Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Mosque in Mumich

A Mosque in Munich

By Ian Johnson

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

This was a difficult book for me. I know nothing of Islam or the Muslim Brotherhood and have little knowledge of how all these Muslims have inhabited Western Europe and of all places, Germany.

I was drawn to the book because of my interests in Nazis and the CIA and the “blowback” issue – how the CIA incorporated Nazis into our American spy organization after Word War II and its effects on our country and our policies.

I have read some on the Jewish/Arab problem also. In reading some pro-Jewish or pro-Israel literature, I have frequently noted reference to Arabs as Nazis. I was interested in that connection. I knew about Lawrence of Arabia and the pro-Ally Arabs but I have read nothing on the pro-Nazis Arabs.

This book is about a particular Mosque established in Munich. Its roots established during World War II and its development and expansion to the present day.

Russian Muslims were originally incorporated into the German Nazi Military. It seems that the Russian Muslims were not treated well under the Tsar or under the Bolsheviks.

Consequently many were eager volunteers and more than willing to turn against their home country. Being first of all “believers” they were motivated anti-communists. Being persecuted and suppressed in their homeland they were also avid social activist. They were also not happy with the Jews. The Jews were well known biblical prophet killers and did not recognize the last great prophet, Mohammed or his predecessor Jesus Christ for that matter. So to fight the godless Russian and at the same time extinguish the biblical prophet killers was a two-fer.

What I have been told in this book about the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic religion is not positive. The book leaves me with the notion that Islam is a religious form of Nazism.

The Nazis believed in world domination. They believed in the superiority of one race, one color and basically one nation. They believed in a world dominated and eventually supplanted by the Arian. All other races and nations would eventually be overrun and “replaced.” The Nazis believed that any form of terrorism – murder, killing and extermination – was honorable and necessary for the future establishment of their goal of world conquest and the spreading of the Arian culture and philosophy.

The impression left in my mind after reading this book is that Islam is a religious/political movement with the goal of eventual world domination. The only difference between it and Nazism would be that Nazism was based on nationalism and race and Islam is based on religious belief. If you are not a Muslim, you have no permanent claim to life and equal justice – or even justice in the afterlife.

I have been led to believe that this ruthless form of World Domination is only the province of radical Muslims. I think it was only mentioned once in this book and only in passing that there is such a thing as a moderate Muslim who believes in toleration of other religious beliefs. A map of the world with the present Islamic nations exhibited in a certain color (green?) was mentioned several times.

These are all general notions that I have gained from reading between the lines of what is a specific book, based on specific research done on one Mosque in Munich. A Mosque that I now know was home to many violent radicals and terrorist activists and subject to several evolutions. It received funding from international sources most notably Saudi Arabia and initially the American CIA.

Immediately after World War II, these radical Muslims were involved in Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and other CIA fronted broadcast operations designed to promote western propaganda into communist Russia and its satellites.

I would say that this book is not an advertisement to promote understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood or Islam in general. I read it as a warning.
It is not much of an ad for the American CIA either.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bloggin' Be My Life

The Bitter Road To Freedom

By William I. Hitchcock

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

This book is about the liberation of Europe during World War II. The author claims that this is a neglected story.

And it most certainly is.

When most of us visualize the Liberation of Europe we picture brave, courageous, allied soldiers giving those Germans what they deserve.

We see Paris and beautiful girls rushing into the streets with roses or flinging their arms around allied troops and drowning them with hugs and kisses.

I remember reading a quote by some famous American General where he laughingly proclaims something to the effect that any American G.I. who doesn’t get laid tonight has something seriously wrong with him.

The liberation was one big party. Victory after victory with Germans soldiers running and the allies in joyous pursuit while the entire civilian population applauded and danced in the streets.

This is hardly an accurate picture.

The author puts us in the shoes of the biggest victims of all wars, the civilian population. The picture he paints is of a German tank rolling over the victimized population coming in and then again rolling over that same population falling back. This is followed by the allied tank that rides over them for a third and sometime fourth time.

Innocent men, women and children are slaughtered and victimized. Young girls and woman of all ages are raped over and over again by the Germans and then by the allies.

All their crops and food supplies are confiscated by the moving armies. The soldiers must eat even if the civilians must starve.

