Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Devil's delusion:

Here's a book review I wrote a while ago, but thought it worth sharing:

Review of “The Devil’s delusion: Atheism and its Scientific pretensions” by David Berlinski. Copyright 2008. Crown Publishing, a division of Random House Inc., New York. Submitted by, Craig Cottongim

Many people are familiar with (and some offended by) the recent book, “The God Delusion,” by Richard Dawkins. With a title such as Berlinski is using here, it is obvious he is addressing Dawkins. Yet, Berlinski does not merely offer a rebuttal of Dawkins’s efforts, though Berlinski certainly addresses the shortcomings of Dawkins’s thesis.

Without being critical of the legitimate and valuable roles of Science, or Science’s actual contributions to mankind, Berlinski presents thoughtful analysis on why Science has no leg to stand on with their forceful claims of proving God is no longer necessary or there is no god. It is extremely interesting how Berlinski sprinkles multiple Biblical allusions throughout his book, though he is not trying to make a case for faith. This book is extremely useful for any thinking believer that wants to enter today’s market place of ideas more confidently, and it’s especially helpful to anyone with an interest in apologetics.

In the field of apologetics there are three primary approaches to defending the Christian faith. 1st, we can use “positive” apologetics. This is where we make a case for our faith via the validity of miracles, the resurrection, and the reliability of the Bible, ect. We show where our faith claims have substantial justification; demonstrating why we think our claims are creditable. The 2nd available method of defending our faith is “negative” apologetics. This is defending the faith against the attacks others will raise, based in part, on the problem of evil and suffering. This is a response to the questions that naturally arise when people see childhood cancer or why there is so much gratuitous evil in this world. There is a 3rd method, which is perhaps the most powerful of them all, it is “neutralizing” apologetics. This is the tactic of using the other’s worldview against itself. In other words, you show how a given system of thought is self-defeating, without ever even appealing to your own presuppositions. You dialogue at length with the other person, investigating their views, then taking their perspectives to the logical fruition you show from within their own system how their own view implodes because of its deficits.

This “neutralizing” technique is exactly what Berlinski utilizes in “The Devil’s delusion,” as he shows where Darwinian evolution and the entire gambit of popular empirical-verification driven ideologies fall short of their claims. Berlinski is thoroughly enjoyable; never dry. With an ample use of humor, some irony now-and-then, he unpacks their own arguments and aptly explains that their arguments, “when self-applied self-destruct.”

Berlinski does a superb job of showing how the past 200 years of Science has fallen far short of their promises to make the world a better place. He points out how the 20th century should have been the best century of human history, according to promises of secular science, but it was instead the most horrific, evil period known to mankind. The 20th century was not even close to being a century of faith, and with a brief reflection Berlinski reveals how it gave birth to the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and several other tyrants. One word can summarize this tragic century’s failings: Holocaust.

Covering topics from the kalam argument, the Big bang, naturalism, the theory of relativity, string theory, euthanasia, entropy, all the way to observing the anthropic principle, Berlinski repeatedly uncovers the reasons why Science cannot prove the inexistence of God, and instead how all of the evidence is consistent with God’s existence! Darwin’s successors have limited theories, and even less evidence on hand, to make their claims that the universe is all there is. With questions on “why” the universe exits even though it is not necessary, or how it began without a cause, it becomes clear rather quickly that Science today has a mistaken ideology at best and how many scientists are disingenuous at worst.

Though this book is written with a broader audience in mind than professional cosmologists, physicists, and biologists, it can be rather technical at times. Berlinski references dozens of high-caliber scientists like Pinker, Collins, Einstein, Schroeder; more than names than you would hear in a semester long course in Christian apologetics. Some of the concepts from quantum physics, cosmology, Intelligent Design, and several terms are going to be unfamiliar to some readers. Do not let this discourage you from reading the book, though. With minimal effort and the occasional aid of a dictionary, anyone will be able to plow through the tougher sections. Berlinski’s PhD. is from Princeton and he writes with an extensive vocabulary that reflects his vast education.

The most valuable lesson in this book, to me, is that Berlinski himself is openly not a faithful follower of God. The first page of the introduction, Berlinski admits he is a secular Jew; explaining that his religious background didn’t take. The fact is, there are no airtight arguments that are guaranteed to convince every skeptic, agnostic, or atheist every time. You might wonder why Berlinski didn’t convert to a Biblical faith as a result of his research. The fact that he articulates the shortcomings of atheistic science better than a host of Christian authors drives home a vital truth: Arguments are simply a tool; there are no silver-bullets that will work without fail. The amazing conclusion that Berlinski has articulated his case against “militant atheists” better than any Christian author quickly fades when we consider that nobody has been argued into the Kingdom… Still, if the old saying is that Darwin made it possible for people to be intellectually fulfilled as atheists, then certainly Berlinski (unknowingly or not) has made it even more possible for Theists today to be confident as intellectually fulfilled believers!

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