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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oracles of Science., September 22, 2008
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This review is from: Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion (Hardcover)
Authors Giberson and Artigas are both physicists; both are professors, writers, and philosophers. Artigas is a Roman Catholic priest as well. In this volume they examine the popular and extra-scientific, philosophical assertions of six scientists of prominence at the close of the twentieth century: Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Steven Weinberg, and E.O. Wilson. At the time the book was published (2002), two of these "celebrity scientists" (Sagan and Gould) had rather recently passed away. But the six share some obvious commonality, in that (a) they have been genuine celebrities to an extent that few scientists are, and (b) that they have each been keen on imparting their ideas about religion and theology to a public that sometimes construes these assertions as being somehow `scientific.' The book immediately elicited my interest, because I've read all of these scientists (as compared to the rest, more of Hawking and less of Weinberg).

What these men have [often famously] had to say about religion and theism, and how logically consistent and scientifically relevant their religion-oriented, or theism-oriented, assertions are, is what interests the authors in this volume. The six cannot be painted with one brush, and they are not (Dawkins is famously an impassioned popularizer of atheism who fashions himself "a devil's chaplain," Wilson is a deist; Weinberg's views are close to Dawkins', Gould's views not too distant from Wilson's, with Sagan and Hawking ideologically located between those views). Each is treated with respect and each is given an ample hearing, that is, through his writings and/or interviews, each states his individual views at some length.

Each installment here stands alone, so to speak, and there is surprisingly little overlap. The sections examining each of the "celebrity scientists" are independent treatises and can be read in any order, if, for example, a reader is interested in certain of these figures and perhaps not others. This reader consumed the book in the classic front-to-back manner, and recommends the same. The authors proceed precisely as scientists engaged with examinable ideas should--dissecting those ideas and propositions without either unwarranted personality veneration or undue castigation of the people who offer those ideas. Dawkins' famous atheological assertions are easily enough eviscerated without belittling Dawkins himself. It's a curious fact that Weinberg's Nobel Prize has functioned as something of a platform for his public excursions into atheistic assertions/apologetics, while Abdus Salam's theism (he won the physics Nobel the same year) has not similarly been artificially strapped to theistic bombast.

Giberson and Artigas are careful, fair, respectful, informed, appropriately skeptical, dispassionate, and even gracious. This is definitely a rewarding and informative book for anyone interested in philosophy of science.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unwarranted trespassing?, December 20, 2007
This review is from: Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion (Hardcover)
`Oracles of Science' is a good book. No doubt Giberson and Artigas are knowledgeable scientists and they argue their case with care and subtlety. There are however a few reservations to be made.
Firstly, I find the major idea of the book unconvincing. In criticizing the popular books by Dawkins, Gould, Hawking, Sagan, Weinberg and Wilson, they assert that scientists should not be allowed to `trespass' into other areas than their science proper. There is a lot of talk about unwarranted conclusions, improper speculations and the well-known `naturalistic fallacy'. But these are popular science books and why on earth should the authors be prohibited to philosophize and speculate about god knows what (pun intended)? That, in my opinion, is precisely what makes these books so interesting - and successful. The authors are not abusing science, they are just putting forward their personal opinions. If that were not the case the books would make for boring reading indeed.
Which leads to the second reservation. It seems to me that whenever there is critique of religion and faith, believers easily get their feelings hurt. Giberson and Artigas talk of hostility to God, vicious attacks on religion and so forth as if it were a deadly sin. They portray some of the authors as being either simpletons or `evolution evangelists' and `secular priests'. `Weinberg is simply pontificating from his platform of prestige, without seriously engaging these difficult issues' p. 184. Do I sense a little professional jealousy here?
Thirdly, I'd like to say something about the quotation on p. 14. where Richard Dawkins is charging that people who don't believe in evolution are `stupid, wicked or insane'. They had to dig deep to find that, but it's all there on the Internet. The quotation comes from a book review in the New York Times from 1989 (!). In a discussion of whether creationism should be given equal time in biology classes as evolution, Dawkins says: `...if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that).' The next sentence is: `If that gives you offence, I'm sorry.'
I always thought that when you quote something, you must be absolutely certain that the quotation is correct. But maybe, like Dawkins, I'm also becoming a museum piece (p. 52).
Lastly, on the back cover journalist Larry Witham claims that this book also cautions believers against a similar abuse (i.e. trespassing) of science. Well, I'm sorry but I must have missed out on that - maybe the meticulous reader can find some references to that effect.
These qualms aside, `Oracles of Science' is a serious and thought-provoking book, well worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Poor kindle format., June 24, 2013
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1. Great book.

The book is clear, well written, and deep enough. It is what I was expecting to be when I bought it. It gives a general perspective about the topics and it is a good starting point for further reading.

