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Victor John Stenger (born 1935) is an American particle physicist, philosopher, author, and religious skeptic; he is also a regular featured science columnist for the Huffington Post. He has written many other books, such as God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist,God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion,The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 2003 book, "In the present book, I critically examine the attempt to apply 'logos' to seek evidence for the existence of God or, more generically, for a transcendent element to the universe that has significant, observable effects... this book... is an application of science present to the question of the existence of a nonmaterial, divine reality that transcends the world of the senses... As I will attempt to show, the empirical data and theories based on that data are now sufficient to make a scientific to make a scientific judgment: In high probability, a nonmaterial element of the universe exerting powerful control over events does not exist." (Pg. 17-19)

He recapitulates, "In Not by Design ... I attempted to show that no principle of physics was violated by a universe that appears from nothing. Neither the first law of thermodynamics... nor the second law... I tried to explain the basic physics and cosmology for the general reader and described the latest models. In the present book, I will revisit and extensively update these ideas and explore the new territory that has come to light during the recent rapid development of the science-religion dialogue." (Pg. 39)

He recounts the story of "Intelligent Design" theorist William Dembski's removal as director of the Polanyi Center at Baylor University, observing that "the dispute between creationists and scientists is more political than academic, and the battle metaphor used by Dembski was not inappropriate even if it was ill-advised." (Pg. 100-102)

Of Roger Penrose's books ,Shadows of the Mind], he observes, "Penrose claimed to show that the brain was not simply a computer... Penrose argued humanlike 'artificial intelligence' was impossible for any physical system... He says that something more than computation is happening in the brain. Penrose admits that he is a Platonist who regards proved mathematical truths as more real than the concrete objects of our experience." (Pg. 119)

He argues, "As long as the universe keeps expanding... we always have a place to toss out our entropy as we organize ourselves locally. Whether we will always have sufficient energy to do this is another question I will not address here. For now, we have enough... In short, no miracle, no violation of any known principles of physics, need have occurred at the creation. In fact, the data are just what would be expected for a universe that came into being without design or cause." (Pg. 152)

At the end of the book, he says, "I must at least mention the sharp theological differences among the premise keepers, and even greater disputes between them and other Christian thinkers. These various internal schisms are more formidable than any that may separate them from scientists ... [John] Polkinghorne and [Arthur] Peacocke differ substantially in their theologies. Polkinghorne holds on to rather conservative beliefs, such as the Virgin Birth and Resurrection, while Peacocke questions many traditional teachings...What is left of Christianity when it is pruned of virtually every traditional teaching?" (Pg. 315-316)

This is a substantial addition to his first book; those who enjoy this book will enjoy his even more detailed later books.
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on July 26, 2008
I would rank Victor Stenger's "Has Science Found God?" as one of the most important books I have ever read. An experimental physicist, Dr. Stenger does a wonderful job describing the basic physics behind the universe to the lay reader, as best as can be done to simplify physics. Readers will find this more approachable than Steven Hawking's "A Brief History of Time", for example (though this is a great read on its own). Scientists will undoubtedly find Stenger's logic and explanations refreshing, but this book can also be enjoyed by non-scientists. In fact, it is non-scientists who might gain more from reading this book. Stenger does a great job answering many difficult questions like how the universe could arise from nothing, and how a "creator" (God) actually contradicts well-known physical laws such as Einstein's first and second laws of thermodynamics.

He also does a thorough job of dismantling the arguments of many renowned theists, especially those of creationists (or "intelligent design" followers). As Dr. Stenger rationally points out, truth is ultimately not determined by democratic vote. It is determined when disconnected persons (experimental scientists in all disciplines) arrive at the same answer by testing theories independently and their data fit that theory. Otherwise, the theory is replaced, like the theory that the Earth was the center of the universe. This is the scientific method, which Stenger does a wonderful service to the lay reader by explaining in simple terms. Thus, no matter what percentage of the world's population today still clings to any of the Abrahamic doctrines of Islam, Christianity or Judaism, the fact that NO data to date have ever been uncovered that support these theologies should encourage the reader to seek alternative answers about the world we inhabit.
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on September 6, 2012
Excelent analysis, scientific treatment of a crucial issue. ADOGMATIC, in contrast with religious views. Opens every reader's mind, teaches how to use that wonderful "machines" that our brains, and our minds are.

