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Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  169 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Are there really laws governing the universe? Or is the order we see a mere artifact of the way evolution wired the brain? And is what we call science only a set of myths in which quarks, DNA, and information fill the role once occupied by gods? These questions lie at the heart of George Johnson's audacious exploration of the border between science and religion, cosmic acc ...more
Paperback, 402 pages
Published September 17th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  169 ratings  ·  22 reviews

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Fire in the Mind is one of those books that make you want to read ten others. His main point is that the truth that you see in the world depends on the filter you’re looking through, and that both agnostic scientists and practicers of religion are struggling to impose their own sense of order on a messy universe. He delves into quantum mechanics and cosmology on one hand, and the intricacies of Southwestern religion (both Catholic and indigenous) on the other. He helped me to see that science is ...more
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
"In an accelerator experiment, more data are produced than we could ever hope to interpret; this information is sifted with computers programmed to look for the patterns the theorists have decided are important. Theory restricts the search space. But maybe more important truths lie in what we thought was noise." (56)

"From our vantage point on this tiny planet we construct a universe." (70)

"To Bohr and Heisenberg it was meaningless to speculate on whether the wave itself is somehow real. At the d
Peter Mcloughlin
Johnson's beautiful prose meanders over a wide area. He encounters Pueblo Indians, Protestant Holy Rollers, Latino Catholics and cutting edge scientists in his travels through New Mexico. A good part of the book describes scenic landscape and peoples of New Mexico and the other half of the book is devoted to the science being done at the Santa Fe institute circa 1995 (when this book was published.) The science also meanders touching on the Big Bang, Thermodynamics, Maxwell and Laplacian Demons, ...more
May 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Combining concepts of emergence and complexity the book explores the connection between science and spirituality. It runs through many areas of popular interest including areas involved in anthropology, including the culture of southwest native americans and archeology. It isn't a lazy text nor is it what some might consider to be new age clap-trap. I haven't read it in years and I confess I can't give you a detailed description of its contents (if I ever get the time it needs to go back to onto ...more
Aug 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics, science
“It was the mathematician Claude Shannon, among others, who first embraced the concept of information to help us better understand how to send signals through the random noise of a telephone line. Information theory proved to be a powerful tool. Thinking in terms of bits has allowed us to develop the field of computer science, in which we learn how to represent the world with patterns of information. So successful are our endeavors that some physicists and computer scientists believe that perhap ...more
Elliott Bignell
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is beguilingly written. It offers no less than a common framework for the pagan religions of native America, the sanguinary absolutes of Catholicism and the methodological naturalism of Science. At Santa Fe, the three meet on the same piece of territory but never quite in the mind. Nevertheless, they are all sparks of that common fire - the quest to see order in the world.

I found it a surprisingly slow read considering that it covered familiar science and is rivettingly written. There
Adrienne Flis Vance
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book that explores the notion that man needs to make order out of all things. It questions if there are really laws that govern the universe or if we are using science to establish and order and to try to explain life. Furthermore, the book also discusses religion as another form of creating order, along with culture. A refreshing change from the pure science realm.
May 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Really outstanding - phenomenal. A discussion of how quantum mechanics and evolution come together in modern views of the centrality of information processing and inherent hierarchy informing the origin of life. Fantastic!
May 22, 2011 added it
an amazing trip through fringe physics and human spiritualities.

a guy i was briefly friends with, jonathan, thinks science and spirituality are merging. it is pretty hard not to stay up all night talking to him.
Skip Kilmer
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is a sweeping collage of historic geology, epistemology, and science. The writing is poetic and dense. It is a multi-course banquet of ideas which must be savored slowly.
David Roberts
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writers-group-2
Sparked a lively discussion in my men's book group, but a bit too dense a work for non-scientists to wade through.
Oct 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
science and fatih really can combine and thoughts might have mass.
Jan 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
He says Catholicism, New Age shamanism, Indian superstition and quantum mechanics are the same thing. Not quite I agree.
Henry Park
Jun 21, 2008 is currently reading it
Weird how science and theological "faith/theory/belief" is crossing paths these days. very interesting...
Mar 05, 2010 rated it liked it
The depth of detail is sometimes tedious but there are a lot of interesting ideas.
Tim Pearson
Jul 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Heavy read. Very thought provoking.
Jan 04, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Andy Turner
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A book which elegantly expands on the title. A brilliantly written beautiful read.
Feb 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-ever
wow. journey through modern science - questions the foundation of it as a social construction rather than a construction of truths...
Ernest Barker
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This books dares to point out the constrictions and facilities in the Abrahamic religions. If you are a christian, I dare you to read it with an open mind.
Jun 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book definitely rocked my "science versus religion" mentality. I seriously enjoyed it; shifted my way of thinking and expanded my perspective.
Andrew Hoffman
rated it it was ok
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Jamil Kharrat
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Oct 31, 2012
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Librarian note:
There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name

George Johnson (born January 20, 1952) is an American journalist and science writer. He is the author of a number of books, including The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments (2008) and Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in 20th-Century Physics (1999), and writes for a number of publications, including