George Johnson provides a stimulating book that has given me some stimulating ideas to think of. A complex and intelligible way in which theories from physics, computational theory, biology and evolution are mixed together to form a part of something that is a trademark for the scientist working in the 90's.
It was a great way for me to finally get a hold of some concepts from string theory in physics and quantum mechanics. Hoping that my understanding got deeper than before it did shift my perception of what I knew about the world around me. Theories evolve and develop themselves through the work of scientist, and scientist are in a way form by the theories they work with so it might seem hard to try to shift the view the theory gives you just to try to make better sense of things using a different "looking glass". But this is exactly what the book is all about(as it seemed to my Iguse- information gatherer and using system).
The try to make sense and predict the events happening is a endeavor that has kept our human minds busy since the dawn of consciousness. Maybe it's only an artifact of human culture and the anthropic environment in which humans engulf themselves, but it's obvious from the work in fields like anthropology,history and psychology, that the drive for knowledge and a sense of meaning to the world is what defines our species. In order to make sense we construct laws which help explain most of the events, and we try to make predictions using the knowledge we gain through using these laws. But events often seem random and sense if given to subjective state, or random condition so the meaning is in a way superstitious, attributed to things or behaviors particular to every individual.
What happens when somebody doesn't seem to see through this intricate web of everyday events? An answer is that that certain person might choose to use system of navigating through the mesh of events designed by other. Some of the most basic forms of ensuring an order is by using superstitious rituals, and afterwards using some more elaborate rituals, like those performed at religious gatherings. But whatever the form in which these systems are used they too represent compressions of the knowledge of the world.
And so it appears that there are more ways in which compressions about the world can be made and the understanding of the events can be achieved. The part in which science as a system of beliefs is superior to religion is that it always try to improve it's theories, testing them using instruments, whereas religion, as a system of beliefs works more on personal revelations alongside with those of other more illustrious people.
My favorite quote of the book is actually an reiteration of Murray Gell-Mann's words about compressions of the world around us: "when you don't see compressions that are there, that is denial; when you see compressions that don't exist, that is superstition." I strive to achieve understanding of the theories regarding life so that my personal area of compression that don't exist and are perceived by me is narrowed.
Then again, who knows what is the definition of existence? It's up to the community of scientists to define a standard of what can be seen as a part of the realm of existence and what is not.
Let's hope that we don't just invent machines that measure what are intent to measure and we will be able to shift the perspective every so often as it is needed to expand the knowledge and not to disregard things and events which might actually be happening but outside the reach of our designed instruments of perception and recording.