Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States on June 20, 2019
A well written, layman's overview of a huge number of topics in modern science. Cellular biology, biochemistry, evolutionary theory, cosmology and quantum physics are each given their own chapters, along with a good overview of quantum biology, which can only be appreciated once a basic understanding of the other topics is established. I found it easily understandable, but I also have some science background from colle courses and having read numerous layman's books.
What I disliked was the "sales approach" the author uses. He promises to give us new and insightful ideas about the nature of life and the origins of life and consciousnesses in the universe at the outset of the book, then about 80% of the rest of the book is, "But first we need to take a detour and discuss...", "But now we have to cover this field of science....", "But wait! There’s more! If you have followed along to this chapter, we need to diverge yet again...". After a while, I felt liked I’d been roped into a never ending online infomercial, that never gets to the point.
When he finally does get to the point of the book, at the dry end of the book, what we realize is two things: (1) the author has carefully sculpted and constructed his overviews of the various systems within science to cherrypick and put forth the specific interpretations within these fields that agree with his final conclusions. So we're not getting so much an objective overview of each field as we are a very carefully constructed, almost lawyerly, argument meant to support a very subjective case. (2) The final arguments he makes about how he thinks life and consciousness may have arisen in the universe are incredibly specious, even granting that he admits its pure speculation. The foundation of his argument is so ridiculously thin, it becomes immediately apparent that he needed hundreds of pages of ancillary justification to even try and put it forth with a straight face.
What does he say? I’ll save you the suspense of slogging through the whole book only to get to the punchline of a terribly constrewed idea: SPOILER ALERT: He relies on three common pillars of thought, only one of which has any solidity (in my opinion): quantum superposition (which is the solid one), the multiverse (the particular conception that posits a separate universe being spawned for every possible subatomic, atomic, molecular and macroscopic event in existence), and the anthropoic principle.
He employes the example of a simple protein capable of self-replication, calculates the enormous number of atomic combinations that could result from combinations of its base constituents (only one of which would be capable of self-replication), and argues that at some point on the pre-life earth, these atomic elements must have come together in a state of quantum superposition, with each permutation spawning off its own entire multiverse, until the permutation that allowed for a self-replicating protein spawned its own universe in which to begin the process of life, while all other permutations lead to dead end universes. And how do we know this really happened? Why of course, because we are here to talk about it.
Yes, that is really the conclusion he comes to. And his arguments about consciousness are even worse.
I hate to be so derogatory about the book, the author seems like a very well intentioned, kind and intelligent person, grasping for answers we simply are not at a place yet in science to answer. I have spent my life asking the same questions and looking for reasonable answers, and I’d hoped to at least find some insight in this book to lead me forward. What I found instead, was Monty Python's Cheese Shop sketch.
I do thank the author profusely for putting forward the best, most clear explanation of the double slit experiment I’ve read to date. Years ago, I came to agree with the conclusion he champions, that light (and other phenomena subject to particle/wave duality), are fundamentally wave-like in nature and only acquire local characteristics when tested. I do not however, agree with the ridiculous notion that we retroactively created the universe in the very act of evolving to become conscious observers of it (yes, he really does go there). Even Star Trek writers know to stay away from such silly time travel paradoxes. It is not the impenetrable obtuseness of an idea, but rather it’s immediate simplicity and elegance, that makes for genius of thought. I think last century there may have been some dabbling cross-fertilization between gypsy swamis from the Far East and substances discovered at the bottom of experiment beakers by biochemists, with their neighbors across the hall in the physics labs, that spawned such lunacy. Sorry, but we’re just not that important in the grand scheme of things. To those in the scientific community to whom it may concern, please stop with the utter nonsense and mysticism under the cloak and trappings of science. We all want answers, but jumping off the solid edge of reason into the abyss of blubbering fantasy is not a leap of faith, it just makes us all look a little more naive, to put it nicely.