cover image THE PARADOX OF GOD AND THE SCIENCE OF OMNISCIENCE

THE PARADOX OF GOD AND THE SCIENCE OF OMNISCIENCE

Clifford A. Pickover, Author . Palgrave $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978

Pickover, an inventor, computer artist and professional puzzler (who has edited brainteaser columns for both Discover and Odyssey), invites readers on a paradoxical and sometimes merely quirky exploration of logical and psychological puzzles surrounding God and religion. Many of these "paradoxes" simply put a new face on the familiar conflict between divine foreknowledge and free will; others lead to unexpected conclusions—such as Pickover's demonstration of how omniscient beings are at a huge disadvantage in games of "chicken" with non-omniscient beings. (By staying the course, a daring challenger can compel an all-knowing opponent to turn aside, guaranteeing their mutual safety.) This and other examples show how omniscience can become a practical liability in some situations, countering the widespread assumption that knowledge is power. The book is also liberally salted with religious and nonreligious curiosities and conundrums, ranging from biblical oddities to the neuropsychology of time perception, all related with an attitude of mischievous irreverence. Pickover's satirical approach energizes the book, but frequently verges on the sophomoric or simply bizarre: "God gives you a piano. For each note you play, someone will die. What classical piece do you choose?" At its best, the book achieves a juxtaposition of cosmic relevance and intellectual whimsy, but the overall execution is uneven, faltering most conspicuously when Pickover tries to tackle problems of evil and human responsibility. (Jan.)