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5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength
5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength
by Jim Wendler
Edition: Paperback

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The simplicity of wisdom, 5 April 2012
Wender's advice has the simplicity of wisdom. The book is short, but it includes everything the lifter needs to progress. Don't underestimate how important every sentence is. Read the whole book slowly, then reread it. He doesn't waste words. Combined with Rippetoe's advice on the correct technique for each of the big lifts, Wendler's program is all anyone needs.


The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life
The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life
by Stephen Hawking
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 'The man of science makes a poor philosopher' (Einstein), 11 April 2011
This book is so bad that the only reason I can think of for its existence is that the village atheists are trying to benefit financially from being more politically correct by adding a wheelchair user to their troop.

Hawking and Mlodinow start by cavalierly asserting that 'philosophy is dead' (p.5), but their book is just one more piece of evidence from scientists that "philosophy always buries its undertakers," as Etienne Gilson famously observed in 'The Unity of Philosophical Experience' (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937, p. 306).

From the outset, their sloppy style betrays their sloppy thinking. For example, the universe is described as "by turns kind and cruel" (p.5), when it is obviously neither. Imputing human attitudes to nature is unscientific. And the past tense of the question "did the universe need a creator?" (p.5) shows the authors aren't engaging with sophisticated theists, who maintain that God is involved in the existence of the world at each instant.

Things get worse when we come to their Big Idea, M-theory: `M-theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing. Their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god. Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law'. (pp.8-9) Creation, whether out of nothing or out of something, implies a creator; if the authors want to say that these universes came into being out of nothing, they should say that. And if God creates a universe, he does not intervene in it; he causes it to exist in the first place. One can intervene only in what already exists. Furthermore, it is a plain contradiction to say that these universes come into being out of nothing and that they arise naturally from physical law: physical law is not nothing.

A big problem with M-theory is that merely postulating an infinite number of universes does not entail that ours exists. For example, there are infinitely many even numbers, but let's say that only universes with odd cosmological constants support life: an infinite number of universes with even cosmological constants could exist, yet none would support life. Unless M-theory claims that all possibilities are or must be realized, it concedes that a finely tuned universe might not have existed and thereby allows a probability argument for design. However, if materialists assert the existence of all logically possible universes, then obviously God exists.

There are further problems with the theory. If it posits unobservable regions of the universe (the one spatio-temporal-causal continuum), then any evidence we could have for these distant regions would necessarily be evidence for situations exhibiting the same orderliness whose existence seemed to call for explanation. If it posits entirely distinct realities, then there can be no empirical evidence in support of the hypothesis, nor could it be derived as a necessary condition of the possible existence and character of the only universe of which we have or could have scientific knowledge. Either way, the many universe idea fails to serve the authors' purpose. In addition, they fail to respond to Roger Penrose's criticism of it in `The Road to Reality'. Finally, `spontaneous creation' is incoherent: in order to create, one first has to exist.

After mentioning quantum theory in Chapter 1, the authors assert in Chapter 2 that "scientific determinism" is "the basis of all modern science." (p.30) That is a contradiction, and it is false that Laplacean determinism is the basis of modern science; even Hawking and Mlodinow themselves (p. 72) regard the indeterminism characteristic of quantum physics as ontic, not merely epistemic.

They assert that "free will is just an illusion" (p. 32), yet they fail to advance a single argument to say that a creature endowed with freedom of the will could not exist spatio-temporally and act upon and be acted upon by other objects. Instead, they merely ask, "If we have free will, where in the evolutionary tree did it develop?" Our having free will does not depend upon our being able to specify where in the evolutionary process organisms first acquired it. They also argue that free will is illusory because neurosurgeons can stimulate a person's brain in such a way as to create the desire to move his limbs or lips; however, that one can intervene to deterministically produce an effect does not entail the effect occurs deterministically in the absence of such intervention.

