Book Review: The Devil’s Delusion (Berlinski)

Title: The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions.

Author: Dr. David Berlinski

Publisher: Basic Books

Rating: ***

(Ratings for books, movies, and cds are out of four stars)

I had begun reading this book at a friend’s and wanted to buy it, only to find that it wasn’t on the shelves at any bookstore, that was about a year ago.  This is actually the second publication of the book, having apparently been taken off of the shelves, and then republished with a new cover and some minor editions.

David Berlinski is an author and commentator, he has taught at several universities in Europe and America, and has his PhD from Princeton University in Philosophy.  If the name sounds familiar, it is probably because you’ve watched the movie Expelled (he’s the guy lounging back in his chair; Ben Stein interviews him in Paris).

Berlinski is certainly a brilliant mind, well versed in his knowledge of both scientific theories and religious texts.  He is a self proclaimed secular Jew (xiii), and best defined as an agnostic, yet his sympathies lie with the religious community, especially in this book.

The Devil’s Delusion is primarily concerned with the promoters of atheism and the use of scientific theories as their proof for the nonexistence of God.  The primary examples of these atheists being Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Samuel Harris (aka the Four Horsemen), and the theories of evolution, Big Bang, multiverse, string theory, etc. as their scientific proofs.  Berlinski’s thesis is probably summed up with the statement, “I do not know whether any of this is true (that being religious beliefs).  I am certain that the scientific community does not know that it is false” (xvi).

The book delves into the proofs (or lack thereof), logical inconsistencies, and faith of these atheist-scientist’s positions.

Berlinski writes about the lack of reconciliation between the science and faith community that has been developed in the recent generations.  “Science is a fine thing.  Religion is a fine thing too.  They are two very fine things” (1).  What Berlinski observes is that anything being of ‘faith’ is often considered bad by atheists, anything of science is good.  Atheists have even begun to label religion the instigator of evil, and a poison to the advancement of civilization; this being the conclusions of both Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.  Both of these men have conveniently dismissed atheism as being a factor in anything “evil.”  In fact Sam Harris has gone so far as to attribute the acts of Hitler and Stalin to the sectarianism and elitism of the Jewish faith, not the atheistic/evolutionary motivations of the NAZI/Stalinist parties; religion was their motivation as well (30).  Berlinski also touches on the is/ought gap developed by David Hume, and atheism’s failure to develop a comprehensible moral system that is imperative to adhere to.  Which of course makes it impossible for atheists to argue good vs. evil consistently.

The Devil’s Delusion goes on to expose the fallacy of scientists (and atheists) to rely solely upon naturalism for all of its truth claims.  This includes the argument common today, that if all things must have a cause (stemming from the cosmological argument of God’s existence, which Berlinski expounds in chapters 4 and 5) then God must have a cause.  When an atheist limits all things to materialism, then God must follow those same laws.  Of course this argument holds no weight when we consider that God is determined to be a must.  If He is a must, then He must be infinite (no beginning).  The cosmological question asks the question, “why is there something rather than nothing?”  Which the atheist might ask, “why is there God rather than nothing?”  To which Berlinski answers, “If God must exist, the question why God does exist answers itself.  Must is must” (95).

After focusing most of his attention on physicists for the first 5 chapters, he then looks to biologists and their evolutionary theories for some of the remaining chapters.  I won’t go into too much detail, as most of what he says has been said elsewhere.  That said, it is an important thing to consider because of the propping up of evolution as the vehicle for anti-religious agendas.  The theory has also be purported to be as much a fact as gravity or any other scientific conclusion (i.e. Dawkins), to which Berlinski comments wittily, “Very few physicists have been heard observing that gravity is as well established as evolution.  They know better and they are not stupid” (191).

The Devil’s Delusion is concise; it is short (225 pages), and only ten chapters long.  If you want something to introduce you to some of the arguments going on between scientists, atheists, and theists then this book might not be a bad starting point.  Berlinski is a sharp polemicist and he does pack a powerful punch in such a short book.  There are, at times, subjects touched on that someone not specializing in the field of physics might not understand (nothing that you couldn’t go look up wikipedia).  Also it is not exhaustive on any specific issue.  I would not suggest it if you were looking for the source on disproving evolutionists.  Nor would I suggest it as an intro to Christian apologetics.

On that last statement, I must make my final note: Berlinski is not a Christian.  This isn’t to say that a non-Christian can’t write a helpful book, only that it is not the Gospel, and it does not contain the Gospel.  While it is helpful to debate at times, to reason from science perhaps, and to expose the fallacy of worldviews, it is not the means by which men are saved.  The Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).  And often, no matter how good your argument, no matter how reasonable you may be, the Gospel will be foolishness (1 Cor 1:23) and an aroma of death (2 Cor 2:16) to a depraved world.

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*Berlinski, David. The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions.  New York: Basic Book Publishing, 2009.

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~ by TSL on December 16, 2009.

 
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