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Paperback The Conscious Universe: Part and Whole in Modern Physical Theory Book

ISBN: 0387972625

ISBN13: 9780387972626

The Conscious Universe: Part and Whole in Modern Physical Theory

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Book Overview

This book discusses the implications for philosophy of recent experimental results that confirm some counterintuitive aspects of the way matter behaves. The authors suggest that consciousness can no... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Complementarity of science and religion - the next level of consciousness

I am a firm believer that content trumps style, especially in a book such as this which is proposing a groundbreaking new view of the cosmos. So while I encountered some of the same difficulties with the authors' rendering of their ideas into intelligible language as some of the other reviewers, it was well worth the effort of decipherment to get at their message. While the sentences tend to be rather long and full of clauses, I didn't have so much trouble with that as with the tendency toward constant repetition, which persisted throughout the entire book. However, I was reading the older original version, which has since been revised and shortened, and hopefully purged of the repetition. Whatever its stylistic demerits, this is a book which should interest anyone who feels, as I do, that both science and religion(or spirituality) offer crucial positive benefits to humanity; but that both tend to overstep their bounds in trying to negate the role of the other. Kafatos, a quantum physicist, harks back to the thinking of Niels Bohr, a primary founder of quantum theory, to try and reconcile this conflict between science and religion. To accomplish this, he explores and develops Bohr's concept of complementarity. Complementarity can be exemplified by the dual nature of light. If an experiment on the nature of light is performed in a certain way, light appears to be a waveform; if the conditions of the experiment are structured in a different way, then light may assume the form of a stream of particles, or photons. Kafatos argues that this principle of complementarity extends throughout all scales and aspects of the universe as comprehended by human understanding. Thus, the reductionist attempts of scientists to pin down any process of nature to just one all-defining theory will be frustrated; because the manner in which the experiments are set up and the mental framework of the scientist as determined by his cultural milieu will impinge on the form which the result assumes. This is not to say that Kafatos is a relativist, or that he is saying that science is a purely subjective exercise. He firmly asserts that he does believe there is such a thing as an objective reality. The problem, as he states it, is that the limits of our knowledge are bounded. The universe, as he conceives it, is totally a quantum universe. According to quantum theory, and as has been demonstrated in experiments, a seeming paradox that is observed between photons, or quanta, of light is that they maintain a relationship to one another at great distances(theoretically even if they were at opposite ends of the galaxy)so that when one photon is impacted in such a way as to change its orientation, its partner-at-a-distance is immediately affected in a corresponding manner. What this suggests to quantum physicists is not that this is some supernatural form of magic, but that contrary to appearances, quanta are not separate phenomena. They are rather, different manifestations of a w

Looking forward to this 2nd edition

From the editorial review (and another customer's review), it sounds like the authors have made several improvements over the first edition. (For example, the first edition was in dire need of an editor who could tame the author's copiously worded and convoluted sentences.) Anyway, I really enjoyed the first edition nonetheless. Not being a scientist (in physics or otherwise), I appreciated the ambitious attempt to condense the vast scope of quantum theory into a manageable package. The examples of non-locality and complementarity lead convincingly to the conclusion that the universe is an indivisible whole and effectively explain how the whole of reality is unknowable to us because our conciousness is part of that reality (i.e., the universe is "conscious"). We can take it as axiomatic that science can never reveal reality (no more or less than religion can, for example), yet the authors do torture their analysis of complementarity by trying to apply it as a kind of fundamental principle of human consciousness, e.g., asserting that a person's inability to both rationalize and "feel" an experience simultaneously is complementarity akin to the behavior of quanta under observation. To me, this conclusion seems based on a bias many scientists express quite openly, i.e., that human beings in general are profoundly complex in the manifestation of their consciousness and rather than accept the simplest explanation of consciousness, adopt one that is more exalted and ripe with metaphor. The problem is that the bias is unquestioned -- at least in the first edition. It's equally plausible that through the eons humans evolved separate, simple, and highly tactical systems that evince complexity in their combination, but under scrutiny are discrete and self-reinforcing through the evolutionary process. Also, I don't think there's any evidence that the specific and "peculiar" behavior of infinitesimal quanta bear a relationship to a human's application of his or her consciousness to any macro effect. The brain, like the universe, may operate on quantum principles, but the brain's function was molded by macro forces, i.e., some adaptations/mutations survive, others do not. That leads me to my last comment that the authors seemed to hurtle into the comparison of scientific ways of knowing vs. religious or spiritual ways of knowing. The conclusion that science cannot ultimately reveal reality is a good one. Yet again, the authors fall prey to a bias by drawing parallels between quantum physics and mystical traditions that intuitively posited the oneness of the universe. The bias revealed is similar to that of thinkers who equate aesthetic beauty with scientific truth (it's observational bias). The intuition of mystics, no matter how beautifully resonant of quantum mechanical principles, is still no more prescient or "true" than the belief that aliens seeded the earth because these beliefs cannot be correlated to any specific set of universal principles. T

Improvement over the original

In this book, Kafatos and Nadeau update their 1990 book "The Conscious Universe: Part and Whole in Modern Physical Theory." The thesis/purpose of the new book is identical, the content is about 70% the same, but the book is completely reorganized and in mostly rewritten. The new book is greatly improved over the old. The authors made it shorter and more succinct, driving home their thesis with greater power. The florid prose of the old book is mostly absent. The only area I liked better from the old book is its earlier and extended elaboration on ontological dualism, a crucial concept for their thesis that is presented too late and too briefly in the new book. But all in all this is the book for new readers. The authors take Bohr's principle of complementarity and explore its application, espousing it as a new paradigm for human perception at every level, mundane to cosmic. The ramifications of their excellently thought-out argument make rich food for thought. The authors also shed clear light on ramifications of our universe's NON-LOCALITY as suggested by experiments testing Bell's Theorem. One irritating thing is the authors' dislike of hidden variable theories due to their untestability, while at the same time they reach equally untestable conclusions.

Excellent so far

This book is a wonderful synthesis of different fields. It provides a broad overview on the nature of reality and consciousness.

Either You Like It or You Don't

This is probably one of the most important books you can read if you wish to understand modern systems theory. Very few books will spawn as much research in different fields as this one will. I'm sorry that the previous reviewer did not see the merits of this book
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