Excercises our reasoning capacity, obliges to freethinking.
If a religous person reads it, the risk exist he/she abandon his/her dogmatic way of misusing a mind, and becomes a freethinker. If he/she goes into atheism marvellous a small step is of paramount meaning if it is forward and implies an entrance in a world WITHOUT DOGMAS and full of the TOLERANCE humankind deserves.
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VINE VOICEon July 14, 2012
I read this book years ago and just recently reread it. I enjoyed it even more the second time. This is Stenger at his best. The author's purpose is to disprove the now rather common idea that scientific findings (like big bang cosmology) or finely tuned laws of nature support belief in a God. Much of the book is devoted to physics and why there is nothing there that points to God. The latter part debunks things like the Bible Code, the efficacy of prayer, bio-energy, PSI, etc.

This is really an excellent book and I highly recommend it.
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on March 13, 2013
This book draws on modern scientific evidence to unravel mysteries of the cosmos that were once thought to be divinely inspired. It challenges the cause-effect principle and inspires one to further investigate advanced scientific thinking. Apart from some concepts that are difficult for the lay person to comprehend, I found it an interesting and fascinating read.
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on August 12, 2005
I find this book to be a strong addition to my library of critical thought and analysis of our existence and the existence of all things. I very much enjoyed the perspective that Stenger was able to bring to this topic, due to his long years as a particle physicist and man of science generally.

His arguments are well founded, thoughtful and not a mere glossing over of what can be difficult terrain. The only reason I have reserved the final star in my review is for lack of narrative strength (which to me is certainly secondary but might cause some to shy away from such books). The book is written almost as a thesis and as an academic argument, and not in the elevated and inspiring prose of say a Carl Sagan or even a Brian Greene. Though even this may be slightly unfair on my part as it is quite possible that the nature of the argument could make it near impossible to improve the narrative strength of this work very much while still maintaining cohesion.

If you are willing to read a book for "Just the facts Ma'am" and do not need to be coddled in the process by warm and fuzzy writing, then I can give this book no higher endorsement than I do. Certainly Victor Stenger has truth on his side in this debate, if not popular agreement in this once rational nation of ours.
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on October 29, 2013
An enjoyable read but I found it a little American-centric and too narrow focused.

Worth a read but not awesome.
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on July 20, 2009
This is a review of Victor Stenger's "Has Science Found God?" Stenger is a retired physicist who has written numerous books in the debunker tradition against religion and parapsychological phenomenon. I have also reviewed Stenger's "God The Failed Hypothesis," which is more recent than this volume.

Reading these two books was interesting. In many ways I felt like I was reading the same book over again, but there is actually maybe only a fifth or less of each book which is repeated in the other. Mostly, the same themes are approached with somewhat different arguments.

The purpose Stenger had in writing "Has Science Found God" was to rebut a series of books written in the late 90s which claimed that physics was now showing God as more plausible than not. The book is therefore somewhat scatter-shot in its organization. It takes each of these claims, notes who claimed them, and attempts to rebut each of them. He had a more focused goal in "God the Failed Hypothesis", which was to refute the consequences of the Abrahamic God hypothesis, and therefore a tighter organization. The earlier book, "Has Science Found God", is still the far better of the two, since he only rarely commits the burden of proof fallacy which is central to most of his arguments in the later book. Most of his arguments are strong, and I found this book an interesting foil for consideration.

Stenger strongly disagrees with those who consider Science and Theology totally separate subjects. He notes that hypotheses about entities which interact with the world will in principle have observable and testable consequences in the world, and therefore are subject to scientific inquiry. He therefore concedes the principle of the books he is rebutting - that it is possible in principle that physics could reveal the presence of the spiritual.

His first target is Creationists, and the ID movement. The chapters rebutting these movements are pretty standard stuff, since these movements have no valid basis in science, and they really consist of no more than a series of attacks on evolution.

He did devote a separate chapter to ID theorist William Dembski, and Dembski's statistical methods for determining design. I found this chapter interesting, in that Stenger agrees with Dembski that entropy and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics could be validly recast in terms of information content. My own understanding of information theory is incomplete, but I had always considered this claim by ID advocates to be just an argument from analogy, not a valid assertion. Despite conceding this point, Stenger shows that Dembski does not follow the valid IT definitions, therefore Demski's claim that the increased information content in life could not arise naturally is falsified, because the information loss formt he sun more than balances it out. As with entropy, localized regions can experience increases in information content so long as the system as a whole is neutral or decreases in information content.

