Beginning of Infinity – by David Deutsch

A long book (459 pages) better listened at double speed while enjoying another parallel activity than read. Because of its length, the book lacks coherence, although it contains several important ideas worth debating.

Main ideas (in no particular order) include:

  1. “Enlightenment (good) versus Parochial (bad)” – but these are not necessarily opposite, and the words lose meaning when the author tries to encompass too much with them.
  2. “Creationism is not proven” – both Creationism and Atheism are beliefs as in “the ultimate assumption” in all science endeavors; hence there’s no need, nor is it possible, to explain them
  3. “Evolution of everything” reminds us of …“Evolution of everything” by Matt Ridley (see review)
  4. “Paley’s Watchmaker” – the argument presents Darwinian Evolution as “design without a designer”, but how can one assume “unguided” Evolution is true in order to prove Paley wrong when Paley was disputing “unguided” Evolution in the first place? And what about all, numerous and failed without exception, attempts at “unguided-ness” such as “infinite monkey”, “AI versus the Turing Test” and “Miller–Urey abiogenesis”?
  5. In the same anti-Creationist vein: “Design flaws” – but what makes David, not the ultimate, but at least a reasonable judge of what is flawed when we understand so little about biological entities and ecosystems?
  6. “Memes doing stuff” – forgetting that a joke dies when told to El Capitan (the rock) and survives (maybe depending on his intelligence and will) when told to El Capitan (of your boat), showing that the intelligent being “does stuff”, not the meme.
  7. “The Genes doing stuff” – the gene is deified to make this argument, but we’ll soon learn that “the gene” is not “essence of life” – and how could it be, when the digital information in the gene is only 3 billion base pairs or about 6 Gb?
  8. The critique of Lamarckianism – but Lamarck is making a comeback as epigenetics
  9. “The replicator” as in organisms and more – but rocks don’t replicate and neither do dead cats, so why should anything replicate at all? The concept presupposes and is a corollary of Darwinian Evolution, therefore does not explain anything nor is it based on any observations
  10. “Darwinism is Creation and Creationism is not” – yes to the first part in the sense ‘Darwinism is a creation myth’ but unsupported second part and beyond the author’s capabilities to justify the assertion.
  11. “Spontaneous generation is creationism” – quite the opposite: atheists claim often this or that “arises” while we have not seen a single one of these arisings.
  12. “Jump to universality” – this is the “arising” phenomenon never observed. However, in nature, simple Accumulations just do not result in untraceable Transformations. Even when they seem to do, such as in liquefaction-gasification, a catalyst (pressure/temperature) is present, and the process is repeatable.
  13. “Who made God?” – this is such a tired argument and frankly unbelievable coming from a physicist that should know and apply this simple equation: ‘infinite + 1 = infinite’
  14. “Biological evolution does not optimize benefits” – in fact “optimize” and “benefit” only make sense in a Creationist (i.e. Intelligent) universe.
  15. “The anthropic principle” is discussed at some length but left unanswered after presenting several well known but, at this point, purely speculative hypotheses
  16. “Artificial creativity” – is simply not happening, and this should make anyone seriously doubt “unguided” evolution.
  17. “Universality of reason” – there’s no such thing since Reason is individual, and the cause of all human disagreements which are absolutely necessary for human progress
  18. “Beauty is objective” – yes, it is amazing that we find attractive at least some of the aspects attractive to other life-forms, but the implications are not clear.
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