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The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions [Anglais] [Broché]

David Berlinski

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Description de l'ouvrage

1 septembre 2009
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.
--Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

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Revue de presse

“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

“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

“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.

“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

“David Berlinski plus any topic equals an extraordinary book.”
—Chicago Tribune --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

Biographie de l'auteur

DAVID BERLINSKI has a Ph.D. from Princeton University and has taught mathematics and philosophy at universities in the United States and in France. He is the bestselling author of such books as A Tour of the Calculus, The Advent of the Algorithm, and Newton’s Gift. A senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle and a former fellow at the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, Berlinski writes frequently for Commentary, among other journals. He lives in Paris. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.0 étoiles sur 5  237 commentaires
144 internautes sur 158 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A very persuasive dissenting voice 8 novembre 2009
Par Geoff Puterbaugh - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I suppose most people like to at least appear to be open-minded, but sometimes I wonder how often (say) a conservative Republican sits down to read Noam Chomsky's political screeds, or a dedicated leftist sits down to enjoy Adam Smith. I picked up "The Devil's Delusion" in just that spirit, fully expecting to find a book which would argue against most of my own beliefs.

I wasn't really expecting something as brilliant, challenging, and engaging as this. If you think that the only people who don't believe in evolution are Fundamentalist knuckle-dragging Georgia swamp-dwellers, you're in for a big surprise. Berlinski himself is an agnostic of Jewish descent, an astonishingly erudite man and a brilliant thinker. He also writes frightfully well. And it is often hard to disagree with him. As he notes in the opening pages of this book --- concerning religion, God, and the rest: "I do not know whether any of this is true. I am certain that the scientific community does not know that it is false."

You might want to read those two sentences again, because they form the logical heart and soul of this book. Berlinski is not on a mission to preach religion; his task is to make plain just how little we actually know about the universe, and to try and re-awaken our sense of wonder. In this, he succeeds brilliantly.

The book cannot really be summarized in a brief review, but let me try to show you at least his thoughts about cosmology and the Big Bang. First, he makes it clear that the atheist camp has always had a hankering for an eternal universe (funny, that describes me, too) and a huge dislike for a universe which had an actual beginning, and then he demonstrates that all of current cosmological theory and knowledge points to the Big Bang as a singularity --- and not a universe which is constantly expanding and then contracting. So it comes Scarily Close to "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." He then amuses himself (and us) by skewering all of the "objective scientists" who are trying to wiggle out of this "difficulty." It really does sound like "objective scientists" accept the "scientific facts" which suit their own biases.

"We have no idea how the ordered physical, moral, mental, aesthetic and social world in which we live could ever have arisen from the seething anarchy of the elementary particles." One thing I can add is that, the last time I checked, we don't even know how genes and RNA manage to control the color of the eyes. We may be able to draw the hereditary chart and point to the right place in the DNA, but we have no idea at all how the genotype turns into the phenotype.

Berlinski is a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, which is a place devoted to the idea of Intelligent Design, but, as an agnostic, he's something of a maverick even there. You can find him in Wikipedia and on YouTube as well.
942 internautes sur 1.096 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An Agnostic Weighs In 3 avril 2008
Par Fritz R. Ward - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Any book by David Berlinski is bound to be fun. He is simply one of the most erudite writers in popular science and mathematics today. Those who particularly like seeing sacred cows treated with a hint of sarcasm and irreverance will enjoy his writing on almost any subject, but this book, attacking the "new atheism" as it does, is especially delightful if for no other reason than for how pompous writers like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchins are in their approach to this subject.

In brief, Berlinski's argument boils down to three main points: there is nothing in science proper that undermines religion (a point that used to be widely recognized and even extolled by writers like SJ Gould), most of the new atheists badly misunderstand even the most rudimentary arguments of theology and are not logically consistent, and finally that much of science has become rather dogmatic, like a new religion. I think Berlinski does an excellent job addressing all three of these points, the first of which should be more or less self evident. Claims, for example, that one "should" only believe in physical or visible evidence are not, in and of themselves, empirical claims. Indeed, I have friends who resolutely insist that materialism is "all there is" while remaining blissfully unaware of the fact that such a statement could not arise from strictly empirical observation.