It is interesting to note how materialists, having sought to abolish one empirically unobservable God, are forced to assert the existence of numerous empirically unobservable infinities to escape conclusions they dislike. They say that an infinite amount of time preceded the Big Bang; that the origin of life by chance is explained by there being an infinitely large universe with an infinite number of planets; and that anthropic fine-tuning can be explained away by there being infinitely many universes. They are even willing to deny their own rationality, as when they respond to the incompatibility of quantum theory with materialism (the London-Bauer thesis) by saying that a human being is an infinitely numbers of inconsistent machines dividing and subdividing across infinitely many worlds as the universe unfolds. And all this when not even the properties of matter are matter.

For a full rebuttal to this book, see John Lennox's response to it: God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway?. People interested in serious atheism should read J.J.C. Smart's contribution to his debate with John Haldane: Atheism and Theism (Great Debates in Philosophy).
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 30, 2011 12:45 PM BST


Strictly English: The correct way to write ... and why it matters
Strictly English: The correct way to write ... and why it matters
by Simon Heffer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.73

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful corrective to politically correct verbiage, 6 April 2011
The two most negative reviewers of this book, David Crystal and Geoff Pullum, had three main criticisms:

1) Heffer sometimes breaks his own style rules. He regularly uses the passive, for instance, frequently writes long sentences, and often uses long words.
2) Heffer's strictures on grammar are prescriptive, old-fashioned and sometimes broken by prestigious writers.
3) Heffer is merely imposing his own whims and peeves on his readers.

None of these criticisms is particularly strong. Heffer may not always do as he says, but what he says is still usually worth doing; indeed, Crystal and Pullum themselves both write prose that largely conforms to Heffer's rules. Regarding the second point, we either accept prescriptive rules aimed at producing clarity, precision and elegance, or we ultimately just say that any usage must be recognised as legitimate if it is common enough. Finally, Crystal and Pullum complain about whims and peeves, but they just want to impose their own whims and peeves instead.

If you want a reasonably thorough overview of traditional English grammar and prose style, buy this book. It is curmudgeonly, and wrong in places, but it is a useful corrective to politically correct verbiage. Moreover, as Heffer says, 'whether the linguistic experts like it or not, there remains an idea of "standard English" as it is spoken in Britain...These standards are set by an educated class...and those who wish to be included, or to consider themselves included, in that class must subscribe to the rules.'
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 29, 2017 1:58 PM BST


Why Do I Need a Teacher When I've got Google?: The Essential Guide to the Big Issues for Every 21st Century Teacher
Why Do I Need a Teacher When I've got Google?: The Essential Guide to the Big Issues for Every 21st Century Teacher
by Ian Gilbert
Edition: Paperback

33 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading because it stimulates thought, 17 Mar. 2011
The length of this book belies Gilbert's paucity of ideas: (1) the core of education should be a skills-based utilitarianism (chapters 1-5); (2) intelligence is not fixed, and all learning and behaviour is reducible to `electro-chemical combustions in the brain' (chapters 6-16); (3) the traditional school system stifles thought (chapters 17-22); and (4) the teacher must merely `preside over the democratisation of learning' (chapters 23-31). Examining these ideas, we find that they are like all modern educational theory: what's new isn't true, and what's true isn't new.

According to Gilbert, the purpose of education is no longer the transmission of truth, because knowledge `exploded' at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The purpose of education is now, he says, the development of children's `skills, attributes, attitudes and commitments': on this view, teachers have to `train' children to `save the world'. Both points are erroneous. Indeed, the first is self-refuting, for postmodernism affirms the truth of the proposition `there is no truth'; it is impossible in principle, like a square circle. Nor is it even true that knowledge is constantly being rewritten: `even physics, at least at the undergraduate level, is a subject on which the dust has settled', says the distinguished physicist the Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS. The postmodernist Bright Young Things and trendies are unable to respond to these fatal objections. As for Gilbert's second point, the recent emphasis on `skills' has not only led, ironically, to a severe national skills shortage, but bred nihilistic barbarians lacking the desire to save even themselves, let alone the world. Conspicuously absent from Gilbert's list of twenty-first century problems (globing warming, etc.) is the leading cause of death between the ages of 15 and 44: suicide.

