Mark's Reviews > The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions

The Devil's Delusion by David Berlinski
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Jul 15, 2009

really liked it
Read in July, 2009

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 open the book, you find that the author, [David Berlinski:], is a secular Jew with a PhD from Princeton & a scathing wit… and absolutely no tolerance for philosophical or scientific nonsense. Published by Crown Forum (not a Christian publishing house), this is a surprisingly erudite & weighty text on the foibles & failures of scientific atheism.

Do I agree with the author? Well, it’s no surprise that I find atheism lacking as an adequate belief system to explain the universe. (To my atheist friends: sorry about using the words “belief system” to describe what you, well, believe. I just can’t come up with a better way of saying it.) At the same time, I’m not sure I ever want to be as snarky as Berlinski, who’s given to making statements like:

“He is a member in good standing of the worldwide fraternity of academics who are professionally involved in sniffing the underwear of their colleagues for signs of ideological deviance.”


Funny stuff… if not entirely constructive.

Berlinski is more impressive in his examination of the philosophical underpinnings of scientific atheism, particularly the more militant strain that has become popular in the last few years. He engages the subject not on the basis of religious belief (which he claims not to have) but on the actual intellectual merits of their claims & assertions. It’s pretty heavy reading sometimes… but very interesting & thought provoking.

He does not come to a "Christian" conclusion - this is not an attempt to write a work of apologetics or to defend creationism. Berlinski is attempting (and, to my very limited knowledge of the issues being discussed, succeeds) in showing that the certainity of science about naturalistic explanations for a wide variety of things (the Big Bang, string theory, evolutionary biology) is misplaced.

I don't pretend to understand everything I'm reading in this book - I was an English Lit major in college who dabbles in scientific reading from time to time. Still, what convinces me of Berlinski's critique is not my own status as a pastor & a follower of Christ but the painful admissions from various scientists that their research doesn't necessarily support the theories... and where they go from there.

Whatever the degree to which Darwin may have "misled science into a dead end," the biologist Shi V. observed in commenting on Koonin's paper, "we may still appreciate the role of Darwin in helping scientists [win an:] upper hand in fighting against the creationists.”
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05/04 marked as: read

Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-6 of 6) </span> <span class="smallText">(6 new)</span>

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message 1: by John (new)

John Atheists like Sam Harris annoy even me. I'm a devout atheist and scientist, but I think it's foolish to try to use the scientific method to prove anything about the existence of God... and just as foolish to suppose that there should be a proof of God's inexistence. To do so would first require a definition of God - and already the discussion has turned silly.

If Berlinski is not religious, does this make him a fundamentalist agnostic?

Science doesn't claim to know everything, and freely admits that it can't deal with supernatural concepts. Only the lowest class of internet atheist claims that science can prove that God doesn't exist. By engaging in that argument, Berlinski places himself firmly in the category of tabloid drivel.


message 2: by Mark (last edited Jul 22, 2009 08:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark This book is many things: purposefully iconoclastic, insufferably know-it-all, subject to odd tangents down scientific back alleys which I'm not sure I completely understand, touched with brilliant insights... but it doesn't read like tabloid drivel.


Morris Nelms I'm currently reading it and enjoying it very much.


message 4: by Bill (last edited Sep 19, 2011 01:28PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Bill
you’d expect this book to appear straight out of a Christian publishing house located in the basement of a fundamentalist church

Close. It's published by Crown Forum which is self-described thus:
Crown Forum, an imprint of The Crown Publishing Group, is America's leading conservative publisher whose bestselling authors include Ann Coulter, Michael Medved, Bill Getz, Newt Gingrich, Joe Scarborough and Steven F. Hayward.

The author (David Berlinski) is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Other senior fellows include Michael Behe—foremost Intelligent Design advocate.


Mark Bill - sorry I haven't responded to this comment previously.

Despite the media's yammering to the contrary, conservative does NOT equal Christian.

The authors listed are not a who's who of evangelical Christianity - they are conservative pundits and politicians.

I'll assume that your last paragraph is meant to indicate that Berlinski is a colleague of Michael Behe (though that's not what it says). If so, since Berlinski doesn't posit an intelligent design theory in his book, I'm not sure what difference such a connection makes.


message 6: by Bill (new) - rated it 1 star

Bill Oops. Thanks for pointing out my typo Mark. I have fixed it (in my June 30 comment above).

You expected a title (like "The Devil's Delusion") to come from a Christian publishing house. Yet you seem surprised that it in fact comes from a far-right publishing house (Crown Forum.)

But this should not be surprising at all, given the strong affinity between evangelical Christianity and far-right politics in the US right now.


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