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What We Believe but Cannot Prove: Today's Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

John Brockman
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Kurzbeschreibung

28. Februar 2006

More than one hundred of the world's leading thinkers write about things they believe in, despite the absence of concrete proof

Scientific theory, more often than not, is born of bold assumption, disparate bits of unconnected evidence, and educated leaps of faith. Some of the most potent beliefs among brilliant minds are based on supposition alone -- yet that is enough to push those minds toward making the theory viable.

Eminent cultural impresario, editor, and publisher of Edge (www.edge.org), John Brockman asked a group of leading scientists and thinkers to answer the question: What do you believe to be true even though you cannot prove it? This book brings together the very best answers from the most distinguished contributors.

Thought-provoking and hugely compelling, this collection of bite-size thought-experiments is a fascinating insight into the instinctive beliefs of some of the most brilliant minds today.


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Produktinformation

  • Taschenbuch: 272 Seiten
  • Verlag: Harper Perennial (28. Februar 2006)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0060841818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060841812
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 20,5 x 13,6 x 1,7 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 242.344 in Englische Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Englische Bücher)

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Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

The founder and publisher of the influential online science salon Edge.org, John Brockman is the editor of This Will Make You Smarter, This Will Change Everything, and other volumes. He is the CEO of the literary agency Brockman Inc. and lives in New York City.


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Einleitungssatz
I believe that intelligent life may presently be unique to our Earth but has the potential to spread throughout the galaxy and beyond it-indeed, the emergence of complexity could be near its beginning. Lesen Sie die erste Seite
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6 von 6 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen "crack cocaine of the thinking world"? 16. Juli 2006
Format:Taschenbuch
In dem Buch beantworten 100 Wissenschaftler die Frage "What we believe but cannot prove" in kurzen Aufsätzen, manche nur einen Absatz, andere ein paar Seiten. Die Aufsätze sind grob thematisch sortiert, von außerirdischem Leben über Bewußtsein und Intelligenz bis hin zu Fragen der Biologie. Ich fand die Lektüre recht kurzweilig und unterhaltsam, manches geradezu tiefsinnig. Manche nahmen die Frage etwas zu genau (meistens Mathematiker) und diskutierten erst einmal, was "beweisen können" überhaupt heißt. Manches ist relativ vorhersagbar, z.B. (und da nehme ich wirklich nicht viel vorweg), glauben viele Astronomen daran, dass es außerirdisches Leben gibt. Erfrischend ist jedoch, dass auch gestandene Wissenschaftler völlig unbegründet ihre liebgewonnen Überzeugungen hegen und pflegen. Alles in allem eine sehr kurzweilige Unterhaltung für alle wissenschafts- (und wissenschaftsbetriebs-) interessierte. Das auf dem Einband versprochene "crack cocaine of the thinking world" ist vielleicht ein bißchen zu reißerisch, aber andererseits gute amerikanische Journalistenschule, vermute ich.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 von 5 Sternen  35 Rezensionen
89 von 93 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Concise and Lively -- With Some Duplication 28. Februar 2006
Von Rev. Thomas Scarborough - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
The title of this book is a question that was put to 109 leading scientists and thinkers. Some wrote a single paragraph in response, others wrote three to four pages.

A question behind the question recurs many times. That is, what do the authors believe belief to be? One of the more interesting comments is by Maria Spiropulu: "I would suggest that belief and proof are in some way complementary: If you believe something, you don't need proof of it, and if you have proof, you don't need to believe." Leon Ederman would seem to speak for many contributors with the comment: "To believe something while knowing it cannot be proved (yet) is the essence of physics," while Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi states: "I can prove almost nothing I believe in."

One's intuitive response to some of the contributors' beliefs might be that their beliefs would be considered to be facts. Gino Segre believes (to describe it shorthand) in the Big Bang. Stephen H. Schneider believes in global warming. Leonard Susskind believes in probability. Neil Gershenfeld believes in progress. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi considers: "I do believe in evolution," and David Buss states: "I believe in true love."

