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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Shade Too Pugilistic
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...
Published on 12 Nov 2010 by Andrew Morton

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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 of the universe, this book is probably for you.

This book offers a valuable insight into how these days, anyone can get a book published, regardless of how ridiculous their central...
Published 2 months ago by Ihaterain


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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Shade Too Pugilistic, 12 Nov 2010
By 
Andrew Morton "Andrew At The Croft" (Lockerbie Scotland) - See all my reviews
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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.

And that brings me to the nub of my concerns, concerns which Berlinski highlights. As a Science Teacher I have noted an increasing disenchantment with Science. Part of that disenchantment springs from a perception that Science is dogmatic and claims certainty where certainty is not possible. It is hard enough to get children interested in Science without people like Dawkins and Dennett suggesting that they have to hold a particular viewpoint on religion to do Science "properly". As a Christian and a Science Teacher I am clear that militant atheism has done neither religion nor Science any good - but that more harm has been done to Science. Berlinski explains why this is with great lucidity
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5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing look at this topic, 24 Jun 2014
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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 often presented as unassailable fact.
I admit that I have struggled to follow some of the points that he has made but those I can comprehend I have found persuasive.
Its not easy reading but it is interesting and he shows the Darwinian evolutionists to be all fur coat and no knickers.
He takes great pleasure in exposing the weaknesses in the writings of Dawkins and other prominent people in the field, he delivers some cutting put downs.
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100 of 134 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A defence of belief - from a non-believer, 16 Jun 2008
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P. M. Fernandez "exilefromgroggs" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Devil's Delusion, the (Hardcover)
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. In response to the dogmatic insistence that we are no more than animals, he points out the fact that if that is what we are in biological terms, then it simply demonstrates that biology is telling us nothing useful about what it means to be human at all. He demonstrates that the theories that supposedly prove that God isn't necessary rarely do what they set out to, and say more about the presuppositions of the proponent than about the nature of the universe.

As I read the book, I found myself increasingly puzzled as to why, given his dissatisfaction with arguments against the existence of God, he should not believe in God himself. The dedication - to his father, who was lost in Auschwitz - perhaps provides one clue, and another big clue is provided in the last chapter - "The Cardinal and his Cathedral." Here he writes movingly of his life in science, and his hope - perhaps a little forlorn now - that despite its failures, science will one day provide a coherent means of understanding the world.

Two quibbles. The first is that the book could really have done with footnotes or endnotes for the many references. The second is that the odd provocative piece of political incorrectness could have been avoided - not because it does any harm in itself, but because it provides his opponents with a red herring card to play against him (to mix metaphors). But the bottom line is that this is an excellent, highly quotable book, which I intend to pass on to many other thoughtful people.
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30 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just can't give it 5 stars..., 6 Feb 2010
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This is a book that will be immensely divisive. At the moment, any book about God/religion/atheism/New Atheism will be hugely divisive, but a book written by a secular Jew, mathematical, philosophical and scientific giant, written solely to lambast Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and the other less famous one... well, both "sides" are going to have something to say about it.

As a Christian, I'm probably supposed to give this 5 stars. Things have become so polemical we're supposed to forget objectivity and rabidly side with anyone we perceive to share (or, at least, be unwilling to attack) our views. And, here, Berlinski is against the very chaps that are most cruel about people of faith. But, when it comes down to it, it would be dishonest giving it 5.

Berlinski doesn't really defend God, so much as attack New Atheism and New Atheists... and for some it may sort of be a case of "My enemy's enemy is my ally", but for me it was uncomfortable. Because, I don't think New Atheists *are* an enemy, and even though Berlinski is defending our right to believe in God (again, not necessarily defending God Himself) I don't like his sarcasm and mockery any more than when it comes from the Atheistic bunch. It's all fire with fire and clashing swords, words and penises and if someone believes this entire debate needs to be kinder (as many of us do) a book as snarky as this isn't going to soothe anything.

