17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science and religion mix like oil and water
One reason the so-called new atheism has so riled the religious over recent years is that it has dared draw attention to religion's dirty little epistemic secret, which is that in its religious sense "faith" refers to beliefs held without evidence. The religious, naturally, would rather not dwell on this point, preferring - while hanging on to the coattails of science for...
Published 14 months ago by Sphex
5 of 81 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Agree with review "Stranger & Stranger"
I have to agree with the reviewer of "Stranger & Stranger". I am a serious scientist and also medically trained. I have seen the pettiness and jealously that scientists have towards doctors of the medical profession with actually very little grasp of what the later actually do, have to go through and sacrifice. It feels like the same in this book but with atheists vs...
Published 17 months ago by S Turner
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science and religion mix like oil and water,
This review is from: God and the Folly of Faith (Paperback)One reason the so-called new atheism has so riled the religious over recent years is that it has dared draw attention to religion's dirty little epistemic secret, which is that in its religious sense "faith" refers to beliefs held without evidence. The religious, naturally, would rather not dwell on this point, preferring - while hanging on to the coattails of science for dear life - to portray their supernaturalism as a reasonable lifestyle choice. For them, the compatibility of religion and science is very important. For the non-religious scientist Victor Stenger, far from being the best of friends, science and religion "are forever irreconcilable" and in this tremendous book he takes on the religious scientists and theologians who think otherwise.
The title may seem provocative, but the idea that the religious kind of "faith is foolish" is more of a description than a judgement, if we esteem evidence. Like his fellow physicist Robert Park in Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science, Stenger distinguishes between the two very different meanings of faith (the non-religious sense being trust or confidence), a simple point that is often overlooked by theists and atheists alike. That beliefs are more reliably true when grounded in evidence is no scientific dogma but simply the result of long experience figuring out how the world works. Sensibly, Stenger does not dismiss religion as an entirely irrational enterprise or wholly disconnected from the real world. That said, while theology "is faith-plus-reason, with some observation allowed" science "is observation-plus-reason, with no faith allowed." The irrational part of religion is its reliance on faith instead of the scientific method.
And it is the method and not the content of science that really matters: it's not about the specific beliefs, but how those beliefs are formed. "Suppose a new religion was invented and it taught dogmatically that all that existed were material atoms that interacted exactly as described by physics, that Darwin was right and all life arose from the same primitive matter, and that the universe was not created but was part of an infinite and eternal multiverse. In other words, the new religion was based totally on the best scientific models of today. This religion would nonetheless be incompatible with science."
This simple example shows that even a superficial similarity between religion and science cannot hide the fundamental difference: the new religionists would still believe in an unchanging dogma while the scientists who held the same beliefs would be open to changing their minds in the light of new evidence. Science is a way of accommodating new knowledge within an ever-expanding worldview, a process that sometimes involves casting off old and cherished ideas as new ones come along and take their place. The process is driven neither by revelation nor by pure reason, and recognizes that, ultimately, observation "is the only source of knowledge about the world".
Stenger draws on a wide range of sources to illustrate his argument, from classical philosophers such as Anaxagoras and Plato to contemporary theologians such as Pope Benedict XVI and Alvin Plantinga. Perhaps surprisingly, given the hostility of many scientists to philosophy, he takes issue with Hawking and Mlodinow's conclusion that "philosophy is dead" (see The Grand Design), and gives philosophers some credit for elucidating what scientific models can tell us about "the true nature of reality".
As for the National Academy of Sciences, "the top science organization in America", Stenger is highly critical of its "strong NOMA position" that science can say nothing about the supernatural. He argues that, if "it could be shown scientifically that prayer really works, and no natural explanation can be found, then we would have an empirical case for transcendence." The three well-conducted studies into intercessory prayer that have been done could "have provided evidence for the supernatural if not for God himself" but in fact they found no significant effects. Sometimes, faith healing is relied upon to the exclusion of medical treatment, with tragic results. In the foreword, Dan Barker describes the case of Madeline Neumann, who died because her devout Christian parents put their faith in Jesus instead of doctors. Barker does not mince his words: "faith healing is faith killing" (for his own journey out of faith, see his Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists).
Over many years and in many books, Victor Stenger has been an eloquent advocate of an atheistic worldview that is far from the desiccated caricature of scientific materialism put about by religious apologists. In this latest book he continues to present a robust case against scientists like Francis Collins and religious figures like Jonathan Sacks who assert that science and religion are really very good friends. If that is so, Stenger argues, how come modern science "finds no evidence to support revelation as a source of information, no sign of intelligent design, and no need for everything to have a cause... and no need of a creator"? I find his argument persuasive, although his desire to reserve the term "faith" for unfounded beliefs is unlikely to be satisfied, since the non-religious meanings are too engrained in everyday language.
