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The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions Paperback – September 22, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465019374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465019373
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Berlinski knows his science and wields his rapier deftly. He makes great sport with his opponents, and his readers will surely enjoy it."--Tom Bethell, bestselling author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science""A powerful riposte to atheist mockery and cocksure science, and to the sort of philosophy that surrenders to them. David Berlinski proceeds reasonably and calmly to challenge recent scientific theorizing and to expose the unreason from which it presumes to criticize religion."--Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government, Harvard University "Berlinski's book is everything desirable: it is idiomatic, profound, brilliantly polemical, amusing, and of course vastly learned. I congratulate him." --William F. Buckley Jr. "With high style and light-hearted disdain, David Berlinski deflates the intellectual pretensions of the scientific atheist crowd. Maybe they can recite the Periodic Table by heart, but the secular Berlinski shows that this doesn't get them very far in reasoning about much weightier matters."--Michael J. Behe, Professor of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University, bestselling author of "Darwin's Black Box "and "The Edge of Evolution" "David Berlinski plus any topic equals an extraordinary book." --Chicago Tribune "From the Hardcover edition."

About the Author

David Berlinski holds a PhD from Princeton University and has taught mathematics and philosophy at universities in the United States and in France. He is the best-selling author of such books as A Tour of the Calculus, The Advent of the Algorithm, and Newton’s Gift. Berlinski writes frequently for Commentary, among other journals. He lives in Paris, France.

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Customer Reviews

It is a very well written book by Berlinski.
Watkins
I know that academics like to make a point to see who can sneer the most convincingly, but why not just get to some specific examples?
Lemas Mitchell
It is this society in which David Berlinski begins his book, "The Devil's Delusion".
J. Blanton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

145 of 160 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Puterbaugh on November 8, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I suppose most people like to at least appear to be open-minded, but sometimes I wonder how often (say) a conservative Republican sits down to read Noam Chomsky's political screeds, or a dedicated leftist sits down to enjoy Adam Smith. I picked up "The Devil's Delusion" in just that spirit, fully expecting to find a book which would argue against most of my own beliefs.

I wasn't really expecting something as brilliant, challenging, and engaging as this. If you think that the only people who don't believe in evolution are Fundamentalist knuckle-dragging Georgia swamp-dwellers, you're in for a big surprise. Berlinski himself is an agnostic of Jewish descent, an astonishingly erudite man and a brilliant thinker. He also writes frightfully well. And it is often hard to disagree with him. As he notes in the opening pages of this book --- concerning religion, God, and the rest: "I do not know whether any of this is true. I am certain that the scientific community does not know that it is false."

You might want to read those two sentences again, because they form the logical heart and soul of this book. Berlinski is not on a mission to preach religion; his task is to make plain just how little we actually know about the universe, and to try and re-awaken our sense of wonder. In this, he succeeds brilliantly.

The book cannot really be summarized in a brief review, but let me try to show you at least his thoughts about cosmology and the Big Bang.
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943 of 1,097 people found the following review helpful By Fritz R. Ward TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Any book by David Berlinski is bound to be fun. He is simply one of the most erudite writers in popular science and mathematics today. Those who particularly like seeing sacred cows treated with a hint of sarcasm and irreverance will enjoy his writing on almost any subject, but this book, attacking the "new atheism" as it does, is especially delightful if for no other reason than for how pompous writers like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchins are in their approach to this subject.

In brief, Berlinski's argument boils down to three main points: there is nothing in science proper that undermines religion (a point that used to be widely recognized and even extolled by writers like SJ Gould), most of the new atheists badly misunderstand even the most rudimentary arguments of theology and are not logically consistent, and finally that much of science has become rather dogmatic, like a new religion. I think Berlinski does an excellent job addressing all three of these points, the first of which should be more or less self evident. Claims, for example, that one "should" only believe in physical or visible evidence are not, in and of themselves, empirical claims. Indeed, I have friends who resolutely insist that materialism is "all there is" while remaining blissfully unaware of the fact that such a statement could not arise from strictly empirical observation.

Regarding the new atheist approach to Aquinas, Berlinski correctly notes that the critics of St. Thomas really do not understand his arguments. Take for example the famous cosmological argument of Thomas Aquinas. In its simplest form, this argument takes the form of a syllogism. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began at some point. Therefore the universe has a cause.
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386 of 468 people found the following review helpful By Lee St Clair on April 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is so well written that superlatives seem inadequate. Berlinski begins by stating that he is not religious and has no particular religious axe to grind. He is a mathematician and scientist. Yet he skewers science in general, and Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris in particular with well-reasoned argument, simple yet cogent analysis, and more humor than I would have thought possible for this subject.

Berlinksi makes it clear that he in no way means to disparage or belittle Science. He is only trying to show how Science has been twisted by The Four Horsemen in an attempt to prove an anti-religious point of view, and how that twisting promises so much and delivers so little.

I have read Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris (I could not force myself through Dennett's doorstop of a book), and I thoroughly enjoyed each one as I read it. Yet, reading David Berlinski's book made me honestly question what I found so thought-provoking or convincing about any of them.

This book is well worth reading if for no other reason than raising some unexpectely challenging questions, and providing you with some innovative and fascinating insights into ideas you might not have considered. I really liked this book !!!
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253 of 309 people found the following review helpful By Polymath-In-Training on April 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have read several of Berlinski's books, and this is the best and the most fun read. He takes down by several notches some of the better-known and more arrogant atheists--Richard Dawkins, Peter Atkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett (one of the "brights")--with clever barbs and clear reasoning.

One of the one-star reviewers, in an otherwise rather thoughtful review, made this baffling statement: "His only option is to put forth a case that is ultimately (and desperately) designed to protect Christianity by defending anything which science cannot disprove." Berlinski, a self-described "secular Jew," is surely doing no such thing, and he makes this clear in his preface: speaking of religious traditions, he says, "I do not know whether any of this is true. I am certain that the scientific community does not know that it is false."

His book is written as a caution to the over-reach of certain people in the scientific community who have attempted to draw conclusions about religion and God from facts or hypotheses in science. In this he does an admirable job.
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