Their plow animals are killed, their chickens and livestock devoured leaving them starving. Their homes are bombed and destroyed and they retreat and hide in caves, forests or ruins. They are starving and homeless.

They are sick too. How could they not be. They die from simple things, many from depression and loss of hope. They have no medical supplies. Their cuts and wounds become infected. The army, invading or liberating, has nothing to share. They both take.

It is a horror story of the grandest proportions.

We see it all through the eyes of the civilians and those volunteers who came to assist. We listen to doctors and nurses and aid group volunteers. We see the battles between them and the allied commanders. The commanders are still actively engaged in fighting the war. They have no time to think of civilians. They try to control the behavior of their soldiers but it is impossible.

The civilian death toll climes and climes.

And why was this story clouded over in platitudes and myths for so many decades?

Because the myths and platitudes were easier to swallow.

The civilians back home didn’t want to hear it. They wanted to forget it. They wanted it to go away. They wanted it to be over. It all got buried.

If this whole tragedy weren’t horror enough, we then come in the last one hundred pages to the liberation of the concentration and extermination camps.

I've read numerous first person accounts written by victims of the holocaust. They were always difficult to read. But in most of these accounts throughout all the misery there was always a faint glimmer of hope. All of these accounts were written by survivors.

In this book we see these people through the eyes of the soldiers and the health workers – the liberators. We see their disgusting state. Just looking at them made observers puke and fill with hate. A hate that took its roots in the victims not necessarily with the perpetrators. We see the prejudices ruling the day.

The picture these healthy observers paint is even worse than those painted by survivors in their personal accounts. The desperation, the hopelessness, the tens of thousands who could not be saved and who continued to live in their own filth and squalor is a tale beyond the gruesome.

Reading all of this brings this reader to a new understanding of the word Jew and Israel, the Promised Land.

Every Jew in every camp, it seems, had dreams of going to Israel. And who could blame them. The world had abandoned the Jew before, during and now after the war. There was only one safe place for the Jew and that was being surrounded by other Jews.

They wanted to be left to themselves, to rule over themselves. They trusted no one. They believed in nothing.

Reading about what happened to the Jews even after the war and during the so called liberation makes it very clear why the Israeli of today will do anything to save their state, their new homeland. I think it would be very difficult for any Israeli to respect any human law totally. I doubt if they will ever leave themselves vulnerable to world opinion ever again … world laws either. They know where they stand in the eyes of the world and clearly, they will never let it happen to them again.

We also see the roots of the Cold War and the strange affinity of Americans towards Germans. The hated Nazis. They should be despised. But no, the Americans and the Allies treat the Germans better than they treat the tortured and emaciated Jews. The abusers are pampered and the victims abused.

The Nurenburg trails are more of a whitewashing of the Nazi atrocities than an exposure of their inhuman abusiveeness. Many Jewish victims refuse to even testify at the trials wondering why these barbarians are afforded their day in court. When would the twenty or more millions who were slaughtered get their day in court?

This is certainly the other side of the story. A heart wrenching, horrible side. Another serious case for the avoidance of war and its use as a method of diplomacy.
More reasons for Americans to look into their Military Industrial Complex and the Bush legacy of preemption. And certainly more reasons for the world to examine its self-destructive and abusive tendencies.

There must be a better way.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Poverty and George Will


Poverty seems to be both universal and timeless. But, as with pornography, everyone recognizes it when they see it, yet find the concept impossible to define. My reading in philosophy has led me to believe that nothing can be understood adequately unless it can be defined.

So far the simplest and most straight forward definition that I have is that poverty is a lack of money or material possessions. This definition, of course, is very vague. Almost all of us can attest to having a lack of money and material possessions to some degree but we don’t necessarily consider ourselves to be living in a state of poverty. Today many consider the State of Poverty to be a real place – namely Mississippi. But even given this terrible set of circumstances most of us would agree that we would rather be poor in Mississippi than in India or Bangladesh, Bangkok or Baghdad.

So what is poverty? Let me give it a shot here: Poverty is that state or condition in which an individual or a group of individuals within a given society or structure are unable to provide for themselves adequately.

Right off, I see that the problem with this definition is the word “adequately.” Who or how do we determine what is adequate?