That he puts them in their place is undeniable; he unquestionably shows up their avaricious pseudo-philosophical, hermeneutically-bankrupt rhetoric for precisely what it is - embarrassing (the nadir being that strange attempt to refer to each other as "Brights"... what *was* that?) And the 4 stars is because he will undoubtedly open minds that had become hermetically sealed after stewing in DawkinsHitchens vitriol for the last few years, and managing to oepn minds as locked up as that is an extraordinary feat. But it felt like a mean book, and that's a real problem. Berlinski is a very, very clever and witty man. He is also, come to think of it, perhaps the most objective commentator on all of this. He even dares to posit that there may be philosophical flaws in Darwinism... he's essentially come up the rear of THE sacred cow and kicked it in the nads. And bravo for that. (Darwinism attracts fundamentalists with a zealotry every bit as scary as religion and it, too, needs to be questioned.)

So there are a hundred wonderful things in here... but it's too mean to get 5. I fundamentally believe that the way to respond to Dawkinsian (et al) cruelty is with kindness. Berlinski, though, sees it differently, and he is absolutely entitled to (my beliefs, after all, are entirely predicated on my faith) so perhaps marking it down is unfair. But other Christians should know that this book caters very specifically to a particular type of debate - one of snark, and tearing the opposition down as opposed to raising God up.

Here's a tiny example of his style. On page 4 (he starts early) he writes: "Because atheism is said to follow from various scientific doctrines, literary atheists, while they are eager to speak their minds, must often express themselves in other men's voices. Christopher Hitchens is an example. With forthcoming modesty, he has affirmed his willingness to defer to the world's 'smart scientists' on any matter more exigent than finger-counting. Were smart scientists to report that a strain of yeast supported the invasion of Iraq, Hitchens would, no doubt, conceive an increased repsect for yeast..."

And, you know, he's probably absolutely right. But bullying a bully is never the answer - at least, not for a Christian. And that's really what it comes down to.
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39 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NEWSFLASH: DON QUIXOTE TILTS AT WINDMILL AND WINS, 28 Oct 2009
By 
Michael JR Jose (the UK) - See all my reviews
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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.

On the other hand, those interested in his take on the hardest aspects of the hardest sciences, cosmology, quantum mechanics, the Standard Model, the Landscape, the Anthropic Principle, string theory, Kurt Godel, and Einstein's General Theory, will have to read, mark, and learn from page 63 to around page 134. I am no expert in any branch of mathematics, I can apply a t-test or a chi-squared test I suppose, but I am sure that even those without any real maths who want to read this will get a lot from it. It is not just that the science is surveyed, but how it is surveyed, and what it means, if anything (even the name `string theory' puts me teeth on edge), and how it is partially framed within the larger picture of human knowledge.

But the above summaries do the book a radical injustice. His approach is deeply philosophical and warmly human without being verbose or obscure, his vision is wide and clear. He wants all of our knowledge and truth to cohere. He believes that truth is one, and that though paradoxes may abound, in principle they are all resolvable. This is his credo. The apparent contradictions of science and theology simply are apparent. It is just that the mind of God may be the only place where they fully make sense. He is generous in spirit and wants the Two Cultures of the Sciences and the Humanities to bow and converse in civilised friendship. He does not assume that the vague Enlightenment faith in the values of Reason and Progress are all that there is to say in a creed for the human race in the twenty-first century.

This is the first of his books which I have read, and I am now not a Berlinski worshipper, I am merely a fan. I have one major theoretical criticism to make, which I must admit at this point only appears to me probably worth making after a single reading of his book. He is very ardent to criticise Scientism, he is happy to mock it, he does this well. [Scientism, definition: the belief that only Science, with a capital S, is to be idolised alone as the new omnipotence and omniscience which will save us all from the long dark night of pre-scientific ignorance and superstition. It is a faith and a broad church, led by a coalition of high priests in white coats over corduroy jackets, taken from disciplines such as biology, sociology , physics, philosophy, chemistry, and straw basket-weaving.] His opponents have felt the sting of his lash and have lashed back. Myself, as soon as I finished applauding, I mailed him a package containing a new bullwhip and an energy drink. But, as the serving boy said, "anon, anon Sir...": he does not stand far enough back from Science to see it for what it is. He is still a scientist with a human inside struggling to get out: essentially a scientist with a crystalline awareness that Science is not all there is to life. Values, beauties, morals, meanings, emotions, futures, and intimations of immortality are glories that no equation or gene pool ever encompassed, or ever will. All this he knows. But he fails to supply a definition of science itself sufficient to enable him to fully make his own case and achieve escape velocity from the earth to which he is bound by both gravity and a partial philosophy. His definition of science on page xiv in the preface is inductive, that is, by example only: `science is a word exhausted by its examples' - he gives four `profound' examples: Newtonian mechanics, Maxwell's field theory, Einstein's relativity, and quantum mechanics. But Plato (whom he quotes well), would have roasted him on a skewer for this. The roasting spit would be, "What is it in all examples of science that enables you to say that they are science? What principle is common in all these examples?" Mechanics obviously. Science is how things work, cause-and-effect. A scientist is a mechanic, the cleverest sort, but only a mechanic. A human being is a thing of values, reason, meaningful relationships, a soul as well as a body. A book to read, I dare you to be human.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Insightful but quite tragic, 3 May 2014
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 of the universe, this book is probably for you.

