A number of authors have noted that if some physical parameters were slightly changed, the universe could no longer support life, as we know it. This implies that life depends sensitively on the physics of our universe. Does this "fine-tuning" of the universe suggest that a creator god intentionally calibrated the initial conditions of the universe such that life on earth and the evolution of humanity would eventually emerge? In his in-depth and highly accessible discussion of this fascinating and controversial topic, the author looks at the evidence and comes to the opposite conclusion. He finds that the observations of science and our naked senses not only show no evidence for God, they provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that God does not exist.
This history of atomism, from Democritus to the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, chronicles one of the most successful scientific hypotheses ever devised, making the case that in the final analysis, atoms and the void are all that exists. Originating separately in both ancient Greece and India, the concept of the atom persisted for centuries, despite often running afoul of conventional thinking. Until the twentieth century, no direct evidence for atoms existed. Today it is possible to actually observe atoms using a scanning tunneling microscope. The book begins with the story of the earliest atomists - the ancient Greek philosophers Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus, and the Latin poet Lucretius. As the author notes, the idea of elementary particles as the foundation of reality had many opponents throughout history - from Aristotle to Christian theologians and even some nineteenth-century chemists and philosophers. While theists today accept that the evidence for the atomic theory of matter is overwhelming, they reject the atheistic implications of that theory.
A thorough and hard-hitting critique that is a must read for anyone interested in the interaction between religion and science.It has become the prevalent view among sociologists, historians, and some theistic scientists that religion and science have never been in serious conflict. Some even claim that Christianity was responsible for the development of science. In a sweeping historical survey that begins with ancient Greek science and proceeds through the Renaissance and Enlightenment to contemporary advances in physics and cosmology, Stenger makes a convincing case that not only is this conclusion false, but Christianity actually held back the progress of science for one thousand years. It is significant, he notes, that the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century occurred only after the revolts against established ecclesiastic authorities in the Renaissance and Reformation opened up new avenues of thought. The author goes on to detail how religion and science are fundamentally incompatible in several areas: the origin of the universe and its physical parameters, the origin of complexity, holism versus reductionism, the nature of mind and consciousness, and the source of morality. In the end, Stenger is most troubled by the negative influence that organized religion often exerts on politics and society. He points out antiscientific attitudes embedded in popular religion that are being used to suppress scientific results on issues of global importance, such as overpopulation and environmental degradation. When religion fosters disrespect for science, it threatens the generations of humanity that will follow ours.
Cosmologists have reasons to believe that the vast universe in which we live is just one of an endless number of other universes within a multiverse--a mind-boggling array that may extend indefinitely in space and endlessly in both the past and the future. Victor Stenger reviews the key developments in the history of science that led to the current consensus view of astrophysicists, taking pains to explain essential concepts and discoveries in accessible terminology. The author shows that science's emerging understanding of the multiverse--consisting of trillions upon trillions of galaxies--is fully explicable in naturalistic terms with no need for supernatural forces to explain its origin or ongoing existence. How can conceptions of God, traditional or otherwise, be squared with this new worldview? The author shows how long-held beliefs will need to undergo major revision or otherwise face eventual extinction.From the Hardcover edition.
Throughout history, arguments for and against the existence of God have been largely confined to philosophy and theology, while science has sat on the sidelines. Despite the fact that science has revolutionized every aspect of human life and greatly clarified our understanding of the world, somehow the notion has arisen that it has nothing to say about the possibility of a supreme being, which much of humanity worships as the source of all reality. This physicist and author contends that, if God exists, some evidence for this existence should be detectable by scientific means, especially considering the central role that God is alleged to play in the operation of the universe and the lives of humans. Treating the traditional God concept, as conventionally presented in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, like any other scientific hypothesis, Stenger examines all of the claims made for God's existence. He considers the latest Intelligent Design arguments as evidence of God's influence in biology. He looks at human behavior for evidence of immaterial souls and the possible effects of prayer. He discusses the findings of physics and astronomy in weighing the suggestions that the universe is the work of a creator and that humans are God's special creation. After evaluating all the scientific evidence, Stenger concludes that beyond a reasonable doubt the universe and life appear exactly as we might expect if there were no God. This paperback edition of the New York Times bestselling hardcover edition contains a new foreword by Christopher Hitchens and a postscript by the author in which he responds to reviewers' criticisms of the original edition.
In recent years a number of bestselling books have forcefully argued that belief in God can no longer be defended on rational or empirical grounds, and that the scientific worldview has rendered obsolete the traditional beliefs held by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The authors of these books--Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor J. Stenger--have come to be known as the "New Atheists." Predictably, their works have been controversial and attracted a good deal of critical reaction. In this new book, Victor J. Stenger, whose God: The Failed Hypothesis was on the New York Times bestseller list in 2007, reviews and expands upon the principles of New Atheism and answers many of its critics. He demonstrates in detail that naturalism--the view that all of reality is reducible to matter and nothing else--is sufficient to explain everything we observe in the universe, from the most distant galaxies to the inner workings of the brain that result in the phenomenon of mind. Stenger disputes the claim of many critics that the question of whether God exists is beyond the ken of science. On the contrary, he argues that absence of evidence for God is, indeed, evidence of absence when the evidence should be there and is not. Turning from scientific to historical evidence, Stenger then points out the many examples of evil perpetrated in the name of religion. He also notes that the Bible, which is still taken to be divine revelation by millions, fails as a basis for morality and is unable to account for the problem of unnecessary suffering throughout the world. Finally, he discusses the teachings of ancient nontheist sages such as Buddha, Lao Tzu, and Confucius, whose guidelines for coping with the problems of life and death did not depend upon a supernatural metaphysics. Stenger argues that this "way of nature" is far superior to the traditional supernatural monotheisms, which history shows can lead to a host of evils. The New Atheism is a well-argued defense of the atheist position and a strong rebuttal of its critics.
Most Americans believe they possess an immaterial soul that will survive the death of the body. In sharp contrast, the current scientific consensus rejects the traditional soul, although this conclusion is rarely discussed publicly. In this book, a cognitive scientist breaks the taboo and explains why modern science leads to this controversial conclusion. In doing so, the book reveals the truly astonishing scope and power of scientific inquiry, drawing on ideas from biology, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and the physical sciences. Much more than chronicling the demise of the traditional soul, the book explores where soul beliefs come from, why they are so widespread culturally and historically, how cognitive science offers a naturalistic alternative to religious conceptions of mind, and how postulating the existence of a soul amounts to making a scientific claim.Although the new scientific view of personhood departs radically from traditional religious conceptions, the author shows that a coherent, meaningful, and sensitive appreciation of what it means to be human remains intact. He argues that we do not lose anything by letting go of our soul beliefs and that we even have something to gain. Throughout, the book takes a passionate stand for science and reason. It also offers a timely rejoinder to recent claims that science supports the existence of the soul and the afterlife.
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