THE COSMIC BLUEPRINT by Paul Davies. Radnor, Pennsylvania: Templeton Foundation Press, 2004. 222 pages, references, index. Softcover; $16.95. ISBN 1-932031-66-9.
Bernard J. Piersma, Professor of Chemistry, Houghton College, reviewed the first edition (1988 hardcover) of this book in PCSF 42 (March 1990), page 53. That edition has been out of print for several years. Dr. Davis has added a six page preface to this edition, but otherwise the book appears to have undergone little change.
Dr. Piersma's review may be revisited on the ASA web site; he recommended the book "enthusiastically" and I echo that recommendation, as well as his review, which excellently catches the flavor and importance of the book. Sixteen intervening years have not dimmed the book's luster. It should be a "keeper" for every ASA member.
Paul Davis is the author of over twenty-five books. His 1983 book, GOD AND THE NEW PHYSICS, was reviewed by Robert Shacklett in JASA (Dec 1984). His 1995 book, ARE WE ALONE?, was reviewed by Lucas Morel in PSCF 48 (June 1996), page 124. Davies is currently a professor of natural philosophy in the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University. In 1999, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Most ASA members are familiar with LaPlaces' 1819 claim that the universe is completely determined, the future fixed in every detail. Davies completely demolishes this claim. He also regards reductionism as a failed research programme, writing (page 140) "Complete reductionism is nothing more than a vague promise founded on the outdated and discredited concept of determinism. . . (it) simply dodges many of the questions about the world that are most interesting to us. . . it denies that the arrow of time has any reality. Defining a problem away does not explain it." He also rejects the concept of "uncaused creativity," one espoused by Bergson, Popper and Denbigh, on the basis that it is simply "unscientific." That leaves, for him, only one position, "organizing principles," in the hunt. On page 142, as part of his argument, he writes: "I have been at pains to argue that the steady unfolding of organized complexity in the universe is a fundamental property of nature ... there must be new general principles ... which have yet to be discovered."
A Christian apologist ignores books such as this at the considerable risk of being excluded from the conversation. If you've not read it, get it. Study it. Think how to present the "Christian" perspective in a book study group. Must we argue for the Bergson alternative? Or are there other possibilities to explain our existence in this complex and wonderful world?
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson
IBM Corporation (retired)
Submitted to PERSPECTIVES 10-5-2004