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The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  950 Ratings  ·  145 Reviews
Militant atheism is on the rise. In recent years Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have produced a steady stream of best-selling books denigrating religious belief. These authors are merely the leading edge of a larger movement that includes much of the scientific community.In response, mathematician David Berlinski, himself a secular Je ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published August 26th 2009 by Basic Books (first published 2008)
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Scottie Binions By that logic, prove to me unicorns and leprechauns don't exist. One cannot possibly prove a negative. Must be well above your ability to reason…moreBy that logic, prove to me unicorns and leprechauns don't exist. One cannot possibly prove a negative. Must be well above your ability to reason though to ask such a silly question.

The burden is always on those who must prove something exists. Always. (less)
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Manny
Aug 19, 2013 Manny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Creationists, string theorists
Criticizing books on Intelligent Design is usually as interesting as shooting fish in a barrel, but there are exceptions to every rule. Given its title and cover, one would be forgiven for expecting The Devil's Delusion to be a collection of trivial fallacies, unified by a complete ignorance of modern science and a general inability to write. I was surprised to find that it is no such thing. I do not agree with many of the arguments that Berlinski proposes, but it is obvious, after just a few pa ...more
Fortunr
Mar 03, 2016 Fortunr rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy

I was tricked into reading this book by:
- my interest in exploring the rationale behind the so-called “Intelligent Design” philosophy
- by the book's overall positive reviews
- by the exposure of the author to mathematics and the sciences.
- I was also encouraged by the self-definition of the author as a “secular” Jew, and as an agnostic.

I had therefore expectations that I would be met with balanced, sophisticated arguments, supported by a nuanced and multi-perspectival analysis. I loved the idea
...more
Mark
Jul 06, 2009 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With a title like that, you’d expect this book to appear straight out of a Christian publishing house located in the basement of a fundamentalist church. The cover does nothing to dissuade you – it’s black with big red letters with a couple of devil horns sticking out of the title. Frankly, add a couple of cartoons & a paranoid suspicion of the Vatican and the outside would look like it came from of the pen of Jack Chick. (If you’re curious, I don’t think that is a good thing!)

But once you o
...more
Aaron
Aug 09, 2011 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most important books I've read in scientific literature "for the layman". Written by a secular Jewish scientist and mathematician, this book explores what science really does know and what it does not know. It's an examination of the facts without the philosophical BS that tends to subjectively dilute what little we know. Among the topics are the existence of God and the theory of evolution.

The reason I love this book is because it is incredibly and thoroughly logical. And if
...more
Bill
Jun 29, 2011 Bill rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My take on the book is similar to these one-star reviews on Amazon:

[1] http://www.amazon.com/review/R32THN89...
[2] http://www.amazon.com/review/R1F862GT...
[3] http://www.amazon.com/review/R210ZCGA...

A few things that stood out to me were (in no particular order):

1. It's noteworthy that the author claims, in the book, to be agnostic, yet the whole book is a case for some sort of creator-god and intelligent design. By claiming to be agnostic, Berlinski panders to the skeptical reader in an attempt
...more
Jason , etc.
Dec 12, 2008 Jason , etc. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As both a scientist and a believer, there are few things that make me squirm with more gusto than hearing other scientists spout dogmatic baloney for one side of an argument and against another. There is no room for dogma in either science or religion, and one would hope that people buried up to their knees in either discipline would be the first to acknowledge such a fact. Sadly, no. As a result, every single page of this book made me want to squeal with glee, but since I'm not a little girl, I ...more
Donald
Apr 02, 2008 Donald rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David Berlinski is one of the most intellectually honest writers I have ever read. His dissent of neo-Darwinism is argued in the realm of physics, biology, chemistry, and philosophy. I will read this book more than once. Himself a secular, unbelieving Jew, finds the great conundrum of nature and grace difficult, but somehow an essential component of human existence.

There are no cliches in this book. His disagreements with Weinberg, Pinker, and Stencker are respectful. He is even respectful to Da
...more
Stupac
Feb 02, 2009 Stupac rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished this one. Mostly I got this book because I have read quotations of Berlinski's other works and found them witty and fascinating. This book did not disappoint. This book has received some criticism because of its elaborate language, which I personally very much appreciated, but I can understand that it is not for everyone. It would appeal most to those who appreciate a little philosophical humor, and being well read also helps (he lost me at a few of his allusions, but for the most ...more
Matt Evans
Nov 17, 2013 Matt Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perspicuous and perspicacious, intelligible and wise, the Devil's Delusion is mandatory reading for anyone with "the vague sense of being treated contemptuously by scientists and biologists." Berlinski masterfully takes matters of theology and atheism from the laboratory and puts them back in the chapel of faith, where they belong. Simply put, science is the faithful practice of physical observation, religion the faithful practice of spiritual observation. But conflate them public figures like R ...more
Scott
Sep 22, 2010 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the aspects of writers like Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris etal. is that they are fairly good writers and can be pretty witty in skewering Christians. Christians usually argue from strong philosophical positions and reasonable evidence, but most try to be respectful of the opposition while attacking the argument.