Let’s try again: Poverty is that state or condition in which an individual or a group of individuals are unable to provide for themselves in a manner acceptable to the majority of the people composing the group or community of which the said individual or group of individuals is a part or member.

This would make poverty into a relative concept. In other words, whether a person is living in poverty or not would be determined by the judgment of the majority living within that particular group or community.

I would say that this is the fact of the matter. What would be considered poverty in Denmark might not be what is considered poverty in Bangkok. But whether in Bangkok or Mississippi whatever we decided is poverty, this state is determined by money and or material possessions. It is not a state of mind. It is a condition that exists in economic reality. And what determines a person’s relative poverty is a matter of what he owns or earns. If what he owns or what he earns is below a certain standard then it is deemed that he is living in a state of poverty.

The solution to poverty would then be that an individual or group of individuals living in poverty must somehow have their material possessions or quantity of money enhanced to that degree considered to be acceptable by the surrounding society or group.

Obviously, if we determine who the poverty stricken are within a given society and we give them money and or material possessions in sufficient quantity we could eradicate poverty from within our society or any given society. But there has never been any society that has found this to be an acceptable method for the eradication of poverty. There are a million problems with this method and I don’t think that I have to elaborate.

But before we even get to the possibility of the above as a solution we must all be brought to accept that poverty does exist in reality within our particular societies.

In the early days of human civilization poverty was somewhat glossed over by the institutions of slavery and peasantry. In these early days both slavery and peasantry were accepted as destined, inevitable, acceptable and in most cases established by God.

Most of the early religious leaders – Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, and many of the early Jewish prophets – saw an injustice in this attitude. They set out on the charitable mission of reforming the established acceptance of poverty and turning the eradication of poverty into a religious goal.

Instead of the elite and successful being the chosen people of God – Egyptians, Romans, Greeks etc., these reformers taught that the poor huddled masses were the chosen. If not the chosen, at the least, they were to be included and not excluded from God’s select circle.

This went on rather haphazardly until John Calvin and others of his time began to spin the story of God’s love back onto the lives of the rich and famous. I would say that this is pretty much where we stand today on this matter.

The debate after Calvin was picked up once again during the enlightenment. Certain social thinkers e.g. Godwin, Voltaire, J. S. Mill, Karl Marx and many, many more, began to suggest that poverty was not a condition established by God or that this condition was not inevitable but was brought on by society in general.

This did not sit well with the Generals of societies. One of the first defenders of the status quo and society in general was Malthus.

Malthus suggested that the reason that poverty, starvation and destitution were growing at such an alarming rate was very simple. Food supply increased arithmetically while people increased geometrically. Therefore starvation, destitution, and poverty were inevitable. It was not so much that the rich were not willing to share or that society in general was inadequate, but more because of mankind’s sexual practices and especially the sexual overindulgence of the poor and poverty stricken. Poor people were producing too many of their kind.

Today conservative thinkers like, George Will, still advocate this same notion.

George Will says that the eradication of poverty in the U.S. is simple. All we have to do is stop teenage pregnancy.

George says this because 55% of all women living in poverty in America today were once pregnant teenagers.

I would also bet that over eighty percent of us alive today were born of a teenage mother or a very recent graduate from teenagerhood but ... whatever.

Both of these answers I find problematical.

First Malthus: If the question is: How can poverty be eradicated or how can we eliminate poverty. Neither of these answers addresses the issue.

If as Malthus suggested we have people who are living in poverty or who are of the poverty stricken class, produce fewer children, we would still have poverty. We could have fewer people living in poverty provided we do not have more people immigrating into this class (peasant) from other societies or that the economic circumstances within the society do not deteriorate thus reducing more and more people to a state of fewer and fewer material possessions or less and less income. Poverty as you will remember is an economic condition. It is defined by how much money and or material possessions a person has.

Mr. Will’s solution would also fail to eliminate “poverty.”

People would still be living in a state of poverty if teenage girls did not become pregnant. If all the daughters of the wealthy in America were allowed to become pregnant as teenagers and all the poor and poverty stricken in America were prevented from giving birth as teenagers the ranks of those living in Poverty would probably not be changed one iota. We may have fewer teenage girls living in poverty but poverty would remain.

By keeping your daughter free from teenage pregnancy you may decrease her chances of living a life of poverty but you certainly won’t eliminate poverty. Poverty depends on how much money a person earns or has access to – not on whether she is a teenager or if she is pregnant.

