If evolutionary biologist Massimo Pigliucci didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent him. His Tales of the Rational
defines an intellectual space as far removed as hardcore religious fundamentalism from mainstream thinking--but it may be coming closer as scientists and skeptics launch more aggressive attacks on pseudoscience and fuzzy thinking. Pigliucci, a rising star on the evolution-creationism debate circuit, pulls out all the stops in his work, not content merely to defend science against its detractors, but eagerly undermining belief in religion and the existence of any gods at all. Using writing that is strong if rarely eloquent, he defines his terms precisely, makes short work of creationists William Lane Craig and Duane Gish, challenges religious preconceptions, and even ventures to hose down the flames of pseudoscience spouting from chaos theory. Readers with any sympathy for spirituality will run face-first into statements like "I do not see what science has to gain from being reconciled with a system of superstitious beliefs that stands for the exact opposite of free inquiry."
His own transparent faith in reason and materialism may damn him in the eyes of the postmodern, but he is right when he claims that they are uniquely powerful tools for describing the world unmatched by anything in religion's shed. The essays could have used a bit of editing, but the rough edges bring out Pigliucci's charm and passion as he elbows religious believers out of the way to promote his scientific vision. This new kind of fundamentalism will probably run itself out--it's hard to imagine a swelling movement devoted to reason and atheism--but the lessons learned from Pigliucci's confrontational style should stay with us as we struggle to accommodate spiritual and scientific awareness through a process that can only be political. --Rob Lightner
You will come away refreshed, with your mind challenged by what is now not as simple as it seemed... -- Ed Buckner, Atlanta Freethought News, June 2000