Sunday, June 15, 2008

Review - Creation Revisited by Peter Atkins

Peter Atkins was a week ago on the Moral Maze expounding his extreme reductionism and scientism. I'm not sure I can fully agree with his brand of scientism - knowledge about everything will someday be explained by science. I bought The Creation by Peter Atkins in 1981 and in 1993 he updated with Creation Revisited (available in HASSERS bookstore).

All blogs about Peter Atkins on HASSERS and at Wikipedia.

There can be few sights sadder than seeing a distinguished professional making a complete fool of himself by trying to do something that he is simply incapable of. Professor Atkins is justly famous and wealthy as a result of his text book on Physical Chemistry but unfortunately he insists on dappling in matters he does not seem to understand. In fact I am being charitable here because I would hate to doubt his honesty and that would be the only alternative if he really did know what he was talking about in this book.

Atkins is a militant atheist like his colleague Richard Dawkins and this book is a feeble attempt to delineate an atheist cosmogony - i.e. to explain where the universe came from if there is no God. It is written in a style that is supposed to be poetic but in fact is merely annoying. Although now deservedly out of print and I am reviewing it here because Dawkins foolishly praises it in The Blind Watchmaker and Keith Ward debunks it in God, Chance and Necessity (still in print).

The big fallacy is in the first chapter when Atkins tells us that "The only faith that we need... is the belief that everything can be understood and, ultimately, that there is nothing to explain". So that's all right then. Needless to say, from such a start point you could get anywhere and Atkins proceeds to demonstrate that the universe is elegantly reorganised nothing that can be reduced to mathematics and that the laws of mathematics can be reduced to the laws of logic. This last point really disturbs me because it has been proven by Kurt Godel to be false and Atkins must know this. Such an oversight should, at least, have been picked up by his editors. Indeed, they should have politely but firmly have told Atkins to stick to his chemistry set.

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