5.0 out of 5 stars Not a happy read for atheists
The mechanistic philosophy that the only reality is to be found in the measurements of science, and the logical necessity for atheism of explaining the universe in these terms only, is certainly very blinkered. David Berlinski is a mathematician and logician who happens to detect in his observations evidence of intelligent order in the Universe. This shouldn't be too...
Published 1 month ago by The Doc
22 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lacking in Logic
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...
Published on 11 July 2012 by Tom Rose
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not a happy read for atheists,
The mechanistic philosophy that the only reality is to be found in the measurements of science, and the logical necessity for atheism of explaining the universe in these terms only, is certainly very blinkered. David Berlinski is a mathematician and logician who happens to detect in his observations evidence of intelligent order in the Universe. This shouldn't be too taxing - the laws of physics and maths are accepted by all scientists,and without them nothing could be predicted, nothing could exist. These laws exist outside of space-time; some scientists seem to worship them as the ultimate reality, the Devil's Delusion. I like this book, a learned and witty rebuttal of atheism's attempt to hijack science as its tool, and evolution as the ultimate reason for existence. Berlinski is not too gentle on the philosophical totalitarian regimes such as Communism and National Socialism that arise from distortions of Darwinian thought to justify experiments in state control and manipulation of populations. Neither should he be. Despite his self-definition as a secular Jew this book is useful for Theists because the arguments essentially support the Theistic world view.
105 of 141 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A defence of belief - from a non-believer,
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.
31 of 42 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.
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
5.0 out of 5 stars this is a brilliant, witty and erudite book,
this is a brilliant, witty and erudite book...a philosophical book that deals with metaphysics from a totally non partisan position...more than unusual.
35 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just can't give it 5 stars...,
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.
22 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lacking in Logic,
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.
25 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A delusional devil,
The author of "The Devil's Delusion", David Berlinski, is a secular Jew and agnostic who co-operates with conservative Christians. Indeed, he is a member of the Discovery Institute, the Intelligent Design (or creationist) think tank in Seattle. Berlinski's book comes with positive blurbs written by Michael Behe and William Buckley. Inside the book, the author thanks Ann Coulter (!) for inspiration.
One wonders why a secular Jew who apparently doesn't believe in God, would ally himself with what many people would consider Christian fundamentalists. Perhaps Berlinski is a "Straussian" cynic who believes that religion, although probably false, is nevertheless necessary. Otherwise the common people might get into their heads that anything goes, and moral breakdown (or revolution?) follows. Berlinski certainly suggests this at one point in the book, where he says that brute force is necessary to tame the evil impulses in man, but since brute force cannot reach everyone everywhere, people need to control themselves with a bit of divine morality. Why the author himself doesn't need to be restrained in this way, we are never told.
I admit that I didn't like this book. It's confused, delusional and quite simply bad. What struck me most, were the constant contradictions. Berlinski seems to have an extreme anti-realist attitude towards scientific theories...except sometimes. When it suits his purposes, he switches to a de facto realist position. Thus, he treats the Big Bang theory as proven, beyond reproach and quite true. Why? Because it suggests that the universe had a beginning, and therefore... (Clue: God may have done it after all.) He also loves the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, which is perhaps understandable from an anti-realist standpoint, but Berlinski seems to love it for very different reasons. Since the Copenhagen interpretation is ontologically weird, the Trinity and Incarnation might be true as well!
In one chapter, Berlinski points out that there is a qualitative difference between humans and animals. But if there is, why does he want the state to treat people as irrational cattle? His friend Buckley, notoriously, wanted a totalitarian bureaucracy to win the Cold War!
Berlinski has crucified his reason, and in return gotten what amounts to a bizarre mixture of anti-realism, al-Ghazali and Intelligent Design creationism. Sounds like a bad trade-off! And what's all this stuff about being an agnostic? Frankly, the guy would be more honest if he simply converted, say to Conservative Judaism.
The best diagnosis I can offer of this strange author is that he is a very consistent methodological agnostic. If scientific theories are strongly anti-realist, if the universe is irrational and incomprehensible, then there is nothing left for us to do, except to survive, and keep law and order in the meantime. Hence the need for pretending that God exists.
If, on the other hand, realism is true, and if our brains can formulate even a "theory of everything", we are at bottom rational creatures, and might one day really start to understand both the universe and ourselves...
But according to Berlinski, we are all doomed to remain delusional devils.
29 of 46 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Arrogant, poorly argued, sarcastic,
Sadly I found this book a great disappointment. I was hoping for something well reasoned and courteous, informing the debate about science and religion in an intelligent way. Given, some of the writing has interest, but only in its deft use of word and phrase. Berlinski is sarcastic, ill-informed, and grossly illogical at times. He sets up straw men, with no relevance, and knocks them down with a puff of inconsequential air. His habit of taking a quote out of context and criticising it (often in a schoolboy ad hominem way which has no place in a serious debate - and I'm not saying he's the only person doing this in this arena) finally becomes irritating. I finished it, more to find out what had possessed the publisher to produce it than to hear the force of Berlinski's arguments. Was this a complete waste of time? Perhaps not, as I have been moved to write my first Amazon review to prepare others for what they are about to receive - I doubt God is truly thankful for Berlinski's mean-minded contribution.
41 of 68 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars hints at a response, but ends up being an arrogant dysfunctional attempt to answer the big questions,
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.
17 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Libellous,
This review is from: The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions (Kindle Edition)
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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