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God and the Atom Hardcover – April 9, 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Stenger’s argument is convincing."

Praise for the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis:

"I learned an enormous amount from this splendid book."
- RICHARD DAWKINS, author of the New York Times best-seller The God Delusion

"Marshalling converging arguments from physics, astronomy, biology, and philosophy, Stenger has delivered a masterful blow in defense of reason. God: The Failed Hypothesis is a potent, readable, and well-timed assault upon religious delusion. It should be widely read."
- SAM HARRIS, author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation

About the Author

Victor J. Stenger (1935 - 2014) was an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado and emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii. He was the author of the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis, God and the Atom, God and the Folly of Faith, The Comprehensible Cosmos, and many other books.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (April 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616147539
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616147532
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Book Shark TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
God and the Atom by Victor J. Stenger

"God and the Atom" is the instructive history of the atom. Dr. Stenger takes the reader on a ride through time from Aristotle to the present and in doing so makes the strong case that atoms and the void indeed are all there is. This book chronicles the empirical confirmation of atomism and the notion that we can reduce everything to its parts. It's a challenging topic that starts off mostly historical, and becomes increasingly scientific but ultimately rewarding as Dr. Stenger brings it all together at the end. This educational 300-page book is composed of the following fifteen chapters: 1. Ancient Atomism, 2. Atoms Lost and Found, 3. Atomism and the Scientific Revolution, 4. The Chemical Atom, 5. Atoms Revealed, 6. Light and the Aether, 7. Inside the Atom, 8. Inside the Nucleus, 9. Quantum Fields, 10. The Rise of Particle Physics, 11. The Dreams that Stuff is Made Of, 12. Atoms and the Cosmos, and 13. Summary and Conclusions.

1. A well-written, well-researched book about the history of the atom.
2. Dr. Stenger has complete command of the topic. For the physics lovers in all of us.
3. A physics heavy book but the author keeps math to a minimum and focuses on the history and scientific concepts.
4. In defense of atomism and reductionism. Defining the terms and providing compelling arguments for its justification.
5. Dr. Stenger is always provocative and persuasive. "Time and again, we hear from scientists, philosophers, theologians, spiritualist gurus, and laypeople that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." We will see that while this statement is technically true, it is far less profound than its proponents claim."
6. Interesting history.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When Richard Feynman was asked what he would write on his tombstone for future generations to read, he said, "There are atoms." Vic Stenger leads the reader through the history of this idea. Starting from the intuitive philosophizing of Democritus, he traces how the idea was first suppressed by the authority of Aristotle and then the Catholic Church because it left no place for teleology. It was revived by chemists who found that compounds combined in simple ratios. He explains how the atoms of chemistry were first measured and counted and found to be much smaller and more numerous than anyone had thought. Even as positivists like Mach refused to accept atoms as real, they were found to be compound structures. Stenger gives a very nice, accessible account of the interplay of theory and experiment that has led to the modern conception of fundamental particles and fields. He briefly discusses the latest findings of the Large Hadron Collider and the significance of the Higgs boson. I'd recommend Sean Carrols The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World for a more thorough popular account of the LHC and the Higgs.

Although "GOD" appears prominently on the cover, the conflict between theism, that denied atoms, and the atheism of Democritus and other early proponents is only a very small part of the story, and one that seems almost accidental. One suspects Stenger's publisher wanted "GOD" to be in the title. The conflict between atomism and theism is just another aspect of the general conflict between science and religion. Science is skeptical. It tests and discards old theories and creates new theories based on new evidence. Religion is based on faith in an unchanging transcendent revelation and so tends to get stuck with ancient ideas.
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Format: Hardcover
Nearly 2500 years ago the Greek philosopher Leucippus intuited that all of reality was composed of randomly moving atoms within an otherwise empty void of infinite proportions. He, through the writing of his protoge, Democritus, described atoms as invisibly small bits of indivisible matter. As evidence he cited motes dancing in sunbeams, where jittery motions implied blows from invisible particles, fragrances whose odors could not be seen, and wet clothes drying in sunshine without leaving a pool of water beneath.

His atoms moved about randomly through empty space, sometimes careening off each other into new directions and sometimes latching onto geometrically compatible atoms to coalesce into us and the objects we see in reality. In time these objects, including us, come to an end, and their constituent atoms separate back into the void until they ever recoalese into some new thing. Nowhere in his model did a creator determine any beginnings or ends.

Later Epicurus relied in part on their atomistic model when he developed his philosophic school, wherein the goal of life was not limited or determined by gods. Like everything else, the gods were composed of atoms from the void, and like everyone else, they pursued their own interests. They did not especially concern themselves with human matters.

Moreover, as products of material atoms in an otherwise empty void, we and our souls would simply disintegrate after death. No hell could receive a soul that no longer existed, nor could a heaven reward the scattered parts of the obedient person's soul. Thus humans waste time and squander opportunities if they try to conform to imagined dictates from supposedly controlling gods.
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