John Fishwick

Science, Literature, Art, Philosophy, Logic

Month: November 2014



Go to: ; click on yellow tab for Listen to Previous Broadcasts, scroll to #156 and check box on right side (27.5) and

click on Play Selected Files.  30 minute interview.


EXISTENCE BY INFERENCE                                           JOHN FISHWICK


Earth-based optical telescopes and the Kepler space probe have identified several hundred planets orbiting stars or suns elsewhere in our galaxy. Most of these planets are too large or too close to their parent star to support the kind of life that we have here on Earth. We can’t actually see these planets –we detect their presence by inference in two main ways. First, if the observed star undergoes a slight wobble, as indeed our own sun would do were it to be observed by some alien civilization several light years from us, then it would be reasonable to conclude that this wobble was caused by the gravitational force produced by orbiting planets. Earth’s wobble is caused mainly by Jupiter and Saturn. Second, if the planets pass on a line of sight between Earth and the star being observed then we can measure a slight dimming of light as the planets cross the face of their sun. Bear with me for a while, I’ll eventually get to the point.

As with the planets, no one has actually seen or talked to God, so we must rely on inference to ascertain His existence. Let’s look at planet Earth to see if it is a suitable gift to us from a divine creator.

Earth was born some 4.5 billion years ago in violence. In its early years it was a violent place being bombarded regularly by asteroids, one of the larger ones knocking off a piece of the Earth to produce our moon. In our geological history, Earth has experienced at least five major extinctions, caused by asteroid strikes or volcanoes, in which over 90% of species then living died. The largest of these occurred at the end of the Permian period as evidenced by a drastic reduction of fossils found in the rocks of the early Triassic period.

Since the evolution of homo sapiens, our planet has been, and continues to be, raked by powerful hurricanes and tornadoes and ripped apart by earthquakes. Hundreds of thousands of humans have died as a result and many more have been slaughtered by religious conflicts. The list of disasters is too long to be given here. Besides, they have been well covered in previous issues of this magazine.

And then there is infantile carcinoma.

So, is it logical to conclude that Earth was a gift to us from an all-powerful and all-loving God?

I think not.

A final word on Pascal’s Wager, in which it pays to hedge your bets and believe in God in case He is found to really exist after the final judgment day. If you decide to believe for this reason, don’t you think that He will see through your little scheme?


WRITING “A FLIGHT TO ROMANCE”           John H. Fishwick


The title and the plot are arguably the two most important things to get right in a book as I found when writing my debut novel “A FLIGHT TO ROMANCE”.

First, the title. My novel began several years ago as a technical book about Astronomy, Geology, and Evolution Theory, subjects that, in my opinion, should be studied, at least in a cursory manner, when searching for an answer to the age-old questions: Who are we?; Why are we here?; and What’s the purpose of life? I decided to call my book: “Looking Up and Down in Britain”. ‘Up’ for the stars and ‘Down’ for the rocks. Not surprisingly, Oxford University Press thought that it was a travel book.

Another example. One of my talks that I give at colleges, country clubs, and on cruise ships was entitled “The Search for Extra-Terrestrials”. Attendance was fair to poor. People didn’t know what extra-terrestrials were. Changing the title to: “The Search for Aliens” produced much better results.

Second, the plot. My technical book was about half completed when my first wife died of pancreatic cancer and my enthusiasm for writing died with her A year or so later, I met and married a wonderful lady from Chicago whose husband had passed away over a year ago. This second marriage has proven to be a huge success for both of us, suggesting that we all have the potential for a second chance at romance and happiness. My second wife, Nancy, encouraged me to continue the book and I decided to resurrect it as a novel in which Jeremy Rowlands, an Astronomy professor meets Stephanie Marks, a retired teacher of English and a lover of Art, quite by chance on a flight from Newark, NJ to London, England. They are going on this trip for different reasons, he to visit various scientific sites and she to see the homes and birthplaces of the various poets and authors whose works she had taught to her high school students.

I now decided, quite intentionally, to violate the conventional wisdom of writing a romance. Critics may suggest that if you are writing a book about Science, Literature, and Art, write non-fiction. If you are writing about romance, it should be a novel. My decision was to write about what I knew, which was an intellectual novel in which my protagonists decide to join forces and tour Britain together while discussing Science, Literature, and Art and, in the process, form a strong emotional bond that neither had expected or even wanted.

I knew at the outset that the novel may not appeal to those looking for a bodice-ripper but rather to those ready to be educated in the background of a romance.

I like to think that Astronomy, Geology, Evolution, Literature, and Art are a golden braid in which elements from all seemingly individual subjects are intertwined. You would be forgiven for believing that these subjects are unrelated and each has its own sharp line of demarcation. Astronomy morphs into both religion and philosophy as we discuss what came before the “Big Bang” and what comes after the death of our universe; Geology is not only about rocks but also records the gradual evolution of life from single-celled marine organisms to the much more complex homo- sapiens; and many art masterpieces attest to the painter’s knowledge of science, such as Manet’s “The Boats”, DuChamps’ art in motion, Picassos’s vision of objects seen from more than one side (as one would see at the speed of light), Vermeer’s use of the camera lucida, Munch’s painting of “The Scream”, possibly depicting red sunsets following a recent volcanic explosion, and Le Corbusier’s knowledge of the Golden Ratio.

In summary, you have to decide why you are writing your book in the first place. Is it to sell the most copies or to satisfy your own need to write about what you know and what you love?

Finally, to promote your book, get a professional who knows exactly what to do and how to do it.

© 2017 John Fishwick

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