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The Paradox of God and the Science of Omniscience Paperback – 3 Apr 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave MacMillan; Reprint edition (3 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403964572
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403964571
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,452,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Add two doses of Isaac Asimov, and one dose each of Martin Gardner and Carl Sagan, and you get Clifford Pickover, one of the most entertaining and thought provoking writers of our time.' - Michael Shermer, author of The Borderlands of Science & Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic magazine

'Pickover inspires a new generation of da Vincis to build unknown flying machines and create new Mona Lisas.'- Christian Science Monitor

'Pickover has published nearly a book a year in which he stretches the limits of computers, art, and thought.' - Los Angeles Times

'Bucky Fuller thought big, Arthur C. Clarke thinks big, but Pickover outdoes them both.' - WIRED

'Strange and beautiful, stunningly realistic. Pickover just seems to exist in more dimensions than the rest of us.' - Scientific American

'Pickover is many things - scientist, scholar, author, editor, and visionary...' - GAMES

'Clifford A. Pickover is the heir apparent to Carl Sagan: no one else does better popular science writing than Pickover.' - Robert J. Sawyer, Nebula Award-winning science-fiction writer and author of Calculating God
'Overall, the discussion is lucid and fair...recommended at least as a supplemental text in courses...' - Amos Yong, Religious Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

CLIFFORD A. PICKOVER has authored over twenty highly acclaimed books on such topics as computers and creativity, art, mathematics, astronomy, human behaviour and intelligence, time travel, alien life, and science fiction. An IBM Research Staff Member, Pickover is a prolific inventor with dozens of patents and twenty-seven invention achievement awards. He is also currently an associate editor for the scientific journals Computers and Graphics and Theta Mathematics Journal; an editorial board member for Odyssey, Leonardo, and YLEM; and was a columnist for Discover Magazine. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rob Telford on 22 Sep 2004
Format: Hardcover
I had wanted this book for quite some time before purchasing it, so probably built my hopes up too much, but in general it is the kind of quirky philosophical/theological reflection we could with more of. Sometimes he comes up with stuff that is out of this world, whereas at other times you wonder whether his head is in the clouds...
It's worth purchasing just for the teasers at the back of the book which ask almost every question you've ever thought in your life about God. An entertaining, more than informative and well-rounded read, though.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 19 reviews
47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Omniscience Isn't Simple, But It's Fun 9 Mar 2002
By R. Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In the famous game of chicken, two drivers hurtle their cars toward each other, and the one who turns away at the last minute loses. Or they collide, and both lose even bigger, or they both swerve and have reciprocal embarrassment. Before you play this game, you might make a matrix of your actions (stay the course vs. swerve) against the opponent's actions (same two choices), and see what happens with the four different possible outcomes. But then imagine that your opponent is omniscient. He knows just what you are going to do. Surprisingly, this restricts the results of the game in unexpected ways so that you cannot lose. If your opponent is omniscient, all you have to do is to stay the course. He will know that you are not going to swerve, and (assuming that he does not want a collision), he will have to be the one to do the swerving himself. You win whenever you play chicken with an omniscient being!
You may not be encouraged by this bit of practical knowledge, but people have thought about omniscient beings for as long as they have been people. Most religions have gods which are omniscient, and the capacity of omniscience produces some very strange consequences indeed. A delightful book, _The Paradox of God and the Science of Omniscience_ (Palgrave / St. Martin's), by Clifford A. Pickover, collects a bundle of religious and logical oddities and presents them in a playful and entertaining way. There are seventeen chapters within the book, all having to do with paradoxes of different types, not necessarily having to do strictly with omniscience. Each has a whimsical tale to begin it, with "Musings and Speculations" afterward. Say you wake up and find yourself in hell. The devil says you can win his game and get to heaven, otherwise you have to stay in hell. You can only play once. "If you play on the first day, you have a one half chance of winning. If you play on the second day, you have a two-thirds chance of winning. If you play on the third day, you have a three-quarters chance of winning." And so on. So, if the reward of heaven is infinite bliss, what is mathematically the best day to play? The answer is, keep waiting - infinite rewards make infinite waiting in hell the logical move. Or, if you have heard the question of whether an omnipotent god can make a rock so big he can't move it, can an omniscient and omnipotent god make a person who knows something the god doesn't? If an omniscient god knows what is going to happen in the future, did he know that Led Zeppelin would be releasing "Stairway to Heaven" thirty years ago? Did he know the first line? The lyrics? The tune? If so, what role did the musicians have in bringing the tune into the Classic Rock playlist? Might it be possible that there are degrees of omniscience, and the god who has omniscience only has it for certain periods of time, or certain subjects, thus allowing us unimpeded free will? Can an omniscient god be surprised, or be regretful?
Pickover knows that most of his readers are going to be familiar with the God of the Bible, and draws a good deal from its lessons. He also draws upon other religious traditions, as well as inventing different types of gods to illustrate particular points. The downright peculiar things that the Old Testament God has done, such as aiding mass killing and child sacrifice, get a look, as do the sixteen crucified saviors other than Jesus and the mythological heroes and gods who share many of his traits. He examines why humans might have a fascination for omniscience and all the paradoxes it brings with it. After all, we are curious specimens who want to know more and more; the ruler of the universe must already know everything. And knowing everything, a god would know what each person was thinking and doing, which capacity would give him the ultimate ability to inspire fear in his believers (and fear of the Old Testament God is something that God thought worthy). Incidentally, belief in his omniscience would coax people to follow the priests more. This is a puzzling and enlightening book about reasoning that for all it's good humor will repay serious thought. Those who already have a firm belief in the God of their choice will find puzzles in this book that will heighten the mysteries of their faith, and those who lack such faith will find reason to continue to steer away from the paradoxes of belief.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Changes the way we think about God 26 Dec 2001
By Sue Garrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
What is God?
In the West, we often think of God as "all powerful, all knowing, and all good." He created the universe out of nothing, is uncreated and eternal, and an can grant eternal life. Is it rational to believe in this God's existence?
I have several of Pickover's recent books, and this book marks a wonderful addition to his collection. Through a large series of mind-numbing experiments, Pickover helps us understand the kinds of relationships we ordinary humans can have with an ominscient God.
Pickover raises many interesting issues. In the Koran, God has no cause or temporal dimension, and there is little we can say about Him. Our brains are not up to task. But ordinary folk shouldn't deny God's existence in the same way that a deaf person shouldn't deny the existence of music. Is God real, or are we only worshipping a projection of ourselves? Can an omniscient being know the delight of learning new knowledge? Could God create a person whose actions He cannot know? Was the universe created by a being who tuned all the physical constants to permit carbon-based life? Pickover discusses all these subjects and more.
The Zorastrianis, Hindus, Islam, Bahais, and Jews believe in an omniscient God. Buddhists believe that the Buddha was omniscient. On the other hand, Jewish mystics, such as those who follow the Lurianic Kabbalah, believe that God has given himself limitations. In order to make room for the physical universe and our existence, En Sof vacated a region within Himself. With each act of contraction, nature gains additional freedom.
If there is a single book you will buy that will change the way you think about God and the universe -- and let you dream the infinite -- this book is for you. Topics covered include: the Bible, Kabbalah, the brain, "Does God Makes Mistakes and Learn?" Was Jesus omniscient? Do we have free will?, Hans Jonas, Auschwitz, Does God sanction genocide? The Bible as a telescope to a larger reality. Paradoxes, Garden of Eden, Buddhism, Led Zeppelin, the nature of time, Baha'i faith, Biblical errors, crucified saviors, Alan Dershowitz, Devil's Offer, ekpyrotic model (of the universe), hive minds, Freeman Dyson, Robert Heinelin, Bible mysteries, stellar evolution, Satan, Nephilim, Bridegroom of Blood, Gospel of Thomas, Urantia...
Need I say more?
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A Stairway to Your Own Mind 12 Jan 2002
By Dennis W. Gordon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Augustine's works ... planted a seed in early childhood from which my interest in paradox and God grew. Maybe this book will contain seeds for you." -- Clifford Pickover
Kurt Godel may have logically proved that God exists, but Clifford Pickover pursues the paradoxes that result from following a belief in a God that is omniscient and omnipotent. As an example of such a paradox consider the question - Can God make a rock so massive that He can't move it? Certainly many readers will find the chapter entitled "The Paradox of Led Zeppelin" to be their favorite. So, put on your "Stairway to Heaven" CD and shatter your mind with some superb reading.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Book Review: The Paradox of God 6 May 2005
By Adam Roberts - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it?