This also applies to those who advocate education as a means of eliminating poverty.

We can educate children and thus give them a greater chance of earning more money but this will not eliminate poverty. You can educate everybody in the world but if the world does not have enough jobs of above poverty level income available you will simply have smarter people living in a state of poverty. You will probably have the additional challenge of trying to outsmart brighter thieves and burglars. Then you will have to create brighter police officers.

If in the time of Malthus all poverty was in the peasant class, then it would follow that poverty could have been eradicated by eliminating all peasants. But if I have my history in tact, peasants were the people who did the farming. They did the hoeing and the cultivating.

If the peasants were all eliminated the food supply would also have been eliminated. In which case Malthus’s bright idea would not only have eliminated poverty it would also have eliminated prosperity.

One may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth but if there is no pudding or porridge or Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, what good is your silver spoon?

The bottom line is: if the peasants constituted poverty, in order to eradicate poverty the peasant material condition must be enhanced somehow.

If a pregnant teenage girl must live in poverty because she is only capable of working at a job that provides a poverty sustaining wage if she delays her pregnancy ten years but at the end of that time she is still only capable of working at a job which pays poverty sustaining wages, then what have you accomplished?

There is an elephant in the living room here that neither Malthus nor George Will want to face.

As long as you have jobs that supply only poverty sustaining wages you will have poverty.

Now we are getting to the real problem.

If your system demands that employers must, of necessity, pay wages that sustain poverty, the society will either have to learn to accept poverty, shake its head and blame it on God as they have in the past. Or the system will have to be ungraded or tweaked.

The system can only be tweaked in so many ways as I see it.

You can leave the employer alone and subsidize those who must perform the poverty producing jobs by some sort of redistribution of wealth via taxation; or you can standardize the pay rate so that no job is poverty sustaining; or you can do a combination of both of these alternatives until there are no people living under the conditions that the majority of the people of this society find inadequate.

Unfortunately the poor cannot eliminate poverty. One poor person can work and possibly change his condition but this does not eliminate the economic conditions that dictate the necessity of poverty.

Poverty is not individual but systemic. Only those who make the rules and pay the wages can eliminate poverty.

If we apply the Willie Sutton Principle here; If a situation can only be satisfied by money, then those with the money or those who control the supply of money are the only ones who can apply the solution. This means business, banking, government … society.

The poor have to be willing, able and have the capacity to earn the money if it is made available. This is understood. There will always be those that are incapable, but that is a much different problem.

In the U.S. it is estimated that there are between 36 and 40 million people living in what is defined by the government as poverty. Unemployment is estimated to be between 4% and 5%. That means that one third of these people are currently registered to be looking for employment. There are no statistics on undocumented workers or on the criminal underclass of chronically unemployed. So this means that over two thirds of these people (36-40 million) are currently employed. These people are working to maintain their poverty. You can either raise their wages, or give them what they need.

As long as society allows employment that pays wages that sustain poverty, there will always be someone who is living and working in a state of poverty. You cannot educate away poverty; you cannot de-populate poverty; you cannot racially cleanse away poverty. To remove poverty requires money. Money means better paying jobs. Somebody is going to have to pay for it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tenement Dwellers - Hart's Package Store

Lawrence – My Hometown Hart’s Package Store By Richard E. Noble The drug of choice for my generation Lawrencian street elf was alcohol. We started at a very early age. I remember the first sip of Muscatel I sneaked from the fridge. It was so bad. I could not understand the attraction. My fist sip of beer received an equally poor reception. But …

So there we were (the Howard version of the Bowery Boys) staked out around Hart’s package store on Lawrence St. We had already sent in most of the older looking guys. They were all laughed out of the store by the owner. We were waiting for an unfamiliar face – preferably a man with a large red nose and a meandering, uncoordinated step. Finding such a man was a rather expensive proposition. As our package store representative, each “agent” claimed to be providing us with a very low commission rate or service charge – in truth they acted more like Lehman Brothers, Charles Shawarb, or Liberty Mutual. They were taking the Bowery Boys for a ride.

In the past we hired such agents as we found sleeping in the coal bin at Cronin’s Coal Company on Hampshire St., or May and Mary, ladies who were known to do “anything” for a drink. To these girls we were like a free ride – all profit with no bed tax.

