Review: How things come together: a collection of essays

Hanna Newcombe

By Bob Baxter (reviewer)

Almost all readers of Peace Magazine will know Hanna Newcombe if not at least by name then as a dedicated and hard-working campaigner for peace. They may not know that her initial training was in science, and that she is a person of wide-ranging interests and curiosity, as this remarkable book reveals.

In this collection of essays, the author considers such topics as the nature of space and time; the origin and nature of life; the nature of mind and its relation to the body; the inter-relationships of science, myth and religion; and the nature of God.

When I opened the book at random I found an account of the reproductive process in whiptail lizards. These curious animals are exclusively female, but they must carry out a kind of simulated mating in order for reproduction to occur. This was only one of many intriguing topics which the author cites to illustrate how things come together. There are references to Prigogine's dissipative structures as exemplified by the beautiful Belousov-Zhabotinski reaction, to Mandelbrot's fractals, to Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point, and to Gustav Vigeland's spectacular but surprisingly little-known sculptures in Oslo, as well as to more esoteric and perhaps dubious topics such as astrology and the Tarot. She alludes almost in passing to matters that many readers may wish to pursue further, such as Peter Kropotkin's ideas about cooperation as a factor in evolution (these ideas are presented in his book "Mutual Aid"). She suggests surprising similarities, as between saving a text on a computer and salvation in the religious sense, between the four forces of physical attraction and Love, and between cognitive development in individuals as described by Piaget and its historical development in the human race. Interspersed in this are poems and accounts of incidents in her own life.

I doubt if many readers will find themselves in agreement with everything Dr. Newcombe has to say; certainly I didn't. However everyone will surely find her ideas intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking.

Reviewed by Bob Baxter, a research scientist, and an editor of Peace.

Peace Magazine Winter 2000

Peace Magazine Winter 2000, page 30. Some rights reserved.

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