Where I do hope science can prevail over religion is in the way we approach global problems such as climate change and population growth. Getting the facts straight is obviously a scientific matter, and essential if we are to make the best decisions for the welfare of the planet. Doesn't religion have a role, perhaps as a provider of values? Not necessarily, since values can arise within a Darwinian materialist framework. (Stenger imagines the Golden Rule emerging when "thoughtful humans reasoned it out in their own minds as a useful principle that humans could live by to make a better society for all." For a more plausible account that gives priority to the emotions rather than reason, see Frank's excellent Passions within Reason: The Strategic Role of the Emotions.) As for religion that trails the kind of metaphysical baggage that holds humanity to be privileged over all other species or that we have a providential right to trash material reality because, hey, the spiritual life is what really matters, that is the foolish kind of faith, and the world would be better off without it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent,
This review is from: God and the Folly of Faith (Paperback)The book took me a long time to read because every paragraph was packed with so much thought and information. The compatibility of science and religion has interested me for a long time and I wanted to read Stenger's take on it. Stenger lays out his arguments clearly and in my opinion proves that science and religion, especially the Abrahamic religions, collide. For example, there's no God guiding evolution (i.e. intelligent design), and Stenger gives convincing evidence for it on the basis of the very nature of Darwinian evolution. People who insert God into everything really should read this book carefully, but unfortunately they won't as they don't want their faith challenged.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Opting for Reality - Putting away Childish Things,
This review is from: God and the Folly of Faith (Paperback)Victor Stenger writes with passion on the need to end our strange double-think on science and religion. Religion is not a harmless aberration but a positive 'folly' that causes great damage in many unsuspected ways - religious wars and genocides being just the most obvious. People who base their actions on faith cannot be reasoned with however stupid and self-defeating their consequent actions are. Stenger provides chapter and verse of the ill effects that faith still visits upon even highly civilised societies and he wonders at the ability of a few leading scientists to compartmentalise their minds into non-overlapping 'magisteria' in Stephen J Gould's terminology. However the book is not just an attack on 'blind' faith but a very informative description of our present knowledge in biology, physics and cosmology. He writes in a style that the non-scientist can easily follow and I have no hesitation in recommending the book to any who take an interest in science and civilisation.
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The unaccommodating truth,
This review is from: God and the Folly of Faith (Paperback)Now that the New Atheist cause has started succeeding in converting people to a naturalistic way of determining truth, there are those who think it should now back off. And that the scientists who sign up to the cause should still try to reconcile faith and religion so that religious youngsters aren't put off science. The only problem, as the peerless Stenger shows, is that it's just not true.
Stenger's premise is that religion marries with science only if the claims of the major religions (e.g the need for a god to create the universe) are not scientifically disprovable. And they are clearly are disprovable and disproven, as he shows.
It's a book which deserves to be treated a leading tome on the subject, written by the best-selling Stenger, a New Atheist Titan. It's highly readable and informative.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant incisive summary of the case for science and against religion,
This review is from: God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion (Kindle Edition)This book covers all the arguments used by theologians to defend their magical thinking and blind faith. Stenger destroys them all.
5 of 81 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Agree with review "Stranger & Stranger",
This review is from: God and the Folly of Faith (Paperback)I have to agree with the reviewer of "Stranger & Stranger". I am a serious scientist and also medically trained. I have seen the pettiness and jealously that scientists have towards doctors of the medical profession with actually very little grasp of what the later actually do, have to go through and sacrifice. It feels like the same in this book but with atheists vs Christians. Like nearly all atheistic writings they target Christianity... mmmmmm.... That should always make a true scientist sit up and think - not another bible basher fantasy novel? May be if they looked at Islam and Judaism with their oh so clever critical cliches then people on the fence would bother to actually start to rationally think or consider what they are saying with some weight. However, because the latter faiths have certain rules regarding such writings towards them, I am sure atheistic writings will continue to produce the same old rubbish and never have a sensible argument to represent because of their pettiness, while congratulating themselves and patting themselves on the back. A classic? Well who can say, look at the hypothetical and again biased writings of Dawkins. Where are peoples brains? Want to get people off the fence? Write fact not fiction based around facts - after a little bit of knowledge is more dangerous than knowing the whole truth. Congratulations on this latter - the very little knowledge that is that is interesting - hence one star!
7 of 118 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stranger and Stranger,
This review is from: God and the Folly of Faith (Paperback)Is it just me, or is there something very strange about Stenger's choice of people to write the Forewords for his recent books - given his heavy emphasis on the allegedly scientific focus of his books?
"God: The Failed Hypothesis" was "foreworded" by the late Christopher Hitchens, whose grasp of scientific matters (going by the contents of "God is not Great") was decidedly tenuous at best.
This new book is "forwarded" by Dan Barker, an escapee from the happy clappy community who has (in his autobiography) shown precious little knowledge of any academic subject, either religious or scientific.
It seems Stenger is mainly interested in the good wishes of non-believers, regardless of their virtually non-existent ability to make a thoughtful assessment of his allegedly "scientific" writings. I can't help wondering why.
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God and the Folly of Faith by Victor J. Stenger (Paperback - 28 April 2012)