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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Science, Religion, & Arthur C. Clarke

Beloved science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke died yesterday at the age of 90, and today, as he is being remembered by scientists, writers, and fans, comes news that he left explicit instructions for a completely secular funeral. Clarke, a dedicated humanist and visionary, with a background in physics and math, asked that "absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith" be associated with the ceremonies. He will be buried on Saturday in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he's lived since 1956.
Though Clarke believed religion was dangerous and something humanity needed to outgrow, his books, more than 100 in total, often dealt with ultimate questions of faith as well as science. Most famous among these works, 2001: A Space Odyssey (both a novel and a screenplay he co-wrote with director Stanley Kubrick) explores the perils of artificial intelligence and the mystery of human origins. The Nine Billion Names of God closes with the end of the universe. His final novel, The Last Theorem, which Clarke co-wrote with author Frederik Pohl, centers around a young Sri Lankan who discovers a short proof to Fermat's Last Theorem. The book will be published later this year. —Heather Wax