on December 7, 2008
A Case for the Existence of God is a wonderful book for those willing to take on the intellectual challenge of seeking the truth, and to help one understand the profound questions of "Why is there something rather than nothing?" and "Why do we exist?" It is a book for those who already have a strong belief in God as it provides the reader with compelling evidence. The author is clearly one who did not just "take a leap of faith". His consummate, masterful knowledge and research in this field only validate and strengthen the case for a Supreme Being. I speak from a purely layman's standpoint when I say that a few of the chapters are not easy to assimilate, but through Overman's extensive research, in not only the theological field, but in science and physics, he provides a case which is difficult to dispute, even for the hardcore atheist. Especially enjoyable and provocative are the last several chapters which address "good and evil," "recorded experiences," and witnesses testifying "to another way of knowing". I am grateful for Overman's remarkable insight, vision and intellect. He has done much of the work for the rest of us, but I agree with one of the many distinguished and brilliant scholars mentioned in Overman's book, Mortimer Adler, when he states that we have a "duty to try to understand the creed" of our religion. Overman helps us to do this in his comprehensible, luminous writing.
on January 13, 2009
I too think this is a brilliant book but more importantly so does Booklist, the 100 year old journal that reviews books for public libraries and schools and makes recommendations for librarians, which gave the following starred review:
"What would St. Anselm think? Centuries after the medieval saint framed his famous proof for the existence of a deity, a philosophically minded attorney offers a far more compelling and scientifically sophisticated argument for belief in God. Drawing on modern cosmology and information theory, Overman exposes fallacies that have infested skeptics' thinking since Hume and Kant. Clearer reasoning establishes an astonishing harmony between quantum physics and religious orthodoxy, so providing a credible defense for free will and moral judgment. Still, readers looking for certainty will not find it here: Overman acknowledges that the believer must make a leap of faith. But consistent analysis demonstrates that atheists likewise must embrace unprovable premises, albeit premises barren of hope and meaning. Willing to challenge the logic of unbelievers such as Dawkins and Dennett, Overman goes far beyond such logic, insisting that those searching for religious truth must remain open to non-rational modes of knowledge. After all, God beckons the perplexed as a loving person, not a merely intellectual precept. The intensely personal character of spiritual conversion emerges in the lives of the nine remarkable believers- ncluding St. Augustine and Pascal, Dostoevsky and Weil--whose testimonies resonate with passionate conviction. A book for readers willing to wrestle with the largest questions."
Former international law firm head Dean Overman wrote A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization, which was published in 1997. Now, 12 years later he has not only updated that classic, but extended his argument from a general one in favor of theism to a particular one supporting belief in God. Concise but written with the clarity and attention to detail of an attorney, Overman's new classic may be the clearest and most comprehensive apologetic in print.
Borrowing from Overman's concluding main chapter: "The existence of God explains why there is something rather than nothing; it explains the intelligibility and order in the universe; it explains the continuing existence of the universe; it explains the beginning of the universe; it explains the inherently mathematical nature of the universe; it explains the existence of laws of nature; it explains the beauty in the universe and the relationship between mathematical beauty and truth; it explains the existence of information; it explains the existence of free will and the ability to recognize good and evil; it explains religious experience; it explains the fine-tuning in the astrophysics of the universe that allows for conscious life; and it explains why thoughts have the capacity to produce true beliefs."
One might expect a primarily rational argument from an attorney; the surprise here, however, is the way in which Overman combines the accounts of nine credible individuals of their encounters with the spiritual with what is otherwise a rational and empirical argument. As Overman explains: "The kind of knowledge or understanding described by these nine witnesses is not the kind of understanding derived from an empirical or scientific investigation but is more closely analogous to an understanding derived from the arts in which music, paintings, poetry, and fiction can enrich us in ways beyond an objective description ... A mere intellectual analysis will not bring participatory knowledge. One cannot know love intellectually." Anticipating the obvious objection to such personal accounts being presented as evidence (p.147): "One may choose to think their experiences are illusions, but if they claim another valid way of knowing derived from these experiences, can we reject their testimony simply because we have not experienced a similar knowledge derived from personal acquaintance?"