But most notorious of them all was, Billy the Bum, self-proclaimed King of the Hoboes. Billy came wandering out of the woods one day up at the Howard Playstead. He was something right out of the Adventures of Huck Fin or Tom Sawyer – like Injun Joe or some of Mark’s other infamous theatricals. Billy had story after story. It was from Billy that we learned of such things as the National and International Hobo Convention, the differences between a Hobo and a Bum, riding the rails, making a Mulligan stew, Hobo script, and the infamous Hobo jungles.

Billy made no advances towards the position of Liquor Store Agent for the Howard Bowery Boys, we solicited his services. He was very exacting in giving us the details of his purchases on our behalf. I guess there was no such thing as a sales slip back in those ancient times. But Billy only showed up at certain times of the year. It was imperative that we founded our own agency. We often fell upon that big, red-nosed man with a meandering step but we yearned for the day when one of “our gang” could present a suitable image. We finally found such an image in the deceptive maturity of a young man in the gang by the name of Michael T. Michael had this air of “old” about him. He was a very large child. He was swarthy complected and may have been shaving at an early age. We badgered Mike to accept this challenge. This could mean big saving for the gang as a whole and provide needed revenue for future gang investments (hockey sticks and chess boards). Mike agreed to step up and give it a shot.

He wore his “old man” overcoat, work boots and I think may have even doffed a felt hat. The night was cold and it was snowing lightly when Mike went sauntering into Hart’s. We were all huddled in a lump away from the entrance to the store hanging onto someone’s chainlink fence.

The tension was excruciating. It seemed like Mike was taking forever. Maybe old man Hart had finally lost it and called the cops. Mike could be inside handcuffed to the liquor counter. What should we do?

Finally Mike came strolling out with a shopping bag full of quart bottles – they could have been either Black Label or Narragansett GIQ’s; those were our favorites.

“What the hell took you so long?”

“I was shooting the breeze with old Mr. Hart. I was telling him all about my kids and the work at the mill.”

“Come on – you’re kidding?”

“No, I told him all about the boys and little Susan, my youngest.”

“Oh brother, you better remember all that hooey when you show up next week.”

“No problem. I got a brain like a bank vault.”

“Yeah right! Empty, heavily guarded and usually closed.”

“Well, you are entitled to your opinion but I got the booze, didn’t I?”

From that day forward we were independent brokers. We bought our own shares and pocketed the commission. Mike was our liquor rep from age sixteen forward. I presume he kept his family history straight for Mr. Hart. Old Mr. Hart was still asking me for ID when I was twenty-six years old for god sake. As time passed, there were three of us who would meet every Friday night – payday. I worked at the First National on Broadway, Mike worked at the Stop and Shop further down Broadway and Jimmy worked at the new Stop & Shop between Chelmsford and Spruce Streets.

Jimmy was the only one with a car. He would pick us up and we were off to PJ Pizza on Broadway and then to Hart’s on Lawrence St. We would get Italian meat pies and Sicilian style pizza (thicker crust – more to eat) and then head up to the baseball dugouts at the Howard.

We would sit in the dugout and gorge ourselves. On those cold, snowy winter nights, we would remain in Jimmy’s car with the heater on and the windows fogged up, slobbering our way through the evening discussing world affairs and laughing and joking about all the failings of our respective employers and supervisors in particular. I’m not kidding when I say I can still taste that beer. Beer had a flavor in those by-gone days that just doesn’t exist today. Maybe some of these new mini-breweries today can match that flavor, but I don’t know. The teams of surgeons and medical people who now supervise my behavior have told me that my liver has had enough beer. I question their medical expertise and I am searching for a second opinion. I’m looking for a Doctor whose last name is Narragansett – Dr. Robert Narragansett or Dr. Rupert Narragansett maybe. I don’t think a Dr. Nancy Narragansett will do the trick. Women have always harbored this innate prejudice toward drunken men. I don’t get it. It must be a “girl” thing. Of course, the meat pies and pizza were not and still aren’t “heart happy” food choices.

