November 1, 2014

Review: The God Problem by Howard Bloom.

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A personal confession; we almost didn’t read this weeks’ book, but looking back, we’re glad we did! And no, it wasn’t because it clocked in at over 500+ pages, but because we were a bit skeptical of whether or not it was a good “fit” for the science-themed franchise that is Astroguyz… y’all have come to expect standards from us bloggers, right? True, we review lots of sci-fi, and we did review “that one UFO book“… but I’ve only ever turned down one (unnamed) book, on the grounds that the only good thing I could say about it was that you could use if to play “name that logical fallacy” at your next skeptical gathering…

But Prometheus Books has never steered us wrong. While other publishers my occasionally let woo slip in the door, Prometheus has always upheld consistently high standards. Thus I stuck with Howard Bloom’s The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates and found that it was actually an interesting read. Although Mr. Bloom is an atheist, the title of the book is a bit deceptive as it’s not really an atheist manifesto. And no, that’s not what set off our warning bells; we initially feared the tone was descending towards that old saw of the anthropic principle. That is, the concept that the universe is designed so that life must arise. We’re more of the bent that we’re selected to fit it, but hey, we could be wrong. But The God Problem is more sophisticated than that, & arcs in the direction that axioms do create. We’ve all been there; just how does complexity arise from simple plain-Jane hydrogen atoms? Were taxes, Albania, & Britney Spears fated to arise from the fabric of space time? The author starts us off with a simple set of rules and guides us through the history of human thought and the evolution of scientific reasoning. Remember Plato’s cave from Ethics/Philosophy 101? The author will take you back there to revisit the dawn of western thought. I would say that The God Problem is more a book on philosophy than science, but the author has some fascinating scientific insights on cosmology as well. A good sampler for the take and feel of the book can be heard in the authors’ recent interview on Coast-to-Coast.

Do we live in a torus, or “donut-shaped” universe? Was Homer Simpson right all along? It’s an interesting concept, put forth in the author’s 2nd person-style narrative used throughout much of the book. It does explain some new cosmological findings, such as the acceleration of the universe and its missing anti-matter mass. The author stops short of the burning question in our brain; if acceleration began when the universe was at 7.5 billion years of age, are we due to meet up with our anti-matter twin universe at, oh say, around the 15 billion year mark? (what a drag that would be, as the party just got started here on Earth!) And did that universe unfold exactly like our own?

Hang in there and read The God Problem if you’ve ever wondered how you could get something from nothing, or indeed, why there’s anything. We’ve heard the concept before, that science may be reaching the limits of what it can know. The problem is; what form rationale could replace it? While it’s not perfect, science can at least make some useful and testable predictions about the universe that we live in. To be effective and accepted, a new school of thought would have to demonstrate the same. While it’s true that randomness and A=A are only abstract concepts that do not exist in reality, I don’t think that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics can be thrown out so easily as it was in the book… but hey, great minds such as Roger Penrose have also advocated the similar ideas…

But hey, that’s just me. Do give The God Problem a read; it has some wonderful insights on the state of western thought and our place in time and space!

 

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