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What We Believe But Cannot Prove: Today's Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty Hardcover – 7 Nov 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (7 Nov 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743275926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743275927
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.4 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,296,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mr. K. Papas on 6 April 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Brockman had a great idea. He asked today's leading scientists and thinkers to state what they believed but could not prove. The results are fascinating and well worth reading. The breadth of opinion is fascinating and as each contribution is limited to a page or two it makes for surprisingly light though informative reading.
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29 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman on 16 Dec 2005
Format: Hardcover
The one - hundred scientists, educators, psychologists, linguists, and other professionals of the life of the mind who provide answers to the 'title- question' do so apparently with little knowledge of what other respondents are saying. Thus for instance when Martin Rees raises the possibility that mankind may be the only advanced intelligence that has yet come into the universe, Craig Ventner who supports a form of Crick's panspermic view( i.e. We got here by being seeded by more advanced intelligences from elsewhere in the universe) there is no opportunity for give and take between them. My sense is that is that this whole enterprise might have been more productively conducted had it involved a dialogue around several major questions now confronting humanity i.e. the extraterrestial life question, the artificial intelligence in place of humanity, question, the ' understanding everything' question.
Another problem I had with the book is that while John Brockman has truly created an impressive enterprise with his 'Edge ' world and Third Culture, the Third Culture is largely devoid of religious thinkers, and of thinkers whose fundamental background is in the Humanities.
Consider for instance the one great Idea the great majority of Humanity believes in without having Proof of i.e. the idea of a Creator Who is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End,that Mankind has the purpose of in some way serving . Consider too some of the other beliefs most important to Mankind for which there is no proof i.e. the belief in an Afterlife, the belief that our loved ones have some kind of continuation beyond the life of earth.
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6 of 16 people found the following review helpful By P. Hughes on 30 Oct 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm going to make this brief. Despite each essay being only two or three pages long, the book is of such an esoteric subject that its appeal is to te very few, scientists and those very interested in the specific areas covered by each essay. A brief history of time is like a childrens book in comparison.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A polemic about scientism 2 Sep 2012
By Dr. H. A. Jones - Published on
Format: Paperback
What we Believe but cannot Prove: Today's leading thinkers on science in the age of certainty, edited by John Brockman, Pocket Books (Simon and Schuster), 2006, 288 ff.

Science has enabled us over the last four centuries to understand the way many aspects of the world function. But there are certain features of the natural world that may forever and in principle be beyond the capability of science to resolve. This book is a timely reminder of the limitations of scientism - the idea that science can, at least in principle, eventually solve the mechanism of any problem with which it is confronted concerning our natural environment, including human behaviour.

The contributions here are very short - no more than a couple of pages each, so there is no room to discuss any issue in depth: nor are all of the contributors scientists. This book is simply a `taster' of the kinds of problems that confront various disciplines and what experts in the respective fields think about them. Thus, philosopher Dennis Dutton speculates on aesthetic values, biologist Richard Dawkins rejects any idea of design in the universe, novelist Ian McEwan believes that death is the end, and physicist William H. Calvin senses that the morality of humankind is improving. I found Paul C.W. Davies' speculations about life on other planets particularly interesting. He believes that life probably does exist elsewhere, though not for the fallacious popular reason that `the universe is so big that there must be life out there somewhere'. Rather, he argues `I believe we are not alone because life seems to be a fundamental . . . property of nature.' John D. Barrow believes that the universe is `infinite in size but finite in age' . . . and there are many more - over a hundred in all.

This book is, by its very nature, speculative, so don't look here for any hard facts about anything. But as an indication of the sorts of conceptual challenges there are out there, in many different fields of human thought and endeavour, it makes a fascinating read.

Howard Jones is the author of The Tao of Holism
Good book, but a little limited in it's world-view 20 Jun 2013
By JTaylor - Published on
Format: Paperback
Definitely thought provoking and covering good ground, the book is a quick look into the various "big questions" facing various fields including psychology, anthropology, physics and mathematics along with some off the wall discussions. The sum total of the book however doesn't exceed it's parts due to the often patronizing attitudes of some it's contributor's, who clearly are not only ambivalent about faith and reason, but downright hostile towards any mixture of the two. In this light, the book reveals an interesting point about the thinker's and the compiler and organizer of the works; subjects and their final statements are periodically lined up to generate a particular viewpoint in toto, that basically anyone who believes in any possible metaphysical explanation for any aspect of the universe is simply either not smart enough, educated enough, or simply too emotional to overcome an evolutionary hardwired notion of a default vagary greater than a strictly materialistic view of reality. Easily forgetting that faith, is after all, faith not reason, we see the culmination of a strictly rationalist viewpoint (in some cases even partially admitted as yet another expression of faith) expressed in the various discussions, with a few albeit weak exceptions. This is unfortunate, not because it poses a convincing frame of reference to support strict materialism (it doesn't), but the fact that the space taken up by the various writers could have been used for more interesting discussions. One, two or even three discussions on religion and the tentativeness of it in light of materialist evidence would have served the purpose, however, more discussions on the various fields especially with regard to say philosophy, art and various other fields including politics, the book would have been much more relevant and enjoyable to those who like to keep an open mind and see questions in different lights.
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