Instaread Summary of The Big Picture On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll
Four out of five stars
One of the most frustrating things that I encounter when reading is when an author creates a “new” phrase to describe something already well described and understood. Therefore, I was soured on the book in the second paragraph of text in this summary.
That paragraph is:
‘“Poetic naturalism” is a way of describing the world that relies on observations and the use of consistent language when describing it. Consistent descriptions of phenomena consider only one microscopic or macroscopic layer of cause and effect at a time and accept that traits in the macroscopic level can be “emergent” from seemingly unrelated causes on the microscopic level.’
People like me that are trained in science or those that understand science realize that this fancy new phrase is just another name for the very tried and true scientific method. The first sentence describes how data is collected and the second explains how that data is interpreted and used to explain nature.
In my opinion, the author that was already in a hole continued to dig in the next paragraph.
“Using this ontology, scientists can establish that all things have a cause and that the universe contains all of the necessary information in the present moment to determine what will happen in the next. By applying Bayesian inference, a way of calculating probabilities using prior knowledge in addition to evidence and experience, this ontology can address major questions of physics and metaphysics.”
This is just another statement of what Albert Einstein was quoted as saying when faced with the uncertainties inherent in quantum mechanics. “The good Lord does not play dice.” The fact of the matter is that scientists CANNOT establish that the universe contains all of the necessary information to determine what will happen in the future. The author is also completely neglecting the field of chaos theory.
It is often hard to separate the quality of a summary from that of the book. In this case, the summary is good because it contains enough information to conclude that Carroll puts forward positions that are so outlandish that no amount of quality poetic naturalism prose in the book will allow for a recovery.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.