Friday, June 06, 2008

Teasers from "The Devil's Delusion"

Recently, I had the privilege of hosting Professor Alan Strange (Mid-America Seminary) at my home. While relaxing in the evening, I noticed he was reading a black-covered book with red horns on the front.

"Interesting book for a minister to read..." I amusingly thought to myself.

But after Alan read a few lines from the book, I was hooked.

The Devil's Delusion is a tour de force skewering "atheism and its scientific pretensions" (as the subtitle states). Written by David Berklinski--a mathematician, philosopher and a self-described secular Jew--the book expresses a well-trained mind, ready for intellectual battle and some fun too.

"Fun?" you naturally ask. Yes, just read on:

Sly barbs:

"It is wrong, the nineteenth-century British mathematician W. K. Clifford affirmed, 'always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.' I am guessing that Clifford believed what he wrote, but what evidence he had for his belief, he did not say." (47)

Incisive & funny:

"[a theory trying to reconcile the wave-particle mystery of light] has not, however, explained the connection between the quantum realm and the classical realm. 'So long as the wave packet reduction is an essential component [of quantum mechanics],' the physicist John Bell observed, 'and so long as we do not know when and how it takes over from the Schrodinger equation, we do not have an exact and unambiguous formulation of our most fundamental physical theory.'

If this is so, why is our most fundamental physical theory fundamental?

I'm just asking." (94)

He's not all fun and games, however:

"Neither the Nazis nor the Communists, he [Dawkins] affirms, acted because of their atheism. They were simply keen to kill a great many people...

[In Eastern Europe during WWII] an elderly and bearded Hasidic Jew laboriously dug what he knew to be his grave.

Standing up straight, he addressed his executioner. "God is watching what you are doing," he said.

And then he was shot dead.

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 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." (26)


After reading the book, I thought, "let the unbelievers duke it out for a while."
The local atheist club is probably tired of me by now.
I'll just buy a few of these books for them.
And let them chew on it awhile.


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