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122 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Couldn't Agree More, April 22, 2012
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This review is from: God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion (Paperback)
Quotes by the author: "Science flies us to the moon....religion flies us into buildings"...."The problem is that people think faith is something to be admired. If fact, faith means you believe in something for which you have no evidence"...."From the very beginning, religion has been a tool used by those in power to retain that power and keep the masses in line."

Stenger takes us on a quick and lively ride. Each chapter briefly covers data that volumes have been written about. Those familiar with the history of science and familiar with the perennial conflicts between science and religion will see familiar names and will have read many of the books in his bibliography.

Preface: From the beginning, all religions have been concerned with keeping the status quo. Science, on the other hand, is continuously being fine-tuned, as new evidence is found and studied. Religion is based on things supernatural that have proven to be undetectable by scientific methods. Science is based on things observable and testable. Although many have tried to demonstrate otherwise, science and religion are incompatible. Scientists who are religious, when they enter their churches, usually check their scientific hats at the door.

Chapter 1 Introduction: Despite efforts to rewrite history, science was effectively squelched by religion from the last days of the Roman Empire until shortly before the Enlightenment. "All the great pioneers of science - Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton - were believers, although they hardly had a choice in the matter. Open nonbelief was nonexistent in the West at that time."

Chapter 2 The Earliest Skirmishes: Stenger begins with cavemen, their extreme superstitions, their attribution of agency to any life events they couldn't explain (everything), and their highly developed and overactive "agent detection device". If they were in the jungle and heard a noise, it was safer to assume that represented danger. Stenger then moves to the earliest Greek philosophers who came remarkably close to some hypotheses of science that have stood the test of time.

Chapter 3 The Rebirth and Triumph of Science: Greek learning was almost completely lost to Western Europe from 500CE to 1500CE. Arabic science flourished, however, but before the scientific revolution hit Europe, science began to flounder in that world for unknown reasons. There is evidence that the printing press in Europe was frowned upon in Arab countries because calligraphy was an art form. For whatever reason, the Arab world lost their scientific impetus and never regained it. In this chapter, Stenger briefly visits our friends Copernicus, Gallileo, Newton, Hume, Locke, and Kant. He visits the Enlightenment and deism and then quotes Richard Carrier: "Had Christianity not interrupted the intellectual advance of mankind and put the progress of science on hold for a thousand years, the Scientific Revolution might have occurred a thousand years ago, and our technology today would be a thousand years more advanced."

Chapter 4 Darwin, Design, and Deity: Unlike Newton's ideas, Darwin's ideas were seen to directly threaten the existence of God. This chapter covers that history, Paley's argument from design, natural selection, and evolutionary politics that continue to this day. It closes with arguments comparing religion to being infected by a virus.

Chapters 5, 6, & 7 These are the science chapters, well-written for the lay person who is somewhat familiar with particle physics, quantum mechanics, and cosmology. It is heavily endowed with criticism of pseudoscientists who would misuse scientific terminology, especially the word "quantum". I particularly enjoyed the discussion of particle/wave duality and now understand that it is all particles. When enough particles are measured together, they can then assume the characteristics of a wave, but they are always particles.

Chapter 8 Purpose: Reductionism, among scientists, particularly physicists, is the view that there is nothing more to the makeup of the universe, or any part of it, than its parts, and the interaction of these parts. "Although comprising only 5% of the total mass and energy of the universe; up and down quarks, electrons, and photons are all that are needed as ingredients of conventional matter in a working model for those observable phenomenon that are of direct concern to most humans...only elemental particle physicists and cosmologists worry about the other 95%." Nothing further emerges from this. Even consciousness is a direct manifestation of complex interactions among quarks and electrons. Stenger's view about purpose is well-described by this chapter's opening quote from David Hume: "Nature has no more regard to good above ill than to heat above cold, or to drought above moisture, or to light above heavy."

Chapter 9 Transcendence: The afterlife and the notion that something exists beyond the world that addresses our senses...studies on intercessory prayer...spiritual energy and chi...near-death experiences...reincarnation. Our hyperactive caveman agency detectors are hard at work but the search for good evidence for anything supernatural is sadly lacking.

