Most helpful critical review
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Unscientific and confused
on 22 June 2012
I must make it clear that I'm talking about the book, here, not Tom Campbell's ideas. My own copy of the book is littered with notes containing such words as "self-contradictory", "unscientific", "illogical", "repetitive", "irrelevant", "rubbish" and so on. It is sad that TC does himself and his ideas such a lot of damage, but a salutary reminder to those who would rush into print at the first opportunity without the help of an editor with a plentiful supply of blue pencils. If all the repetition and rambling home-spun wisdom were omitted, the book would be reduced by at least half its length, with great benefit. I can understand that TC felt he had to write for a certain audience, but the problem is that by doing so he alienates many of those who would otherwise give his ideas deep consideration - and wonderful ideas many of them are. He has set himself an almost impossible task (like Descartes) of starting from as simple and unarguable a truth as he can find, and deserves the utmost respect for trying. However, it is all too easy to pick out logical flaws, and to disagree with his fundamental definitions (on which a lot rests). He can also justifiably be accused of trying to construct a deity in his own image - a charge, to be fair, that he himself vigorously denies. He also fails - in the book - to deal with genuine scientific problems such as computability, randomness, freedom and free will (he simply defines these problems not to exist), and quantum indeterminacy, specifically with respect to the measurement problem where he seems to take different (and incompatible) views as it suits him. One of the biggest failings, in my view, is that he relies far too heavily on an extrapolated Darwinism, which is surely exactly the sort of belief trap he himself decries at such length, and which leads to circular arguments and unjustified propositions. This is particularly sad since there are alternative hypotheses which could have been used (q.v. Stephen Wolfram's work on cellular automata) which would arguably have been a lot more scientific.
However, I know from meeting him at a weekend conference, and email exchanges, that he is a deeply thoughtful person (as well as a very charming and delightful one) and that his writing is a poor introduction to his Big TOE. I can't in all honesty recommend the book to anyone, but if you can plough through it, think about it, above all talk about with others who are also not blinkered disciples, you will gain some fascinating and wonderful insights into reality and consciousness.