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On Being (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 27. September 2012

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Review from previous edition Few can match the chiselled beauty of Peter Atkins's prose as he reflects on the nature of life and death, of beginnings and endings, urging us to put away comforting myths, and face into the keen wind of understanding which only science can bring. Richard Dawkins On Being is a delight to read. Who else can cover the grand sweep of existence with such clarity and wit as Peter Atkins? The text sparkles with lively metaphors and arresting insights. Even death comes alive in the hands of this master expositor! Paul Davies On Being is crisp with good sense, clear with scientific knowledge effortlessly imparted, and delicious with the sort of wit that makes you stop and put the book down just to enjoy it the more fully: the heaven of believers as 'a kind of celestial Poundbury', for example. It presents a vision of life and death, of matter and space and time, that is honest and consistent and miracle-free, except for the living and totally material miracle that is science and the scientific method. There's a level, unpretending, translucent nobility in this vision, and I admire it enormously. Philip Pullman a paean to science Times Literary Supplement genuine enjoyment Times Higher Education Supplement Peter Atkins answers...succinctly and elegantly. Nature An effortless read - a real page turner. BBC Focus

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Peter Atkins is Fellow of Lincoln College, University of Oxford. He is the author of almost 60 books, which include the world-renowned textbook Physical Chemistry (published in its ninth edition in November 2009). His other textbooks include Inorganic Chemistry: Chemical Principles and Molecular Quantum Mechanics. He has also written a number of books for a general readership, including Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science, The Periodic Kingdom, Molecules, and The Laws of Thermodynamics: A Very Short Introduction. He has been a visiting professor in France, Israel, New Zealand, and China, and continues to lecture widely throughout the world.

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Von Steven H Propp - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
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Peter William Atkins (born 1940) is an English chemist and former Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Lincoln College. He has written many popular chemistry textbooks, as well as books such as The Creation, Creation Revisited, Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science, etc.

He wrote in the Prologue to this 2011 book, “In this book… I consider merely the great questions of being, questions that for millennia have been the inspiration of myth, and explore what science can say to illuminate them and dispel their mystery without diminishing their grandeur or reducing our wonder. I consider matters such as beginnings of universes and selves, and the ends of both… I focus instead on the ability of the scientific method to illuminate matters of great human concern and drive out ignorance while retaining wonder.”

He asserts, “I stand by my claim that the scientific method is the only means of discovering the nature of reality, and although its current views are open to revision, the approach, making observations and comparing notes, will forever survive as the only way of acquiring reliable knowledge.” (Pg. xiii) He goes on, “The following pages are all about shedding myths, acquiring understanding, yet retaining, even enhancing, wonder. I am aware that there are many who consider ‘spiritual’ and ‘material’ to be as oil and water. I hope, however, that you will come away acknowledging that it is possible to take a near-spiritual you from a solely material perception of the world. I hope that you will also take pride in the majesty of the human ability, working collectively in space and time, to emerge from the chrysalis of myth and travel towards true comprehension.” (Pg. xiv)

He points out, “although science is currently seemingly stumped by the details of cosmogenesis, it is important to distinguish ‘seemingly stumped’ from the actual progress of cautious advance… Very rarely do scientists leap to a revolutionary explanation… As a result of their intrinsic caution, almost every scientist is wisely unwilling to express a view about the events accompanying the inception of the universe. Quite honesty, they haven’t a clue. Their current task is to edge carefully backwards into time… and expecting, perhaps, to arrive at the year dot at an unknown time in the future…” (Pg. 4-5)

He suggests, “our Big Bang is just a local triviality, not a truly cosmic beginning. In fact, that enlargement of our vision and diminution of our significance is possible a colossal underestimate of the problem of identifying the beginning. Time might lost its significance of a grandiose cosmic scale and the concept of a ‘beginning’ be meaningless. It might be the case that any universe can bud into an infinite number of universes, that the current number of universes is already infinite, but increasing, and possibly increasing rapidly at an infinitely accelerating rate, and has been accelerating infinitely rapidly for eternity, so that our Big Bang is an infinitesimal event on a grandly hypercosmic stage.” (Pg. 7)