This is a book that rewards careful reflection. The case that it presents is entirely accessible but it takes into account contemporary scientific knowledge and all of the arguments that I have seen presented by atheists. I recommend it unreservedly to believers and agnostics as well as any open-minded atheist who is prepared to encounter an intellectually sound challenge to their disbelief.
on December 16, 2009
Dean Overman's The Case for the Existence of God is a book that I was highly anticipating before reading it. It is endorsed by both Keith Ward and John Polkinghorne, so I almost knew that it would be formidable. In this first part of the book, Overman spends time presenting Adler's modified version of Aquinas's cosmological argument from contingency. After arguing that everything that exists is either contingent or necessary, Overman argues that the universe is contingent and because it is contingent, it requires a cause.
In the next portion of the book, Overman documents the intelligibility of the universe and how this seems to cry out for an explanation. He also notes the numerous cases of apparent fine-tuning: in the formation of carbon (60), the balance between the explosive force of the Big Bang and gravity (61), the strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetic force (62), and so on. Overman then goes on to show how the fact of evolution does not negate the existence of a Creator - a very important point seeing how so many New and lay atheists make a disproportionately big deal out of evolution as a justification for their atheism. In this section of the book, Overman also provides a refutation (as if one was needed) of Dawkins dreadful argument against God as given in his book The God Delusion. Overman shows how it is ultimately question begging as a result of employing circular logic: "To reach his desired conclusion Dawkins begins with materialism in order to arrive at materialism. He tries to define God under a materialist definition of complexity that includes improbability in order to arrive at his conclusion" (71). Via Plantiga, the author also shows how God is, also contra Dawkins, a very simple being.
Citing Stephen Barr and Polkinghorne, Overman then argues how quantum mechanics and information argue against a strictly materialistic paradigm. The author then brings to bear the moral argument, arguing how God serves as an "Absolute" that satisfies our concepts of good and evil, right and wrong. The last thrust of the book contains an argument from religious experience. This last matter is important despite its necessarily subjective dimension. Indeed, although in my less mature thinking I would always harp on the importance of objective evidence, I have since come to think of religious experience as perhaps the greatest reason for one, who is privy to such, to accept a spiritual worldview.
Overall, Overman's book is solid. However, like all things it is not without its weaknesses. If I had to cite the biggest weakness in the author's presentation, it is undoubtedly his cosmological argument. First is the fact he argues for the acceptance of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (24-25). Of course, most philosophers including theistic ones (a la C. Stephen Layman, William Lane Craig, etc.) have rightly thrown the absolute application of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) by the wayside. Now, one may argue that the Principle of Charity would dictate that Overman is indeed merely arguing for a limited application of the PSR. After all, he only applies it to things, strictly speaking. This is true, but he also certainly does not explicitly argue for a nuanced variant of the PSR. I also found odd his distinction, based on Adler, between causa fieri and causa essendi. He says, again following Adler, that while superficially contingent substances need no causa essendi because of "inertia of being", radically contingent entities, like the universe do. But if inertia of being can be applied to one kind of contingent entity then it can be applied to the other, I'd say -- that is as long as they come into existence in the first place. If there is a basis of denying this to one and not the other, it isn't obvious and it needs to be argued. Yet even if one wishes to quibble about this, there is an even more vitiating criticism to be made against Overman's cosmological argument. Overman essentially argues that the universe cannot be necessary because, "it is one among many logically possible universes" (28). Surely, what he must mean is that we can conceive of other seemingly possible universes, because as Saul Kripke and other philosophers have noted there are necessary truths that are synthetic, which is to say that there are truths that are necessary - and thus logically cannot be otherwise - but are conceivable to deny since they are not analytic. But in this case, Overman is wrong to say that there are, "logically" speaking, other possible universes because one merely need to affirm that the universe is in a sense necessary. Now, perhaps Overman might then say that the universe cannot be necessary because the universe we experience consists of contingent states that come in and out of existence so that by their nature cannot be necessary since that which is necessary cannot not be. I agree, but this only true of the universe that we experience, and it hardly applies to that which the universe we experience possibly came out of, such as, say, a quantum field. In any case, we may reduce our criticism of Overman here to simply stating the he makes the theistic version of the same mistake that atheists and skeptics, such as Hume, have done when they claim that God cannot be necessary because denying his existence is conceivable and thus logically possible. What is really strange is that shortly after this portion of the book Overman critiques Hume on this matter!
