293 of 319 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
This is an outstanding book. Victor Stenger, a Professor of both Physics and Astronomy, convincingly argues against the existence of God (by which he means the Judea-Christian-Islamic version) by examining a wide variety of scientific evidence. In my view Stenger succeeds in disproving God beyond a level of reasonable doubt. Certain high profile atheists (Richard Dawkins...
Published on March 13, 2007 by Andrew
102 of 111 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Though flawed, still worth reading and keeping as a reference book
There are several reasons I highly recommend purchasing this book even though I believe it contains some major flaws that yields a less than convincing argument by Dr. Stenger:
Stenger makes an excellent argument the scientific method is able to run the various hypotheses for the existence of God with certain characteristics through the gauntlet. While an...
Published on July 15, 2007 by Michael Heath
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293 of 319 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended,
This review is from: God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist (Hardcover)This is an outstanding book. Victor Stenger, a Professor of both Physics and Astronomy, convincingly argues against the existence of God (by which he means the Judea-Christian-Islamic version) by examining a wide variety of scientific evidence. In my view Stenger succeeds in disproving God beyond a level of reasonable doubt. Certain high profile atheists (Richard Dawkins and Same Harris, to name but two) have already written bestsellers on this subject, and I would evaluate Stenger's work as one that fully deserves the same level of success and recognition.
The structure of the book is roughly as follows:
In the first chapter, Stenger lucidly explains the scientific method and what makes it such a potent investigative tool. This is important because many people have no real understanding of these concepts. He also refutes the widely held (at least, by religious people) view that science has nothing to say about religion. This is a very important point, which sets the foundation for the rest of the book.
Stenger also deals with another common misconception, which is that scientists are somehow opposed to, or in denial of the discovery of any supernatural forces, whether religious, psychic, or anything else which violates the natural laws as they are currently understood. In reality the only reason why most scientists do not acknowledge the evidence of such things is because the evidence does not exist.
In the remainder of the book, Stenger goes on to assess the objective evidence for and against the God hypothesis by investigating a plethora of scientific and historical research. He covers everything from biblical prophecies to the illusion of design to prayer experiments and much more. All of this research could very well have produced compelling evidence for God, but none of it has. Stenger logically concludes that the evidence looks exactly the way we would expect it to look in the absence of God.
As a mild criticism, I found that certain topics could have been covered in a bit more detail. On the other hand, some of these issues could easily form the subject of entire books, and so it would have been almost impossible to discuss them in full detail within just a single chapter. Overall I think the author has penetrated to the heart of most of the important issues, and there are plenty of references for those who which to carry out further reading.
Chapters 4 and 5 (entitled Cosmic Evidence and The Uncongenial Universe) deserve a special mention. These two chapters are the undisputed gems of the book, in my opinion. Perhaps this is not so surprising given Stenger's expertise in physics and astronomy. For me personally, the knowledge I gained from these two chapters was easily worth the price of book by itself, and it was an absolute joy to have my eyes opened to some of the mind-boggling secrets of the universe that have been yielded by the investigative efforts of physicists and astronomers. Things do get a little hard to follow at times, but this is pretty much unavoidable for such a complex subject, and overall I think that Stenger does a great job of making it understandable to the lay reader. I won't give too much away, but rest assured that pro-god arguments like "how can something come from nothing?" (with reference to the 'big bang') and "how do you explain the fine-tuning of the universe" are comprehensively dismantled.
To conclude, I would strongly recommend this book for:
- Atheists wishing to learn about how science can be used to disprove God beyond a reasonable doubt.
- People who are vaguely religious/agnostic who wish to learn about the objective evidence for and against a supreme being.
- Religious people who:
a) wish to strengthen their faith by familiarising themselves with arguments for the opposing viewpoint, and/or
b) are brave enough to admit that they could be wrong, and wish to assess the objective evidence for and against God.
In a nutshell, I think that Victor Stenger has done a wonderful job with this book. I have no hesitation in awarding it five stars - with six stars for chapters 4 and 5!
102 of 111 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Though flawed, still worth reading and keeping as a reference book,
This review is from: God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist (Hardcover)There are several reasons I highly recommend purchasing this book even though I believe it contains some major flaws that yields a less than convincing argument by Dr. Stenger:
Stenger makes an excellent argument the scientific method is able to run the various hypotheses for the existence of God with certain characteristics through the gauntlet. While an informed person could certainly argue we didn't have the knowledge and tools to perform such a task 100 years ago, Stenger eloquently points out that our accumulated knowledge in this century provides the empirical evidence necessary to make rational conclusions of History's arguments on the question of God's existence.
Stenger does an excellent job early in the book of describing the scientific method itself. To those of us who follow the interface between science and culture in modern America, I welcome his pre-empting any criticism of his conclusions that are based on an ignorant understanding of what a theory actually is and how one is developed and differs from credible and absurd hypotheses. He also does an excellent job of defining who has the obligation to make their case, though he's not dependent on expecting fundamentalists and other theists to make their case; the book is filled with arguments backed with empirical evidence on why a certain type of god cannot exist.