2. The formatting is quite poor.

It is just a scanned version of the book, will all the hyphens that should exist in the print- ed version but not in the elec- tronic version. The references to footnotes are not active, you cannot click on them to see the reference. I dislike the justified paragraphs because it creates wide spaces between the words, and there are some typos.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and thoughtful survey of the celebrity/atheist/scientists, August 24, 2008
This review is from: Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion (Hardcover)
Giberson and Artigas critique adeptly and with searching scholarship the metaphysical and theological views of six science popularizers. Each of these celebrities has rankled religious and spiritual sensibilities. Some, like Dawkins, owe as much to their animus toward the idea of God and religion as they do to scientific contributions for their notoriety and book sales. Others, like Gould, have pursued pure Darwinism with an idea of contingency to flirt with what seems like nihilism and arrive at a profound, though theoretical, misanthropy.
As one reviewer points out, these celebrities have the right to "tresspass" or promote their own interpretations on anything. I would go so far as to say that they even have the right to conflate their opinions as science and make them appear, as Christian de Duve puts it, "incontrovertibly enforced by the findings of biology" (or physics, or astronomy, or chemistry, etc....) Italics, mine. There is no law that I know of that prevents them from doing this, and I would not propose there should be. That is why this book, Oracles of Science, is so valuable.
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11 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, Calm, Collected and (thank god & the natural order of the universe) Honest, February 3, 2007
This review is from: Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion (Hardcover)
Refreshingly honest and humble, this book is for clear-thinking people of intellectual integrity who sit in pews on either side of the doctrinal aisle: evolution or creationism. Where Dawkins uses considerable skill in the art of persuasion, with rudimentary logic and multiple straw men, to obfuscate the delineation between the merits of objective, scientific methodology and the conclusions of subjective, personal doctrine, these two scientists of faith quietly replace the boundary between inquiry into natural phenomena and inquiry into to matters beyond the limits of space and time. The authors set an example of integrity for ranting proponents of both scientism and fundamentalism.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars False Oracles, November 3, 2007
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This review is from: Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion (Hardcover)
The book does an excellent job responding to the fulminations of the modern Oracles of Science, biologists Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Edward O. Wilson, and physicists Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Steven Weinberg. The title is very significant: An oracle is a person considered to be a source of wisdom and an infallible authority. These Oracles are the leading scientists today in their respective fields and in the publics mind. They all have written books that have sold millions of copies. Dawkins has been voted the most respected intellectual in Britain. The authors do an excellent and eloquent job explaining why the claims of these Oracles about God, religion and origins are not only wrong, but very uninformed and irresponsible. I have read many, if not most, of the books that Giberson and Artigas have responded to in their book and, over and over, I found myself saying "this was exactly my thought when I read these books." It is very rewording to have my conclusions reinforced by someone else. This is one reason why I am so enthusiastic about this book. The authors try very hard, and are usually successful, in not emulating the nasty tone of the books they critique. They effectively show that the irresponsible nastiness and character assassination of Darwin skeptics pervades the writings of Dogmatic Darwin Fundamentalists. Calling those who are skeptical of the claim that "Darwinism can do all" are stupid, ignorant, cavemen, wicked, insane and such makes these scientists look like mean hateful people (see page 14). The result is that, while Darwinists "have won all the court battles, they have gradually lost the hearts and minds of millions of Americans" (page 14). If you want to read a book that effectively shows why the conclusions of biologists Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Edward O. Wilson, and physicists Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Steven Weinberg are wrong about their Dogmatic Darwinism Fundamentalism this is it. When I teach biology I not uncommonly have students tell me "I hate science and the only reason I am in this class is because I am required to take it for my degree". Sometimes my unbridled enthusiasm rubs off on students, but most of the time not. Scientists do not seem to realize that they are turning off millions of students and others to science or, if they realize it, they do not care. This book published by Oxford University press documents why.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Distinguishing Science from Ideology, December 26, 2007
This review is from: Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion (Hardcover)
In this book, Karl Giberson and Mariano Artigas, both physicists and believers, provide an in-depth, sympathetic and loving examination of each of the credentials,and scientific achievements of six scientists (biologists, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Edward O. Wilson, and physicists Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Steven Weinberg), while, at the same time, distinguishing these from their views on religion. The book shows the importance of "distinguer pour comprendre e unir" (to distinguish in order to understand and to unite) of philosopher Jacques Maritain. The authors clearly distinguish between science and personal views of the scientists or between science and pseudoscience: in other words, propaganda or a weapon for the promotion of an ideological agenda masquerading as science.
Furthermore, the book eloquently demonstrates that science is perfectly compatible with religion, both from a theoretical and from a practical standpoint. It also shows that these oracles in no way represent the views of the majority of the scientific community. In fact, important leaders of this community have found compatibility between their faith and their scientific pursuits, such as Francis Collins, leader of the genome project, Allan Sandage, one of the greatest astronomers of the twentieth century, physics Nobel laureate William Phillips, and many more.
My favorite quotes are: 1)"There is a world of difference between the `methodological naturalism' used in the sciences (seeking natural explanations) and an `ontological naturalism' that denies the reality of anything outside the reach of science. While methodological naturalism has no problems, except for creationists and the advocates of Intelligent Design, scientific naturalism is self-defeating. The claim that nothing exists aside from what can be studied by the scientific method is a philosophical position. If you want to determine what science is and how far its reach extends, you must place yourself outside science, taking a philosophical perspective. But if there is no territory outside science, how are we going to stand there?" p. 234
2)"We have been describing the Oracles of Science as ambassadors, messengers from the scientific community to the public at large. They play an important role in our scientific culture. We are in sympathy with their scientific findings and their cultural role. We applaud their capacity to communicate challenging ideas and their ability to provoke enthusiasm for the scientific entreprise. We would desire, however, that they would treat the humanistic issues that lie beyond the boundaries of science with the same careful rigor they employ when dealing with scientific problems. This would be a great service to society, effectively undermining the arguments of those who, like the proponents of Intelligent Design, see science as dangerously allied with materialism". p.234.
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Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion
Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion by Karl Giberson (Hardcover - December 28, 2006)
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