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on 11 July 2012
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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on 5 July 2010
Sorry this is not the intellectual, reasoned and importantly researched and evidence based response that will satisfy those wanting to understand the issues without prejudice.
I'm going to have to continue to search for a response to Dawkins. Indeed although David Berlinski is a senior fellow at the Discovery institute (generally seen as Christian organisation that hides behind a scientific mock front - I am unsure if this is true, but that's its image) he has taught philosophy and mathematics and importantly he states he is a `secular Jew', who's `religious education did not take'. This meant I was looking forward to a rebuttal that was based upon reason and evidence and not because he needs to justify his prior held beliefs.
What I got was not so much a rebuttal based upon prior Christian assumptions, but was a bizarre mutant. It seemed he is very clear about being unclear on the natural order of things and its relationship to the Abrahamic believe system. But he has a great time belittling the scientific community as he does it without actually really supporting his case through research and the explanation of alternative principles (random quotes does not make for clearly explained researched evidence of alternatives).But what makes this book worse is the strange undercurrent of assumptions and moral views that are stated as if self evidently true.

In the chapter titled `Horses do not Fly' we see the following `Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens observe that many religious claims do not by the light of contemporary science appear to be true. Did Muhammad fly to Jerusalem on a horse named Borak? What an idea, Hitchens writes, observing alertly that `hourses cannot and do not fly' . Yep expect this level of mocking wisdom from Berlinski. Stupid Hitchens for stating horses cannot fly , presumably pegasus cannot fly either. When Berlinski reads his myth what wonder of possibility must enter his mind for how can he possibly refute such stories.

But next follows the central point that undermines the whole book. Richard Dawkins attacks the god of the old testament quoting `The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.' Does Berlinski defend this or even reject it as not representing the modern creator god of moral enlightenment (Richard Dawkins does a whole chapter comparing the stories of the old testament and comparing to modern morality), nope!. He fails to even face his nemesis stating `What is at issue is not so much the character of the Deity but his existence.' In direct response!
Great we are defending a god without character or to quote Belinski from the same paragraph of the book the charter `hardly matters'. POW - right in the lower chin - take that Dawkins. I'm sure Dawkins is completely put off balance by this retort. Given that theism is about describing a god that has Character (Character read - moral direction, purpose, views on how the deities believers should live their lives, etc..) this is quite remarkable. It is also remarkable that Belinski completely fails to grasp that its human beings tendency to assign certain absolutes to the nature and Character of God that is so often the issue. Richard Dawkins may reject Deism, but its theism that bares the force of attack (but I find Dawkins blurring of the Abrahamic conceptions of God and other comcepts of god - such as the scienitific god of deism or none anthropomorphic concepts, annoying and confused - the two are very different).
So the Character of God hardly matters - let people believe whatever they want regardless of what pretentious science tries say about understanding the world around them. Great message Belinski.

Ok so this review is starting to get way too long, there is much to critique in this book, such are its many confused points. Such as the moral slippery slope (given gods Character hardly matters where does Belinski gets his morals). Harris can't be sure about controlling stem cell research because to quote ` in Holland 1984, Holland legalised euthanasia...Dutch doctors having been given the right to kill at once find reason to kill patients at their whim... how can he be so sure of stem cell research'. I'm telling you Dutch doctors are evil, if let lose they would just kill on a whim. What contempt Belinski has for the morality of his fellow human beings. And where does this contempt come from? Its easy to understand if you feel life is sacred and that doctors from holland don't respect this and potentially as a result are corrupted and living in sin, but remember this is a book that is about gods existance (as an intellegent designer) not about discussing particular moral views. Its not that morality isn't important. its that Belinski is trying to have his cake and eat it (in several parts of the book) by taking on moral isssues, but refusing to discuss them in relation to definitions or understandings of god. This slight of hand really annoyed me and shows his dishonesty (this may be why I am being so critical).

In summary I don't need to carry on through this terrible rebuttal of dawkins or the scientific commmunity that have similar views. This could have been a well reasoned response, buts its not. Its central theme away from the bizarre reasoning and mockery is that the first cause argument may have some value (ok but his case is hardly convincing and it completely limits god to a first cause, we still have so much work to do from then on) and he has problems (but does actually explain in detail any of this - scientist can't explain x y and z therefore god exists, but no actual positive evidence) with Darwin's theory of evolution. There surely there must be a more objective and analytical review of the religion vs evolution debate or evidence for intelligent design.
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on 17 February 2013
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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on 26 March 2015
Berlinski is a true intellectual in a field in which such beings are, perhaps surprisingly, rare. In this highly engaging, wide-ranging and easily understood book, he separates what western science 'knows' from the dogma and opinions promulgated in its name.

Highly recommended.
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on 7 October 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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on 22 July 2013
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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on 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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In this entertaining & thought-provoking work, Berlinski exposes the limitations of science and the pretensions of those who insist that it must be the ultimate basis for understanding the universe. As a secular scientist, he argues from a scientific perspective. Being intellectually honest, he admits ignorance as to the big questions but he does reach conclusions from the available information. With acuity and acerbic wit, he reveals flaws in the scientific theories from the scientific point of view.