Among the beliefs that would seem to be particularly interesting are the following. Gregory Benford considers: "Why is there any scientific law at all?" Daniel Goleman believes that "todays children are unintended victims of economic and technological progress." Alison Gopnik believes that "babies and young children are actually more conscious . . . than adults are." George Dyson believes that bird dialects correspond to "indigenous human language groups", and Freeman Dyson believes that the reverse of a power of 2 is never a power of 5.

Some subjects would seem to be over-represented, such as the belief that "there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe", that a physical basis for consciousness will soon be discovered, or that there are universes other than our own. Besides such duplication, which tends to be tedious, the concise nature of the contributions, and the calibre of the contributors, makes this an easy(ish) and lively read.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen "Great minds can sometimes guess the truth before they have...the evidence...for it" 11. September 2006
Von Stephen Pletko - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
+++++

"What do you believe to be true even though you cannot prove it?"

This was what John Brockman, the editor and publisher of the online intellectual think-tank "Edge," asked leading thinkers. This book contains what this think-tank deems to be the best answers to this question.

Each contributor's answer is preceded by a brief profile of him or her. (There are 15 female contributors.)

The majority of the thinkers this book's profiles have more than one occupation. The most frequent job titles mentioned in each brief profile are as follows:

(1) author
(2) professor
(3) scientist (such as physicist, computer scientist)/social scientist (such as psychologist, economist)
(4) director (for example, a director of a laboratory)

Some other occupations mentioned are inventor, writer, editor, journalist, publisher, lecturer, and linguist.

Here is a typical profile:

"Freeman Dyson is professor emeritus of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is the author of a number of books about science for the general public including "Imagined Worlds" and "The Sun," "The Genome," and "The Internet."

Here is a sample of the beliefs that cannot be proved:

Contributor #1: I believe that intelligent life may presently be unique to our Earth but has the potential to spread throughout the Galaxy and beyond it."
#109: "I can prove almost nothing I believe in."
#5: "I believe that evolution explains why the living world is the way that it is."
#20: "I'm pretty sure that people gain a selective advantage from believing in things they can't prove."
#30: "I believe...that cannibalism and slavery were both prevalent in human history."
#40: "I believe that scientific theories are a means of going...beyond what we observe of the physical world, of penetrating into the structure of nature."
#50: "I believe that the human race will never decide that an advanced computer possesses consciousness."
#60: "I believe that animals have feelings and other states of consciousness."
#70: "I believe that human talents are based on distinct patterns of brain connectivity."
#80: "I believe that it is possible to change adult cells from one phenotype to another."
#90: "I believe that black holes do not...destroy information, thereby violating quantum mechanics."
#100: "I believe that the mechanism for the human perception of time will be discovered."

For the most part, all answers can be easily understood but some may require a dictionary to aid in understanding technical terms. Some contributors have the same beliefs so there is a bit of redundancy. However, I don't see this as something necessarily bad as the reader gets a different perspective on a prior mentioned belief. As well, all answers are "bite-sized," ranging from a sentence to a couple of pages.

I did find a few problems:

First, the table of contents. It simply lists all the contributors in non-alphabetical order with their first names first! Why not list them in alphabetical order with the first names last? Better still, put the answers in general categories. For example, those contributors whose answers deal with consciousness would have there names under this heading or those that deal with life in the universe would have there names under this heading.

Second, the book simply ends with the final contributor's answer. I couldn't understand this especially since there's a well-written introduction. There should have been a conclusion of some sort.

Finally, the book's subtitle states "Today's leading thinkers on science in the age of certainty." This gives the impression that this book deals exclusively with scientists. It does not. There are thinkers in other fields who contribute answers also.

In conclusion, I believe this is a good book of educated speculation and I've tried to prove it!!

(first published 2006; preface; introduction; 109 contributors; main narrative 250 pages)

+++++
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Even scientists are allowed to speculate... 16. August 2006
Von Arnold V. Loveridge - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
in fact, that's a part of their job description.

What We Believe But Cannot Prove edited by John Brockman is edge.org's latest question of the year answered by more than 100 of the great thinkers of our time as defined by edge.org. The responders are writers, professors, scientists, and philosophers. Many of them have great name recognition because of books they have written or talk shows they have appeared on. Almost all of them have something significant to say. This book is an easy read but more for the occasional insight or chuckle than for any fact or explanation although there are a few of these.

