One of the best books I've read in years. Highly recommended. Not a self-help book nor an oversimplified psychological model, but a thoughtful and comOne of the best books I've read in years. Highly recommended. Not a self-help book nor an oversimplified psychological model, but a thoughtful and complex overview of what it means to be wrong, how we discern what is true or false, why we are put off by error, how errors and being wrong are intrinsically part of our specialness as humans, why people so seldom change their important beliefs, and so on. ...more
This book, written in an conversational, low-key and interesting style, attempts to refute the main arguments in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion andThis book, written in an conversational, low-key and interesting style, attempts to refute the main arguments in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and to show that “the God hypothesis” is reasonable, even highly likely, given a couple of basic premises. In the end, Ward makes clear that Dawkins’ conclusions are reasonable given his (Dawkins’) materialistic premises, while “the God hypothesis” is quite reasonable given a different starting point which, in Ward’s view, is better at explaining the universe.
The most important difference between the two viewpoints is that materialism sees everything as derived from physical laws of nature. In this view, consciousness, values, relationships, and other aspects of our personal world are somehow merely results of the physical phenomena and could, in principle, be fully explained by physical laws.
Ward argues that idealism, “in the very broad sense of accepting consciousness or mind as the fundamental character of reality,” is a stronger foundation. His arguments are based partly on the problems of explaining consciousness on the basis of materialism, and partly on the problem that materialism itself is looking more problematic as the very concepts of matter, time, space, and energy have become highly complex.
As I understand it, the barest outline of Ward’s argument has two threads. The first is the one above, that consciousness if fundamental and that personal causation exists alongside material causation. That is, some thing happen because someone, a conscious entity, wants them to happen; our sense that we are agents, capable of doing things, is not just an illusion but real. If this is true, then it is not unreasonable, he argues, that consciousness could exist apart from matter and outside the physical universe.
The second thread argues that if the universe is rational, able to be understood in terms of logic and causation, then it must have a necessary (non-contingent) and eternal cause. This cause is not necessarily conscious—it could be an equation, or the fact that all possible universes must exist—but there must be something that is itself uncaused. I think this what another reviewer says is just the kalam argument.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book for me was the discussion of multiple universes and how they do or don’t solve the problems of ultimate causation and the fine-tuning of our own universe.
I doubt that a truly new argument for the existence or absence of God arises as often as once a century, though I don’t really know since philosophy is not my field. Still, it’s not the novelty of Ward’s arguments that makes the book worth reading, but rather the clarity of the writing and the way the arguments directly speak to those of Dawkins. ...more
Although I have lived and worked in Muslim countries, this is the first comprehensive book I have read on the subject of Islam. Rather than just sketcAlthough I have lived and worked in Muslim countries, this is the first comprehensive book I have read on the subject of Islam. Rather than just sketching the basic beliefs, as is done in many shorter works, this book goes deeper. It's also very sympathetic and almost exclusively an insider's view, "emic" rather than "etic" if you like those terms.
If there is a bias, it is toward a presentation that is conciliatory to other religions. To overstate it a bit, this view says, "Although some less-informed or uneducated Muslims believe that Islam is the only way to salvation, there's plenty of room in the Koran to indicate to the enlightened that good, god-fearing, Christians, Jews, and even Hindus and others can also be saved." Someone who knows a lot more than I told me that the problem with this is that it ignores the issue of abrogation, the idea that gives precedence to later Koranic revelations than earlier ones, and that the later revelations tend to be less conciliatory.
Another limitation is that the book describes "high" Islam rather than folk Islam as practiced by millions of ordinary people around the world. Also, although Shariah is described as one of the main elements of Islam, there is not even an overview of its important elements. All in all, the book is more concerned with the abstractions and theology of Islam than with what it means in practice to average Muslims in various contexts. ...more