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The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions

David Berlinski

Softback, 256 pages, 2009

Item# B140
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Evidently militant atheists don't like this book and have friends in high places. The book was released in hardback in April 2008 by Random House and 13,000 copies immediately sold out. The publisher's response? They refused to print any more copies. We are convinced Random House must have seen an advanced copy of Michael Moore's documentary Capitalism and just felt so darn guilty about all the profits they were making on the book that they refused to print any more. Fortunately, the executives at Basic Books must not have seen the movie and have just released thousands of copies of the book in paperback edition.

Militant atheism is on the rise. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have dominated bestseller lists with books denigrating religious belief as dangerous foolishness. And these authors are merely the leading edge of a far larger movement--one that now includes much of the scientific community.

"The attack on traditional religious thought," writes David Berlinski in The Devil's Delusion, "marks the consolidation in our time of science as the single system of belief in which rational men and women might place their faith, and if not their faith, then certainly their devotion."

A secular Jew, Berlinski nonetheless delivers a biting defense of religious thought. An acclaimed author who has spent his career writing about mathematics and the sciences, he turns the scientific community's cherished skepticism back on itself, daring to ask and answer some rather embarrassing questions:

  • Has anyone provided a proof of God's inexistence? Not even close.
  • Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.
  • Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.
  • Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.
  • Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.
  • Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.
  • Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.
  • Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even ballpark.
  • Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.

Berlinski does not dismiss the achievements of western science. The great physical theories, he observes, are among the treasures of the human race. But they do nothing to answer the questions that religion asks, and they fail to offer a coherent description of the cosmos or the methods by which it might be investigated.

This brilliant, incisive, and funny book explores the limits of science and the pretensions of those who insist it can be--indeed must be--the ultimate touchstone for understanding our world and ourselves.

Table of Contents

  1. No Gods Before Me
  2. Nights of Doubt
  3. Horses Do Not Fly
  4. The Cause
  5. The Reason
  6. A Put-up Job
  7. A Curious Proof That God Does Not Exist
  8. Our Inner Ape, a Darling, and the Human Mind
  9. Miracles in Our Time
  10. The Cardinal and His Cathedral

Discussion Guide

A 46 page .pdf discussion guide for The Devil’s Delusion by John and Sonja West can be downloaded for free here.

Author:

The Devil's Delusion, Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions

David Berlinski
David Berlinski is a senior fellow in the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. He is the author of numerous books, including The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and It Scientific Pretensions (Crown Forum, 2008; Basic Books, 2009), Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics for the Modern Library series at Random House (2004), The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky (Harcourt, 2003), The Advent of the Algorithm (Harcourt Brace, 2000), Newton's Gift (Free Press, 2000), and A Tour of the Calculus (Pantheon, 1996). William F. Buckley Jr. said of The Devil's Delusion that "Berlinski's book is everything desirable; it is idiomatic, profound, brilliantly polemical, amusing, and of course vastly learned."

Recent articles by Berlinski have been prominently featured in Commentary, Forbes ASAP, and the Boston Review. Two of his articles, "On the Origins of the Mind" (November 2004) and "What Brings a World into Being" (March 2001), have been anthologized in The Best American Science Writing 2005, edited by Alan Lightman (Harper Perennial), and The Best American Science Writing 2002, edited by Jesse Cohen, respectively.

Berlinski received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and was later a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University. He has authored works on systems analysis, differential topology, theoretical biology, analytic philosophy, and the philosophy of mathematics, as well as three novels. He has also taught philosophy, mathematics and English at Stanford, Rutgers, the City University of New York and the Universit de Paris. In addition, he has held research fellowships at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and the Institut des Hautes tudes Scientifiques. He lives in Paris.

Reviews:

"Berlinski's book is everything desirable: it is idiomatic, profound, brilliantly polemical, amusing, and of course vastly learned. I congratulate him."
-- William F. Buckley Jr.

"The Devil's Delusion is an incendiary and uproarious work of learned polemical writing, unique in its scientific sophistication and authority. Rather than criticizing science from the outside, Berlinski excoriates its atheist pretensions from within. Refusing to defer to scientistic credentialism, he makes the compelling argument that the anti-God fetish of modern science has driven many scientists into a mad nihilism that has crippled their scientific work as well. The Devil's Delusion is a promethean work that clears away this debris of modern science and culture. It liberates conservatism from its thralldom to a spurious scientism and establishes the foundations for a realignment with real scientists, among whom there are many potential friends. It is the definitive book of the new millennium."
-- George Gilder, author of Wealth and Poverty, Telecosm

"A powerful riposte to atheist mockery and cocksure science, and to the sort of philosophy that surrenders to them. David Berlinski proceeds reasonably and calmly to challenge recent scientific theorizing and to expose the unreason from which it presumes to criticize religion."
-- Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government, Harvard University

"With high style and light-hearted disdain, David Berlinski deflates the intellectual pretensions of the scientific atheist crowd. Maybe they can recite the Periodic Table by heart, but the secular Berlinski shows that this doesn't get them very far in reasoning about much weightier matters."
-- Michael J. Behe, Professor of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University, bestselling author of Darwin's Black Box and The Edge of Evolution

"Berlinski knows his science and wields his rapier deftly. He makes great sport with his opponents, and his readers will surely enjoy it."
-- Tom Bethell, bestselling author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science


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