Berlinski enters the debate challenging the scientfic claims used by New Athesists. He is not bound by religious restraints on comments, so his rebuttals are much more scathing. Many t
...more
Frank Roberts
Sep 19, 2010 Frank Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful and subversive. Berlinski, a secular Jew and respected mathematician, author, and professor, gleefully undertakes to puncture the pretensions of our modern all-but-established religion, the Church of Materialist Atheism. This book has one main premise: the claims of Dawkins, Harris, Pinker et al, the leading evangelists of this religion, are nowhere near as strong as they say, nor do they give any conclusive proof against the existence of a Creator. Berlinski covers physics, including ...more
G.R. Reader
Nov 04, 2013 G.R. Reader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want a little harmless amusement, try quoting selected passages from this book to cosmologists and particle physicists of an atheistic persuasion. I particularly recommend the sections on string theory and the Hawking-Hartle construction. David is very funny and has a wonderful turn of phrase.
Abdulrahman
Berlinski is a secular Jew, a mathematician, a biologist, and has a PhD in philosophy from Princeton University. He's also very funny (I must confess that I quite enjoyed his ridicule of Dawkins). He's, however, sadly, sexist and homophobic. He decided to write this book after he got fed up of hearing scientific atheists claiming that science had proven the non-existence of God.

The best argument Berlinski presented for the existence of God, in my opinion, is the fine-tuned Universe proposition.
...more
Carlo
I was very impressed with this book when it talked about the physical sciences. Much less I would say when it talked about evolution by natural selection. From what limited reading I had done in evolutionary theory, I really think Berlinski doesn't understand the current status of the science. He always insists about considering Darwin and his Origin as the definitive source of evolutionary theory in a time when most biologists believe Darwin made some mistakes on his own on the one hand, and ot ...more
joel
Jul 04, 2013 joel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The not-so-well-kept (but oft-denied) secret of the current debates between the new atheists and their religious opponents is that the arguments are not strictly limited to issues of science, logic, & reason. These are discussions as much of philosophy, ideology, and ethic as they are of anything material. Both systems of thought - religious and non-religious alike - are based upon presuppositional thinking, are driven by faith in tenants unprovable, and result in very tangible and real-worl ...more
Ian Hodge
Jul 06, 2012 Ian Hodge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worldview, philosophy
The new atheism of Hitchens, Dawson and Harris, for example, has had wide coverage over the past few decades. The atheist's mantra "there is insufficient evidence for the existence of God" has been shouted loudly and clearly for all to hear.

Berlinksi portrays the misuse and abuse of both science and logic that are tied up in the atheists' presentation of their case. He shows that the atheist argument is irrational and at times simply contradictory. This should not be surprising, since the underl
...more
Bill
Dec 11, 2009 Bill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
Working my way through the dross of Dawkins' The God Delusion, I was casting about for a purgative to restore my faith in agnosticism. Little did I realize I'd be climbing into bed with the intelligent designer and (ostensibly) "secular Jew"* who coached Ann Coulter in writing Godless!

Sheesh! When will I learn to google before I leap?

Consider the second star as a triumph of style over substance. As a stylist Berlinski is clever to the point of incoherence.

* Berlinksi's words, not mine -- far as
...more
xJane
Oct 13, 2008 xJane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: atheists who want to learn to argue better; theists who wish they were right
Berlinski's book is, from its title, a rebuttal to Richard Dawkins' the God Delusion. It is, however, more often a rebuttal of Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation specifically and broadly to all atheist works. Having read neither, I will take as a given that both Dawkins and Harris say what Berlinski says they say. However, given how inconsistent his own internal arguments are, I wonder.

Berlinski starts by assuaging the fear of his atheist readers. He is not a theist! He proclaims, he i
...more
David
Mar 11, 2012 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book starts out on a fairly good roll: the author mentions that he is a secular Jew -- his religious instruction "did not take". Thus I was hopeful that this author might be able to approach the long-running science-religion "war" with a bit of detached objectivity. He certainly is well qualified, in general terms, to write such a work, having written at least two rather widely read technical popularizations (Tour of the Calculus and Advent of the Algorithm).