Regarding the new atheist approach to Aquinas, Berlinski correctly notes that the critics of St. Thomas really do not understand his arguments. Take for example the famous cosmological argument of Thomas Aquinas. In its simplest form, this argument takes the form of a syllogism. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began at some point. Therefore the universe has a cause. Agnostic that he is, Berlinski correctly notes that this is not actually an argument for God. It is an argument that the universe began to exist, meaning it required a cause. Aquinas, of course, argued this cause was "God" and very specifically the God of the New Testament and Catholic Church. But one need not arrive at this conclusion. It is possible that the universe simply goes on forever. One event causes another and so on back to infinity. (This was the position of David Hume and it has been popular among the atheist set ever since.) Still, Berlinski askes, if we saw a row of dominoes falling, "would we, without pause say that no first domino set the other dominoes toppling. Really?"[p. 69] Of course not. We fall back upon such reasoning only when discussing God. But of course Hume's argument has been rendered pointless by the fact that 20th century cosmology did in fact discover the universe had a beginning, and much of cosmology since then has been an effort to try to explain away the obvious implications of this. (One should also consult on this matter God and the Astronomers by another thoughtful agnostic, Robert Jastrow.) Scientists too, it seems, for all their vaunted objectivity, often find their research agendas driven by their theological concerns.

But how does a "scientist" who also publicly promotes atheism respond to Aquinas and the rather stunning vindication of his argument by 20th century science. Well, Dawkins for one simply asserts that Aquinas failed to consider the possibility that God was subject to infinite regress. Amazing. As one reviewer put it, to call this argument sophomoric is an insult to sophomores, though he did not specify whether he was refering to high school or college sophomores. Aquinas did not "assume" God was not subject to infinite regress. It was the conclusion of his argument that infinite regress was not possible and Dawkins, should he want to refute such an argument, needs to address it directly, which of course he does not.

And so it goes. Berlinski examines one argument for atheism after another and finds each wanting. The authors of these arguments are logically inconsistent. They appeal to multiple universes and diminsions, a weak anthropic principle, physical laws that change from place to place coupled with as yet undiscovered universal laws, and then accuse theists of violating the law of parsimony, Occam's Razor. They publicly stand by Darwin, especially on origin of life issues (about which Darwin had little to say) while privately expressing their doubts about the explanatory value of his theory in many respects. Perhaps the highlight of the book for me was Berlinski's decision to quote the prominent biologist Shi V. Liu who noted that Darwinism "misled science into a dead end" but "we may still appreciate the role of Darwin in helping scientists .. in fighting against the creationists."[p.197] Indeed. Any theory is better than an alternative that might imply God or some other non material cause.

But what would motivate a supposed scientist to make such outlandish claims? And it is here that Berlinski is at his dead level best. For some scientists, and many more non-scientist, science has itself become a religion. And it is a religion with a very jealous God, who can have no other Gods before Him. Like other religions, of course, this one has much to offer its followers, both in material benefits and spiritual solace. But all good agnostics still recognize it for what it is, the zeal of its adherents notwithstanding.
386 internautes sur 468 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Devil's Been Debunked !!! 4 avril 2008
Par Lee St Clair - Publié sur
This book is so well written that superlatives seem inadequate. Berlinski begins by stating that he is not religious and has no particular religious axe to grind. He is a mathematician and scientist. Yet he skewers science in general, and Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris in particular with well-reasoned argument, simple yet cogent analysis, and more humor than I would have thought possible for this subject.

Berlinksi makes it clear that he in no way means to disparage or belittle Science. He is only trying to show how Science has been twisted by The Four Horsemen in an attempt to prove an anti-religious point of view, and how that twisting promises so much and delivers so little.

