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Can a Smart Person Believe in God? Paperback – September 3, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is slightly undermined by some shoddy proof-reading, by a few errors of fact (e.g., Samuel Butler lived in the 19th century, not the 17th), and by the author's narrow focus on Christianity as almost synonymous with religion. Although he acknowledges other faiths, nearly every example of spirituality Dr. Guillen cites is taken from the Bible. His Christian focus is particularly evident in a twenty-question "SQ test" at the end of the book, in which answers consistent with Christian thinking are always scored highest, even when other answers might be equally "spiritual" when judged by alternate traditions.
Still, in the end the book answers its own question most convincingly. Yes, a smart person can believe in God, and need make no apologies for doing so.
For a lengthier and more technical treatment of similar ideas, consider Barr's "Modern Physics and Ancient Faith."
Michael Guillen is an evangelical Christian who accomplished a lot in a field that usually doesn't attract religious believers. He feels this book will straddle these two disparate worlds, but all he's accomplished is demonstrating how out of his depth he is with a work like this. In order to reconcile science and religious belief, Guillen would have done well to learn plenty of philosophy, history of philosophy, history of religion, and history of science. But this book seems to have been put together with a few Google searches and a couple of lookups in an encyclopedia. He missteps left and right in invoking arguments that were abandoned more than a hundred years ago in trying to 'disprove' atheism, while at the same time admitting that most areas of religion cannot be measured scientifically.
His categorization of the different varieties of atheist were at best patronizing and in many cases far worse. While he quotes Robert Ingersoll, it isn't apparent that Guillen ever actually read his work for understanding. He seems unsure how to handle the "practical atheist" who is willing to accept a divinity should one actually manifest. And he saves his greatest contempt for the rock-solid atheist such as Richard Dawkins, labeling them Arrogant Atheists.
More than a third of the book suffers from the Argument from Authority when the authority is the Bible. Guillen never makes a case for why the nonbeliever or the non-Christian would accept the King James Bible as a solution. In fact, Guillen never addresses the existence of any form of religious tradition other than Christianity at all, which is probably the book's biggest failing on the believers' side. It's as provincial as a book on Life in the Twentieth Century only talking about New York City; yeah, it's big, but it isn't all there is.
The Spiritual Quotient is another one of Guillen's ideas gone wrong, because he doesn't seem to be able to define it very well. The scoring of his SQ test shows some hostility toward not only rational-types but again, non-Christians (not going to church counts against you). And he missed the boat by not looking into the work being done in neurology and evolutionary psychology which shows that religious ecstacy can be induced with proper stimulation of certain brain regions, or that humans may have been selected for belief in the divine as a social survival trait, whether or not any divine being exists or not.
Ultimately, the biggest failing of this book is that Guillen was the wrong person to write it. The intersection between science and religion is a fascinating field for discussion. But when a proponent dismisses atheism with one straw man argument after another, ignores the existence of most of the world's religious traditions other than his own, and treads on the field of philosophy without understanding it, the result is an embarassment that should not have been published.