Chapter 10 Beyond Evolution: Many years ago a good Christian friend of mine asserted that if it weren't for religion he would be completely antisocial and out of control. I was shocked and a little offended. I knew many nonbelievers and as far as I could tell, they acted in as moral a manner as anyone else. As a matter of fact, I eventually found out that good behavior is more correlated with nonreligious societies, such as certain Scandinavian countries, than it is with religious societies. This chapter covers matters of morality and whether belief in God needs to be a factor. It doesn't.

Chapter 11 Matter and Mind: "Considerable evidence exists that the phenomena we call mind and consciousness result from natural mechanisms in a purely material brain. If we have disembodied souls that are responsible for our thoughts, decisions, dreams, personalities, and emotions, then these should not be effected by drugs. But they are. They should not be affected by disease. But they are....why would that happen if consciousness arises from an immaterial soul?" Counterpoints by D'Souza and others.

Chapter 12 Metaphor, Atheist Spirituality, and Immanence: Many people who have studied religion lose their religion. Some lose their zeal for the dogma but still enjoy or want the spiritual experience. This chapter is about those who continue to try to find a place for spirituality, even though they have given up on the traditional view of a personal God, and their search to find rationale for this spirituality - heavy on Ian Barbour and others.

Chapter 13 From Conflict to Incompatibility: The state of religion today (nationally and worldwide), whether or not religion is good for you, assets vs. liabilities of belief in an afterlife, and a summary of the conflicts covered in earlier chapters. Finally, whether a confrontational approach or the accommodative approach is more reasonable for today's nonbeliever. About this I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, as T. Jefferson said, (he actually stole it from Voltaire) another person's beliefs "neither pick my pocket nor break my leg". On the other hand, evangelicals are heavily influencing legislative action nowadays and I disagree with most of their positions.

Chapter 14 Why Does It Matter: A concise dissertation on the disinformation spread by religious groups about science and important political issues for the nation. The drastically different worldview caused by religion, complete with ridiculous position statements from The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, as just one example of religious idiocy. Stenger's closing remarks include, "We need to focus our attention on one goal...the eradication of foolish faith from the face of this planet."

Sorry to say, I don't see that happening, but I couldn't agree more.
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Showing 1-10 of 94 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 22, 2012 11:27:01 AM PDT
Regnal says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Apr 27, 2012 10:53:00 AM PDT

Nice and thorough review. You've provided a real sense of what's in the book. My question is this: isn't this basically a reiteration of information already familiar to many, information that can be found in Dr. Stenger's earlier books as well as those by others? In your opinion does Dr. Stenger's book give any new insight, or information, not found elsewhere? Don't get me wrong, I'll probably add the book to my atheist bookshelf because I enjoy reinforcing my opinions with factual information, but there is such an over-abundance of books about religious faith's incompatibility with science that one just can't keep up.

In any event, if Prometheus Books published a Kindle version of this book I'd buy it in a flash.


In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012 11:02:26 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 18, 2012 9:33:26 AM PDT
In response to Dr. Stenger's opinion that "We need to focus our attention on one goal....the eradication of foolish faith from the face of this planet." Wojciech Langer opines:

>>Wishful thinking of a small man.<<

Yep, stating that one thinks humanity should be freed from the slavery of blind faith is indeed wishing thinking, but Dr. Stenger is hardly a "small man."

From the Zoo's "About the author" section:

Victor J. Stenger grew up in a Catholic working-class neighborhood in Bayonne, New Jersey. His father was a Lithuanian immigrant, his mother the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. He attended public schools and received a bachelor's of science degree in electrical engineering from Newark College of Engineering (now New Jersey Institute of Technology) in 1956. While at NCE, he was editor of the student newspaper and received several journalism awards.

"Moving to Los Angeles on a Hughes Aircraft Company fellowship, Dr. Stenger received a master's of science degree in physics from UCLA in 1959 and a PhD in physics in 1963. He then took a position on the faculty of the University of Hawaii, retiring to Colorado in 2000. He currently is emeritus professor of physics at the University of Hawaii and adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado. Dr. Stenger is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a research fellow of the Center for Inquiry. Dr. Stenger has also held visiting positions on the faculties of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, Oxford in England (twice), and has been a visiting researcher at Rutherford Laboratory in England, the National Nuclear Physics Laboratory in Frascati, Italy, and the University of Florence in Italy.