Nevertheless, due to the other portions of Overman's book I still recommend it. It will be especially helpful to those investigating arguments for and against the existence of God.
on April 27, 2016
Book Review of “A Case for the Existence of God” by
Dean L. Overman
Rowman & Littlefield
Lanham Maryland, 2009
by: Samuel A. Nigro, M.D.,
This book fits its title. "A Case For The Existence of God" is made cogently and comprehensively. Overman details the science on which all contemporary atheism is based. Then he proceeds to rebut the arguments completely. A very comforting, comprehensive, and needed addition to the "God is" or "Nothing is" debate. It is fascinating to read a great mind at work.
On the "true nothingness" which atheists require: "To be rational the atheist must show how something comes from nothing. Otherwise, the existence of something is not explained, unless that existence is a necessary existence, independent of anything else. One has to have a starting point, and if an atheist is not going to beg the question why her (sic) starting point exists, she (sic) must begin from really nothing--what Francis Schaeffer called nothing-nothing. This means no laws, no quantum field, no wave functions, no observers, no energy, no particles, and no motion. All proposals of something coming from nothing actually start with the assumpeion of something. An atheist's definition of "nothing" always starts with "something" (either a vacuum, a field, energy, matter, potentials, etc.)" (Page 51).
Evolution is rightfully, in my estimation, dismissed in six pages (67-72) and Richard Dawkins in two of those pages. Overman does not even mention the Achilles heels for both feet on which evolution stands: (1) Species have never been found to "miscegnate" across themselves and (2) Hybrid animals, created in forced miscegnation by humans but not in nature, cannot reproduce. Without both feet, extra-species evolution has no chance and cannot stand. To his credit, Overman dismisses Richard Dawkins without knowing what a scientific fraud and liar Dawkins is as well as what an incredible embarassment Dawkins is to Oxford University documented by my complaints to Oxford University as censored by every major news(sic)paper in the United States and elsewhere. (My proof of the lies and academic-scientific dishonesty of Richard Dawkins are available upon request at Sam@DocNigro.com).
A subheading "INFORMATION MAY BE THE FOUNDATION OF THE PHYSICAL" (page 73) filled me with metaphorical realities confirming that "angels are words" (as I have written many times before and my articles are available from Sam@DocNigro.com), and that spirits define all including the physical universe. In other words, mathematics is not enough just as "H20" as "water" tells nothing of the spiritual and angelic reality of "water." "Quantum theory transforms the old Newtonian machine concept of a human being into a person with a will and the ability to perform intentional actions. If one regresses to an outdated classical Newtonian physics, one ineluctably will eliminate any effect of a conscious thought upon one's brain or body. ...such a regression to an outmoded physics is absurd: ...it amounts to trying to understand something in an approximation that eliminates the effect you are trying to study..." Basically, anyone who does not believe in spirit or God is an outmoded dope and non-believing scientists are doing handstands to try to reverse this amazing understanding of quantum theory.
I finished the book comforted in wanting to be part of the transcendental life rather than just another simple part of materialist entropic existence in the universe. From elementary physics and the rest of science, as well as from all philosophy and academia worthy of the names, all the non-thinking universe can be seen as the tremendous salutary entropy necessary for anti-entropic transcendental development of Truth, Oneness, Good and Beauty which enables soul-full living in the Trinity of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. The basic questions are clear: Why am I me? Do I have a purpose? Am I Transcendental Love (more accurately, "How close can I get to It?") or am I just part of the entropy of the universe? And even if entropic, do I have a personal spiritual destiny still defined by my transcendental words and actions? My proposed "The Theogeocalculus of Life" (on the World Wide Web) has never been more supported than by this book (And I humbly believe that my mentioned article better "solves" the problems of evil and suffering which Overman discusses on pages 91-100). From the book's AFTERWORD: "Even Sigmund Freud, who argued strongly against the existence of God, also argued strongly that we should be free to question whether or not God exists. He (Freud) writes ' The actual question raised is whether there is a divine spirit and a revelation by it, and the matter is certainly not decided by saying the question cannot be asked' " (page 161). This book proves that if you ask the question, there is only an affirmative answer, to be denied by the unconscious hatred of believers by pseudoscientists who are unable to believe (or accept) that they are only made in the image and likeness of God and therefore cannot really be gods themselves. This book is an important contribution needed in every religion class.
