293 of 319 people found the following review helpful
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!
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 19, 2007 4:17:39 PM PDT
Thank you for an excellent review! Told me just what I needed to know and was well-written. I just ordered the book...you convinced me.
Posted on May 6, 2009 10:35:25 AM PDT
Nicholas Beale says:
In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2009 7:18:33 PM PDT
Annamarie Bloch says:
Well, Nicholas, I'm not sure if atheists are in a "global retreat" as science and reason replace fairy tales, but I think the reviewer calling the evidence "objective" is a little far-fetched.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2009 9:01:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 2, 2009 9:01:34 PM PDT
Right, Nicholas... because scientists are not humans, and they make decisions only based on evidence. And they were never children, brought up in a certain cultures (often filled with religion).
The fact that first-rate scientists (such as the National Academy of Science members) believe in god at the rate of a few percent while the general American public believes in god at the 85-90% rate indicates that scientific thought and intelligence go a long way in making people realize there's no god. But scientists are humans too. A scientist friend of mine who believes in god freely admits there's no evidence, and it doesn't logically make sense, but they believe because they want it to be true. Scientists are less likely to make this argument than the general populace, but they're not immune to it.
And I'm thoroughly amused by your belief that atheism is in massive global retreat. Recent religion survey numbers indicate atheism is growing by leaps and bounds in the US, and I'm not aware of this being offset by rising religion elsewhere. But I suppose someone who believes in god is already impervious to evidence, and used to believing things because they want them to be true...
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 17, 2009 4:02:33 PM PDT
Stenger is a good writer, I read couple of V.Stenger's books ("Timeless Reality" being the best, where he sticks mostly to science he has practiced). Unfortunately his latest books are getting frankly speaking, sort of misleading and... boring. He creates perception that essentially we know everything about the Universe and physical laws in "The Comprehensible Cosmos", which is obvious nonsense. He embarks in endless discussions "science vs. faith" where there is no winner in that argument ("Has Science Found God", "God: The Failed Hypothesis", "The New Atheism"). Now he takes on quantum physics vs. consciousness - gray area, where science is still at the crossroads ("Quantum Gods"). Not every prominent scientist shares Victor Stenger's opinion (and he is far from being prominent, no disrespect meant). Just search for what Roger Penrose and John Wheeler think about it. We simply do not know, but Stenger plays "guru" who knows all and his attitude has become gradually irritating. He should take Valium and relax.
Just because part of what we know seems to be correct, does not mean that we should extrapolate it to all unknown. I will simply state, that IMO, Victor Stenger seems to be capitalizing on "god-science" books. Easy $$ for sure, but my respect for him is dwindling fast (I reviewed three of his books). He expressed his view quite good and clear in "Have Science Found God" (see my review as well). But this should be enough. Now I am about to categorize him within the ranks of like Dawkins - writing and repeating endlessly the same message: we know ALL. Dawkins sanity being questioned by David Stove's book "Darwinian Fairytales".
I am losing my respect to even a good scientists/writers almost like being obsessed (Dawkins being so far the best example) who keep writing because "what men really want is NOT KNOWLEDGE, but certainty" (quote by Bertrand Russell). I do not like such writers on both sides. You want to write about religion and faith/spirituality? - do it, but not mix with science and vice verse.
Stenger went bananas using science like quantum physics, he himself does not quite understand (if top scientists do not, than how Stenger can?) as a tool for fighting faith and religious believes. This is ridiculous . I will be attending Quantum to Cosmos events at Perimeter Institute, where renown cosmologists will give lectures for general public(http://www.q2cfestival.com/), but thanks to God (LOL), Stenger will not be there. He simply does not realize, that for every discovery in cosmology/particle physics, there are three times more new questions and unknowns that have to be further investigated. For him everything is CLEAR, nothing more to explore or investigate (see my comments to his "The Comprehensive Cosmos"). Stenger should probably read "On Space and Time" where prominent scientists would give him appropriate lecture. There is no place for such "banana" in serious science.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2009 8:31:59 PM PDT
M. J. SMITH says:
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2010 12:47:43 PM PST
Posted on Jun 19, 2010 5:17:41 AM PDT
Guđjón Eyjólfsson says:
Posted on Aug 18, 2012 11:59:10 AM PDT
Edwin R. Hamilton says:
The review is on the mark. IF EVERYONE in our nation would read and understand this very readable and clearly presented exploration of God and real science written by a real scientist , our country might just be a better place. It is sad how many of us do not understand the difference between the scientific method and the fake stuff.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 14, 2012 10:54:33 PM PST
G. Zimmerman says:
What does this have to do with Andrew's review? Also, read up on ad hominem.