The author considers the onslaught on religious belief as an attempt to establish science as the single secular religion in which rational people ought to place their faith. Science has made the world more mysterious than ever before, argues Berlinski, since we now know more about what we do not know & have never understood. As science progressed, so did the mysteries that it cannot explain. To mention a few, the following questions have no naturalistic answers: (a) Where existence came from; (b) The origin of life, consciousness & morality; (c) The fine-tuning of the universe that makes human life possible. No convincing answers exist among the plethora of speculation.

Berlinski values the great physical theories as treasures of knowledge while emphasizing that they cannot answer the questions raised by theology and do not offer a coherent view of the universe. By raising apposite issues, he turns the scientific community's skepticism on itself. Does a rigid and oppressive orthodoxy of thought dominate the sciences? Are scientists prepared to believe in anything as long as religious thought is avoided? Did the secular ideologies of the terrible 20th century have an overall beneficial or evil effect? The religion of atheism and its detrimental influence in the scientific community are thoroughly dissected.

The scientist must be open-minded and receptive. Doctrinaire atheists with their closed minds do not necessarily make the best scientists since their preconceptions limit all those ideas not fitting their worldview. Their arguments are often contradictory and hypocritical. For example, they would impetuously demand to know who created God while at the same time insisting that the cosmos manifested itself - never mind their belief in a chain of cause & effect. It is therefore intellectually dishonest of them to ridicule believers for viewing God as existing outside of time. Berlinski succeeds spectacularly in mocking the mockers.

He observes that the common denominator of the most murderous regimes in history was the belief that no Higher Power existed that would hold them to account. Claiming that the oppression & mass murders of the 20th century were overwhelmingly committed by atheists, he carefully connects the dots from Darwin to the Shoah/Holocaust. In this regard, I highly recommend Alain Besançon's A Century of Horrors and Chantal Delsol's Icarus Fallen: The Search for Meaning in an Uncertain World.

Being an expert in one field gives certain people the notion that they're qualified to hold forth about subjects far removed from their expertise or to try to extend their own little dung-heaps into all kinds of "unified theories." They know much about little and aspire to become "spokespersons" in the media where they babble fatuously and are treated with deference by the equally vacuous media morons. That is how the Reverend Al Gore's First Church of the Boiling Globe achieved such undeserved prominence.

The author convincingly demonstrates the limitations of science as a method of describing physical reality; when theory goes before experiment, science blinds itself to the important role of faith in all fields of knowledge. An excellent book that investigates this matter in great detail is Science, Faith, and Society by Michael Polanyi. Universally accepted theories have often been proved wrong and there is no divorcing science from society.

Science currently holds the following incompatible doctrines: Quantum theory on the micro level, Relativity theory on the macro, String theory that attempts unification through multidimensionality, Thermodynamics with its process of entropy, Evolution, Molecular Biology & its DNA codes plus the concept of Entanglement that connects quantum entities beyond time and space throughout the universe. Each one offers some insight into some limited area but they do not gel with one another.

A circular argument like the "Anthropic Principle" is proclaimed as an idea superior to that of the Eternal Divine. As explained with admirably empathy & understanding by Delsol in The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century, cultures that do not aspire to the divine become seduced by the banal, the depraved & the frivolous, ultimately submitting to the attraction of evil. When lacking a sense of the eternal, science gravitates towards the pursuit of reductionist drivel.

The Devil's Delusion is not always the easiest of reads but Berlinski's sense of humor, his directness and the many appropriate bons mots make it accessible to those with no background in the natural sciences. The book is a most welcome addition to an argument mostly waged by the disciples of atheism on the one hand and the apostles of traditional religion on the other. As such, this work offers a refreshing perspective with arguments firmly rooted in science.
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on 10 July 2010
This book would be a real turn off for those who just like sound bite philosophy. The arguments presented are sometimes hard to follow but nonetheless worth pursuing. Those who want to hide behind a pretence that whatever Charles Darwin wrote - or modern cosmology says now - absolves them from critical thinking, need to think again. And in case you are wondering, this is not a young earth creationist exposition. Berlinski maps out a number of areas that warrant attention. That said, he could have made the book a little easier to follow by summarising more.
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on 20 April 2010
I'm not so sure berlinski isn't a closet theist. I've heard precisely the same language used by other apologists who start out by proclaiming their agnosticism or atheism - their credentials to criticize actual atheists - and then transition to some sort of argument that there must be something "out there" beyond the narrow, constricting view of rationalism.

My experience is that once you understand not only the scientific implausibility of the supernatural, but the psychological and anthropological reasons that man creates deities, you comprehend "the imaginary friend" construct and cannot, with a straight face, defend belief in Santa Claus, god, and other spirit world beings.

I speculate that Berlinski still clings to his deity - indoctrinated as a child in the traditions of the abrahamic faith -although, as an "intellectual" he is probably too embarrassed to admit it. Thus he defends faith from a position of bogus agnosticism.
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