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100 Books in a Year: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology by BC Sproul

By Sabrina | Books | April 28, 2009 |

By Sabrina | Books | April 28, 2009 |

Publisher’s Note: Sabrina is the winner of the latest Cannonball Read 5K, having completed five books in different genres in under two weeks. Congrats, Sabrina.

Grrr. Arrrg. I saw this is in the mini-lending library at my office, and since I had forgotten to bring my other 5K book with me, I picked it up. It seemed interesting and science-y. Chance is a myth! Who knew?

Then I open it and he starts talking about God, and how chance can’t exist, and if it did, then God can’t exist, and what the hell does God have to do with science and cosmology and chance? But whatever, I was desperate for reading, and he promised he would keep God out of it, and the idea that chance is just a word used to cover up our ignorance of the real reasons behind events had a neat parallel to the “god of the gaps” theory that appealed to me.

Oh God.

He says that contradictions can’t exist in reality, or else reality cannot be understood at all. He says this A LOT. The contradiction he’s referring to is the impossibility of a self-caused or self-created event or being. Has to exist to cause something, can’t cause self before exists, logical impossibility, blah blah blah we get it. He also says that even God can’t understand contradictions. Now, I’m no theologian, but I think it’s a little presumptuous of Sproul to say what GOD can and cannot understand. Anyways, I wrote in my notes that he would hate quantum mechanics after he mentions the impossibility of something being two different things at once, and four pages later he started a chapter on quantum mechanics, so that was fun. (Spoiler alert! He hates quantum mechanics.)

One thing that was cool was that he described what an actual quantum leap is (when an electron is hit by a photon and jumps an energy level, seemingly without crossing the space in between), which I’m sure I learned at some point in either AP Chem or college chem, but it was amid the 99 percent of information that I did not retain from either of those classes, so I was able to relearn it. (One thing I did retain but was never able to put into practice is that learning sign language is awesome, because then you can talk in class without the teacher knowing. I was so jealous of my tablemates.)

He started asking questions about the nature of the so-called leap: does the electron disappear in one spot and get reassembled instantaneously in a higher level? How would we know if it’s the same electron, then? It reminded me of an argument I’ve seen people have over Star Trek and its transporter beam, i.e. if a person gets transported, which involves splitting apart their molecular structure and reassembling them, do they die and the new person is simply an exact copy, or is it really the same person who moved through space? Nerds.

I could spend hours picking apart individual arguments he made, but basically he made a lot of arguments that I disagreed with and thought were incompletely formed, and he made me angry, especially when he said that one of the main drivers of scientists is the desire to “escape accountability to the bar of reason,” which is so ridiculous I can’t even stand it. And then when he said that atheism is to escape from morality. And then when he said that skepticism and cynicism is the lowest form of thought, that skeptics consider themselves above the pursuit of truth, that Allan Bloom “rightly foresaw that a retreat” to skepticism would be the “death knell” of scientific progress and achievement. What the hell? Skepticism is an essential component of the search for truth. Shut the fuck up, Sproul.

And the word “universe” is not formed from the words “unity” and “diversity,” so stop freaking saying that!

And EVOLUTION IS NOT RANDOM AND BLIND. Seriously, when someone can blithely misunderstand such a fundamental concept about a theory they dismiss offhand, or spout off grand theories of the universe based on invented etymologies, it’s hard to take them seriously about the topic they’re supposed to be teaching you.

And stop being so smug and certain that you’ve made your argument, because you have not. God is not a logical necessity, you just skimmed over any reasonable logical or empirical argument that would’ve ended your case, and what the hell, you said it wasn’t going to be about God, BUT IT TOTALLY BECAME ABOUT GOD AND I AM MAD AT YOU FOR TRICKING ME INTO READING IT.

The worst part is that I agree with him. Kind of. I think it’s logically possible for God to have created the universe. I don’t think it’s likely, but logically I don’t see how it could be disproven. Sproul is not the person to try and convince me of its truth, though, especially when I was interested in reading a book about chance in science.

Shut up, Sproul. And stop repeating yourself. We get it. You reaaaally like God.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here. And check here for more of Sabrina’s reviews.

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