Telescopes, microscopes, atom-smashers, and fMRI brain scanners—these are just some of the technologies scientists depend on to untangle the material mysteries of the universe and our all-too-human lives within it. But alongside each new material explanation, we hear a familiar charge: “Reductionism!” cry the opponents of the mere material— “We are no clockwork machine!”

And along with them I wonder, too—what happens to meaning when a woman is reduced to sub-atomic particles? Where is love in a vibrating string? Do these wonderful new tools of discovery really reduce us to blind/meaningless things? Are we left cold, loveless, and forlorn under the weight of our new understanding? On the other hand, are the most widely promoted alternatives—religious mythologies grounded in the visions of prophets and theologians—relevant to modern life? Or have they too become a thin gruel in which to find meaning—so out of sync with our lives that in many cases they prove more harmful than helpful?

I believe this is a false dilemma. While I contend that revealed religions are indeed outdated and in many cases an obstacle to harmonious society, what science reveals through its ever-reducing explanations of our existence—expands, not forsakes, meaning—and it does so in a way that belief in a deity or supernatural cosmic purpose never could. Technology uncovers the multiple sources and layers of our emergence into the world from stars to mud to love—and in this uncovering, we find the meaningfulness of our lives inescapable.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to blog you a Model of Everything that, I hope, will make the argument above clear, optimistic, and irresistible!

Part 1. The Very Small

Part 2. The Very Small, Probability, and Uncertainty

Part 3. The Emptiness of Things, Large and Small

Part 4. From Atoms to Suns

Part 5. Molecules that Copy

Part 6. The Power of Error

Part 7. The Inner Life of Living Things

Part 8. More on Body and Soul

Part 9. Contra-”Reductionism”

Part 10. The Complete Model?

Part 11. The Meaning of Meaning