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Leaps of Faith: Science, Miracles, and the Search for Supernatural Consolation Paperback – June 4, 1999
The Amazon Book Review
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"Elegant and literate" -THE TIMES OF LONDON
"The kind of book that both skeptics and believers would do well to read"- SKEPTICAL INQUIRER
"An urbane, original, convincing rebuttal of paranormal and supernatural notions" -NEW SCIENTIST
"A lively, entertaining book... Humphrey has set himself a larger task than simply explaining why people believe in parapsychology: the task of explaining why it is irrational to believe in it."-NATURE
From the Publisher
An award-winning scientist brilliantly explains why, despite scientific facts, we persist in believing in paranormal phenomena. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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Humphrey's 'Argument from Unwarranted Design' turns out to be an incredible analytical tool and he uses it compellingly in a number of contexts. While most author's content themselves with trotting out the litany of scientific disproofs of the supernatural, Humphrey raises logical objections to alleged paranormal phenomena. Why should strange little phenonoma such as spoon bending bother to exist at all? How and why would they have been created in contravention to the rules of science and the dictates of normally parsimonious design? In short, Humphrey makes a strong case that the supernatural is both empirically AND logically unlikely.
One more thing, Humphrey has a very readable style. If the concepts sound complicated and off-putting, they become vivid and immediate as Humphrey gives simple examples and compelling illustrations. Wonderful to read!
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My favorite part was something totally new to me -- how Jesus can be seen to figure into a long line of middle eastern magicians and charlatans, and how the concept that he was "preordained" as the Messiah could in fact have created the belief in him, and helped him in his supposed "miracles". This section in particular was quite compelling. A really solid book, and through the references and copious footnotes, I found a lot of other books dealing with similar issues or parts of the arguments to add to my list...
Religions and quasi-religions, he contends, are nurturing and explanatory medicinal packages for "orphaned minds". Seeking consolation, distressed people will cling to such weak reeds with desperate intensity. Attempts to assert rationality over many years have been repulsed or constrained by those who had easy answers to probing questions. The easy answer has always been found outside the realm of nature - the "super"-natural. While these answers are nearly universal, Humphrey focusses on Western European traditions and illusions. Of these, naturally, it is the Christ story which claims his attention.
Humphrey's handling of the Messiah phenomenon is unique. Jesus, instead of a "redeemer", is portrayed as a skillful conjurer from a young age. Using modern child prodigies as models, Humphrey suggests that Jesus, too, exhibited extraordinary talents in childhood. These need not have been "supernatural", but they certainly garnered attention. Following the example of a father-son mutually reinforcing alliance to perform "spoon-bending" feats, he suggests Jesus was the victim of a "virtuous circle" of family and friends encouraging him. While those in his home town remained skeptical, Jesus' talents in sleight-of-hand were applauded elsewhere. The acclaim grew widespread enough that even non-Christian paranormal practitioners rely on the model Jesus established. It's a compelling idea, both in accepting an historical Jesus while explaining how supposedly irrational events can gain wide-spread acceptance.
Readers are well-served by Humphrey's efforts to shunt the paranormal aside and replace it with analytical considerations of miracles, "psychic" phenomena and charlatanry. These habits are too easily ingrained into common thinking simply because they fulfill a desire to envision a future. Science, according to Humphrey, has failed to address the paranormal so as not to give it the credibility of attention. Perhaps a full-scale campaign, he contends, would dispel the myths and leave the gullible public in a more enlightened state. It would, he suggests, help dispel the disquieting view so much of the public has of science. Whether to understand the paranormal's tactics or to see why it should be fully discounted, this book is an excellent analysis of a dubious topic. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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