After dealing with Creationists and ID, he moves on to more valid claims of evidence for God. He discusses in detail the concept of the creation of the universe, and whether it violates causation, the conservation laws, or the laws of thermodynamics. His assertion is that if it had, the violations would provide evidence for God interfering in the universe, but since it does not, the lack of necessity for God makes Him implausible. Among his assertions are that our universe could have formed as a quantum fluxuation in a background Void, so no creator or cause was necessary. Also that the negative energy of gravity and the expansion rate perfectly balance the positive energy of matter and the vacuum energy field so the appearance of all of matter and space was a zero-energy event, satisfying the conservation laws. And that our being in an expanding universe results in a continuous decrease in average entropy, even though total entropy keeps increasing, which is why our universe has been able to get more complex over time without violating the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This chapter provides some interesting arguments, but it has some flaws.

First, space is tied to mass in General Relativity, so postulating an empty Void pre-existing the universe contradicts that theory. In his later book, Stenger seems to have realized this, and changes to asserting Eternal Inflation, and an infinite set of universes, from one of which ours was spawned through "quantum tunneling" (and bizarrely claims this is a simpler assertion than that there is only one universe). While causation is not a verified assumption, it is a core assumption of science, and his proposal to abandon it is one he really does not accept himself since he continues to try to provide explanations of where the universe came from, so his first point is pretty well repudiated even by himself.

As for the entire Universe existing vs. nothing at all being equivalent per conservation laws - I think it is pretty obvious that he has left something out. Billions of galaxies may be in energy balance vs. their gravitational attraction, but there is MORE to billions than to one, or to just a single star system, and to declare all these equivalent is to miss the conservation of some important term.

The entropy discussion is very interesting - that an expanding universe creates the potential for evolving complexity. This point appears to actually support the Fine Tuning advocates, since it represents another constraint on a possible universe for life to evolve in.

Stenger discusses the Fine Tuning argument in much more detail in his second book, including his claim that stars and chemistry are possible in a fairly wide range of four constants he evaluated. I did not consider his rebuttal to be effective, since he failed to address more than a fraction of the fine-tuned aspects of the universe. He does point out correctly in this book that the universe is NOT fine-tuned for physical matter, or for planets to be a significant fraction of physical matter, so seems implausible to have been designed for physical planet-dwellers.

Stenger has a similar chapter on prayer, and its failure to show health benefits in controlled studies, as in the later book. Also, he has a similar chapter to the one in the later book on psionics, where he emphasizes the lack of a coherent theory, and the history of difficulty replicating statistically significant results. In a likewise similar chapter on Bible verses, he notes its failures to achieve its clearly stated predictions, and the obvious falsity of some of its assertions about the natural world. In each chapter the evidence he cites is different between books, but the points are virtually identical. For both prayer and psi, he cherry picks data, and studies, and sets a higher standard for consistency of results than is used in science. In both medicine and psychology, there are a lot of unidientified and uncontrolled variables, and identical studies often end up with opposite statitically significant results. hence both fields depend on meta analysis. Prayer and energy healing, and more than a half dozen separate psi phenomenon, have been shown to provide statistically signifincant effects through meta analysis, which Stenger fails to address. The one most notable difference is that he discusses "The Bible Code" in more detail here, and spells out the flaws in its methodology.

Stenger expresses some respect for one group of scientific theologians, who include Nancy Murphy, former physicist John Polkinghorne, the Platonist mathematician Roger Penrose, and physicist Paul Davies. All agree to evolution, do not try to assert "guided evolution". They agree that humanity could easily not have existed, but try to find ways for God or consciousness to interact with the universe through quantum effects, or taking advantage of the inherent instability of chaos theory. Stenger tries to rebut the chaos theory assertion by stating falsely that chaotic systems are repeatable and deterministic (by noting that their computer models are both - but this is an argument by analogy which fails because the things which make the models repeatable include knowing precise starting conditions, and its deterministic nature is due to the limited and characterized effects modeled - neither condition is applicable to chaotic systems in the universe). He also points out very validly that the God or Ideal of these theorists is incompatible with the classic Abrahamic view of God.

Stenger's concluding chapter includes a very useful reference list of the sorts of observations which have a bearing on the issue of spiritual dualism vs. materialism. he considers religious advocates to ahve failed to produce any of them, but I consider him to be wrong, for most. I will repeat it here, with my own summary of why I think the evidence for spiritual dualism is fairly strong.

* Observations that cannot be explained except by supernatural creation of the universe.

