The God Problem by Howard Bloom (book review).

May 18, 2014 | By | Reply More

No, God does not have a problem or rather what author Howard Bloom is getting at with ‘The God Problem’ is that the cosmos is not built in some of the absolutes as you would expect. If anything, he is more concerned with how can something so complex evolve from not much at all, least of all, a deity’s intervention. I have to confess from the start that after playing with Korsbyski’s General Semantics when young, I was already mostly there with Bloom’s assertions of always question certainties. He lays to rest the existence of the biblical God by using Job as his example of blind acceptance of whatever is done to him. I commented on Abraham willing to sacrifice his son and finally didn’t but God holding back in another review recently but this example beats that because God kills all of Job’s ten children himself amongst his other demonstrations to test Job’s faith. Hardly a nice deity and clearly an example of blind unquestioning faith in anything shows a lack of free will.


With A=A or like equals like, I’m less sure about. After all, a lot of scientific formulas aren’t made that way and often a computation of several different forces that are equal to another one is because that relationship exists already as Man certainly didn’t create them. You couldn’t calculate these forces without such connections after all. The same also applies to how old we are. At atomic level, we’re as old as our galaxy or at least the creation of the atoms than, as Bloom says, the start of the universe, but age is relative to any particular thing. I mean, just where do you start counting the age of anything but in the form that you give it? Then again, I would also contend with him that anything is truly random and patterns will always emerge.

Seeing the evolution of mathematical patterns from the Babylonians and then being copied and progressed upon by various Greek philosophers is given some new insight by showing If anything, Bloom doesn’t explain why it took until the 16th century before things moved on again. You would have thought there would have been other geniuses in the meantime who might have had equal insight. Talk about resting on your laurels. Bloom does give some insight into the Greeks that led me to think that they inadvertently caused the problem by locking doctrines into disciplines that wouldn’t accept change. So where some things were definitely wrong, it stayed that way and probably explains why even things like astronomy never moved on from thinking the Sun went around the Earth and that it was the centre of the universe because no one would challenge it, especially if they feared religious persecution. I should point out that any maths shown is explained well with diagrams so you don’t have to be that well inclined to understand it.

So what of the 16th century? Although Bloom does not actually describe it as such, Euclidian mathematics is really pure mathematics and although good in calculating, it didn’t match reality when it was applied to planetary orbits. Hence, applied mathematics took to the fore, turning observed data into predicted formula. Bloom follows this path from Ptolemy, two hundred years after Euclid, who didn’t get it to Gauss in 1807 who did and so on as these various mathematicians, including the likes of Galileo and Young sorted things out into scientific reality.

When it comes to Einstein, a lot of what is covered shows much of the information he employed was already out there. Albert Michelson and Edward Morley proved light moved at an absolute speed. Ernest Mach came up with the term ‘relativity’. One of the things Einstein and Karl Schwarzschild separately proved that light did not travel in straight lines and were curved when approaching anything with a hint of gravity like stars. Einstein made sense of it all and put it together and still remains the ultimate geek.

If you have an interest in how computer evolved, Bloom points out George Boole, who worked out the switches that led to binary code and then progressed to the choice options that does so much of what you see on the screen in front of you. There is also a lot about Benoit Mandelbrot and Stephen Wolfram’s work in using the computer as labour in translating formula into graphic patterns.

In the final chapter, I did think Bloom was groping as to what will happen next. If anything, his strength is in explaining how we got there than this. I don’t think any of us really know why we are here in the first place and I doubt if it was by any deity’s intervention. For my part, I think it’s all down to probability. If not here, then some other universe would have had all the vital ingredients to create life or it happens all the time.

From a history of science in plain English, you will come away from this book with a better understanding of both it and the geniuses who put it all together. There’s the occasional gap, like missing out explaining the use of zero, but this isn’t supposed to be comprehensive.

When it comes to debate, as you can tell from the above, I’m quite happy to argue these points with Bloom. I suspect he would rather have someone like me than a sponge who will just take in whatever he says. The important aspect of this book is to make you think and react and if you come away with that as part of your understanding then he’s done his job.

Bloom’s way of explaining the science looks like he had the science explained to him and then he translated it into his own metaphors, which aren’t totally American, and easy to understand. If anything, it does make things easier to read even if there is a certain amount of padding. As I’m not phased by pure science books, this might work in your favour if you want science explained simply and it did no harm to the more astute.

GF Willmetts

May 2014

(pub: Prometheus Books. 708 page indexed hardback. Price: $28.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-551-4)

check out websites: www.prometheusbooks.com

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Category: Books, Science

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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