Engaging the Cosmos: Astronomy, Philosophy and Faith
“This is an unusual book which ranges across astronomy, philosophy and faith as the subtitle promises. It embraces a study of the value systems and concepts which have come from major religions and other structures of belief. Ultimately Professor Brown, seems to be fundamentally concerned with what human beings are and the meaning of human consciousness. His book, he says, ‘arises from a need to consolidate the forces of reason but also to be infused with the virtues we see as aspects of reality.’
The author embarks on this task by considering ideas from a very wide range of thinkers and actors throughout history: Moses, Plato, Jesus, Newton, Einstein, Kant, Maimonides, Mohammed and many others. He manages to do this without being, on the one hand, encyclopaedic, on the other fragmentary; this is a particularly notable feature of a book of only just over 300 pages.
The interdisciplinary coverage of the book is extraordinary and rather exciting in its exploration of philosophic implications of the developments in our knowledge of the universe. Yet, in a sense, there is a simple directness in its ultimate propositions that it is a privilege to be a human being and that as Professor Brown puts it, relations will ‘improve between the great religious obediences; between them and philosophic obediences; and between all of these and the natural sciences.’
Well worth the effort for a wide range of readers, philosophers, scientists, and non-specialists.” Philosophy of Management"
Neville Brown brings a distinctive voice and a lifetime’s reflection to the discussion of both science and spirituality. He provides an engaging compendium of information on human evolution, emphasising the critical role astronomy has played in defining human self-perception. Eastern as well as Western cultures fall within his purview and he provides the grounds for welcoming the spiritual experimentation taking place within and across different religious traditions. This is a book for all who share his concern that in a shrinking world the choice between fanaticism and conciliation is becoming ever starker.”
John Hedley Brooke, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science & Religion, University of Oxford
“Professor Neville Brown has written a magisterial book on current relationships and debates involving astronomy, philosophy, and theology. His work on this broad and daunting topic is a highly creative and accessible analysis by a writer with unusual interdisciplinary strengths. He explores the interactions among the main religious faiths of the world, and between them and astrophysics and astrobiology. He examines the implications of this exploration for such questions as the concept of a ‘just war’, the non-weaponization of space, and effective measures of arms control.
Professor Brown argues that the preservation of Nature could be one valuable consequence of a heightened dialogue and discussion among the world’s great faiths. And he has produced a work that has sweeping implications for social and political policy-making. Political, religious, and civic leaders – world-wide – would do well to heed this book’s message.”
Milton C. Cummings, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University
“One can always be certain that any book by Neville Brown will exhibit breadth and depth of experience and learning. Engaging the Cosmos does not disappoint. This book is absorbing. The narrative detail serves to place all the major historical information in a fascinating context.
Neville Brown makes it natural that astronomy, philosophy and faith in their widest interpretation should be discussed together. Each reinforces the other in the development of the book. It is rare to find an author who is equally comfortable with modern astrophysics as with the motivations of the ancient world. If you want to know who is or was who in these fields you will find a discussion of them in this book. The issues are not left to ideals. We are brought to face issues of modern conscience and responsibility. Well worth reading.”
Professor Yvonne Elsworth, School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Birmingham
“One is entitled to ask where the author is coming from. It is most succinctly put on p. 226: ‘those many of us who subscribe to no established faith but who would lay claim to a broad ethical concern and spiritual aspiration.’
Thus, all the great belief systems, and many of the dottier ones, are examined in the light of what we know and don’t know about the universe, and of the state of humankind past and present; but even that goes only part way to describing what is set out in this book, for it is at its most fascinating when examining the concepts of Life and Consciousness. Are the two, as the book seems sometimes to imply, interdependent; or is there some deeper cosmic consciousness that is, indeed, the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything?
What, then, of the future as Professor Brown sees it? While accepting that humankind is limited in its comprehension and the span of its logic – in both space and time – he finds that ‘it is a considerable privilege to be a human being’, and sees some hope in the convergence of the beliefs of ordinary folk who are not ‘prone to prejudicial irrationality and over-reactive violence’. Within that convergence, he suggests, ‘Value and belief systems will become more individual, more or less regardless of any person’s formal allegiance.’”
