- Paperback: 390 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; First Edition edition (August 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014027541X
- ISBN-13: 978-0140275414
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (174 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications First Edition Edition
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"Our best theories are not only truer than common sense, they make more sense than common sense," writes physicist David Deutsch. In The Fabric of Reality, Deutsch traces what he considers the four main strands of scientific explanation: quantum theory, evolution, computation, and the theory of knowledge. "The four of them taken together form a coherent explanatory structure that is so far-reaching, and has come to encompass so much of our understanding of the world, that in my view it may already properly be called the first Theory of Everything." Deutsch covers some difficult material with unusual clarity. Each chapter ends with a summary and definitions of important terms, which makes the work an invaluable sourcebook. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Common sense and reality diverge and then come together again in this mind-blowing book. Maintaining that the best explanation for certain quantum phenomena is that there are parallel universes, i.e., multiverses, Oxford physicist Deutsch posits and then attempts to unify four basic strands?quantum physics, epistemology, evolution, and the theory of computation. Just one astonishing consequence is that quantum computers can collaborate between universes. Deutsch's ideas are exotic and challenging, but his text is surprisingly accessible, and he supplies a glossary and summary at the end of every chapter. For motivated readers, this book is a feast for the mind. Strongly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.?Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, Fla.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Although I agree with the author, and with E. O. Wilson (Consiliance), that a certain synthesis among the various branches of human knowledge are a necessary prerequisite for advancing much beyond what the 20ieth century has accomplished, I'm not certain that I'm yet prepared for or convinced of the need for a multiverse explanation of reality.
The author makes some very important points about science which bear repeating for those who have not yet heard them. For instance, "A scientific argument is intended to persuade us that a given explanation is the best one available. It does not and could not say anything about how that explanation will fare when, in the future, it is subjected to new types of criticism and compared with explanations that have yet to be invented (p. 64)." This is a fundamental principle of the scientific process that escapes many lay individuals and even some scientists.
He also notes that scientific theories must do more than simply predict the future, since "Shoddy explanations that yield correct predictions are two a penny, as UFO enthusiasts, conspiracy-theorists and pseudo-scientists of every variety should (but never do) bear in mind (p. 65)."
More importantly still in describing scientific methodology the author writes, "Here I must mention an asymmetry which is important in the philosophy and methodology of science: the asymmetry between experimental refutation and experimental confirmation. Whereas an incorrect prediction automatically renders the underlying explanation unsatisfactory, a correct prediction says nothing at all about the underlying explanation (p.65)." This too is often forgotten or misunderstood by those who do not do research of this kind.
In general the book tries to cover too much in too small a space. Unless the reader is very well read, he/she would be better off starting somewhere else before tackling this book.
I shall explain my view in the following paragraphs, for anyone who wants a quick overview of the book.
The writer believes that science should be viewed from a different angle, that each of the four "strands of reality" he mentions makes a fundamental piece of reality that cannot be reduced to the other ( though they can be understood through each other). This view is contrary to hierarchal reductionism that is common in science and evident from many fields such as biology, chemistry, and physics. The writer also argues that our understanding of reality is getting more profound, and is driving us away from the meaningless practices of instrumentalists. I agree with this point although it is not argued for very well.
As for his case for the four strands, firstly, the writer believes that the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is an avoidable fact. He describes the conclusion in a way different from how Everett first proposed it. And I think it is less convincing, despite the fact that the interpretation is more valid than the classical Copenhagen one (this is evident by how it does not limit the mathematics of QM), it should not be argued for because it is what it "seems"! Our brains did not evolve to necessarily understand the quantum world, so relying on that is in my opinion a poor argument.
Second, the writer explains why the theory of computation describes a fundamental aspect of reality. Deutsch is a leading figure in this field as a physicist, and he shows us his unique view of the universality of nature. He argues that virtual reality reflects the possibilities of actual reality and he draws countless conclusions from that, including a strong form of the Turing principle, which the writer supports without doubt. My take on these proposition is that they do say something about reality, after all we do virtually simulate our surroundings in our brains. Therefore, there is some truth in this, at least that virtual reality illuminates logical possibility if not necessarily physical possibility (this is in my opinion more acceptable and consistent with the brain being a virtual reality generator).
As for the strand that defines life as a fundamental aspect of reality, the writer gives it less attention than the rest. He argues from Dawkins' theory of replicators that life patterns are similar across parallel universes, thus a fundamental aspect of reality. This did not convince me, if not because certain patterns of DNA will vary depending on the environment the organism evolved in (so different in different universes just like junk DNA is), but also because it relied on another strand to be proven. And even Dawkins himself (in the Selfish Gene) used a hierarchal argument to lead his readers through the survival of the stable to the survival of the replicator, thus deriving the theory of survival of replicators from "physical laws" and not assuming it is fundamental. Perhaps Deutsch disagrees, he states other conclusions regarding the mind and free will which modern biologists and neuroscientists may not agree on.
The strand that deals with knowledge is very well argued for. I think the writer gives a deep and confident statement for Popper's theory of the growth of scientific knowledge. The arguments are very consistent and give a very strong candidate for solving the problems of the philosophy of science. Does it really dictate how knowledge overall is obtained? Deutsch believes so, he uses it to make various assumptions, I am not sure it is applicable outside of science and problem solving in general.
The writer also addresses other topics, most notably mathematics and time. In these two he excels at giving consistent views, one that I almost totally agree with when it comes to mathematics, and another which I think is the most plausible if the many worlds interpretation is proven. Another topic that is addressed in the latest chapter is the end of the universe. I believe it is the book's weakest claim, if not only for being disproved by current cosmological observations, but also because the line of though assumes something about physical reality (the end of the universe being an omega point) from a principle which talks of logical possibility and is bound by physical laws and the actual state of the universe.
This is a long review, and the book deserves it. All in all, it's a good book for any science enthusiast. Deutsch's world-view is interesting, comprehensive, unorthodox, and occasionally unconvincing, but is certainly inspiring.
There's no way any current major scientist could successfully keep up with the wicked pace and polymath theoretical flourishes outside his field conducted by the maestro. Deutsch fearlessly owns and adapts evolution, computation and even life itself in this majestic work. A must-read.
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Yes, I say "proven".Read more