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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Earth history in context aids our values and wisdom, 31 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us (Hardcover)
When I first picked up the book, I feared it would be no more than a long National Geographic article on the earth; a collection of semi tired aphorisms about the wonder of nature and the virtue of diversity, ideas which as yet have not inspired action from conviction. I wondered if yet another book, another long article with pictures on the nature's wonders would really matter. After all, what approach to extolling nature's majesty is not frayed with over use? Sermons on nature temporarily draw our minds into sharp focus then loose their hold on our individual and our cultural consciousness. After brief focus we quickly return to the casual, unconcerned, blind mode of stewardship as if the message of the wonder of nature was never thought nor said. What new could this book offer? Could this book tell the earth story differtly? Was reading still another thicket of pages with worn out words a waste of time? I decided to find out.
Written by a physicist, and a mathematically trained cosmologist and an evolutionary biologist I figured it may offer a new twist. After all, this earth we are so careless with is poorly treated because we poorly understand it. We poorly understand it because it is more complex than we can understand and comprehend. We see the creation as matter when it is system. Our religions have taught that creation was in the past, and the earth as static. Yet we know now that creation is perpetual and the earth a flux. Even modern minds see the earthly creation as the materialization of only one or a few of the many processes that have brought it and us to this hour. We are blind to the broad and majestic array of material and process which we call earth and which dances before us and within us.
None of us has the intellectual capacity or the training to fully understand, comprehend, perceive or appreciate the elegant system that is us and our world. We are in effect blind to the multidimensional, multifaceted organic time brewed and painfully evolved system of which we are a part. We have no capacity for understanding or visualizing the intricate interrelationship between the various components of the system, nor to understand fully that each component is not an isolated component but yet connected to all other components in infinite degrees of intensity and import. We humans are not equipped by nature with the mental tools to see this complexity because such understanding had no survival value in our genetic history.
If then we are careless with the creation because of our inability to perceive, then could these three authors' collaboration present the earth system in such a way that we may better see and understand it? Did they collaborate on a book to bring the breadth, depth and vision of each author's discipline to our individual consciousness? I read the book to find the answer.
I brought to the book a topical knowledge of many of the ideas expressed in the book, ideas that science presents as factual history and method. I did not expect this book to take me into new depths of understanding scientific facts. It is not a book of heavy science theories. Rather it is a book which lists many science conclusions. But in certain important ways it did shed valuable new light on many of the scientific conclusions. This new insight derives from the context of the individual conclusions as explained more fully below.
What I had underestimated before reading the book was how fragmented my science knowledge was. I suspect that most of us have such fragmented knowledge. After all , most of us have read scientific theories over time in a haphazard order as determined by which magazine or book was accessible when we were in a mood to and had time to read science material. Most of us do not have a systematic and coherent body of scientific knowledge.
This book was a great help in bringing the vast array of exciting knowledge about the earth and its impressive history into a coherent and understandable format. In fact the great virtue of this book is its orderly development of increasingly complex systems and processes in a context of time and dependence on previous events and other then extant facts. This development of world within the context of time and other related development allows one to place stages of evolution into a valuable perspective. I have not seen this done in any other work. This added perspective encourages us towards a system of values because values derive from comparisons and choices from within specific context. Without the context offered by this book, scientific facts are isolated and sterile and too abstract for comparative valuing. With the ability to value developments comes enhanced ability to make wise choices. This promotes wisdom. Wisdom is what we need the most as we exercise dominion of our earthly home.
This is not to denigrate the amount of or quality of scientific fact set forth in the book. The book covers so much scientific insight over a range of expertise of three prominent authors in disparate scientific fields that anyone will surely gain much valuable insight into the natural world. It is a valuable aid to perception of that illusive miracle, our world that unfolds right before our eyes each moment.
Obviously the book does not have the whole truth. The whole truth cannot be stated. Yet it is a tremendous aid to the vision we must acquire if we are to steer this earthly ship safely and harmoniously. We are not doing that. We have not been doing that. We don't know how to do that. But we must or else. We have taken charge, so we must take responsible charge. This book can help. I hope many people read it.
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