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Customer Review

on December 27, 2010
In his book "From Eternity to Here," Sean Carroll attempts to guide the reader beyond relativity and quantum mechanics toward a new paradigm of thinking about time. He uses examples from popular culture to illustrate his points. In the novella and movie, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," the protagonist is born as an old man and progressively becomes younger. In his "Through the Looking Glass" (sequel to "Alice in Wonderland"), 19th century novelist Lewis Carroll tells of a White Queen who experiences an effect before its cause takes place. And in Martin Amis' "Time's Arrow," the narrator is a disembodied consciousness living inside of an Auschwitz doctor. For the narrator, life's scenes move backward, rendering an atrocity less detestable. In all three cases, the arrow of time reverses.

This concept need not be dismissed. As Copernicus dethroned humanity with his Heliocentrism, Darwin with his Natural Selection, and others (like Freud) since then, we are now confronted with the possibility that even our universe may not be unique (and time in these other universes may not resemble time as we think we know it). Imagine being just another evolved creature from a backwater solar system in a backwater galaxy in a backwater universe? Talk about an ego bust! Maybe that's the way it is, to paraphrase the late Walter Cronkite. It still doesn't disallow God's interactions with humanity.

Carroll tiptoes gingerly through the God/intelligent design issue. After all, there is no known empirical test for God as an external agent creating the universe(s) out of nothing. Even Belgian priest Georges Lemaitre, originator of the Big Bang model, refused to enlist it for theological purposes: "As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside of any metaphysical or religious question."

Another scientific thinker who did not rely on a God hypothesis was Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827). Using mathematics, Laplace instead invoked an intelligence (called Laplace's Demon) that could exactly foretell the universe's "predetermined" future. Later in the 19th century, Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) also concocted a "demon." Maxwell's Demon wreaked havoc on conventional thinking about the Second Law of Thermodynamics and entropy by interfering with the normal kinetic process in a closed system. No, the Second Law was not violated after all, for the Demon siphoned entropy away from the box to himself, entropy that would have increased within an untampered closed system.

At the end of the day, Carroll leaves the reader with a lot of unanswered questions, but enlightened nonetheless by his yeoman's effort to bring us further along in our quest to understand the cosmos. Fr. Dennis
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