on July 2, 2001
I found this book to give a spirited overview of the paradigms of modern science and the place of man's sense of self within these paradigms which is no place at all. However, I am not as pessimistic as Appleyard in that I believe science and spirit can be integrated. After readers get aroused by Appleyard they should read Ken Wilber's "The Marriage of Sense and Soul"and E.O. Wilson's "Consilience" for ideas on how these two apparently conflicting worldviews can be integrated. For example, Wilber suggests the method of science can be applied to both the subjective and objective domains of knowledge.
on February 22, 2001
I picked this up in a bargain bin thinking it was a pop science book. A few pages in, it became apparent that the book was a criticism of science's failure to provide a sense of comfort about the big issues ("what is our purpose in life" etc). The author compares science to olde time religion and comes to the conclusion that religion is a lie that makes people happy, whilst science is a truth that saddens.
While this may be an accurate description of the general metaphysical discomfort caused as religion loses ground, it seems a bit presumptuous to suggest we devalue truth and return to the dark ages. As some ancient Roman guy once said, "the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise". Instead of seeking wonder, purpose and freedom in a godless universe, Appleyard invites us to throw in the towel. And that is what makes this book so morbidly interesting...
on August 27, 1998
Bryan Appleyard's indictment of science as the "Frankenstiens Monster" of our day is well written and very inciteful. He explains very succinctly how various luminaries of the Enlightenment have tried to deal with science and its unwillingness to co-exist with other types of knowing about our world, and ourselves. The author places the major part of the blame on science's effectiveness at solving problems through its "handmaiden", technological development, and the awareness that modern man has of these solutions as universal in nature, rather than cultural. His argument relies heavily upon the evidence that the structure of our modern, liberal-democratic societies is due mainly to our underlying philosophical beliefs about reality as they have been formed by science in the modern era. He provides a well thought out argument for why we should put science back in the cultural box, so that it will be forced to co-exist with other forms of knowing, such as religious faith. He believes that most of us already do this to some extent, and that what needs to happen is we must simply become aware of why we do this, to counter the "appauling spiritual damage" that we have allowed science to wreak upon us. For those people out there who have always wanted an intellectual basis for their belief that there is meaning to our existence that science has no right to judge, I highly recommend this book. But beware! It is not light reading. You will probably have to read it at least three times over (as I did) in order to see the poignancy of his arguments clearly. (I would have given this book a five-star rating if the arguments could have been fully grasped by a single reading, but this is not the author's fault, it's the subject's.)