Some of the "what's" include:

== Life is ubiquitous in our universe

== Nothing is true that can't be proved

== True love exists

== God does not exist

== Evolution is a fact

== The processes of evolution are ...

== There is great creative power in boredom

== The real world is a construct of our consciousness

== The real world exists independent of our consciousness

== Laughter and other airway maneuvers are verbal punctuation

The list goes on and on, of course. It is unlikely that you have heard of all the ideas covered in the book or that you have heard or believe none of them. I was struck with how many GOOD ideas are being discussed, researched, and written about - ideas that aren't necessarily technology driven or business related. There is so much we believe is true in this wonderful world but we still can't prove!
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Mundane question, provocative responses 28. August 2006
Von Stephen A. Haines - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
The question posed by John Brockman was "What do you believe but cannot prove?" It might be classed as one of those Mediaeval "angels on the head of a pin" queries. However, this is the 21st Century and what we know of Nature now stands in stark contrast to what was known then. The responses show that serious questions remain to be resolved. Not all of them can be, as the issue concerned lies either in the past or is too remote for close study. Some, of course, lie in the realm of what we deem "consciousness". A vague term in its own right, made even more difficult when the various respondents offer their own definitions. That tactic, however, makes the answers more stimulating by creating fresh questions. By selecting novelist Ian McEwan to write the introduction, Brockman shows he doesn't consider the question limited to scientific speculation. McEwan demonstrates his knowledge of the scientific issues [would that more fiction writers matched that capacity!] and how "inspiration" has advanced our understanding of Nature.

Although he doesn't describe the process, the reader will soon learn that the editor has placed the responses in some general categories. The first area of interest is cosmology - who is out there? How might we learn of them? Can we ever reach worlds light years away? More to the point, how is the universe put together and why in that way and not another? Are there other universes we can't see? Since many of these questions touch on what we call "values", the next grouping addresses that sort of reply. What is "morality" and what are its origins? In this collection, the "divine" is bypassed, leaving only humans to provide the answer to those "eternals". Yet humans, the responders acknowledge, are the product of natural selection. We have had a long time with even longer biological underpinnings to develop ideas of what is "moral". And moral issues are considered with other emotional aspects of our relations with others - including that favourite topic, "true love". As "love" is limited among humans without language, how we communicate and how language developed is another aspect of our evolutionary roots.

None of these behavioural characteristics of our species can be adequately explained until we have some notion of what drives them. Human consciousness is receiving greater attention through brain research. Cognitive science is revealing what is ticking over in our brains when we deal with such factors as "love" or "communication". A precise definition of consciousness has yet to emerge. The respondents here include one who feels consciousness doesn't even emerge until the language facility is fully developed. Others, using different criteria, even assign consciousness to the lowly cockroach. That consciousness may be at a different level, and operate in more constrained circumstances than that of our species, but consciousness it remains. It is in this segment of the collection where the respondents include the views of colleagues in their essays. That alone is enough to demonstrate the importance of the issues raised here. It may also portend deeper questions on wither the human species is bound. Will humans merge with computers as a means of enhancing their cognitive capacity?

Some more random responses to the "Edge" question conclude the collection. A few direct social issues are addressed, along with associated predictions. Is the human species "improving" and can that be directed are typical examples. Rounding out a fascinating collection, these last are wide-reaching and may be more immediate than the foregoing replies. With such a talented stable of commentators, Brockman's gathering is of immense importance. These are real questions under investigation by highly qualified thinkers. McEwan himself reappears in a thoughtful note all of us should consider. It has great impact on how we conduct our lives - and how novelists portray that behaviour. This is an enduring collection, and should be on every bookshelf. Add it to yours. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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4.0 von 5 Sternen good for collectors 4. Januar 2007
Von Amy Hallberg - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
I thought this book would be more than it was. But I still liked it because many answers were provocative and interesting. So many scientists are atheists and they occasionally pontificate (see H.Kimble), but at least they are slightly educated and using reason and established facts, unlike the vast majority of 'other' people who pontificate.

There were a few things I didn't like. First, there is no apparent order to the table of contents. Second, too many of the people believe the same things and it got a little repetitive.

I would recommend this book for a fun, thought-provoking quick read.
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