Richard Edward Noble is a freelance writer and columnist. His local column, the Eastpointer, won the first place 2007 humor award from the Florida Press Association. He has published several books. All of his books can be viewed and purchased on He can be contacted at for bookstore discounts and volume sales.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Bloggin' Be My Life - Slumlords

The Hobo Philosopher: Is America Owned by Slumlords By Richard E. Noble
I was raised in a slum. I would call it a ghetto but that term, has a more racial overtone. Ghettoes are where races of unaccepted people are sequestered, usually because of some sort of hatred or prejudice. A slum is inhabited by a multitude of poor of any ethnic or racial background. They are all there not necessarily because of any hatred or prejudice on the part of the established population but for lack of any other place to put them. The interesting thing about slums is that they never seem to go away. The slum that I was raised in is still there and it looks even worse than it looked fifty years ago. The population inhabiting that slum is new and the conditions of their lives are even worse than what my life was when I lived there. Today as I drive around America it looks to me like a country that has been purchased by what we once called a slumlord. A slumlord was a guy who bought property in deteriorating areas for the sole purpose of making as large a profit as possible until the building finally tumbled to the ground. Our country today looks like it has been bought up by slumlords. Take a look around. Roads and bridges are deteriorating, school houses all over America are falling apart. I read someplace that 50% of America's children are being taught in school building that are not safe or have been condemned. This seems difficult to believe. But true or false, I’m beginning to wonder who really owns America today. Our industrial base is gone. Manufacturing once represented 80% of our GDP. It now represents 20%. Jobs are leaving our country and domestic wages are dropping. If Americans were truly running this country would they be doing this to themselves? I can’t believe that they would. Why aren’t slums gone in America? We know that poverty circumstances nurture crime. Why are we nurturing crime and promoting poverty? Why do we expect a worker to learn a new trade every five years? Why don’t we protect our industries, our workers and our jobs? Why do we tolerate homelessness? No one should be living in the streets, sewers or alleys of America. Why do we tolerate drug addiction? Why do we tolerate unemployment? Why is it that any child who has the ability is not going to college? How can we cut funds to hospitals for cancer treatment and other diseases? How can we allow hospitals to close when there are people without medical care? What is going on here? Are Americans running America? I don’t think so. I think we are an occupied country. Somebody strange is pulling the strings. No country would do such things to itself. Something has got to change. We can afford war but we can’t afford peace. Why not? How did it become national policy that we promote peace by initiating war? The Bush administration has now STARTED two wars. How did this happen? When is this insanity going to end? When does America come to its senses? Not only do bridges and roads have to be rebuilt, our slums have to be torn down and rebuilt. Neighborhoods have to be recreated with employment at their centers. Our system needs a new moral code – a moral code that despises poverty, slums, and unemployment. We once despised businesses that were too big. Now all our businesses are so big that they can’t be allowed to fail. Maybe the failure is that they have been allowed to grow too big? Our bottom line economics no longer makes sense. We can’t keep putting everybody out of work and sending our jobs overseas and expect our nation to grow. We have to build new jobs in America and keep them in America. Our children must be protected. Their parents must have jobs and affordable places to live and raise their children. This is not economic theory. This is common sense. This all must end. The insanity must stop. We must have peace, security and prosperity at home before we go abroad to set the world straight.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Marcelo Gleiser

The Prophet and the Astronomer
By Marcelo Gleiser
Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

“In this book I explore religion’s assimilation of cataclysmic cosmic phenomena and its influence on scientific thought through the ages from the pre-Socratic philosophers of ancient Greece to modern day cosmology … Indeed, I will argue that we create a scientific world as we do a spiritual one – in order to overcome fear, to defy time, to understand our place in the world, and to justify our lives … Drawing on the Book of Danial, the Book of Revelation, and an investigation of apocalyptic sects, art and literature we will examine the formation and evolution of the solar system, the extinction of dinosaurs, Einstein’s general theory of relativity, pulsars and black holes, the big bang and the inflationary universe, all the way to the latest ideas on cosmology.”

Reading the above, a curious reader who is not familiar with Marcelo Gleiser might conclude that this is a book by some right wing religious preacher type who is going to do a mystical tap dance on the science of the Universe.

Not so.

Marcelo Gleiser is the real thing. He is a professor of Natural Philosophy, physics, astronomy at Dartmouth College. If you are like me and found your way to an interest in the origins of the Universe and science in general via early religious training followed by studies of early Greek and Roman philosophers, then you will enjoy reading this book.