Gilbert's position on the `malleability' of intelligence also disregards reality. Research by Charles Murray, the leading American social analyst, showed that while intensive pre-school education for disadvantaged children can raise IQ scores in the short term, improvements fall off within three years, because family background (genetics and environment) fixes intelligence to a significant degree. That our natural aptitudes differ is plainly obvious to everyone when we consider athletic ability (despite training, some people will never run as fast as others); however, it is a taboo regarding intellectual ability, because it shows the impossibility of equality of opportunity. T. S. Eliot said the totalitarian dogma of equality of opportunity would require the removal of children from their families at birth, but even that would be insufficient, for opportunities won't be equal at a given moment unless outcomes are.

Another incoherence is Gilbert's assertion (it is not an argument) that all learning and behaviour is reducible to `electro-chemical combustions in the brain', which denies the freedom of the intellect and, therefore, free will. Gilbert says that all our thoughts are just the thoughts we must have given the way the molecular motions in our brains and the rest of the world have happened to play out. This position is called eliminative materialism. It is a vicious circle because, as M. R. Bennett and P. M. S. Hacker argue in The Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, `the eliminative materialist inevitably saws off the branch on which he is seated'. This is because the theory that says thought is nothing but `electro-chemical combustion' is itself nothing but `electro-chemical combustion'. It renders all our thinking unreliable, which is why all eliminative materialists inevitably have to deny human rationality, including their own; traditional Western philosophy, however, has always maintained that the intellect is immaterial. Many modern people, who have confused materialism with science, baulk at immateriality, but not even the properties of matter are matter.

Like his attempts at philosophy, Gilbert's criticism of the traditional school system and didactic teaching is weak. He says traditional academic teaching is bad because it stifles thought by inculcating on children the accumulated wisdom of Western civilisation and a respect for authority. Consider, however, the following two mathematics examination questions:

Question 4 from the June 2008 Edexcel GCSE Mathematics A (Linear), Foundation tier Paper 2 -calculator permitted: Work out £1.70x5.
Question 10(ii)4 from the 1963 University of London O level Pure Maths Paper 2, Syllabus B - calculator not permitted: A particle moves from rest in a straight line and after t seconds its velocity is (3t2 - 4t) feet per second. Calculate the distance which the particle travels in the interval of time from t = 2 to t = 5.

`Stifled' candidates from 1963 were able to understand that the concept of velocity can be represented by an algebraic expression and that integral calculus is the tool required to solve the problem, whereas training `the transition generation' to `think, not our thoughts, but their own' has clearly retarded their capacity to think at all. They are expected to solve the population explosion in China, but one doubts whether they could find China on the map.

Christopher Ray, the High Master of Manchester Grammar School, has called this dumbing down a `retreat from scholarship'. Its effects are widespread. In 1995, The London Mathematical Society published a report showing that the number of those passing mathematics has fallen and standards have also fallen. The Royal Society of Chemistry concluded its 2008 report by noting the `catastrophic slippage' in educational standards. In English, students now have open-text examinations. Only 61% of those entering teaching by the BEd route in 2009 had two A-levels, despite the debasement of A-levels. Educationalists, too, have been affected, including Gilbert himself, who wants to free children from `the tyranny of syntax' and uses the verb `quote' as a noun on pages 35, 55, 134 and 135 (Google, sadly, didn't teach him the distinction). As standards have fallen, lives have been desolated: in 1969, over 26% of the university population was of working-class origin, more than double that of our nearest rival, Sweden; in addition, 17 out of 21 heads of major civil service departments in the early 1970s were ex-grammar school pupils. Now, however, while pupils in Northern Ireland still benefit from a fully selective school system and outperform pupils from England, 1 in 7 pupils on the Labour government's Gifted and Talented programme in 2008 failed to achieve five A*-C grade GCSEs, and the top reasons for truancy are inappropriate curricula, bad teaching, and poor school ethos.