The Geography of Human Conflict: Approaches to Survival
Chosen runner-up to the winning title ‘D Day’ by Antony Beevor for the yearly Duke of Westminster Medal for Military Literature prize organized by the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies
“Neville Brown has used his vast knowledge of history and geography in a fascinating way to give us deeper insights into how these key influences on human life have combined to shape our course. At this time we should be thinking widely and challenging familiar boundaries of thought. Brown leads the way with a very important book. I commend it warmly.”
Robert O'Neill, Former Chichele Professor of the History of War, Oxford University
“‘Geopolitics’ is a much misunderstood term that is over-used in modern politics. Neville Brown puts geopolitics back where it belongs – as a scientific and particular way of interpreting world politics that offers both explanation and meta-prediction. And he does so in a way that is both delightful and impressive. On the basis of a lifetime of scholarship and an eye for the fascinating and amusing he offers a sweep of history, culture and science that is as breathtaking as it is riveting. If students of global politics are frightened of being changed simply by reading one book, they should stay away from this one. It will stretch and convert them in a single reading."
Professor Michael Clarke, Director, Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies
“Professor Brown’s scope is extremely wide. Its historical span extends from proto-human to modern times, its geographical span is throughout our troubled planet and the Inner Space around it. Many threads are brought together to consider present and future circumstances: the strategic balance shifting eastwards; the displacement of Cold War rivalries with new antagonisms; accelerating change in technology, ecology and demography; failed or failing states Those involved in or otherwise concerned about the difficult decisions we face, strategic and economic, will be far better informed for having read this impressive book.”
General Sir Mike Jackson, formerly Chief of General Staff
“Neville Brown was already a leading figure in Strategic Studies when today’s decision-makers were undergraduate students. A lifetime in the field has qualified him, almost uniquely, to paint ‘the bigger picture’ by integrating history, geography and strategic analysis into a continuum which broadens horizons as it deepens understanding.”
Dr Julian Lewis MP, Shadow Defence Minister
The Bounds of Liberalism: The Fragility of Freedom
“In this remarkable exploration of how liberal democracy may, or may not, have the capacity to respond creatively to the manifold stresses of world culture, economics and politics in the pursuit of a durable peace, Professor Brown delivers profound insights into the contemporary human condition, its origins and possible futures. That he is able to address such ambition says much, not only for the robust platform established in the earlier two books of this outstanding trilogy, but also for his command of an impressive library of philosophical, economic and scientific sources organised within an historical narrative ranging from the Neolithic to the frontiers of space. The result is an interdisciplinary tour de force built on an evidential base of much depth and richness, comprehensive in scope yet at times almost anecdotal in the specificity of the exemplars employed.
Drawing effortlessly (or so it would seem) on a lifetime’s reflection on the relationship between the roots of world problems, such as climate change, war, scientific hubris, and technological determinism, and the political means available to address them, he offers no neat solution but rather a considered and clearly deeply felt consideration of the possible ways forward.
Although the lynchpin of this reflection is social liberalism it is not an uncritical one: his historical awareness is too acute for such an easy approach to be acceptable. Rather, there is a continuous probing and testing of both the nature of the pressures to which polities across the world are subject and the governmental solutions which, since the dawn of human political history, have been proffered. Throughout this unique book there is emphasis on linkage: science, philosophy and history are presented as integral to political understandings, not as separate contributors.
Equally characteristic is its intellectual restlessness and refusal to accept uncritically common conceptual assumptions, be these with regard to parliamentary democracy or happiness and fulfilment. Finally, there is the spiritual and the point of it all which, as Professor Brown elegantly argues, is after all a sine qua non of political reflection.”
Brian Salter, Professor of Politics, Department of Political Economy, King’s College London
“In The Bounds of Liberalism Neville Brown offers an intricate and sophisticated analysis of the possibilities of, and constraints on, social liberalism. The scholarship displays enormous erudition and breadth of reading and is exceptional in its command of disciplines and fields of endeavour that are seldom in contact with each other.
The author explores individual and social behaviour since the advent of early Man; anticipates the impact of future technological developments; examines developments in international relations and warfare; and investigates key moments and players in science, history and philosophy, on which to hang social change and epistemological shifts.
The outcome is the anchoring of liberal humanism in a rich, imaginative and highly readable set of interlocking perspectives.”
Michael Freeden, University of Nottingham; Emeritus, University of Oxford