"His research career spanned the period of great progress in elementary particle physics that ultimately led to the current standard model. He participated in experiments that helped establish the properties of strange particles, quarks, gluons, and neutrinos. He also helped pioneer the emerging fields of very high-energy gamma-ray and neutrino astronomy. In his last project before retiring, Dr. Stenger collaborated on the underground experiment in Japan that in 1998 showed for the first time that the neutrino has mass. The Japanese leader of this experiment shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for this work.

"Victor Stenger has had a parallel career as an author of critically well-received popular-level books that interface between physics and cosmology and philosophy, religion, and pseudoscience. These include: Not by Design: The Origin of the Universe (1988); Physics and Psychics: The Search for a World beyond the Senses (1990); The Unconscious Quantum: Metaphysics in Modern Physics and Cosmology (1995); Timeless Reality: Symmetry, Simplicity, and Multiple Universes (2000); Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe (2003); The Comprehensible Cosmos: Where Do the Laws of Physics Come From? (2006); God: The Failed Hypothesis--How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist (2007); Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness (2009); The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason (2009); The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us (2011); God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion (2012). God: The Failed Hypothesis made the New York Times Best Seller List in March 2007."

Your animosity (or is it envy?) reflects quite clearly your biases as well as highlighting your own limitations.

Addendum: note that Wojciech Langer has changed his Zoo moniker to "Regnal".


In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012 11:19:36 AM PDT
Damn, Shrimpy, I was just gonna say that very thing myself!


In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012 11:34:31 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 20, 2012 6:18:59 AM PDT
Hi Shrimpy - yes, this book doesn't give a complete discussion of any particular subject but if it did, it would be many volumes. I read one of these types books every year or so just to get a review of data I've already been through. For example, once I read the debate between a guy mentioned in Stenger's book (Craig Lane something - professional apologist debate) and another guy. It went into great detail about typical "proofs" of religion and counterpoint by the other guy (forget his name). Those arguments really get tedious - Stenger covered it in less than a page. I have only read one other Stenger book - and was impressed more with it than this one. My ratings tend to be good because if I don't like a book I don't finish it and don't review it - except for an occasional sarcastic review - like my review of Darwin's Black Box (I did read that book). I gave it a 5 - the interesting thing is, my review was short but completely sarcastic. It got dozens of votes immediately and thereby became the leading review for several weeks before somebody at Amazon got wise and demoted it to its appropriate location:

5.0 out of 5 stars 2nd Best Book Ever, December 23, 2007 By The Spinozanator: I must reluctantly admit, I was teetering on the brink of being seduced by Satan's evil theory of evolution. Then I read Dembski's and Wells's inspired book, which ranks right up there with astrology in exposing science and its ridiculous reliance on evidence and the outdated fuddy duddy scientific method; instead of the Bible and other privileged sources.

None of my friends down at the Church of the Divine Sepulchre of Spiritual Holiness believe in that stupid ape story neither. Among the high spots in this fine book was the sensitive support given in the bibliography to Santa Claus, Mother Goose, and the Stork. Those 100% of Nobel prize winners and 99% of other scientists who believe evolution's hogwash are most certainly going straight to Hell on Darwin's Black Bus. Top Notch!

In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2012 1:58:46 PM PDT
John Grove says:
Langer admits to having not read this book:

He says, "I will not read this book", yet makes scores and scores of comments about this book and the author. Just so everyone knows, he is a known troll.

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2012 9:30:21 AM PDT
Brother SynMo,

I'm sure the congregants from the CDSSH are lending a helping hand to Don McLeroy and Cynthia Dunbar in their efforts to steer the Texas State Board of Education back into the far right lane on the road of righteousness:


In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2012 11:51:15 AM PDT
Good article - those people are absolutely disgusting!


Posted on May 23, 2012 4:05:19 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 23, 2012 4:25:56 PM PDT
anoneemus says:
"We need to focus our attention on one goal....the eradication of foolish faith from the face of this planet."
Did Stenger really write this? I somehow missed that...though it's a bigoted opinion worthy of Hitler. And just in case anyone is interested in my personal beliefs, I am a Possibilian, like neuroscientist David Eagleman.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 12:06:41 PM PDT
Hi anon - He said it in his summary. I hardly see it as bigoted. It's just an opinion that puts stress on evidence instead of faith. Like Jefferson said, (another man's faith, or lack of it) "neither picks my pocket nor breaks my bones." You're certainly not an intolerant bigot, are you?

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