10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Very good but makes you feel like Marvin,
This review is from: God and the New Physics (Penguin Science) (Paperback)
This book is all about considering how at the forefront of human science there is still room for God. Davies deals with some of the really big concepts that have come out of modern Physics and how those concepts match up with theology and religion and especially how the scientific approach could make room for the existence of God.
Initially published in 1990, so if you are looking for something from the current forefront of scientific thinking, then some developments, especially in particle physics won't be covered here.
Davies looks at Genesis, Creation and the Big Bang. We consider that cause does not necessarily precede effect and that the Big Bang does not necessitate an external influence. We try and grasp the concept of how God could exist outside of space and time that is our own physical universe. We touch on some really hard to grasp concepts such as a primordial force acting just billionths of a second after the big bang, timewarps and singularities. We look at order and disorder and the teleological argument for the existence of God, matter and antimatter, particles and quantum physics. He then examines Life itself and the concept of mind. So you can see that as a reader you cover a lot of ground here and not all of it is easy going.
Some of the physics presented here is hard to grasp. Not because Davies uses complex mathematics but because the concepts are a bit tricky to understand. I am not sure if the lack was in the explanation or in my understanding. There is the problem of translating a precise mathematical theory into the imprecise language that we all read and speak. In the majority Davies does a splendid job of explaining some complex science in terms that a layman can understand and appreciate. The balance is lost when we get to the section on quantum theory and particle physics and it does feel a bit like reading a physics text book. (I wasn't very good at reading physics text books even when I did my physics A level). However, it is worthwhile to persevere and see where Davies is going when describing the apparent chaotic and unpredictable events that occur at the quantum level.
There is a lot here about entropy and the Third law of thermodynamics which is regarded as fundamental to human understanding of the cosmos. So if you are not interested in such things then this probably won't be the book for you.
There are also lots of interesting theories here, including the seemingly bizarre, that go against all common sense. For example, I find the theory of parallel universes as explained here to be totally unconvincing. Every movement of a particle causes the creation of parallel universe!
There is also some consideration as to how humans might develop in the unthinkably far future and how what intelligent life might be able to do in future would undoubtedly be given a supernatural explanation now. This leads to discussion how God might act within the laws of nature and might be a natural rather than supernatural being.
There are lots of questions and ideas here and much that is thought provoking. I was encouraged to look at more books in this field to do with arguments for and against the existence of a supreme God or Prime Mover as Aristotle would say. Although I have taken on board a lot of interesting stuff about entropy, thermodynamics, singularities and the concept of time I would not want a book that delved any deeper into the physics. With the exception of the particle physics sections the balance of science to theology was about right
There is little here to be inspired about, however. Is the universe and everything in it just an incredibly improbable accident? Some of the later sections, especially considering the death of the universe (the big crunch and other scenarios) lead you inevitably to the question `what is the point of it all?' and become quite depressing. The more you know the more depressed you get, it's a bit like Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
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Initial post: 29 Mar 2013 20:53:16 GMT
I feel I should point out that this book was originally published in 1983 and the Penguin edition from 1990 is actually a reissue with a new cover, not a new edition as such.
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