August 8, 2008

God: The Failed Hypothesis

God: The Failed Hypothesis book coverI read quite a bit on the subjects of atheism, Christian extremism, and politics. I suppose I should write more book reviews here. The problem is that writing an effective book review is quite a bit of work and reminds me too much of the sort of writing I do at my job. You'll have to make do with brief recommendations and mini-reviews. One such recommendation is Victor J. Stenger's God: The Failed Hypothesis.

In introducing his book Stenger writes,
In the present book, I will go much further and argue that by this moment in time science has advanced sufficiently to be able to make a definitive statement on the existence or nonexistence of a God having the attributes that are traditionally associated with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God.
This is an apt description of what to expect. But it is also rather easy to present the core of Stenger's case in the briefest possible terms as follows:
  1. Hypothesize a God who plays an important role in the universe.
  2. Assume that God has specific attributes that should provide objective evidence for his existence.
  3. Look for such evidence with an open mind.
  4. If such evidence is found, conclude that God may exist.
  5. If such objective evidence is not found, conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a God with these properties does not exist.
Essentially, this is the process around which Stenger organizes his book. Again and again, we see none of the evidence that should be present if there was a god with the properties agreed upon by most Christians. But this really isn't the most damning part of Stenger's analysis. Consistent with Dawkins and many other prominent authors, he finds that the evidence leads to the conclusion that no such god exists. Simply put, "Indeed, Earth and life look just as they can be expected to look if there is no designer God."

I enjoyed the book. Stenger's Ph.D. is in physics, so it was to be expected that he went more into that field than many others. But I appreciated this perspective and found it a fitting complement to those from biology, anthropology, psychology, and other fields.