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Friday, September 7, 2012

Book note: The God Problem

Review copy received: The God Problem: How A Godless Cosmos Creates, by Howard Bloom. Years ago, I more or less read Bloom's Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century and wasn't really sure what to make of it. Much later, I saw Bloom give what I thought was a pretty unimpressive talk at a financial-industry conference, a talk in which he seemed to be winging it and tossing out half-baked ideas off the top of his head. Now he's back with another wide-ranging, arcane, crazy-seeming book that may or may not have valuable insights, and which I probably don't have the patience to read from start to finish.

On the other hand, it's absorbing enough that I've just done some of the multidirectional skimming that Bloom's books seem to inspire in me. I'm more of a pragmatic sort of person than I was a couple decades ago. Back then, I likely would have been much more earnestly interested in the following Bloom paragraph, rather than inclined to just post it for whoever happens by to make of what they will:
There is also a good chance that we have free will, competition, dominance hierarchies, love and war because they are among the earliest outgrowths of attraction and repulsion, among the first manifestations of differentiation and integration. There is a good chance that we have free will, competition, dominance hierarchies, love and war because they are outgrowths of the starting rules of the universe. Or, to put it differently, there is a good chance that we have free will, competition, dominance hierarchies, love and war because they are among the earliest iterations of the axioms that big banged this cosmos.
Me: Somehow I am reminded of this long-ago dialogue:
SPOCK: What my instruments read is totally unbelievable, Captain. Twice, for a split second each time, everything within range of our instruments seemed on the verge of winking out. 
KIRK: I want facts, not poetry. 
SPOCK: I have given you the facts, Captain. The entire magnetic field in this solar system simply blinked. The planet below, the mass of which we're measuring, attained zero gravity. 
KIRK: That's impossible. What you're describing 
SPOCK: Is non-existence. 
UHURA: Standard General Alert signal from Starfleet Command, Captain. 
KIRK: All stations to immediate alert status. Stand by. 
SPOCK: Captain, scanners now report a life object on the planet surface below. 
KIRK: You just did a complete life survey five minutes ago. How are you just picking it up now? 
SPOCK: Inexplicable, Captain. This reading began at approximately the moment that the pulsation phenomenon began to subside. 
KIRK: Well, what is it, this object? Its physical makeup? 
SPOCK: A living being. Body temperature 98.5 Fahrenheit. Mass, electrical impulses, movement. It is apparently human, Captain.
KIRK: And its appearance coincided with this cosmic winking-out? 
SPOCK: Almost to the second. 
KIRK: Explanation. 
SPOCK: None. 
KIRK: Speculation. Could this being present any danger to the ship? 
SPOCK: Possible. Very possible.

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