George Johnson

Fire in the Mind

Science, Faith, and the Search for Order

Book review by Anthony Campbell. Copyright © Anthony Campbell (1999).

There have been numerous books in recent years offering to initiate us into the mysteries of modern physics. What distinguishes this one from the rest is the fact that it compares and contrasts, as we used to say in school essays, modern science with traditional cosmology—in this case, the cosmology of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. Johnson wants to set the two side by side (or more than two, because the Indians of this region have several differing cosmologies and there are also Christians of various denominations in the area), in an attempt to decide whether science is leading us towards Absolute Truth or is just a construction of the mind. He does not come to any definite conclusion about this; as he says in his introduction, he is ultimately agnostic about the matter.

Is this approach to the subject a gimmick? Up to a point, I think it is. I must admit I found some of the Indian material somewhat tedious and the comparisons were not always illuminating. However, the writing is good and the science is explained clearly and interestingly. Johnson does not confine himself to physics; he also brings in information theory and Artificial Life. He is worth reading on all these things. And the subject he tackles is an important one, so the book is valuable on that score alone.

%T Fire in the Mind
%S Science, Faith and the Search for Order
%A George Johnson
%I Viking
%C London
%D 1995
%G ISBN 0 670 84379 9
%P 379 pp
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