Cosmo Sapiens

„Cosmosapiens“ by John Hands is one of the most astonishing popular science books I have ever come across. It is about the comprehensive evolution of man dating back to the Big Bang or, as once you have inhaled the whole thing you may be more tempted to say: the mysterious origins of the universe, and trying to expand it into the future of man and of civilisation. There are illnesses running in my family and within myself and a while ago I came to ask my doctor on occasion why medicine still hasn´t managed to get a firm grasp on them and cannot explain them despite decades of effort while in other respects it is obviously working so well. At that time I´ve been specifically impressed by stories in astronomy magazine „Sterne und Weltraum“ about techniques how dust particles are chemically analysed in open space or planets in distant solar systems are detected. Awesome! What progress has been achieved! So why not in medicine? Because nature is, and remains, a wonderful mystery, the friendly Dr Fleischer said. Because, as concerns medicine, we are still living in the stone age, Dr Huber said. Indeed, many of the complex interactions within the body are difficult to grasp. Reading „Cosmosapiens“ however gives you an indication that the triumphant hard sciences aren´t so triumphant either. I have somehow been aware about the limitations and mysteries of and within cosmological and biological theories before, but John Hands comes up with so many question marks that he is able to convincingly shed new light on how doubtful theories and paradigms that seem to stand erect and tall actually are, or may be. Absolutely astonishing his overview not only over entire disciplines but also over stuff theoretical or empirical largely neglected by mainstream academia! I do not want to elaborate much about that since you should read „Cosmosapiens“ yourself, asshole. I like to read „Sterne und Weltraum“ occasionally because I enjoy the apparent ambiente within the community of astronomers and stargazers. Calm, relaxed, tranquil, rational and friendly those people seem to be free of evil or mundane intentions, simply want to do their astronomy and foster progress, in complete innocence (that maybe even borderlines with cute naivete). The peaceful atmosphere of a late Sunday evening where all scores are settled and the good night embraces the heart and the mind. Alas, academia and scientific communities frequently aren´t that way, respectively only at a thin surface. „Postmodernists“ like Foucault or Latour may radiate an exaggerated understanding that also scientific communities are „all“ about power relationships, but given the evidence John Hands provides about how brutal reasonable elements that do not fit into dominant paradigms are frequently oppressed, it makes you think about that again. Granted, scientists are often working at the margins and in a no man´s land, and especially in the United States cosmologists and biologists may be eager to defend the legitimacy of their positions against the religious zealots by trying to present them as more monolithic than they actually are, but what they frequently seem to do deems exaggerated. Consider further that scientific communities and academia are, like the human enterprise at large, including communism, to some considerable degree, a vanity fair that serves as an exhibition hall for egos and egos are inherently fragile and may easily become aggressive when undermined – therefore the Buddha teaches us to leave the ego behind. John Hands´ frequent illustrations about the downsides of scientific communities may appear repetitive, but the frustrations of a highly intelligent person like him whose mind spans entire disciplines is likely to experience in present-day academia seem understandable. „Silence means death/ Stand on your feet/ Inner fear/ Your worst enemy“ sing Sepultura as an adress not to have yourself undermined or grinded within that. As I said, I do not want to get too much into detail as you should read the book yourself. However, my favorite inconsistency mentioned in „Cosmosapiens“ I have not been aware before is that there is actually evidence that quasars aren´t what we like to think, i.e. memories of a very distant cosmic past but proto-galaxies that are considerable less distant in space and time. When I was young I was trying to get every book on astronomy and cosmology possible. I remember, I also bought a book, „Die neue Astronomie“; I was disappointed then as it turned out to be largely not about sexy theories but about experimental radioastronomy. Awesome! Intriguing! Fascinating! I now hope I can still find it somewhere.