Finally, Gilbert's idea of the teacher as someone who `presides over the democratisation of learning' shows that he misunderstands the nature of education, which even the etymology of the word attests to. The Latin educare means `to rear or bring up (children or young animals)', and it in turn derives from educere, `to lead forth' or `to lead out of'. Implicit in this is the notion that education should lead children out of their stifling subjectivism, not bolster their self-esteem and subject them to the tyranny of `relevance'. (Indeed, we should remember that the development of the tool at the heart of Gilbert's thesis, the digital computer, was enabled by `irrelevant' Boolean logic.) It is inherently elitist because it focuses on the best that has been thought and said, inherently discriminatory because it distinguishes the best from the rest and maintains that what children are led to is superior to what they are led out of, and inherently undemocratic because the child, whose judgement is juvenile, cannot be an equal partner in it and, paradoxically, can only attain freedom by submitting to the teacher's authority.

Even more striking than the paucity of Gilbert's ideas, then, is the poverty of them. Rather than undermining the teacher's importance, the proliferation of information facilitated by Google thus only intensifies the need for him to convey intrinsically valuable knowledge with insight and discernment.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 13, 2014 8:10 PM GMT


Why There Almost Certainly is a God: Doubting Dawkins
Why There Almost Certainly is a God: Doubting Dawkins
by Keith Ward
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

34 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegantly dismantles Dawkins, 31 Oct. 2008
Ward does a good job picking apart Dawkins's attempts at philosophy, though this is neither surprising nor particularly impressive considering Dawkins's book on God is a bit of jumble and should really be called 'Meditations on theology, history, American society and Constitutional Law, the Gnostic Gospels, and the thought processes of Pat Robertson by an Oxford University expert in the behavior of chicks at feeding time'. (Even the ardent evolutionist Michael Ruse said it made him embarrassed to be an atheist.)

In addition to showing what's wrong with Dawkins' arguments, Ward also provides a lucid, concise and penetrating introduction to some theistic arguments.

Part 1: Ward clarifies the nature of the debate about the existence of God, showing that it is a question of metaphysics, not mere physics
Part 2: Ward shows what is wrong with Dawkins central 'argument' against God
Part 3: Ward explains what is wrong with Dawkins' criticisms of theistic arguments, and presents some arguments for theism.

There are much stronger presentations of theism elsewhere (Ward isn't writing within the tradition of classical theism), but Ward has written a strong reponse to Dawkins.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2009 10:19 AM BST


God the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist
God the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist
by Victor J. Stenger
Edition: Paperback

18 of 78 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Polemic, 5 Sept. 2008
A new addition to the recent new atheist polemics. Stenger has done only marginally useful scientific work. The case for theism has never been stronger. Evidence of the Big Bang, anthropic coincidences, the fantastic complexity and functionality of biological systems, and the deepening intractability of naturalistic explanations for the origin of life and consciousness all support theism.

(This review originally ended here. But in response to a comment by 'Jack The Sausage' suggesting that it showed how little I understood 'actual scientific knowledge', I added the following to clarify it.)

Recent scientific knowledge has tended to offer strong epistemic support for religious belief. The Big Bang, to take just one example, is a reason theism fits the data better than atheism - undoubtedly one of the reasons atheists tried to avoid it so desperately and for so long. Of course God is not a 'scientific' hypothesis, but then neither is atheism. They are both metaphysical postulates. The task human beings face is to decide which is the best fundamental interpretation on the basis of the evidence, and this involves scientific evidence.