Stenger presents the best arguments for the existence of God and rebuts each claiming to use the approach scientists' use when critiquing scientific claims. I do believe Dr. Stenger stretches his case on some of his rebuttals. Having a comprehensive list alone with a usually adequate response makes the book not only worthy to buy and read, but also to keep for future reference. Stenger also does a great job of including arguments and evidence found by others and rarely makes strawmen of his opponents' positions. His writing is clear and his logic easy to follow, making for an interesting read as well.
I have three major concerns that I believe make this book deeply flawed when it comes to matching my opinion to Dr. Stenger based on his arguments:
Stenger often doesn't adequately describe his rebuttal to some hypotheses, instead referring the reader to a previous book authored by Stenger. Thus, some of his rebuttals are a mere sentence or two with no compelling argument or evidence we should believe him nor providing independent evidence. When I referenced other Stenger books in Amazon's search inside the book feature, his conclusions were vapid.
Stenger introduces us to his political beliefs, best described as secular progressive. Stenger even makes absolute statements about his political beliefs where his footnotes reference bloggers' opinions rather than convincing empirical evidence. Thus, Stenger's standards for making a conclusion are often as bad as his ideological opponents and unbecoming of a scientist claiming to use the scientific method to evaluate the various God hypotheses. In fact, this point alone insured me that I should investigate other sources to verify his conclusions since I'm not going to trust anyone using this method.
Stenger makes a strong and convincing case, similar to Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, that atheists are as moral if not more so then religious zealots and that our morals and ethics did not originate with God. While this is a worthy topic and Stenger's argument is convincing, I believe this subject has no business being in a book that claims to make an honest assessment of the case for or against a God with certain characteristics.
In fact once again, it's the same rhetorical trap his opponents make. Fundamentalists often claim the existence of God because if God didn't exist, then life isn't worth living; of course this argument in no way addresses the existence of God and instead is a product of wishful or uncreative thinking when confronting an argument against his existence. When Stenger makes the case that atheists are at least as moral as religious people, he falls into the same trap and weakens his argument by identifying himself as just another ideologue. Stenger should have kept to evaluating each God hypothesis and kept the editorializing that atheism is a superior belief system to guys like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris, including it here dilutes his moral authority to speak on the behalf of Science.
Even with all these big flaws, the reasons provided above along with some very good arguments rebutting the existence of God, especially his arguments in the chapter titled, "The Uncongenial Universe" makes this required reading for those interested in this subject. However, if you are a critical and/or freethinker, be prepared to exit unconvinced by many of Stenger's arguments though up to speed on what the arguments actually are.
173 of 196 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "Designing" and "Intervening" God isn't there,
This review is from: God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist (Hardcover)Having just finished the book moments ago, I was left with the distinct impression that I liked it better than almost any other non-fiction book that I have read lately.
One thing that I liked immensely about "God: The Failed Hypothesis" was its focus on science and showing that it is by far the best way to know the universe, not necessarily the only way, but indeed the best and most accurate method available to human beings to learning about life and all of its mysteries.
Preceding my reading of "G:TFH," I had just finished "Atheist Universe" by David Mills and while I agreed with almost everything he had to say, that book left me with an ambiguous feeling towards its merit. Not so the case with Stenger's book; it could almost be called uplifting.
As a former evangelical, who has studied almost every religion at least in a cursory manner, I am convinced that a personal, religiously affiliated, or intervening god does not exist and is a mere psychological projection. However, I had still remained somewhat agnostic toward the concept of a deistic god. Stenger shows that modern physics can indeed answer such seemingly hard questions as "Why is there something rather than nothing?" rather convincingly. This book weakened my position of agnostic deism from "maybe" to "probably not" because complete naturalism seems to be the best and most likely explanation.
119 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fifty Year Wait Is Over,
And then I picked up God: The Failed Hypothesis. I could not put it down; indeed I read it cover to cover within hours of purchase. Here was everything I wanted to say to individuals who were ignorant of rigorous science methodology, or scorned it, and relied solely upon faith and revelation.
I have never taken to task people with faith; that is their prerogative. But I always felt inadequate when articulating my own opposite point of view. And how I find meaning and beauty in the arts and nature from within myself, independent of some mystical or religious basis. Furthermore, I see no need for immortality; once around will suffice. So read Stenger's book; I promise you're in for an emotional experience!
61 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stenger Argues "The Clothes Have No Emperor",
While both books cover many of the same topics, the main differences stem from their fields of study. Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, spends more time on the evolution versus intelligent design topic while Stenger, the physicist, spends more time on the big bang and quantum mechanics. Although not quite a Carl Sagan, Stenger does more than an admirable job bringing some of the more difficult concepts (Planck time and vacuum energy for instance) to the layperson.
