A well-intended effort to join the quest for meaning in life with that for the origins of the universe—to wed, that is, faith and science.
“The founder and greatest prophet of sci/religion”—as Discover magazine editor and debut author Powell calls this union—“had no . . . qualms about finding common ground between the material and the mystical.” Neither, by Powell’s account, do modern cosmologists such as Saul Perlmutter and Guth Linde, who have lately been turning up some strange anomalies in the universe—discovering, not so long ago, for instance, that the universe is still expanding—and who have proposed some novel explanations for them that accommodate what Einstein called “Lambda,” the hidden quantum that might just as well be called God, and that “a number of theoretical cosmologists had decided that they needed . . . back in their equations.” Confused? Well, there’s more, and Powell’s tour of such post-Einsteinian notions as “potential energy,” the “multiverse,” and “chaotic inflation” is enough to make a neophyte’s head spin. Powell’s argument is, at heart, a little far-fetched: that Einstein was incidentally interested in matters spiritual does not necessarily secure him prophet status, even with the generosity of metaphor, and his idea of the deity was less an Old Testament character than a particle of errant energy; and Powell too often gets carried away with formulations like “If Einstein was the Jesus of the new sci/religion, Edwin Powell Hubble was its Martin Luther.” (But where is the observatory dome to which his 95 formulae have been nailed?) He’s playing to a tough crowd, too, whichever way you turn: fundamentalists and creationists will not much like his ideas, while hard-line materialists of the E.O. Wilson school will not be quick to embrace Powell’s accommodating view of the supernatural.
General, generous readers with an interest in science, however, will find this provocative, securely grounded in contemporary theories of physics, and at least worth pondering.