Clifford A. Pickover addresses this question and numerous others in his book The Paradox of God and the Science of Omniscience. Not content with examining well-known problems that arise when we think of a literally existing omnipotent being, Pickover pulls together difficult brainteasers from statistics, philosophy, time-travel along with theology and questions about free will. He demonstrates that being able to predict the future might actually be a disadvantage in practical situations and explains why your brain perceives things that apparently haven't happened yet.

This is the second book I've read by Pickover, the first being Time: A Traveler's Guide. Pickover is creative and entertaining, and someone accessible to all- neither a Jehovah's Witness or a positive atheist is likely to be offended by his treatment of the touchy subject matter. His approach isn't to solve the problems for us or even explain what he thinks are the answers. Pickover simply explains the paradoxes, presents the opinions of great thinkers, and tells an amusing story.

The book can get annoying at times, however. Pickover has a lot of trouble sticking to the same subject for more than a few pages, making me wonder just who was hired to edit this thing. If you want some in-depth treatment of the nature of knowledge, Pickover's frequent tangents on irrelevant tangents will likely frustrate you. Personally, I would have liked a chapter on what purpose or meaning an omnipotent being could find in life.

But when Pickover wants to make a point, he explains this clearly enough that math failures like me can understand. My favorite example is in the last chapter, 'Some Final Thoughts,' where he uses game theory and a though experiment involving a square room and a lever to predict the conditions that a person will resist or succumb to temptation, even if we grant full free will.

So if you're looking for an intelligent entertaining read that you can pick up and put down whenever you like, I highly recommend The Paradox of God.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
As with any book that delves into philosophy... 5 Sep 2004
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
...you get out of it what you put into it. I myself am a fundamentalist, but that doesn't mean the book isn't worth reading. The book is MEANT to be a survey of various topics, which is why the author gives both copious notes and large "further reading" lists. He WANTS his books to be thought provoking enough to spur people on to do THEIR OWN research and make up THEIR OWN minds. If someone thinks it is shallow, then they have missed the point of the book. The author does not claim to be Thomas Aquinas or Kurt Godel or Albert Tucker - he just uses them to bring up and explore various topics. If people wish to disagree with the scant number of conclusions (almost everything in the book is in the form of a question, which doesn't preclude conclusions being drawn, but in general the point is to bring up the questions, not to answer them as well), then let them. That doesn't mean the book is not worth reading!

The writing itself is fluid and understandable, and while Mr. Pickover does not explore every topic as thoroughly as I would like, I don't think we should expect a 1000 page book out him either. As with many of Mr. Pickover's books, he does skip from one topic to the next in a somewhat disconcerting fashion - until you get used to it. So it might not be for every reader - but it IS a good primer on the subject, and a great place to start if you are interested in the results and paradoxes that exist if omniscience exists.
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