I have read Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris (I could not force myself through Dennett's doorstop of a book), and I thoroughly enjoyed each one as I read it. Yet, reading David Berlinski's book made me honestly question what I found so thought-provoking or convincing about any of them.

This book is well worth reading if for no other reason than raising some unexpectely challenging questions, and providing you with some innovative and fascinating insights into ideas you might not have considered. I really liked this book !!!
253 internautes sur 309 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A brilliant and fun read 15 avril 2008
Par Polymath-In-Training - Publié sur
I have read several of Berlinski's books, and this is the best and the most fun read. He takes down by several notches some of the better-known and more arrogant atheists--Richard Dawkins, Peter Atkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett (one of the "brights")--with clever barbs and clear reasoning.

One of the one-star reviewers, in an otherwise rather thoughtful review, made this baffling statement: "His only option is to put forth a case that is ultimately (and desperately) designed to protect Christianity by defending anything which science cannot disprove." Berlinski, a self-described "secular Jew," is surely doing no such thing, and he makes this clear in his preface: speaking of religious traditions, he says, "I do not know whether any of this is true. I am certain that the scientific community does not know that it is false."

His book is written as a caution to the over-reach of certain people in the scientific community who have attempted to draw conclusions about religion and God from facts or hypotheses in science. In this he does an admirable job.
55 internautes sur 65 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Delightful Book to Read! 30 décembre 2008
Par Larry D. Paarmann - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
In the documentary movie Expelled by Ben Stein, one of those interviewed was David Berlinski, author of the book under review, for his assessment of evolution, intelligent design, and the dogmatic opposition to any criticism of Darwinism by the scientific establishment. As far as I know, this book is Berlinski's first book-length criticism of Darwinism and especially of what has come to be known as scientism (the atheistic religion that pretends that it is based on science). The interesting title of Berlinski's book comes from an amalgamation of Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion, McGrath's response The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine, and another book by Dawkins titled A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love. Berlinski describes himself as a "secular Jew," and says that his "religious education did not take. I can barely remember a word of Hebrew. I cannot pray." Although he does not, to my knowledge, say he is an agnostic, it seems that that must be what he is. He has a Ph.D. from Princeton University and has taught mathematics and philosophy at universities in the United States and in France. He has written math and science books such as A Tour of the Calculus, The Advent of the Algorithm: The 300-Year Journey from an Idea to the Computer, and Newton's Gift: How Sir Isaac Newton Unlocked the System of the World. In approaching what may well be the most controversial and defining topic of our time, I suppose that one of two approaches can be taken. One would be a serious presentation of the scientific facts and attempting to reason with those who are opposed to your point of view. The other approach may well be to ridicule your opponents, call them stupid, and make sport of the issue. Berlinski has chosen the latter approach. However, after calling them stupid, he gives detailed rationale as to why the charge is appropriate. In a sense I suppose he combines the two approaches. His dry humor is throughout the book that could not be pulled off by anyone of lesser brilliance, but shines more brightly in some sections. Here and there his humor evokes out-loud laughter from the reader, although no doubt that depends somewhat on the reader's worldview. Berlinski takes them all on by name and pulls no punches. He seems to take great delight in pointing out their errors of logic, their incorrect scientific facts, their gross extrapolations, their superficial understanding of science, the absurdities of what they actually profess to believe, and their lack of humility before the mysteries of life. For an agnostic, if that is what he is, he seems to have admiration for theologians and others who struggle to make sense of life, and surprisingly, and delightfully to me, he quotes Scripture to make some of his points. A strange prophet he, but then God can obtain praise from the rocks if it please Him to do so.

The book has ten chapters. The chapter titles are as follows: Chapter 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, and 10. The Cardinal and His Cathedral.

