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Cosmic Life, Universe, & Everything

I recently received a copy of Cosmic Jackpot by Paul Davies in the mail from the Seed offices. Although I can’t say I was particularly dying to read this, free books are always a nice thing.
So I opened it up to take a look. Chapter 1 starts out this way:

For thousands of years, human beings have contemplated the world about them and asked the great questions of existence: Why are we here? How did the universe begin? How will it end? How is the world put together? Why is it the way it is?

and I might not have gotten the giggles there except that the next sentence goes on

For all of recorded human history, people have sought answers to such “ultimate” questions in religion and philosophy…

and it was all over for me. For of course it invoked for me that book that is all about the search for the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. You all remember that famous passage, don’t you?

There are of course many problems connected with life, of which some of the most popular are Why are people born? Why do they die? Why do they want to spend so much of the intervening time wearing digital watches?

Hee. Anyway, once I’d made this comparison, I could get no further with Cosmic Jackpot, at least not today. It’s possible that Davies was being slyly and intentionally referential; I don’t know. I’ll have to take another look at the book some other day.

  1. May 22, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Oh, I just got mine in the mail… I don’t remember asking for it specifically. Anyway, it will be waaaay on the bottom of my “To Read This Summer” pile.

  2. May 22, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    You guys got it too, eh?
    I looked at it, read the back flap, and figured that if I review the book, I’m likely to entitle the review “The Cosmic Crackpot.”
    However, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. (Sort of like the character in Arsenic and Old Lace who saves time by writing a review of a play in the car on the way to seeing the play.)
    -Rob

  3. May 22, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    First: Davies does use the exact phrase “life the universe and eveything” at least once and maybe more in the book, so yes, it is intentional. Second: if you want to have an idea of what is in the book to see if it is worth reading, you can try my review.

  4. Frumious B
    May 23, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Paul Davies is a freak. Cosmic Jackass should be his title.

  5. Frumious B
    May 23, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Paul Davies is a freak. Cosmic Jackass should be his title.

  6. May 27, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    I looked at it, read the back flap, and figured that if I review the book, I’m likely to entitle the review “The Cosmic Crackpot.”
    However, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. (Sort of like the character in Arsenic and Old Lace who saves time by writing a review of a play in the car on the way to seeing the play.)

    Right, per the norm, you critics don’t know a damned thing about the subject, yet you know that you don’t need to.
    Paul Davies supports the same interpretation as John Wheeler. You think that John is a crackpot too, loser?

  7. May 29, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    It may be a great book; I don’t know. I didn’t say it wasn’t. All I said was I couldn’t get past the opener because it evoked The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for me, which I find hilarious. After that, I couldn’t be serious about the book anymore. I kept thinking about those digital watches. Doesn’t anybody have a sense of humor anymore????? And they say feminists are humorless…

  8. May 30, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I believe that I was speaking to Rob, but it is a fact that people already have their minds made up about the anthropic principle before they ever read the book, or much else, for that matter, and most physicists don’t even bother to read it before “reviewing” via some lame weak interpretation of the physics, which isn’t even what the book is about!
    Anybody that wants a fair review of this book should NOT get it from a physicist!

  9. May 31, 2007 at 5:18 am

    I have to comment once more because I have a new appreciation for Rob’s position as I have recently been learning about his religous inclinations. I now understand why this physicist must remain strictly fixed to the consensus of the cutting edge, rather than some, more conservative approach, so Rob only sees the physics as a selection effect, which means that Davies is necessarily a crackpot for thinking otherwise.
    Rob still loses, because he cannot think for himself as a result of this, but the term “loser” doesn’t really apply as well as it did before I found out about the kind of peer pressure that he is under to distance himself from anything that could be considered to be supporting a religous position.
    Even though Davies does not do this, creationists commonly do, while neowdarwinians let them get away with it by denying Davies position even exists… like Rob is doing.
    None of this has anything to do with science, and that’s the biggest shame to it all, because there is evidence for biocentric preference in this universe, that could very well mean everything if this is related to the stability mechanism that got the anthropic principle its name in the first place.
    Just wanted to clear the air of some of the stink so that I can stand the next round of non-science, from scientists, mostly.

  10. May 31, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Island, you’ve clarified your position very well, but are you putting words in Rob’s mouth? We don’t know whether or not he is feeling peer pressure about this particular book. If he sees this, maybe he’ll comment and let us know.

  11. Frumious B
    May 31, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Anybody that wants a fair review of this book should NOT get it from a physicist!

    Excuse me while I laugh my ass off. Ahem. Who but another physicist is best equiped to offer an accurate critique of Davies? Ah, but accurate critiques are not what you are after.

  12. May 31, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Fair enough, Zuska, but I know Rob’s position on the anthropic principle pretty well, and there is no excuse for his comments.
    Anyway, I was also hoping that my statements might compel you to bear in mind a what I’ve said when/if you read Paul’s book, because Paul Davies is a very respectable physicist, who has made some significant contributions to science. He is an understudy of John Wheeler, and Paul personally organized John Wheeler’s 90th birthday celebration. Paul has also dedicated his book to John, in case you didn’t notice, so when Rob attacks Paul, he also attacks John, because Paul Davies supports Wheeler’s strong anthropic interpretation.
    Frumious B, it was another very respected physicist, Brandon Carter, who first noted that this very strain of preconceived ideological dogma against the most apparent implications of the observed universe, runs rampant among scientists to the point that they’ll reach for any rationale in order to avoid the most apparent implication of the evidence.
    Rob “believes” that the anthropic principle is a selection effect, so Paul Davies is a crackpot.
    That’s dogma without an ounce of support, and you’ll get it from every last string theorist who believes in the “landscape”, which isn’t even falsifiable science, so when I generalize that you shouldn’t get your critique from physicists, I don’t mean that some very respected physicists don’t feel the same way that I do, rather, they are overshowed by the grinding wheels of a system whose constituents just KNOW that they’ve got all the answers and everyboby else is a crackpot.
    At least Rob has some kind of excuse. I just don’t really know how to classify it.

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