The initial material on the wea
...more
Jesse Winslow
I had really high hopes for this book. #1 it comes highly regarded. #2 I'm always interested in hearing a different opinion than my own and this was quite promising. I loved the idea of a secular point of view stating a defense for religious thought and a rebuttal to arguments by Harris, Hitchens, and others. Well this booked seemed to be full of contextual biases and out of context statements. Add in a serious dose of "you can't prove it, so you are wrong" and you've got the gist of this book. ...more
Kerry Campbell
Apr 24, 2013 Kerry Campbell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I were to sum up this book in one short paragraph, and this would be very unfair of me, I would borrow the statement, a quote, that I was so impressed with from the book I have just finished and offered a review of: Alister McGrath's book "Heresy"
“For though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains
...more
John Martindale
David Berlinski has a huge vocabulary which he continually flaunts and a very unique writing style, that is not necessarily flowing. Occasionally he is a bit funny, one definitely sees his personality coming through the writing. It can be entertaining reading his jabs at scientist and their pretensions, he does a decent job at times. But you can't always take him all that seriously.

The book was not what I expected and hoped for. Being written by a secular Jew, I didn't expect it to be more of a
...more
Clark Goble
Apr 01, 2016 Clark Goble rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions biologist and philosopher David Berlinski brings a unique voice to the table. Berlinski describes himself as a secular Jew yet he offers a biting defense of religious thought. Berlinksi is critical of skeptical arguments against religious thought on the grounds that they often misrepresent the science behind the argument. He is also critical of Darwinian evolution but he offers his critique from an angle that should be palatable to ...more
Neal
May 15, 2009 Neal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Berlinski, a secular Jew, combines his incisive wit, a comprehensive understanding of a wide array of topics, and a searing curiosity to dispel the myths of the "New Atheism." He shows clearly that science has not (can not?) prove their is not a God, no minds, evolution, the Big Bang even, etc. The lack of evidence is astounding, according to Berlinski, and it is near impossible to disagree with him. To those needing a counter-read to the hogwash of the New Atheists, this is one of your books. I ...more
Anna
Loved it. Witty, incisive, and intelligent, Berlinski discusses the arrogance and failings of scientific atheism and those who claim it is the the "be all and end all". Science, he argues, is not, in fact, a disinterested pursuit of the truth.



I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much, quite apart from the fact that it's a breath of fresh air amidst all the anti-religious material being published, is that I found his perspective so unique and interesting. A secular, agnostic Jew who
...more
Chris
Apr 24, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not an easy read for me. I suspect it won't be for most folks. I really should have had a dictionary handy. I plan on a second read through with one at the ready. What I liked:

- Wave top level discussion on a variety of common scientific theories
- Insider guide to how some communities "circle the wagons" in response to dissenting viewpoints

What I didn't like:
- I found the first half of the book cumbersome to read, I would like to enhance my vocabulary, but I had to really bull through
...more
Joseph
Jun 19, 2010 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like Berlinski's style. The conclusions of this book may be agnostic, but he sheds doubt on the overconfidence of the new atheism. And this makes you think twice.
Joel
Jul 04, 2008 Joel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
More disingenuous trash from the Discovery Institute.
Domien
Jul 07, 2016 Domien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Berlinski is quite a character. An agnostic secular Jew and a scientist, he is not a great theologian or anything resembling a religious apologist. Instead, he is an iconoclast within the scientific community. This is important to know before reading "The Devil's Delusion", as the title may suggest a religious rebuttal of the Richard Dawkins school of atheism. That is not what Berlinski offers.

This book is simply about undermining the smug arrogance of the new atheism and its scientific pr
...more
Murray
I didn’t like this book, but not because the author rejects the assertions of the great (in their own minds) scientific atheists of our day. The title references Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”. I dislike it because Berlinski is as arrogant and vitriolic in his defense of the theistic project as the atheists are in their attack on it. A pox on all of their conceits!

Berlinski’s polemic snarls but doesn’t convince. He’s fond of sound bites when, at the end of a paragraph, he summarizes whatev
...more
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David Berlinski is a senior fellow in the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

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 A
...more
More about David Berlinski...

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“Has anyone provided 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 our 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 and 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 20th century been a force for good? Not even close, to being close. Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy in the sciences? Close enough. Does anything in the sciences or their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even in the ball park. Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.” 45 likes
“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. And as far as we can tell, very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried overmuch that God was watching what they were doing either. That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society.” 25 likes
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