This author keeps it as simple and understandable as could be expected while dealing with highly complicated cosmological theory and speculative particle physics.

The first part of the book was right up my alley. The reader is taken back to before the time of Christ and the Christian era. The author links the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and philosophies to the heavens.

We learn about Zoroaster and other pre-Christian like tales. We see how the heavens have always played their part in the hopes and fears of humans. We see the connection between astrology, astronomy, religions and their holy books.

We delve into comets and asteroids make connections between then and now.

The old superstitions are constantly being updated to our present day superstitions and similarly cultish ideas.

The author continually attempts to explain to the reader the difference between religious superstition and science.

This is easier said than done.

As the author delves more and more deeply into speculative cosmology and particle physics, the Big Bang, black holes and whatnot, the line between the fantasies of the superstitious and the scientific get more and more blurred.

The bottom line:

“First and foremost, science does not promise redemption. Science is a human invention preoccupied with understanding the workings of nature ... Science may not offer eternal salvation, but it offers the possibility of a life free from the spiritual slavery caused by the irrational fear of the unknown ... Thales of Miletus during the sixth century B.C.E. tried to understand the workings of nature, without invoking the actions of gods or God.”

Despite Thales the author points out repeatedly the many geniuses of science who specifically sought science as their means to establish the truth of their religious beliefs.

Isaac Newton stands out among these.

Isaac actually gave up his endeavors in science as a waste of his time to delve more deeply into what really mattered … the Bible and God’s revelations.

But as the author attempts to assuage our fears with the wonders of science, he exposes us to new real fears.

“The conclusion is clear: Earth has been bombarded by large objects in the past and not so distant past, just like all other bodies of the solar system. Scientists use terms like ‘cosmic pinball’, ‘cosmic shooting gallery’, ‘target earth’ and so forth to illustrate the fact that collisions are an integral part of life in the solar system.”

So the end of our world may still be just around the corner, Big bang or no Big bang and whether there is a God around that corner or not.

The point being that science may not eradicate all our fears but it may provide a rational explanation.

That could be considered helpful; then on the other hand, maybe not.

“If the history of life on earth, in all its myriad forms, can be understood as an experiment in evolutionary genetics orchestrated by natural selection, the emergence of intelligent life seems to be the result of a chance occurrence, an odd event that would be extremely hard to duplicate elsewhere. The long reign of the dinosaurs … success and longevity as a species makes it hard to argue for the necessity of intelligent life at the top of the evolutionary chain … it is much easier to argue for extraterrestrial life than for extraterrestrial intelligent life.”

We are all aware via Einstein and his famous theory of relativity that matter can be turned into energy but what about the reverse?

“The converse is also true, energy can turn to matter; it is possible for highly energetic photons … to spontaneously create particles of matter.”

Now this is my theory and not the authors.

For years I have been reading about a lack of matter in the universe and how nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. It seems that when something (for lack of a more scientific word) approaches the speed of light it gains in mass and consequently slows down. As it continues to slowdown and gains in mass, could it not then turn back into matter at some point along the way?

If the answer is yes, then are we not back to the possibility of a steady state universe with matter transforming into energy and energy reforming into matter according and in concordance with the laws concerning the conservation of energy and matter?

In which case there is not a lack of matter in the universe. What has always been there, is always there in one form or the other … and in balance.

A few pages later in this book the author criticizes scientific thinkers like Hoyle because their steady state notions suggest that matter must be created ex nihilo (from nothing) to sustain the steady state notion.

No, not from nothing does the necessary matter come, but from the energy (light) gaining mass and transforming back into matter.

The author is an avid Big Bang supporter. I am not.

I try my best to follow along but much of what the author explores in this regard, I feel will all be scrapped as time rolls on.

I’m referring to background noise, time having a beginning and ending, that time did not exist prior to the Big Bang, cosmological constants and the super inflationary early universe. All this I find dubious and compensating along with much else that Marcello hypothesizes and speculates upon.

But Professor Gleiser’s theorizing won’t be scrapped by the likes of me. And I intend to keep reading this author.

I know one thing for sure. If the science changes, so will Marcelo Gleiser. Because he is a scientist and not a dogmatist … or a theologian for that matter.