on January 8, 2009
A masterful and thorough work addressing the questions mankind has pondered for millennia. Dean L. Overman uses material from the greatest minds in recorded history asking the ultimate question, "is there a God." Presented is cogent and concise material from physical and natural law, mathematicians, physicists, church fathers, contemporary scholars, science, theologians, and more, employing a seismic command of integrative knowledge, making strong arguments rooted in faith and reason on the wisdom of the ages. All the while reading a thought would never leave my mind as a leap of faith at some point is necessary to believe in something greater than ourselves, and there is a very intelligent being we will never fully grasp.
on July 4, 2009
Why is there something rather than nothing? Beginning with this apparently simple question; the author presents several compelling lines of argument for the existence of God -- the "Wholly Other" These lines of reasoning include: the radically contingent nature of the universe, the impossibility of "good and evil" without "outside" objective absolutes, the expansion of epistemology to include knowledge derived from personal experience or acquaintance (kenskab), the personhood of God assured by a category analysis (the book gives a novel explanation), the new understanding of the two universal fundamentals -- matter/energy and information, and the primacy of the knower in the new quantum mechanical interpretations. Most admirably, he emphasizes the personhood of God and our personal encounter with Him -- he calls nine witnesses to the stand to hear their testimony about their encounters with God. I especially liked his analogy of the power of music and art and our relationships with others (which are NOT fully describable in language) to the experience of our encounter with God. A brilliant and enjoyable summary.
on November 6, 2011
Dean Overman offers various arguments for God's Existence, including: A modern day rendering of Mortimer Adler's thomistic cosmological argument, William Lane Craig's Kalam Cosmological Argument, an argument from the orderliness of nature and the existence of science, an argument from information, and a moral argument. Overman's arguments about the philosophy of nature and the existence of science seem similar to John Lennox's, and I like that he pays attention to this big picture issue rather than simply giving propositional arguments.
But the one distinctive element of this book is the idea that God is a personal being and thus we should expect that he would reveal himself to us in personal ways, in a transcendent way rather than simply as an acknowledgement of a philosophical conclusion. Overman goes through various theories of personal knowledge. He lists the testimonies of various public figures. Their experiences add to Overman's ideas about knowing God personally- this aspect of his work shows that he has a realistic epistemology, not to mention a practical concern for genuine seekers by suggesting that this is how, in reality people experience a personal being and this is how we would expect things to be.
on October 17, 2009
This is a great book that highlights many good arguments for seeing design in the Universe and inferring that it was created by a benevolent, intelligent Agent. If you are open minded on the issue and willing to be persuaded it is a great read. My favorite chapter is the chapter which discusses many of the constants in physics that are so amazingly fine tuned to allow the Universe to support life. It is truly mind boggling.
The author has a great literary style and presents his case in a very logical way. Read this book if any part of your mind is open minded on the issue of God, or if you are already a believer buy this book as a great tool for reinforcing your faith and equipping you to discuss the issue with others.
on January 26, 2009
A well thought-out and presented argument for strongly considering the existence of God and our contingent existence. Though the material is challenging at times, it is presented in clear and logical terms. Dean Overman does a great job reinvigorating the cosmological argument and extending the information argument to point out the presence of intelligence inherent in the information content of DNA. Once he presents compelling reasons to believe in a creator, Dean Overman then gives us nine examples of people who took the leap of faith from the concept of God into religious practice, making the abstract, tangible. While some may object to the idea of leap of faith and science, it needs to be understood that the scientific method is an experimental process effective in learning about the material world, but that it should not be used to limit the reality we experience and observe. The leap of faith comes once we have exhausted the limits of what is provable using the scientific method, to that what is necessary to explain the rest of existence. In that context, it is reasonable to explore God and the spiritual life, just as Pascal's wager points out the value of pursuing God vs. denying His existence. The Case for the Existence of God is for all those who truly wish to learn what science has proven, what it hasn't and what it points to.