This book offers a valuable insight into how these days, anyone can get a book published, regardless of how ridiculous their central premise.

It's fascinating to read how people who search for evidence for their opinions are arrogant and pretentious, whereas those who don't are somehow enlightened on the workings of the universe.

There are so many possibilities for further work.

Have you ever found it to be so arrogant when geographers claim they understand volcanoes?
Have you been enraged by an architect who has this arrogant idea he can design buildlings?
If you have, maybe you should write about it. There appears to be a market for this sort of thing.

I'm starting my book tomorrow "The Satanic predictions: Meteorology and it's arrogance"

Or I may stay true to myself and write "the musings of ancient sheep herders: Are they really relevant in 2014?"
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16 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lacking in Logic, 11 July 2012
By 
Tom Rose (Utrecht, Netherland) - See all my reviews
It always depresses me to read books like this where an author appears on the surface to be reasonable and intelligent. The author's arguments are superficially plausible, but (when you get past the bluster, and posturing, and self-conscious demonstration of irrelevant knowledge - presumably in an effort to establish some sort of credibility) they turn out to be lacking in solid evidence or logic. The author sets up a succession of "straw men" and, as you would expect, demolishes them.

This is a very poor book. But worth reading with your skeptic's hat on, and a copy of Madsen Pirie's " How to Win Every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic " by your side.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amusingly destructive ! Rips apart psychobabble and intellectual twaddle. WELL worth a read !, 22 July 2013
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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. David's rapier wit is very amusing and his cogent analysis of the kind of mind that rejects the evidence for an intelligent source of information is most enjoyable. I have to admit that I wasn't expecting to laugh so much as I did (^; !
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Libellous, 17 Feb 2013
By 
M. G. Lang "Martin" (UK) - See all my reviews
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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. I was looking forward to reading it. Instead, after having read just 15%, I am shocked and disgusted by this man. He comes perilously close to calling Hitchens a holocaust denier, and openly calls Harris anti-semitic. (He accuses Harris of saying that the Jews were responsible for their own suffering. Yes! He says this.)
There is also the attempt to correlate religious decline in the West with a decline in personal morality. Simplistic. Atheism and science are the causes of most of the human suffering of the 20th century. Really? I'm an atheist, and I have no inclination towards going out and murdering millions of people. Technology is a wonderful thing. What is done with it depends on whose hands it is in. It's the same for power.
On top of which, he is extremely rude - crudely so - to atheists. (Maybe Dawkins is as rude; but at least Dawkin's offers credible arguments.)
The author is writing from anger. His reason is corrupted.
Buy this book only if you want to know what unintelligent theism is.

I've just seen that I cannot give zero stars.
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21 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incendiary!, 7 Oct 2009
This is an incendiary attack on the New Atheism by a scientist with a quick mind and even quicker wit. Writing from the point of view of a secular Jew, Berlinski exposes the extremely tenuous arguments put up by those who have made fortunes out of selling books which say that science proves God does not exist. This book is a highly readable polemic which shows just how far the high priests of atheism are from proving their points. It also points out the historical dangers inherent in their approach. As Berlinski says: 'What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe and what the NKVD did not believe and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing. And as far as we can tell, very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried overmuch that God was watching what they were doing either. That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society.' An exposee of the shallowness of atheism as well as a warning from history. Highly recommended.
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Devil's Delusion, the
Devil's Delusion, the by David Berlinsky (Hardcover - 1 April 2008)
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