which we can follow and I think, at the moment, we are awaiting insight from experiments or from really new ideas which can give us a thread we can pull on and hopefully develop our understanding. The very fact that life exists‐ the basic laws which govern it‐ are very far from being understood. We know about genetics, we know about the constituents of life. If you ask a detailed question about where the energy came from, we know all about that. What we don't understand is how collectively, a bunch of organic molecules, put into a bag‐ which is a cell‐ spontaneously organise themselves into all kinds of structures, preserve themselves, consume energy, produce new proteins and so forth. I would say that we don't have a mathematical description and laws to really tell us how that works. It's deeply mysterious.

Q: What is the role of science in society?

[Professor Turok] One of my other fundamental views is that this miracle of science‐which‐works to an astonishing degree - : this miracle is cross‐cultural. Whether you are from Japan, Bangladesh or Cameroon, the electron is described by Dirac's equation. . Science is something above us as individuals‐ in that sense, it is like a religion. It is something which we don't understand, but it can be a powerful unifying force for humanity because it is objective and especially because it will be absolutely key to our future whether we survive as a species and as a planet. Advances in technology are going to be essential to solve the energy problem, global warming, and maybe even ultimately the necessity to get into space and onto other planets. The fact that we have this unifying force for all of humanity is one of our most important hopes for the future. For me, it's very powerful, and the disconnect between most of society and science which I mentioned earlier is very unfortunate. I would blame both sides; scientists need to be much more active in explaining what they are doing, what the importance and implications are, and the public also needs to realise that encouraging kids to get into science is one of the best things they can do for the future because that will enable them to tackle the problems the world faces.

The moon missions were an amazing example. Almost all of the physicists of my generation, or a little older, who were kids or teenagers in the sixties, went into science in some way because of the moon mission. It was incredibly influential for all of us.

---------------------------------------------------

F. J. O Coddington, in 1940 wrote an important essay in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. He states, "In the long, slow episodic unrolling of my life, and of learning from books and people and meditation, I have (like all of us) from time to time encountered certain ideas, principles or methods of thought or of attack which seem to me master keys- keys not indeed to unlock the ultimate hidden mysteries, but at any rate good enough to open many doors-if only to show how empty are the boasted treasure stores some of them guard from the public eye. Perhaps the most obvious example is that key, or rather bunch of keys, labelled "Evolution." I do not mean Darwinism, or any other precise and detailed theory of biological development, but the broad conviction that most matters can be better appreciated when one has contemplated their history and development in the belief that these are likely to have proceeded by a system of growth conditioned by heredity and reaction to environment."

Over many thousands of years, intellectual enquiry in all disciplines from sciences to humanities, has taken aboard these fundamental questions of "where did we come from?", "why are things as they are?" and "what does it all mean?" and created theories. "In the history of science,.." as Stephen Hawking comments in his 2010 book, "The Grand Design", "we have discovered a sequence of better and better theories or models, from Plato to the classical theory of Newton to modern quantum theories. It is natural to ask: Will this sequence eventually reach an end point, an ultimate theory of the universe, that will include all forces and predict every observation we can make, or will we continue forever finding better theories, but never one that cannot be improved upon?"

It is this very curiosity that has led us on a journey where we progress from believing with total conviction that rain is metaphysical, caused by the anger of the gods, to a world where we can, with reasonable certainty, discuss the fact that our entire universe could simply be one of an infinite number of threads of probability, in a system where every possible outcome of everything exists simultaneously, in an unlimited number of universes. For scientists, understanding the true nature of this total system may be called "unification" and for religious philosophers it may be called "understanding god". In either case, the implications are profound.

It is arrogant for us to assume that we are somehow discovering the "secrets" of the universe. It would apply a certain degree of existential sleight of hand whereby the universe chooses, in a quintessentially human way, to withhold information from us. We, as a species, have existed for only 0.0014% of the total life of the universe to-date, and for the remaining 13.99billion years, it would appear the universe has functioned perfectly well without us. In a more recent context, it does not take a huge amount of scientific enquiry to determine that the Earth itself, not only existed before we did, but was potentially better off for that fact.

Our journey, instead, is one of inspiration. Humans are storytellers at heart. We have language, art, culture, science, philosophy, religion and a whole manner of disciplines which allow us to engage in a range of stories from the mundane to the metaphysical and from the intellectual to the idiotic. This is part of what makes us quintessentially human and is a significant factor in our (self ascribed) success as a species.

Scientific enquiry yields new chapters in our story. It helps us understand how we came to be, and potentially where we go from here. The stories create the tools we need to sustain, develop and defend our very existence as a species and will, in time, bring us closer together as a society, and help us to put right much of the damage we have done to an environment so beautiful, and so rare, that science cannot plausibly comprehend its very being. The difference now, more than ever before, is that the stories we generate are not fairy tales. They are based on rigorous global research and discourse often between many thousands of minds. The stories are tested using technologies which were previously held in the realms of science fiction and present us with answers equally profound to the questions they were intending to solve.

For us, as actors in this production, we must remain engaged in the story and realise it's context. Science is not separate from us, science is us. It is our story, and serves to give us a window into a specific part of our existence which we otherwise may not understand. Such enquiry cannot be viewed in isolation, however. Human culture is, by its very definition, not simply scientific; rather it is manifest from a gamut of disciplines from the arts, humanities, and other spheres. For us to understand our very humanity, therefore, we must understand the components must be viewed together, and in context. As Einstein himself once said, “It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.

And as for our role in this story? Carl Gustav Jung's words are perhaps the most appropriate saying, “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

So, as it was said in Genesis 1:3, "Let there be light."


Click to read full article...