This is an outstanding book. Victor Stenger, a Professor of both Physics and Astronomy, convincingly argues against the existence of God (by which he means the Judea-Christian version, although most of the book could equally apply to the interpretations of other religions such as Islam etc) by examining a wide variety of scientific evidence. In my view Stenger succeeds in disproving God beyond a level of reasonable doubt. Certain high profile atheists (Richard Dawkins and Same Harris, to name but two) have already written bestsellers on this subject, and I would evaluate Stenger's work as one that fully deserves the same level of success and recognition.
The structure of the book is roughly as follows:
In the first chapter, Stenger lucidly explains the scientific method and what makes it such a potent investigative tool. This is important because many people have no real understanding of these concepts. He also refutes the widely held (at least, by religious people) view that science has nothing to say about religion. This is a very important point, which sets the foundation for the rest of the book.
Stenger also deals with another common misconception, which is that scientists are somehow opposed to, or in denial of the discovery of any supernatural forces, whether religious, psychic, or anything else which violates the natural laws as they are currently understood. In reality the only reason why most scientists do not acknowledge the evidence of such things is because the evidence does not exist.
In the remainder of the book, Stenger goes on to assess the objective evidence for and against the God hypothesis by investigating a plethora of scientific and historical research. He covers everything from biblical prophecies to the illusion of design to prayer experiments and much more. All of this research could very well have produced compelling evidence for God, but none of it has. Stenger logically concludes that the evidence looks exactly the way we would expect it to look in the absence of God.
As a mild criticism, I found that certain topics could have been covered in a bit more detail. On the other hand, some of these issues could easily form the subject of entire books, and so it would have been almost impossible to discuss them in full detail within just a single chapter. Overall I think the author has penetrated to the heart of most of the important issues, and there are plenty of references for those who which to carry out further reading.
Chapters 4 and 5 (entitled Cosmic Evidence and The Uncongenial Universe) deserve a special mention. These two chapters are the undisputed gems of the book, in my opinion. Perhaps this is not so surprising given Stenger's expertise in physics and astronomy. For me personally, the knowledge I gained from these two chapters was easily worth the price of book by itself, and it was an absolute joy to have my eyes opened to some of the mind-boggling secrets of the universe that have been yielded by the investigative efforts of physicists and astronomers. Things do get a little hard to follow at times, but this is pretty much unavoidable for such a complex subject, and overall I think that Stenger does a great job of making it understandable to the lay reader. I won't give too much away, but rest assured that pro-god arguments like "how can something come from nothing?" (with reference to the 'big bang') and "how do you explain the fine-tuning of the universe" are comprehensively dismantled.
To conclude, I would strongly recommend this book for:
- Atheists wishing to learn about how science can be used to disprove God beyond a reasonable doubt.
- People who are vaguely religious/agnostic who wish to learn about the objective evidence for and against a supreme being.
- Religious people who:
a) wish to strengthen their faith by familiarising themselves with arguments for the opposing viewpoint, and/or
b) are brave enough to admit that they could be wrong, and wish to assess the objective evidence for and against God.
In a nutshell, I think that Victor Stenger has done a wonderful job with this book. I have no hesitation in awarding it five stars - with six stars for chapters 4 and 5!