Cover Image: Big History

Big History

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Member Reviews

There are 2 major problems with this book. For starters, the title definitely doesn't cover the content. This is not a Big History book, at least not in the way this approach was started by David Christian and Fred Spier, and has since been sponsored through the Gates Foundation as a teaching tool. The book does provide a good state of affairs in the scientific debate about the origin and evolution of the universe, the origin of life and of the modern human species. But just before halfway it becomes a tract in which the contribution of religions in human history is systematically played down and criticized. The author certainly offers interesting reflections, but this is devaluated into incessant ranting against everything related to religion, without the least of nuance. This clearly is a book with its own, very committed agenda. And that certainly detracts from the 'Big History'-focus of the first chapters.
The second problem is that the text of this book is literally identical to the publication “Discovering our world, Humanity's epic journey from myth to knowledge”, a book published by Paul Singh and John R. Shook in 2015. But in this book, Shook's name, as well as that of the illustrator, has been omitted; and neither the content nor the bibliography have been updated. Strange indeed.
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I really enjoyed the first half of this book which sketched the “big picture” of the universe and then of the creation of earth and its development in a clear and succinct  fashion. Everything was going fine up until about the year 50,000–then the author swerved into an examination of religion and culture seemingly fueled by the author’s extreme animus against religion. Nothing wrong with that, but maybe the investigation of the deleterious  effects of religion would have been better depicted in a different book.
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This book is a hodge-podge that must be avoided. It seems that the author has read many books on a variety of topics and he decided to write a single book that covers all of these unrelated subjects. What came out is a mess.
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I received an advanced reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via netgalley and the publishers.

I really didn't enjoy this book, it's not what I was expecting it to be at all. The book is rather scattered and not laid out very well with information that I didn't enjoy reading. 
I in general enjoy booksabout history but this book was half history and half science.
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Big History by Paul Singh seemed like two different books to me. The first section mostly deals with scientific explanations of early cosmology (the Big Bang, galaxy creation, the expansion of the universe, inflation theory, multiverse, and so forth) and then moves into geologic history (age of the Earth, continental drift, plate tectonics, the various ages of the Earth), then biological history (rise of bacteria, photosynthesis, the Cambrian Explosion) and finally human history (rise of homo sapiens, development of language and tools).  It’s all explained mostly clearly enough, though one or two metaphors I’m not so sure were the best choices for clarity. The presentation feels a bit scattered though, and the explanations are more broad than in-depth.  It’s not a bad synopsis, but honestly, there are better choices out there for those looking for either more full explanations and more in-depth details or more engaging style (or both). 

The second section veers into an exploration, though really a take-down, of religion.  Singh wears his views on his sleeve and while parts of the discussion are interesting, mostly it seems pretty shallow (not in its insights but its details) and hit a lot of easy targets. I’m also not quite sure who this is for.  Being an atheist, my own views align with Singh’s but even I was off put now and then by some what seemed to me unnecessarily insulting language. If one is even moderately religious, it’s hard for me to imagine them continuing reading this. If one is an atheist and interested in science, I’m not sure this is of much interest to them.  Honestly, the second half left me more befuddled and disengaged than enlightened.

In the end, while there are some interesting points made and the early scientific discussion is relatively informative, there are better offerings to learn either the scientific or the religious elements.
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The author comes with a heavy science+good and religion=bad opinion. especially with sections like his "God is Not.a Scientific Hypothesis." With lines like: "Crediting a god with creating something in the world or causing a miracle to happen in the world is far more like pseudoscientific 'explanations.'" and "Science does not directly disprove religion, but it exposes why rationality itself must avoid it."  this section explains a lot where he's coming from, and you may not agree with him, but at least you know his direction of belief.

If you are a religious reader, looking for a scientific explanation of Big Bang that could support your religious faith (Theistic Evolution, Christian Evolution), this book may not be for you.  But if you're looking for a pure scientific dialogue about the universe, Big Bang, evolution, etc, this book would be a great read.

Well researched, clear explanations, easy to understand.
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