Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Short History - Bill Bryson

A Short History of Nearly Everything

By Bill Bryson

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

Unfortunately this sort of thing happens to me every now and then but not very often. The author of this work starts off with a premise that I can not accept and consequently I have no desire to continue reading the book. Even though the author apologizes for his lack of expertise in science and admits to be making the attempt to present science in a humorous and entertaining fashion, the error to me is so serious that I really don’t want to sift through any more of the author’s convoluted notions.
I didn’t get very far along either. I only managed to finish chapter one. On page two of the introduction the author states: “There needn’t actually be a universe at all. For the longest time there wasn’t. There were no atoms and no universe for them to float about in. There was nothing – nothing at all anywhere.”
This is a grossly unscientific statement. In fact, I would call it a theological statement. It is primarily a Christian theological statement. If the author had qualified this statement with a “there are those who believe” or something to the like, I might have gone along. But the author persists in this very unscientific notion.
I am sorry but I don’t believe in “nothing.” I consider nothing to be impossible. If there was ever a time that there was nothing, there would still be nothing today. The fact that there is something today establishes my point.
This is a philosophical argument that goes back to the days of Lucretius who also believed in the impossibility of nothing.
On page 4 the author continues: “This is a book about how it happened – in particular how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something.” Once again I must disagree. We didn’t go from being nothing to be being something … we went from being something to being something else possibly but no scientist can trace back the universe by any scientific method and return us to a time when there was “nothing.” It is impossible. It is religion to state such a phenomenon or state of impossibly … not science.
On page 10 the author continues: “…outside the singularity there is no where. When the universe begins to expand, it won’t be spreading out to fill a larger emptiness. The only space that exists is the space that it creates as it goes … The singularity has no “around” around it. There is no space for it to occupy, no place for it to be. We can’t even ask how long it has been there – whether it has just lately popped into being, like a good idea, or whether it has been there forever, quietly awaiting the right moment. Time doesn’t exist. There is no past for it to emerge from.
“And so from nothing our universe begins.”
Really? What happened to the “singularity”? Was it not something? And to say that time does not exist is to say that there were “events” that were not preceded or followed by other events. This is theological “speak” not science talk.
Now we have the author trying to establish “nothing” from something. This is total gobbledygook.
And he goes on: “…that introduced a measure of instability into the nothingness that was. It seems impossible that you could get something from nothing but the fact that once there was nothing and now there is a universe is evident proof that you can.”
The “fact” that there was once nothing? What fact? That the author has said so, makes it a fact? I don’t think so. The fact that there is now a universe is proof that there has always been something and that there has never been “nothing” not the reverse.
This is religion not science. If I want to read religion, I’ll order a Bible. I don’t need Bill Bryson teaching me the fundamentals of Christian Theology under the guise of presenting science ... or trying to be funny.
Sorry Bill but I’m not into wasting my time. I figure if you can make such a glaring affront to scientific inquiry in the first few pages how far into dumbville will I be forced to travel if I attempt to finish this joke? I have a sense of humor but I’m just not into totally stupid … just yet.
As it has so often been said by others much wiser than me, A house built on a weak foundation will not stand. There can be no weaker foundation in scientific thought than the mystical notion that “something” can come about from “nothing.” This is Alice in Wonderland and Tinkerbell. This is magic and voodoo. This is not science.
Philosophical definition of non-being or nothing: The state of no innate potential to be actualized, and no innate tendencies to actualize itself.
To state that something can come from nothing is simply a contradiction in terms. By definition it is logically impossible. And as far as has been determined from scientific inquiry – laws of conservation of matter and energy – the notion in impossible both actually and theoretically.
The goal behind this gobbledygook is obfuscation. It is the attempt to establish “creationism” into the big bang scientific theory notion and thus establish the religious platitude of God and Creator as being the mysterious source of the universe. Other than via “faith” and “revelation” there is still no way to postulate the notion of creation or a Creator.
The universe on the other hand is scientifically substantiated. It is; it always was; and it will always be as far as it can be determined and has been established scientifically. In relation to God and science, it is still as Mr. La Place once replied to the emperor Napoleon when asked why he had not mentioned God, the Creator in any of his many scientific books. “I have no need for that hypothesis,” replied the eminent scientist. And that remains to be the case today. When one steps out of the rational, reasonable, logical, and scientific, he steps into the never-never land of mythology, mysticism, fantasy, faith and religion. I have nothing against “faith” and religion but it has never mixed well with science. The two are better dealt with separately.

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