Book Review: What We Believe But Cannot Prove

What We Believe But Cannot Prove:  Today’s Leading Thinkers On Science In The Age Of Certainty, edited by John Brockman

Quite bluntly, this book is a load of rubbish.  There is a sense of irony that few of the supposedly “great thinkers” of this book seem to get, and that is that a lot less is certain that the writers included here tend to think.  Most of the writers (although mercifully not all) are atheists of a particularly unfortuante kind, the kind that are unaware of their own dependence on assumptions and presumptions about that which is true.  A great many of the authors, even worse, have a degree of contempt for biblical morality and the God of heaven and earth that is unacceptable and certainly unbecoming of anyone who wishes to be viewed as a great thinker.  Invocations to supposed sky gods and nasty comments about religion being the source of evil and other falsity fills this book.  The certainty that many of these readers seem to possess is the certainty of people who are blindly sailing towards icebergs in the North Atlantic or poking at sleeping bears or partying on a meteor that is headed into a planet, blithely unaware of their folly and doom.

That is not to say that there is nothing in this book worth reading.  If you want to read a lot of snarky and condescending comments from idiots who consider themselves to be brights, and who look down on those of decent behavior and godly lives, this book is for you, and may warm your own dark and prejudiced heart.  When the authors move beyond their mistaken presuppositions about that which has been proven and move into the realm of that which they consider unproven, there is more to appreciate, at least a little, even if the authors show themselves most interested in a very small set of problems.  While one or two may ponder about the afterlife and desire their own forms of immortality despite the absence of belief in a future judgment and in eternal life in some form or fashion, most of the people here spend their time writing about problems of consciousness or quantum mechanics or the mind-body-brain problems.  The best of the lot ponder the lack of interest that psychology has in questions of faith and religion, pointing out that what billions of people on earth consider important is worth researching on those grounds alone, while most of the rest seem to lack curiosity in anything outside of their own minds, in which they have a great degree of confidence in.

The editors and publishers of this book should be ashamed of themselves.  This book purports to be the sort of book that is inspired by the post-cocktail wonderings of a group of naval gazing pseudointellectuals who view their own intellects positively and seem to think that they are writing mainly for other people like themselves and not those who do not believe in the same things.  This is clearly written for an in-group audience of people who fancy themselves to be leading lights engaged in normal research that will solve what are viewed to be important problems that would make the universe entirely mechanistic or deterministic and deal with the last few doubts in their own capacity to understand the universe and to control it and harness it for their own benefit.  Yet the authors make all kinds of assumptions about that which is supposedly already proven and have all the certainty of scientists in the age when Newtonian mechanics was viewed to be triumphant with nothing left but a few problems to uncover and some greater understanding of various issues in string theory or quantum mechanics and human consciousness before we take our place as one of a numerous of sentient species in the galaxy seeking an age of peace and harmony under the rule of enlightened philosopher kings.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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