Many distinguished scientists have thought that theism is the more rational option. In fact one of the things theism says is that reality is completely rational - arguably one of the reasons science never really got off the ground anywhere except the Christian West, where it was embedded in a theistic matrix. (See Stanley Jaki's 'The Road of Science and The Ways to God'.) Many great scientists of the past were believers, e.g. Kepler (astronomy), Pascal (hydrostatics), Boyle (chemistry), Newton (calculus), Linnaeus (systematic biology), Faraday (electromagnetics), Cuvier (comparative anatomy), Kelvin (thermodynamics), Lister (antiseptic surgery) and Mendel (genetics). And a quick Google search reveals the following selection of quotations from eminent scientists who all disagree with Stenger:

* Fred Hoyle (British astrophysicist): "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."
* George Ellis (British astrophysicist): "Amazing fine tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word 'miraculous' without taking a stand as to the ontological status of the word."
* Paul Davies (British astrophysicist): "There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all. It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe. The impression of design is overwhelming."
* Alan Sandage (winner of the Crawford prize in astronomy): "I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing."
* John O'Keefe (NASA astronomer): "We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures. If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in."
* George Greenstein (astronomer): "As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency-or, rather, Agency-must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?"
* Arthur Eddington (astrophysicist): 'The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory."
* Arno Penzias (Nobel prize in physics): "Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say `supernatural') plan." Again: "I invite you to examine the snapshot provided by half a century's worth of astrophysical data and see what the pieces of the universe actually look like...In order to achieve consistency with our observations we must...assume not only creation of matter and energy out of nothing, but creation of space and time as well. The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole."
* Roger Penrose (mathematician): "I would say the universe has a purpose. It's not there just somehow by chance."
* Tony Rothman (physicist): "When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it's very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it."
* Vera Kistiakowsky (MIT physicist): "The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine."
Alexander Polyakov (Soviet mathematician): "We know that nature is described by the best of all possible mathematics because God created it."
* Ed Harrison (cosmologist): "Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God-the design argument of Paley-updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one. Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument."
* Edward Milne (British cosmologist): "As to the cause of the Universe, in context of expansion, that is left for the reader to insert, but our picture is incomplete without Him."
* Barry Parker (cosmologist): "Who created these laws? There is no question but that a God will always be needed."
Drs. Zehavi and Dekel (cosmologists): "This type of universe, however, seems to require a degree of fine tuning of the initial conditions that is in apparent conflict with `common wisdom'."
* Arthur L. Schawlow (Professor of Physics at Stanford University, 1981 Nobel Prize in physics): "It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. . . . I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life."
* Henry Schaefer (computational quantum chemist): "The significance and joy in my science comes in those occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, `So that's how God did it.' My goal is to understand a little corner of God's plan."
* Wernher von Braun (pioneer rocket engineer): '"I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science."
* Robin Collins, an American scientist with three degrees and two doctorates in mathematics, physics, and philosophy: "The extraordinary fine-tuning of the laws and constants of nature, their beauty, their discoverability, their intelligibility - all of this combines to make the God hypothesis the most reasonable choice we have. All other theories fall short."
* Allan Rex Sandage (famous astronomer, dubbed the "Grand Old Man of Cosmology" by the New York Times, and a former atheist): "It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I could understand the mystery of existence."
* Lord Kelvin, who made important discoveries in thermodynamics and died in 1907: "Overwhelmingly strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie around us...the atheistic idea is so nonsensical that I cannot put it into words." (Proceedings of the Victoria Institute, No. 124, p.267).

Moreover, Stenger's specific arguments are weak:

* He thinks that because God isn't observable by the scientific method - i.e., can't be 'scientifically proven' - he doesn't exist. This is ridiculous. In fact the statement 'only believe something if it can be scientifically proven' is self-refuting (because it cannot be scientifically proven).
* He says, correctly, that "if God exists he should be the source of our morals and values". He then claims that: "These principles should be original and clearly not of natural origin". All mainstream Christian thinkers would hold that God has been guiding people towards Him through their consciences since the dawn of history.
* As for his suggestion that Anthropic Fine tuning is a non-problem because of his simplistic program MonkeyGod that purports to simulate universes and "show" that anthropic universes are commonplace, no serious cosmologist takes this seriously. Martin Rees's "Just Six Numbers" is a good guide to the real science.
* "Believers should be observed to live by these principles and not decide right and wrong for themselves". He then interprets the former to mean that all believers should invariably live by these principles. Well that might be nice, but it is certainly the opposite of Christian doctrine on this point, and there is no reason to suppose that it should be true. Of course in general the worst crimes against humanity have been committed by Atheists, who have no solid basis for their morality, contrary to his statement that "atheists are just as moral as believers" - well some may be but on AGGREGATE not. And as for taking obsolete commandments from the OT, Chistianity has never held that these are binding on Christians. So his 'argument' might apply to certain extreme Jewish sects - I don't know - but it is certainly not a refutation of any mainstream Christianity I know.
* His idea that mystical or religious experiences should lead to empirically testable knowledge is again rather laughable. That is not what religious revelations are about - and no-one claims they are. There are excellent reasons to do with freewill why God does not do this.
* He also has a big non-argument that "If humanity is so special, why so much wasted matter in the universe"? Since it takes about 12bn yrs for humanity to evolve the Universe has to be c12bn light years in size, and to achieve the critical densities that are necessary you need about the matter that we have. He completely fails to engage with the anthropic fine tuning that even impresses atheist astronomers like Martin Rees - most cosmologists accept that the only reasonable alternative to Anthropic Fine Tuning is a vast plethora of multiverses: he seems to be stuck badly in the past and unwilling to engage with the facts. Another point is that Christianity has never said the humanity is THE purpose of the cosmos, just A purpose of the cosmos. The 'wasted matter' has value in itself: as Psalm 19:1-6 says,
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun. Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof". (Genesis also records God saying 'it was good' at each stage of Creation.)
* He then suggests that the Bible makes scientific claims like "the earth is flat". (Well, Ps 93v2 says in the Prayer Book "He has made the round world, so sure that it cannot be moved" - but sadly this seems to be a mistranslation, and modern translations don't say "round"!) The fact is that the Bible is not a scientific treatise, and it says nothing about whether the world is flat or round. In OT times people probably assumed it was flat, by NT times it was known to be round. (Erastothenes (276-194 BC) famously made a reasonable estimate of its circumference.)
* His assertion that there is no evidence for the life and death of Jesus is absurd, and to say that "physical and historical evidence" "rules it out" is again pitiful. I'm not an expert on the 1st Temple but I very much doubt his assertions about this: as for archeological evidence of Exodus this is a moot point, but the fact is that Archeology can rarely prove a negative - the fact that you can't find something doesn't mean it doesn't exist!
* Again his "argument" "Evil exists, therefore God does not exist" is pitiful. No mainstream religion has ever claimed that Evil does not exist. And Stenger doesn't even engage with theodicy.
* The idea that the laws of nature arose from nothing is plain silly - only by a gross abuse of language can a "quantum fluctuation" be considered nothing - and it can only exist because of pre-existing physical laws!
* In his review of J.Polkinghorne's 'Belief in God in an Age of Science', Stenger says: "Theologians and scientists each seek understanding. But theologians rely on the mythical tales and subjective human experiences that emanate from the insignificant point in spacetime that encloses human history. Scientists, by contrast, view a range of space from inside atomic nuclei to the farthest quasar, and a range of time from a tiny fraction of a second after the big bang to the present. They see a universe more vast and with far more potential for development than has ever been imagined in any scripture or mystical trance." This confuses what people look at and where they look from, and confuses size with SIGNIFICANCE. The actual vantage point of scientists is from a much smaller subset of spacetime than that of theologians. And theologians view Eternity, of which the Universe is an infinitessimal fraction. Furthermore in practice scientists each look at a tiny piece of the whole of the "scientific" domain in any depth. Even Bertrand Russell, who called the human race a 'curious accident' in a backwater, was convinced that human beings dwarf the whole of the rest of the universe in value: 'I have long ardently desired to find some justification for the emotions inspired by certain things that seem to stand outside human life and to deserve feelings of awe. I am thinking...in part of the vastness of the scientific universe, both in space and time, as compared to the life of mankind...And yet I am unable to believe that, in the world as known, there is anything that I can value outside human beings...Not the starry heavens, but their effect on human percipients, have excellence; to admire the universe for its size is slavish and absurd'. ('The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell', ed. P.A.Schilpp, Northwestern University Press, p.19-20).
Einstein said much the same thing: 'If there were not this inner illumination [the human mind], the universe would be merely a rubbish heap'.
* In 'Not by Design', Stenger objects to Aquinas's argument for a first cause as follows: 'Later philosophers...have pointed out the error in Aquinas's logic: if a first cause, uncaused, is possible, why must it be God? The first cause, uncaused, could just as well be the universe itself'. That would only be true if the universe were necessary and not - as it is - contingent, but the idea of the existence of the universe being necessary rather than contingent is patently absurd. As Stephen Barr says in 'Modern Physics and Ancient Faith'': 'The existence of the particular universe in which we live is plainly not a necessity. In this particular universe there is a sycamore tree in my front yard. It might just as well have been an apple tree. To say that this universe, in all its particularity, with all of its details, had necessarily to exist is not only absurd, it is also profoundly unscientific in spirit. It would mean that everything about the world could be deduced by pure thought without taking the trouble to do any experiments or make any observations. If the world with all its contents were necessarily as it is, then Columbus did not have to sail the ocean blue - he might have been able to deduce the existence of American and even to have mapped all its mountains and charted all its waterways without leaving his armchair'.
* That Stenger uses the term 'hypothesis' to refer to God shows the severity of his ignorance of classical theism. For thinkers in the classical theistic tradition, God is not a 'hypothesis' that is 'postulated' to 'explain' certain 'data'. Unlike the modern apologists. Unlike Paley and modern 'Intelligent Design' theorists, they simply do not engage in that type of probabalistic, empirical reasoning. The classical philosophical theologians take indubitable empirical starting points and try to show that from these starting points, together with certain conceptual premises, certain metaphysical conclusions follow necessarily.