He contends, “It might turn out to be the case that the budding of an existing universe into daughters is much easier to explain than the origin of an initial universe… for at least when a universe exists there are physical laws that govern its behavior: if we could identify those laws within our universe, then we might find that they entailed its budding into daughters. But even if that can be achieved, there is still the troublesome prospect of identifying the begetting of the Ur-universe. Is God perhaps the begetter of the Ur-universe with His handiwork now irretrievably buried in the myriad descendants that have sprouted since? Without the unreliable assurance of faith, no one knows.” (Pg. 8)

He notes, ”I certainly do not want to give the impression that any scientist thinks that the scenario I have sketched is even remotely supported by any evidence or even theory. I have to stress that all I have sought to show is that it is possible to think constructively about even the most apparently overwhelming problems and thereby undermine the view that our inception must have been an act of God… I don’t want to concede defeat to the religious and surrender my optimism to faith… The task before science in this connection will be to show how something can come from nothing without intervention. No one has the slightest idea whether that can happen and, if so, how it can come about.” (Pg. 11)

He says of Creationists and advocates of Intelligent Design, “who envision God as cosmic manufacturer of every individual type of organism, poring… over the perfection of a smallpox virus, rendering it exquisitely virulent, designing an eye ten times over, and seemingly cutting corners when it same to his principal creation and allowing defects in design that, even if you and your mother survive the rigours of birth, result in cancer, Hodgkinson’s lymphoma, cerebral palsy, and heart disease.” (Pg. 24) He adds, “Creationism is fundamentally dishonest, for… it distorts the evidence to suit its prejudices… Creationism is a return to the time before science emerged as a mode of understanding the world… Creationism is deception at every level… science is the gradual peeling back of veneers that conceal an inner truth.” (Pg. 27)

But he admits about scientific theories of the origin of life, “This is all entirely speculative. It shows, however, that scientists have not run out of ideas about how the prebiotic gap might be bridged. There is difficulty in finding the actual explanation, because we are uncertain about where it actually took place… We are also uncertain about the precise identity of the prebiotic molecules that were first formed and then formed alliances.” (Pg. 42)

He asserts, “There is not one jot of evidence… that gives the merest hint that divine involvement has ever taken place. In fact, the opposite would seem to be true. Natural selection is a nasty, brutish thing, with organism set against organism. Fangs, beaks, claws are the order of the day, not brotherly love… If you are religious, you should at least pause before you venerate a God that devised, or just allowed, such a gore-steeped way of ensuring progress and the emergence of the Image of Himself.” (Pg. 43-44)

He concludes, “My own faith, my scientific faith, is that there is nothing that the scientific method cannot illuminate and elucidate. Its revelations and insights add immeasurably to the pleasure of being alive. My faith respects the powerful ability of the collective human intelligence, which initially groped for understanding through myth but now gives us the capacity to comprehend and, optimistically, and given time and given cooperation between brains, will do so without limit… Unlike myth-making… that illumination is the sound and firm foundation for the joy of true comprehension.” (Pg. 104-105)

Atkins’ scientific atheism is among the most “lyrical” around; it will appeal to many readers who, like him, see no reason to believe in any “outside intervention” in the universe.
HASH(0x940f08a0) von 5 Sternen Succinct yet superfluous 3. Januar 2016
Von HH - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Peter Atkins’s "On Being" adds to the ever-raging science and religion debate. Appropriately endorsed by fellow atheists Richard Dawkins and Paul Davies, Atkins’s study summarizes current scientific wisdom on the grand narrative of existence—from the birth of the universe to the death of the human individual—in order to underline his belief that “the scientific method can shed light on every and any concept”. In the process of making this argument, Atkins fiercely condemns the more extreme advocates of a spiritual worldview.

