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The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions [Paperback]

David Berlinski
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 2009
Militant atheism is on the rise. In recent years Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have produced a steady stream of best-selling books denigrating religious belief. These authors are merely the leading edge of a larger movement that includes much of the scientific community.

In response, mathematician David Berlinski, himself a secular Jew, delivers a biting defense of religious thought. The Devil’s Delusion is a brilliant, incisive, and funny book that explores the limits of science and the pretensions of those who insist it is the ultimate touchstone for understanding our world.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (1 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465019374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465019373
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.6 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 161,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Berlinski knows his science and wields his rapier deftly. He makes great sport with his opponents, and his readers will surely enjoy it."--Tom Bethell, bestselling author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science""A powerful riposte to atheist mockery and cocksure science, and to the sort of philosophy that surrenders to them. David Berlinski proceeds reasonably and calmly to challenge recent scientific theorizing and to expose the unreason from which it presumes to criticize religion."--Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government, Harvard University "Berlinski's book is everything desirable: it is idiomatic, profound, brilliantly polemical, amusing, and of course vastly learned. I congratulate him." --William F. Buckley Jr. "With high style and light-hearted disdain, David Berlinski deflates the intellectual pretensions of the scientific atheist crowd. Maybe they can recite the Periodic Table by heart, but the secular Berlinski shows that this doesn't get them very far in reasoning about much weightier matters."--Michael J. Behe, Professor of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University, bestselling author of "Darwin's Black Box "and "The Edge of Evolution" "David Berlinski plus any topic equals an extraordinary book." --Chicago Tribune "From the Hardcover edition."

About the Author

David Berlinski holds a PhD from Princeton University and has taught mathematics and philosophy at universities in the United States and in France. He is the best-selling author of such books as A Tour of the Calculus, The Advent of the Algorithm, and Newton’s Gift. Berlinski writes frequently for Commentary, among other journals. He lives in Paris, France.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Shade Too Pugilistic 12 Nov 2010
Format:Paperback
As a Christian and a Science Teacher I enjoyed this book. The style is forthright and eminently readable, though the tone can be a little too pugilistic for my taste in places and sometimes a little hectoring. Also, when Berlinski is on slightly weaker ground he does seem to compensate with the same kind of bluster he identifies in those whose writings he criticises.

That said, he makes a number of highly valid and important points. He is, of course, right in pointing out that Science is not purely logical, rational and detached - nor should we imagine that it is or could be; it is an activity carried out by human beings who are not purely logical, rational and detached. He is also right in taking to task the suggestion - implied, usually, rather than baldly stated - that we are a hairsbreadth away from a complete naturalistic scientific understanding of everything and in suggesting that a determination to forbid God from "getting a toe in the door" lies behind such hubris.

He makes some valid points about the evidence (or its lack) for the theory of evolution by natural selection - as against the bald fact of evolution. I disagree with him, but am aware that the elegance and simplicity of Darwin's theory are contributory factors in its acceptance (which I share). Where I strongly agree with Berlinski is that there should be no question of attempting to stifle debate on this issue or any other in Science. That there have been such attempts - for purely dogmatic reasons - is clear from the examples he provides; indeed I recall a few years ago Scientific American magazine campaigned for students from schools that taught Intelligent Design to have that held against them in their application for university places.
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100 of 133 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A defence of belief - from a non-believer 16 Jun 2008
By P. M. Fernandez VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There were certain lecturers at university - Hans Kornberg springs to mind - whose lectures nobody would miss. It wasn't because they were necessarily the crucially important courses. It was because there was something about the style of the lecturer - his or her humour, perhaps, or delivery - which captivated the undergraduate audience and held it until the end of the course.

Reading this book by Berlinski reminded me of some of those lecturers. Various things about it were captivating. The layers of meaning that can be found in so many of the sentences; the deft way in which opposing opinions are dismantled; the shocking mild political incorrectnesses; the carefully-measured putdowns; the rhetorical interaction with opponents and readers.