Here Stenger is implicitly asserting the Burden of Proof fallacy, by insisting on CANNOT BE EXPLAINED OTHERWISE instead of BETTER EXPLAINED BY SPIRITUAL DUALISM. In other parts of this book he correctly references Parsimony instead. A two-aspect spiritual-physical universe is both simpler, and more testable than his Infinite Inflation infinite universes, and wins on Parsimony on both the simplicity and testability/usefulness forks of Occam's razor.

*Events induced by prayer or other supernatural intervention.

The Catholic Church has done a good job documenting several miracles at Lourdes, and the vision in Portugal, which could qualify here.

* Extrasensory perception or the ability of the human mind to move matter in ways that cannot be explained by any known physical means.

Both Remote Viewing and the GAnsfeld experiments have produced statistically significant and repeatable results, and have withstood decades of criticism by skeptics who simply refuse to accept the data. See Chris Carter's Parapsychology and the Skeptics, and Damien Broderick's Outside the Gates of Science for further information on this subject.

* Examples in which faith healing or other forms of spiritual therapies cure the ill.

The placebo effect is explicitly a spiritual therapy. It IS "faith healing". The history of Shamanism worldwide is pretty substantial evidence for the effectiveness of spiritual healing, unless one denies that evolutionary selection processes act on human behavior.

* Mystical or religious experiences during which verifiable information was obtained that could not possibly be in the mystics brain circuits all along.

The book "The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts" by Joe Fisher, contains close but ultimately flawed information cited by his channeled spirits. Since he rejected these spirits based on the flaws, the closeness is a credible report, and verifies channeleing as a means of getting information not accessible to oneself.

* Quotations from sacred scripture that contain facts that the people who wrote them could not have known.

I have not seen any such valid claims.

The examples I provided above show how the application of the scientific approach Stenger advocates actually DOES lead to verification of spiritual dualism. The very first of these points, in which Stenger engages in a logical fallacy, shows the level of rationalization that the debunkers engage in in order to reach their certitude. Stanger is a member of CSICOP, and a contributor to Skeptical Inquirer, and both the organization and the magazine have been demonstrated to engage in data fraud and lies to advance their skeptical views. Stenger's Burden of Proof fallacy is actually a lesser failing among his fellow professional skeptics.

Overall, this was an interesting and fairly strong book advocating atheist materialism over spiritual dualism, but I think I have disposed of Stenger's arguments here.
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on September 21, 2006
This is worth reading, but more slowly than regular nonfiction. Neither Dr. Stenger nor science found a deity of any sort, and this is not surprising. Unlike many current writers, this author argues "the case of god" from the area of his expertise. This is why the book reads so well, and why it is an excellent choice for serious reading.

Midway through the book is a passage that well summarizes Victor Stenger's rationale against attempts to shift science from its primary place. He says, "electromagnetism is as material as breath [p. 275]," an example which pretty much explains the impossibility of mixing science and mysticism of any sort.

A notable gem in this book, page 268, is the statement, "Reductionism is not about a universe of isolated objects." Amen, if that can be said.
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on January 29, 2007
The most important point, in my opinion, is that the book established that is not the science responsibility to verify the existence of God but of the God believers. So far, according to Stenger, religions have tried to hold the existence of God in certain facts that science has not been able to explain. For example -as another reviewer mentioned- consciousness, but even that in the future should be probed as a natural phenomenon. As an example, among many others that the gap have been completed before, he mentioned how in the antiquity they explained by mean of the willing of god the movement of the planets and stars and now it is recognized as a well-known physical phenomenon.

In the matter of the Parapsychology investigation, besides the issues of the methods and techniques employed by this pseudoscience, he clearly established that nothing has been able to be probed in a systematic and repeatable way by independents researchers. And that is absolutely necessary to be considered valid science.

At last a point against the book or at least about its incompleteness, it would have been interesting to know in detail about the probability for life and evolution: How it was calculated, what factors were considered, etc. According to the book it can be explained as a natural phenomenon and in any case, again according to the book: we are here, so it is possible. Nevertheless I missed the explanation. For example when one considers the size of the DNA in a chromosome how many mutations are necessary to find one positive mutation? Taking into account that a series of positives mutation must be accumulative I suppose it is important to consider the time necessary to be in fertile state to try the next possible mutation; and additionally, the total number of individuals in a population as well as the total number of siblings per birth (naissance). As these there are many interesting issues that a reader like me very probably will not know and would have liked to learn. I recommend the books Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma. These books seem to settle down many of the question mentioned above.

In the end, I liked the book and I think it deserves to be read.
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