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Ralph Lewis M.D.


Ralph Lewis, M.D., is a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Canada; an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto; and a psycho-oncology consultant at the Odette Cancer Centre in Toronto. He is a full-time clinician in a hospital-based practice, focusing particularly on youth and young adult psychiatry and (separately) on psycho-oncology in adults and the elderly.

Dr. Lewis helps people seeking meaning in the face of severe and tragic adversity, in addition to having extensive clinical experience with complex and subtle psychiatric and psychological conditions. His writing reflects his diverse interests, which include human rationality/irrationality, the formation of belief systems, the unreliability of intuition and subjective perception in shaping explanations and beliefs, the tendency to see patterns and intention in randomness, the neural basis of motivation and purposiveness, the physical and evolutionary basis of consciousness, and many other diverse topics pertaining to the human condition.

His 2018 book is Finding Purpose in a Godless World: Why We Care Even If the Universe Doesn't.

Synopsis of Finding Purpose in a Godless World:

Many people go through life and face adversity and believe that “things happen for a reason” or that there is a “higher plan”…

This book examines the unreliability of subjective perception and looks at the universe as science shows us it really is: spontaneous and unguided – there isn’t a plan or purpose. Things don’t happen for intended reasons, unless of course they’re caused by intentional agents – such as us. Otherwise, things just happen – things such as cancer. And things like the universe itself.

Many people worry that if the universe doesn’t have a purpose, neither do we. And they’re mystified as to how all the complexity we see around us could have come into being in a purposeless way – through unguided random processes. Especially our own conscious selves. How could mind come from matter, and without design? And where do values come from? If the universe is random, is morality arbitrary? Is life pointless and meaningless?

A random world, which according to all the scientific evidence and despite our intuitions is the actual world we live in, is too often misconstrued as nihilistic, demotivating, or devoid of morality and meaning. It needn’t be. The scientific worldview of an unguided, spontaneous universe can be awe-inspiring and foundational to building a more compassionate society.

What the reader will gain from this book is a deep understanding of how spontaneous, unguided evolutionary processes and self-organizing complexity in an indifferent, random cosmos could in fact produce unique, self-aware human beings living caring, purposeful, meaningful lives. And how people cope and thrive without recourse to supernatural belief. This book will help the reader to understand why we care, even if the universe doesn't.

Psychology Today articles:

The full list of Dr. Lewis's Psychology Today blog posts can be found here.

Dr. Lewis also wrote the feature / cover article of the Mar/Apr 2020 print edition of Psychology Today magazine: “Coming to Terms With Coincidence,” which can be found here.

More of Dr. Lewis's articles (including other PT print magazine articles), and videos, can be found on his website

Books by Ralph Lewis M.D.
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