This is a disappointing book. People searching for serious presentations of atheism should read:

Smart's contribution to the 'Atheism and Theism' debate with Haldane
Mackie's 'Miracle of Theism'
C.B.Martin's 'Religious Belief'
Sobel's `Logic and Theism: Arguments for and Against Belief in God'
Quentin Smith's contribution to 'Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology'
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 6, 2012 12:33 AM BST


Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul
Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul
by Mario Beauregard
Edition: Hardcover

25 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Regarding Stephen A. Haines's review, 5 April 2008
Mr Stephen A. Haines obviously missed the closing sentences of the 'Manifesto on the Present and Future of Brain Research':

'But all the progress will not end in a triumph for neuronal reductionism. Even if at some point we have explained all the processes of the neuron which underlie human sympathy, being in love or moral responsibility, the distinctive feature of this "internal perspective" nevertheless remains. For even a Bach fugue does not lose its fascination when one has understood precisely how it is constructed. Brain research will have to distinguish clearly between what it can say and what lies outside its sphere of competence, just as morphology - to keep to this example - has something to say about Bach's fugue, but can have no explanation of its unique beauty'.


Gulliver's Travels (Penguin Clothbound Classics)
Gulliver's Travels (Penguin Clothbound Classics)
by Jonathan Swift
Edition: Paperback

32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A word about the edition., 25 Dec. 2004
The literary worth of this text is beyond doubt, but this edition isn't suitable for serious reading. An understanding of its contextual allusions and references is necessary to appreciate the satire of 'Gulliver's Travels', but this edition lacks notes.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 2, 2017 6:27 AM BST


The Great Code the Bible and Literature
The Great Code the Bible and Literature
by Northrop Frye
Edition: Paperback

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasing edition and illuminating material, 24 Dec. 2004
This book is remarkable for the perspicacity with which Frye both analyses the Bible in itself and illuminates the inextricable relationship between the Bible and the Western artistic tradition. I cannot see how this book could fail to be not only informative but also enriching and enjoyable as, firstly, an approach to the Bible and the Biblical context of English literature and, secondly, an introduction to Frye's method of critical analysis. You should probably buy it.


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