John Brockman is a writer, agent and publisher of the 'Third Culture' website www.edge.org, the forum for leading scientists and thinkers to share their research with the general public. He is the author of THE THIRD CULTURE and the editor of several anthologies including WHAT WE BELIEVE BUT CANNOT PROVE and WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?. He lives in New York.
The title's question was posed on Edge.org (an online intellectual clearing house), challenging more than 100 intellectuals of every stripe-from Richard Dawkins to Ian McEwan-to confess the personal theories they cannot demonstrate with certainty. The results, gathered by literary agent and editor Brockman, is a stimulating collection of micro-essays (mainly by scientists) divulging many of today's big unanswered questions reaching across the plane of human existence. Susan Blackmore, a lecturer on evolutionary theory, believes "it is possible to live happily and morally without believing in free will," and Daniel Goleman believes children today are "unintended victims of economic and technological progress." Other beliefs are more mundane and one is highly mathematically specific. Many contributors open with their discomfort at being asked to discuss unproven beliefs, which itself is an interesting reflection of the state of science. The similarity in form and tone of the responses makes this collection most enjoyable in small doses, which allow the answers to spark new questions and ideas in the reader's mind. It's unfortunate that the tone of most contributions isn't livelier and that there aren't explanations of some of the more esoteric concepts discussed; those limitations will keep these adroit musings from finding a wider audience. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.