The first major area that Berlinski addresses is the criticism that is often made of religious people. When Sam Harris and others point out the human suffering that has occurred at the hands of religious leaders, Berlinski agrees fully. However, to leave it there as though something significant has been said raises more questions than it answers. He describes Harris' book Letter to a Christian Nation (Vintage) as "devoid of any intellectual substance whatsoever." Berlinski elaborates: "A great deal of human suffering has been caused by religious fanaticism. If the Inquisition no longer has the power to compel our indignation, the Moslem world often seems quite prepared to carry the burden of exuberant depravity in its place. Nonetheless, there is this awkward fact: The twentieth century was not an age of faith, and it was awful. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot will never be counted among the religious leaders of mankind." He then lists for us 63 wars that took place during the 20th century with the number of those killed in each. The numbers are staggering: 15 million in WWI, 55 million in WWII, 20 million under Stalin, 40 million under Mao, etc. This sort of information, of course, does not justify religious intolerance of any kind, but it certainly does help to put things into perspective, and completely counters any suggestion that the world would be safe and secure if we could just get rid of religion, as at least implied by, if not actually stated, by the likes of Harris, Dawkins, etc. Not only in terms of wars, but other writers such as Steven Pinker make claims about how much better the world is now as a result of modernity. Berlinski exclaims "The good news is unrelenting . . . In considering Pinker's assessment of the times in which we live, the only conclusion one can profitably draw is that such an excess of stupidity is not often to be found in nature." "What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe and what the NKVD did not believe and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing."

Another area that Berlinski addresses is the way philosophical "proofs" for the existence of God are dismissed by atheists. He has a great deal of admiration for Aquinas, and summarizes his cosmological argument (not "proof") for the existence of God. Before dismissing someone who wrote so long ago, consider Berlinski's words: "His life coincided with a period of great brilliance in European art, architecture, law, poetry, philosophy, and theology. Commentators who today talk of the dark ages, when faith instead of reason was said ruthlessly to rule, have for their animadversions only the excuse of perfect ignorance." The cosmological argument is simply that the universe has a cause. Many, apparently, think it has no cause or purpose. That flies in the face of common sense, even the common sense of a child, but nonetheless it is held. But then Berlinski goes on to argue how the philosophical cosmological argument has been greatly bolstered from the "very place one might least expect it to appear: contemporary physical cosmology." Berlinski reviews the findings of the "Big Bang" theory and other modern discoveries that Aquinas knew nothing of but strongly supports the cosmological argument for the existence of God. "If nothing else, the facts of Big Bang cosmology indicate that one objection to the argument that Thomas Aquinas offered is empirically unfounded: Causes in nature do come to an end. If science has shown that God does not exist, it has not been by appealing to Big Bang cosmology. The hypothesis of God's existence and the facts of contemporary cosmology are consistent." He then delightfully quotes from modern scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, who have not overlooked the religious significance of these modern scientific discoveries. For example, "`So long as the universe had a beginning,' Stephen Hawking has written, `we could suppose it had a creator.'" For another example, "`The best data we have concerning the big bang,' the Nobel laureate Arno Penzias remarked, `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.'" If some atheists want to dismiss such things, it is only because they have no real response to give. Berlinski presents the best arguments from philosophy and from science for the existence of God that I have read.

Berlinski's criticism of Darwinian evolution of humans is brutal: "It is rather more difficult to take what no one doubts and fashion it into an effective defense of the thesis that human beings are nothing but the living record of an extended evolutionary process. That requires a disciplined commitment to a point of view that owes nothing to the sciences, however loosely construed, and astonishingly little to the evidence." Of course, there are many who may require some convincing, so just saying that evolution has little evidence in its support won't do the job. But arguments there are a plenty. "Darwinian biologists are very often persuaded that there is a conspiracy afoot to make them look foolish. In this they are correct." "Suspicions about Darwin's theory arise for two reasons. The first: the theory makes little sense. The second: it is supported by little evidence." Okay, no argument presented here. You'll have to read this book, as well as perhaps some others, if you want the details.

Putting words in God's mouth and sounding like a passage from Job, Berlinski writes "You have no idea whatsoever how the ordered physical, moral, mental, aesthetic, and social world in which you live could have ever arisen from the seething anarchy of the elementary particles." This is a delightful book to read, especially so since it comes from a somewhat unexpected source.
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