Eagleman was brought up as a secular Jew and became an atheist in his teens. Lately, though, he’d taken to calling himself a Possibilian—a denomination of his own invention. Science had taught him to be skeptical of cosmic certainties, he told me. From the unfathomed complexity of brain tissue—“essentially an alien computational material”—to the mystery of dark matter, we know too little about our own minds and the universe around us to insist on strict atheism, he said. “And we know far too much to commit to a particular religious story.” Why not revel in the alternatives? Why not imagine ourselves, as he did in “Sum,” as bits of networked hardware in a cosmic program, or as particles of some celestial organism, or any of a thousand other possibilities, and then test those ideas against the available evidence? “Part of the scientific temperament is this tolerance for holding multiple hypotheses in mind at the same time,” he said. “As Voltaire said, uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.”

A garden-variety agnostic might have left it at that. But Eagleman, as usual, took things a step further. Two years ago, in an interview on a radio show, he declared himself the founder of a new movement. Possibilianism had a membership of one, he said, but he hoped to attract more. “I’m not saying here is the answer,” he told me. “I’m just celebrating the vastness of our ignorance.” The announcement was only half serious, so Eagleman was shocked to find, when he came home from his lab later that night, that his e-mail in-box was filled, once again, with messages from listeners. “You know what?” most of them said. “I’m a Possibilian, too!” The movement has since drawn press from as far away as India and Uganda. At last count, close to a thousand Facebook members had switched their religious affiliation to Possibilianism.

Francis Crick, the patron saint of intellectual long shots, might have approved.


Another flavor of secular humanism.

Folksonomies: secular humanism

/religion and spirituality/atheism and agnosticism (0.658032)
/science (0.500143)
/religion and spirituality (0.486268)

alien computational material (0.981968 (negative:-0.338247)), particular religious story. (0.973425 (negative:-0.676227)), intellectual long shots (0.923689 (neutral:0.000000)), cosmic certainties (0.839820 (negative:-0.643261)), Eagleman (0.834314 (negative:-0.497767)), secular humanism (0.819679 (positive:0.490445)), secular Jew (0.819503 (neutral:0.000000)), strict atheism (0.778477 (negative:-0.592432)), Possibilian—a denomination (0.776982 (neutral:0.000000)), uncomfortable position (0.774173 (negative:-0.555880)), cosmic program (0.774146 (positive:0.352344)), celestial organism (0.770723 (neutral:0.000000)), multiple hypotheses (0.767608 (neutral:0.000000)), unfathomed complexity (0.766922 (negative:-0.273265)), brain tissue— (0.762760 (negative:-0.273265)), networked hardware (0.761944 (positive:0.352344)), dark matter (0.759833 (negative:-0.633557)), e-mail in-box (0.753289 (negative:-0.207739)), Francis Crick (0.752397 (neutral:0.000000)), scientific temperament (0.751347 (neutral:0.000000)), Facebook members (0.748456 (neutral:0.000000)), available evidence (0.746990 (negative:-0.277238)), religious affiliation (0.735042 (neutral:0.000000)), new movement (0.733782 (neutral:0.000000)), patron saint (0.730227 (neutral:0.000000)), Possibilianism (0.627405 (positive:0.490445)), vastness (0.569133 (neutral:0.000000)), certainty (0.566987 (negative:-0.859369)), flavor (0.557751 (positive:0.490445)), Voltaire (0.556704 (neutral:0.000000))

Eagleman:Person (0.838443 (negative:-0.214592)), Francis Crick:Person (0.391245 (neutral:0.000000)), Facebook:Company (0.368645 (neutral:0.000000)), Possibilianism:Person (0.365971 (negative:-0.379381)), brain tissue—:FieldTerminology (0.338411 (negative:-0.273265)), Voltaire:Person (0.330055 (neutral:0.000000)), Uganda:Country (0.307208 (neutral:0.000000)), founder:JobTitle (0.291551 (neutral:0.000000)), India:Country (0.285509 (neutral:0.000000)), Two years:Quantity (0.285509 (neutral:0.000000))

Atheism (0.986141): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Secularism (0.827671): dbpedia | freebase
Agnosticism (0.628951): dbpedia | freebase
Mind (0.609491): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Secular humanism (0.602952): dbpedia | freebase
David Eagleman (0.594947): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Possibilianism (0.587219): dbpedia | freebase
Humanism (0.526589): dbpedia | freebase

 The Possibilian
Periodicals>Magazine Article:  Bilger, Buckhard (April 25, 2011), The Possibilian, New Yorker, Retrieved on 2013-07-02
  • Source Material [www.newyorker.com]
  • Folksonomies: perception time