Berlinski is writing a book in defence of belief in a god. Nothing unusual about that - Dawkins' book "The God Delusion", and similar ones, have sparked a whole publishing industry in response, many of which I've already reviewed on Amazon. What is most unusual about this book is that Berlinski is not a religious believer - and yet he is quite adamant that belief in God is not unreasonable. Furthermore, he is substantially better informed - biblically, philosophically, scientifically - than Dawkins, Hitchens or Harris.

He makes his case persuasively. For example, in response to the insistence that "miracles don't happen" by anti-theists, he points out that whilst we can understand the chemical process by which the eye "sees" something, we don't have a clue about what perception really is, and just because it is part of our everyday experience doesn't mean that it is inappropriate to describe it as a miracle.
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40 of 56 people found the following review helpful
By Michael JR Jose VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
David Berlinski, mathematician, philosopher, and novelist, has produced a book of great value. He presents, in literate format, ideas from problems in evolutionary biology and many branches of physics from the perspective of a real, live human being, and not as a mere scientist vaunting his technical prowess via condescending popularism. To avoid putting anyone off, I must add that although his mathematical prowess is also clear, there are no equations or graphs herein. As Professor Hawking was once informed, each equation you add reduces your readership by half. This type of book is a major feat even done half well, but Dr. Berlinski succeeds in nearly all detail and quite largely in his overall vision.

Those interested in his best criticisms of evolutionary theory, very helpful quote-mining, and his roasting of Dawkins and Dennett (I laughed out loud at one point, but I am always disposed to laugh at them, so this may be no great feat), may want to start around page 134 and go to around page 205. No onerous read so few pages, but be forewarned that his great knowledge and flexible style enables him slip back and forth from cosmology to, say, Stephen Meyer's `The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories', in the shortest intellectual space. His scepticism of evolutionary theory as promoted from Darwin to today references an impressive array of evolutionary doubts of professional biologists, including the venerable Alfred Russel Wallace (the `other Darwin'), Richard Lewontin, Prof. Vicki Friesen, Joel Kingsolver, Eugene Koonin, Motoo Kimura, Emile Zuckerkandl, and others such as famous bone-men like Stephen Jay Gould.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done
David Berlinski is, in my opinion, an author that dares to state a negative opinion about the evolution hypothesis. The is not correct in society today. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Christer Spilde Thorsen
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing look at this topic
In short I recommend this work. Berlinski is unusual in being an atheist yet he is honest enough to highlight the numerous flaws in the ideas of Darwinian evolution that are so... Read more
Published 4 months ago by timfallon
1.0 out of 5 stars Insightful but quite tragic
If you are one of those people who thinks that an evolutionary biologist has no place talking about evolution or biology, or that Physicists have no place discussing the creation... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ihaterain
5.0 out of 5 stars Fundamental reading.
This book stands in its own league in clearing up the confusion surrounding science and God. Much material has been devoted to make believers seem foolish and superstitious. Read more
Published 11 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars Amusingly destructive ! Rips apart psychobabble and intellectual...
Having seen David Berlinski on film talking about Dawkins I thought a book on the subject of atheism and its proponents showed great promise and I was not disappointed. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Taiga
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear, concise and clever
David Berlinski makes the clear point that science does not have all the answers but expects us to unreservedly accept its theories. Read more
Published 16 months ago by M. Gouveia
4.0 out of 5 stars Stop and think, and don't be intimidated by so-called Authority.
As the part of the titles states, Berlinski does a splendid job of shining a light on many of the pretensions/assertions within the scientific/atheist realm which are rarely... Read more
Published 18 months ago by chrissie
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best philosophy/faith books I've ever read
Although the topics touched on, and sometimes delved into more deeply, are not easy, the style keeps me going. I want to read more because it's so well written. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Don the Baptist
1.0 out of 5 stars Libellous
I have been reading a lot about evolution this past year. I read the reviews here for this book and bought it believing it would show me the opposite opinion with intelligence. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple put, I love this book.
With no religious axe to grind, simple with a love for truth in science, Berlinski attacks the science of today. He asks questions that need to be answered.
Published 20 months ago by Ian.
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