The recurring motif of "On Being" is the powerful, impassioned assertion of scientific method. Atkins proactively declares at the outset of his book that science can explain “love, hope, and charity” as well the seven deadly sins. Further discussion of current scientific insight into such fascinating aspects of human nature, coupled with a little less time battling religious dogma, would have made for a more convincing argument and a more pleasurable read. Yet, whether or not you are convinced by Atkins’s view that “there is nothing the scientific method cannot illuminate or elucidate”. I myself find the idea of basing an argument on a belief that there is nothing supernatural no better than basing an argument on the belief that the supernatural exists. It seems a little flimsy (which is, perhaps, why it is tucked away in the preface). What comes across, oddly, is that Atkins's approach actually feels unscientific. Surely to be truly scientific (at least, when taking a wide, philosophical view like this book) we should start with the possibility of a creator god as one option. Saying, as Atkins does, that "even if in due course science has to throw in the towel and, heaven forbid, concede that the universe was created by God" exhibits the sort of prejudice that science rightly condemns in religious believers. He hasn't come at this with an open mind. It's telling that in the final chapter Atkins spends a fair amount of time attacking millennias and the concept of the rapture, which is hardly mainstream.

At any rate, this is not by any means a bad book. Its great strength is that it really does encourage the reader to think about some deep issues. But the danger of straying into the old folly of attempting to prove or disprove the existence of a deity through scientific argument is too close to the surface for me. "On Being" provides a mostly enjoyable and provocative summary of the scientific explanations behind both existence and the development of life on earth.
HASH(0x93fd1abc) von 5 Sternen An interesting approach to the questions of life, death and God from a scientist's point of view. 1. März 2015
Von Joseph J. Truncale - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
There are those who believe it should not be within the domain of science to discuss things such as birth, death, God and other esoteric subjects. Many feel these questions should be left to priests, minister, monks and witch doctors. This wonderful book (On Being: A scientist’s exploration of the great questions of existence by Peter Atkins) emphasizes through the use of reason, logic and rationality, that science not religion is best equipped to actually find the answers to the complex questions of life, death and existence.

I admit that this 111 page hardcover volume was not an easy read; nevertheless, the author’s dedication to using the scientific method in an attempt to answer some of the deeper mysteries of life is clearly explained. He uses some outrageous examples to get his points across which makes for an interesting approach. This book is organized into five subject areas. They include the beginning, progression, birth. death and ending.

This is the kind of book more scientists should write in order to respond to the mystical claims of religion. The author presents the material with such clarity that it is difficult to reject his conclusions. As a scientific minded person I found this book to be an interesting and informative read.
If you are seeking a book that makes you think about some of the mysteries of life from the scientific point of view this book is for you.

Rating: 5 Stars. Joseph J. Truncale (Author: Never Trust a Politician).
HASH(0x93f5a480) von 5 Sternen Arrogance of a narrow-minded scientist 12. Juni 2015
Von Moshulu - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
I am a scientist and a confirmed materialist, but I disliked this book and cannot recommend it. It is, essentially, an conventional, unimaginative, flippant putdown of religion and all ways of knowing that are not those of the author. Religious thinking is restricted to a series of fringe strawman positions (e.g., creationism). The tone is mocking, arrogant and unbearably smug. Atkins downplays or doesn't even mention some of the real chinks in the materialist position (most notably, the lack of real progress in fundamental physics for nearly half a century, the serious problems in cosmology, and also the failure to explain the origin of life on Earth). This book is the product of a narrow mind and a bloated ego. An unpleasant read.
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HASH(0x93f72dbc) von 5 Sternen Faith v. Science 10. Juli 2011
Von Gerald Farber - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
This is a very short and very dense book that uses science as an antidote to faith based assertions regarding creation, god, life after death, the rapture, the universe etc.
Atkins is an eloquent writer with a wry sense of humor but his scientific rebuttal of these myths is too technical. To his credit he urges the reader to skip some parts making a short book even shorter. He justifies his style as being a necessary counter to various versions of myths but in the exposition of this style he becomes tedious and boring.
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