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12 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Garbage, January 30, 2012
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This review is from: On Being: A Scientist's Exploration of the Great Questions of Existence (Hardcover)
Book motto (pg. 20): "Everything is driven by purposeless decay", according to Atkins (or rather according to the second law, as Atkins anthropomorphizes it).

Whether or not there is purpose is the universe, or more to the point whether or not there is purpose to an animated driven molecule (which is what humans are) brought into existence, is certainly an blurry and yet unsolved query, but Atkins' agenda (a condensed rehash of his 1992 book Creation Revisited: The Origin of Space, Time and the Universe (Penguin Science)) is pure mi-representation. Laplace discarded "God" from science over 200 years ago, famously as told to Napoleon, as an unneeded hypothesis, but Atkins (like other bandwagon lay-science authors), continues to scatter his text with "God this" and "God that", etc. The time has come to have some writing with balls. I mean really? It's one thing to fill up one's speech into overextended poetic verbosity (as Atkins is so common to in his video recorded religion vs. science debates), but to platform a supposed atheist book on watered down versions of the second law, by a (respected?) physical chemist, is a disgrace to physical chemists everywhere.

Nowhere in his standard multi-edition Physical Chemistry textbook does Atkins define the second law as the "tendency of energy to chaos" or "all change is driven by purposeless decay" or chemical reactions occur by "purposeless spreading of matter and energy in ever greater disorder", yet when he switches gears to do battle with the religious, he distorts and laymanizes thermodynamics into polemical garbage.

Atkins is certainly not alone in this unnamed "syndrome" many hardened godless scientists succumb to, but nevertheless is need of dose of hard core chemical thermodynamic reality. Shame on Atkins for selling out on the publisher dollar and on his own discipline.

As German human physical chemist Goethe lamented correctly over 200 years ago: "the moral symbols of natural science, and the humanities, are those of physical chemistry". Atkins would do well to take some tips. A recent example a real second law / physical chemistry based book would be American physical chemist Thomas Wallace's 2009 Wealth, Energy, And Human Values: The Dynamics Of Decaying Civilizations From Ancient Greece To America, with its appendix "The Fundamentals of Thermodynamics Applied to Socioeconomics". Atkins would be wise to pause for reflection before wasting anymore paper in another tailcoat book.

Garbage aside, Atkins wastes an entire chapter (1/5th of book) discussing how a dead body decomposes and cools (according to Newton's law of cooling) over the course of so many hours; and to top it all off: he gives an incorrect presentation of Egyptology, confusing the "ba" (soul) with the "ka" (spirit); and never even talks about "being" or "existence", which as we were led to believe would be the subject matter of the book?
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 12, 2012 12:48:10 PM PDT
C. Harrison says:
Very disappointing, I bought a book claiming to be "a scientist's exploration of the great questions of existence", but in fact the book is almost entirely a negative attack on everyone else's beliefs. The author's views on chosen subjects were interesting and well presented, but unfortunately they were brief and nestled between "you're all wrong" tirades that were neither expected nor endearing.
A real shame, this could have been a good book if the author got down off his high-horse. A wasted purchase.
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