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on 1 February 2010
This is not always an easy book to get through but is well worth the effort. Davies is a bit of a darling of the Templeton establishment which for atheists (like myself)may be a major turn off. But Davies manages to steer a course through science and theology without being overtly religious 9until the last paragraph of the book)
The science of complexity and chaos are described fairly well along with the 'spontaneous' events which at the edge of chaos seem to produce more complex emergent forms and processes.

Whether you want to believe that these probablistic events are somehow teleological or a blind emergent process is your preference. The book questions both ideas with equally well and the only way to really understand where allegiances lay is to understand the arguments.

Davies manages to pick out the inherent problems with evolutionary theory, reductionist science and holistic science to try to explain how complex forms emerge from simpler rules and forms using the new science of chaos and complexity theory. Certain sections one feels could have been more detailed to show how complicated the arguments are. I would recommend John Casti's book 'paradigms lost' & 'paradigms regained' for a more concise look at the problems of how replicating material may have evolved from the bare elements of the universe.

This is a well written book but should be read with an open mind about the processes being described. Self organising principles do not appear as if by magic and the new paradigm is beginning to show the way to help explain the theoretical gaps in evolutionary/reductionist/classical theory as regards emergent processes in nature which are complex from simple rules.

The 'interpretation' that these rules are God derived or an infinite process of emerging forms from nature alone is up to the reader. One thing that is certain is that if you start with simple elements ie hydrogen/helium and a little lithium you eventually end up with an amazing plethora of forms both animate and inanimate which could be infinite in their structure and possibilities. The old biblical idea of 'definitely ending up with bipedal human beings from such a process over billions of years must surely be questioned if not totally falsified bearing in mind this new information.

It seems we are still stuck in the trap of teleological 'common sense'thinking - and we know that 'common sense' thinking can often lead us down the wrong garden path.

Davies to his due is insistent in his view that any emerging new view about the apparent progress of structure and processes must have scientific basis or it is useless mystical nonsense. Any new ideas about the emergent processes and infinite complexities and structure of form in the universe must also be consistent and incorporate what we have already learned scientifically.

The process of shrinking God back to the pre big bang singularity and sub-sub atomic levels goes another step forward. There's not many places left to hide surely? Unless you wish to believe that the universe is somehow evolving itself toward consciousness, complexity and awareness ala De Chardin. Davies while writing from the standpoint of science and not really giving the reader HIS personal leanings toward religion in a direct manner eventually in the last paragraph states that 'something must be behind it all' is this strange sentence meaning a directed intelligence? or a non intelligent design? (whatever that may be)It would be more interesting if Davies would give us a more direct explanation of what he actually means? Is it a kind of placation to the religious believers? or leaving enough room so he gets the Templemen prize again?
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The Cosmic Blueprint: New discoveries in nature's creative ability to order the universe, by Paul Davies, Simon and Schuster (Orion), 1988; Templeton Foundation Press, 2004, 240 ff.

The self-organizing universe
By Howard A. Jones

The key issue of this book is the author's contention that there is meaning in the universe, even if organization and emergent complexity are built into the nature of the atoms and the structures of the molecules that they form, especially the molecules of living matter. Paul Davies was on the staff of Macquarie University, Sydney, when this book was written but is now on the staff of the State University of Arizona where he is Director of a Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, exploring subjects as diverse as cancer and the search for extra-terrestrial life.

The quotation from Ilya Prigogine that heads Chapter 1 sets the tone of this book and makes it clear why it was republished by the Templeton Foundation: `God is no more an archivist unfolding an infinite sequence he had designed once and forever. He continues the labour of creation throughout time.' This is the constantly evolving God of Whitehead's Process Theology. Though Davies totally rejects vitalism (the presence of a special `life force' in living organisms), he accepts that the universe behaves "as if" it was designed with a purpose, and he skilfully uses a fusion of particle physics, biology, psychology and cosmology to show how `the universe evolves its own destiny' in such a way as to `leave room for there to be a meaning behind existence.' This organizing principle or consciousness is what some mystics of the East and theists of the West call God or Infinite Mind. The laws of physics and the natural constants provide the blueprint or software for the universe to evolve.

The chapter headings deal with subjects as diverse as Complexity, Self-Organization and Chaos, the Nature, Origin and Evolution of Life, the Quantum Factor, and Mind and Brain. As usual with Davies, the writing is clear and he covers complex subjects without any of the underlying mathematics, except for a couple of brief references to Lagrangians and differential equations (without the sums!). The book is a challenging and thought-provoking read but some grounding in science for readers is desirable if they are to get the best out of it. There are 17 pages of References, Further Reading and an Index.

Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, UK.

Creative Evolution: A Physicist's Resolution Between Darwinism and Intelligent Design: A Quantum Resolution Between Darwinism and Intelligent Design
Mind Before Matter: Visions of a New Science of Consciousness
Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos (Penguin Science)
The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together (Ions / Nhp)
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