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God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist

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God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, by Victor J Stenger

God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, by Victor J Stenger

Does God exist or not? That tends to be the central disagreement between atheists and theists, though the actual arguments themselves have typically been focused on logic, philosophy, and theology. Many atheists, and even more theists, seem to believe that science itself can offer little or nothing substantive on the matter because science is only about the natural, material world while the existence of God is a supernatural, metaphysical question. Yet it's unlikely that this is a valid position.

Summary

Title: God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist
Author: Victor J Stenger
Publisher: Prometheus Books
ISBN: 1591024811

Pro:
• Difficult, complicated science is presented in a manner that is understandable for most audiences
• Provides extensive aid to skeptics and nonbelievers trying to address common theistic arguments

Con:
• Although the science is made as understandable as possible, it may still be a bit much for some
• Probably won't be read by as many people as should read it

Description:
• Analysis of the scientific evidence relating to common attributes ascribed to God
• Argues that the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly contrary to the idea that God exists
• Explains how and why life, our planet, and our universe are all natural products of natural forces

Book Review

Given how much science has had to say about nearly everything else in our lives and how successful science has been in transforming nearly every aspect of them, it is at the very least initially implausible that science can and should be excluded from debates about the existence of gods. Then there is the fact that theists themselves frequently trot out arguments that rely upon scientific data — or at least misrepresentations of scientific data — in order to bolster their positions. Finally, we must face the fact that any alleged god that matters will have some sort of impact on our lives, our planet, and our universe.

Only a completely irrelevant god could leave no trace or imprint whatsoever, so if there is a god and it does matter, then it should be detectable even by a science that is completely limited to observations about the natural, material world. Indeed, most believers — and especially adherents of the three prominent monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — posit precisely such a god that is active, detectable, and relevant to our material universe.

Given all this, it's not feasible to pretend that science can have nothing to say; according to Victor J. Stenger, science does in fact have a great deal to say — and none of it will be comforting to the average believer. According to Stenger, science may not know everything, but it knows enough and has advanced far enough to provide substantial empirical evidence against the existence of the god which most people tend to believe in.

Stenger's book God: The Failed Hypothesis lays out a model of a god based upon common attributes which people typically ascribe to their god. Those attributes are: God created the universe; God designed the laws and structure of the universe; God makes changes in the universe whenever necessary; God created and designed life; God has a special plan or purpose for humanity; God gave humans immaterial, immortal souls; God created morality; God revealed truths such as these to humanity; God does not hide from humanity.

Each attribute corresponds to some feature of the natural world which should be both true and discoverable, if some being with that attribute exists. Using such a model of God, then, scientists should be able to look at the universe to determine whether it is consistent with any of those attributes. If so, then we have evidence that some being with the attribute likely exists; if not, then we have evidence that no being with that attribute exists — and if no being with one of those attributes exists, it will be difficult for traditional religions to explain how any being with the rest can still be believed in.

It is Stenger's conclusion, after examining the scientific data relating to every attribute, that the empirical scientific evidence is overwhelmingly against the existence of any being possessing any of them. In short, none of the standard attributes accepted by most believers as being true about their god can be salvaged in light of known facts about the universe. This, in turn, prevents any rational, reasonable, or justified belief in such a god from being salvaged. Life was not designed, it evolved naturally. The universe was not created, it arose naturally. Morality was not divinely created, it evolved naturally. The universe was not fine-tuned, it's just what we would expect to find.

God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, by Victor J Stenger

God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, by Victor J Stenger

This book is aimed at general audiences, not specialists in any scientific or philosophical fields. Sometimes, this means recounting historical developments — like the progress of creationism in America — which will be all too familiar to most of the atheists reading this. For such atheists, this will cause some portions of the book to become uninteresting, but it makes sense to have the material because hopefully some readers will be doubters and believers who aren't already familiar with it all.

This isn't a book of philosophy, sociology, or theology: it's a scientific book, and given the very fuzzy theological concepts Stenger is trying to address, it's probably about as rigorously scientific as such a book can be. At the same time, though, scientific concepts and methods are explained in a manner that should be accessible to most audiences with at least a little familiarity with science — and all in under 300 pages. You can expect theists to offer broad redefinitions to their god-concept in response to scientific arguments like those here. In such a situation, we should ask: what does this new god have to do with the one most people have traditionally believed in, and does this new god really matter anymore?

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