Stenger is abundantly clear that the definitions of God for this book are the ones put forth by the three Abrahamitic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The argument against any other type of god (the uninvolved observer god for instance) he leaves for another day. This is a wise choice which helps tighten the arguments and focus the book.
Even with the emphasis on physics, Stenger still spends enough time on other interesting topics like: the illusion of design, brain science, prayer, the seat of the soul, miracles, order and chaos, beginning and cause, something vs. nothingness, life in the universe, bible prophecy, scripture and science, the origin of morals, good and evil, and living in a godless universe.
I found the book to be structured very well. I particularly liked how the notes were at the end of each chapter rather than all together at the end of the book. It made finding the reference much easier while reading. While 1 star apparently means "I don't agree with you" instead of a poorly written book, I give this book 5 stars for being well written and well argued. The number of "agreement stars" you want to give it are entirely up to you... the reader.
323 of 385 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Devastating critique of the God Hypothesis,
165 of 197 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Clear Exposition of why the God Hypothesis Fails,
Dr. Stenger explains why it is unnecessary to posit a god to explain the existence of the universe or the existence of life. As knowledge of the way the universe works has increased, there have been fewer and fewer phenomena that seemed to need a god to explain them. That is why Michael D. Goulder, a leading New Testament scholar, resigned the priesthood and became an atheist, saying that he couldn't worship an unemployed God.
This book offers no refutation of the god of Pantheism; the Pantheist god is defined as everything that exists, and it would be difficult to refute the claim that what exists exists. However, that definition of god is not what most people mean by the word. Stenger offers a list of 8 definitional attributes that he suggests (I think correctly, for the most part) fit what most people mean by "God." (this list is abbreviated)
1. Creator of the universe.
2. Author of the laws of nature.
3. Occasionally violates his own laws by performing miracles.
4. Creator of life, especially human life.
5. Provider of immortal souls for humans.
6. Source of morality.
7. Revealer of Truth via Scripture and directly to certain persons.
8. Does not deliberately hide from humans who seek him.
(Read the complete text of each item on pp. 41-42.)
It is these 8, plus 2 of the 3 O's (Omnipotent and omnibenevolent) which Stenger refutes. He does not discuss omniscience, perhaps because Kurt Goedel and Werner Heisenberg have demonstrated that an omniscient entity cannot exist.
NOTE: Mr. Wesley Janssen (in the comments) has demonstrated that I was in error in the previous sentence; Goedel and Heisenberg did not prove quite what I thought they did. Thank you, Mr. Janssen; I stand corrected.
I have only one small complaint: Like too many books these days, it fails to put the footnotes where they belong, on the pages that reference them.
63 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Summary of recent research and rigorous investigation of theistic hypotheses,
Stenger's book should be used as a starting point of an important discussion we have already begun as a species and move us to the next step. The philosopher Popper pointed out that one of the nicest things someone can do is patiently explain how they are mistaken, and how to improve. This book is an example of this approach.
421 of 521 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atheists come out of the closet,
Religion is one of the last taboos, "the opium of the people" as marxism declared. Books such as Stenger's probably will not convince believers, but will reaffirm non believers. Religion is more part of our emotions than of our rationality. Why some people in Spain support Real Madrid soccer team and others Barcelona? There is no rationale, only emotions.
Naturally, you can still debate in the light of science and philosophy whether such and such god is likely to exist or not. I read Stenger's book with interest in a couple of days and found some interesting things such as:
-Jesus was not the first to say that you must love your enemies. Taoism and buddhism had already expressed the same ideas much earlier.
-"Nothing" is unstable so it is bound to produce "something". This answers the central philosophical question: Why is there something rather than nothing?
-There is no archeological evidence that Moises spent 40 years in the desert with 600.000 people (what a logistic nightmare!).
-Simplicity begets complexity (that I already knew since reading "The Blind Watchmaker" and knowing about genetic algorithms).
Stenger gives so many (most simple) scientific arguments why the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God cannot exist that we should wonder why so many people still believe in it.
The answer may lie in Sartre's dictum: "Man's essence is its desire to be God". In other words: God is our projection. Man may be the first entity by means of which the Univers wonders about itself. What are we doing here? Man has a desire to be trascendent, however the harsh reality is that we are all mortal. Having said that, isn't mortality needed so the Mankind and the Univers can evolve? Where would we be if the inquisitors, Hitler, Stalin wouldn't be dead? In other words: we still do not deserve immortality.
But if we cannot be immortal (at least our soul), what is life's meaning? Stenger also provides some answers such as learn science, diminish the suffering, enjoy life and also quotes Aristotle's answers: contemplation, politics and the pursuit of pleasure which should equate approximately with the previous three.
For me it all boils down to love, being a good citizen and finding a worthwhile activity that you like. As Woody Allen expressed succintly: "I enjoy making films". That's all there is, at least, for the time being.
39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Common sense uncommonly well presented.,
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God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist by Victor J. Stenger (Paperback - April 8, 2008)