Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Devil's Delusion by David Berlinski

David Berlinski takes on atheism “and its scientific pretensions” in his book, The Devil’s Delusion. I loved it! The book is a wonder of poetry and prose. No summary by me could ever give it its full due. His logic is unassailable and simple, yet deep and revealing. His use of humor and sarcasm provide a light-hearted, indeed joyful, touch in a book full of somewhat unfamiliar scientific and philosophical concepts. 

Not that he is opposed to science. David Berlinski is an accomplished scientist in his own right. It’s simply that although science can tell us a great deal about the “hows” of the universe, it cannot tell us the “whys.” He states, “While science has nothing of value to say on the great an aching questions of life, death, love, and meaning, what the religious traditions of mankind have said forms a coherent body of thought.” Only religious explanations can satisfy these most deepest of questions. And only recently have militant atheists declared science capable of answering man’s deepest yearnings. 

This book is an answer to that assertion.

Unfortunately, what the atheists both hope for and fear, is that if God does not exist we have only to answer to science, then everything is permitted. But when everything is permitted, we see the horrors of the 20th Century. After all, neither Stalin or Mao or Hitler or any other secular monster was concerned at all that God was watching. “That is, after all, the meaning of secular society.” Without God, everything is permitted.

Of course militant atheists don’t want to go here. Berlinski says, “But if scientific atheists are disposed to challenge God’s existence -- the party line after all -- they are far less willing to reflect on what His dismissal entails.” No God, no moral absolutes, And a world of no moral absolutes is the world the atheists have given us. 

Unfortunately in denying any theological reasoning, science has pushed itself into a corner of internal contradictions. It cannot even say definitively what science is. It can only say what it is not. Theology and belief are said to be definitely not within the realm of science. Yet, scientist operate on faith all the time. They take the fact that the universe is rational and its laws can be discovered and are eternal on faith. Science excludes direct creation a priori, on faith alone. They try to prove or disprove the supernatural, using the laws of the natural. Science has become philosophical all the while disdaining philosophy as unscientific. By decrying religion as illegitimate, science has left us nowhere else to go with philosophical questions. But science is not supposed to be philosophy.

The most basic question tries to answer concerns the origins of the universe. This is where they most veer into philosophy.

Thomas Aquinas posited that the universe began and as such had a first cause and that it surmised must be God. Scientists have tried to refute this with an illogical infinite regression. Yet it soon became apparent that, as the theologians had argued for thousands of years, the universe did in fact have a beginning. It’s called the Big Bang. In a humbling moment, Nobel laureate Arno Penzais remarked, “The best data we have concerning the big bang are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”

But if the universe is not eternal and therefore did not have to exist, we must ask, then why does it exist? Both the how and the why point to God, but science tries desperately to avoid these obvious conclusions.

The deeper we dive, the harder time the scientists have. Discoveries in quantum mechanics have shaken what we thought we knew to the core. Fundamental physical theories must be questioned and if that is the case, what is actually fundamental? Science finds itself trying answer the impossible question of how did we get something from absolutely nothing? The answer to this question simply does not exist in the natural realm. So atheist scientists, desperate to prove a god was not necessary have resorted to equally unprovable and equally unscientific assertions. The Multiverse.

Scientific pretensions to an unbiased following of the facts have now descended into nothing more than faith-based metaphysics. 

Science is finding itself in the maddening position of having to argue that a universe that appears to be finely-tuned to permit the appearance of living beings is in fact a mirage. A designed-looking universe is not designed at all, but certainly mimics one perfectly. A simple bumpkin could be forgiven for assuming design because of the appearance of design, but our vaunted scientists are not country bumpkins. So they play at incomprehensible theories like multiverses and string theory, constantly searching for their own holy grail. They have faith that one day, a theory will emerge stating that nothing controls the universe rather than God.

And they mock us as believers in the unseen. How awkward for them.

Pretentious atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, reject the simple hypothesis of a creator God as improbable and therefore impossible. But they will accept “infinitely many universes crammed into creation, with laws of nature wriggling indiscreetly and fundamental physical parameters changing as one travels from one corner of the cosmos to the next, the whole entire gargantuan structure scientifically unobservable and devoid of any connections to experience.” So God is improbable and the multiverse is simple and elegant?

Moving from the origins of the universe to the origin of man, Berlinski identifies some fundamental flaws in the theory of evolution. No one knows how or why certain characteristics that make us quintessentially human arose. They cannot be latent in the gene pool. That suggests Someone put them there for future usage. In addition, latent genes give natural selection nothing to work with. Latent genes do not evolve. How could they?

In short, science cannot explain the mind. “If we are unable to explain how the human mind works neither in terms of a series of physical causes nor in terms of a series of infinitely receding mechanical devices, what then is left? There is the ordinary, very rich, infinitely moving account of mental life that without hesitation we apply to ourselves. It is an account frankly magical in its nature.”

Physicist Erich Harth remarked, “It is not just that we don’t know the mechanisms that give rise to [the mind]. We have difficulty in seeing how any mechanism can give rise to it.”

So scientists sputter and prognosticate about their vaunted ability to someday find all the answers to finally kill the “God of the Gaps.” But the more gaps they fill, the more holes they open. They are frustrated that simple, no-nothings appear to get to the answers before the geniuses. “Within the English-speaking world, Darwin’s theory of evolution remains the only scientific theory to be widely championed by the scientific community and widely disbelieved by everyone else.” How maddening.

Berlinski states categorically, “Suspicions about Darwin’s theory arise for two reasons. The first: the theory makes little sense. The second: it is supported by little evidence.” Yet it serves as their creation myth demanding an “especially ardent form of advocacy.”

To their horror, even scientists within the faith are starting to question. Eugene Koonin detailed the facts that don’t line up with Darwinianism. These include, “the origin of complex RNA molecules and protein folds; major groups of viruses; archaea and bacteria, and the principal lineages within each of these prokaryotic domains; eukaryotic supergroups; and animal phyla.” What’s left?

Scientists have climbed the mount of knowledge and discovered the theologians sitting at the top. 

I love this book!

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