The Devil's Delusion

The Devil's Delusion

Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions

eBook - 2008
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Random House, Inc.
Militant atheism is on the rise. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have dominated bestseller lists with books denigrating religious belief as dangerous foolishness. And these authors are merely the leading edge of a far larger movement–one that now includes much of the scientific community.

“The attack on traditional religious thought,” writes David Berlinski in The Devil’s Delusion, “marks the consolidation in our time of science as the single system of belief in which rational men and women might place their faith, and if not their faith, then certainly their devotion.”

A secular Jew, Berlinski nonetheless delivers a biting defense of religious thought. An acclaimed author who has spent his career writing about mathematics and the sciences, he turns the scientific community’s cherished skepticism back on itself, daring to ask and answer some rather embarrassing questions:

Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?
Not even close.

Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?
Not even close.

Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
Not even close.

Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?
Close enough.

Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?
Not close enough.

Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
Not even close to being close.

Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?
Close enough.

Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?
Not even ballpark.

Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?
Dead on.

Berlinski does not dismiss the achievements of western science. The great physical theories, he observes, are among the treasures of the human race. But they do nothing to answer the questions that religion asks, and they fail to offer a coherent description of the cosmos or the methods by which it might be investigated.

This brilliant, incisive, and funny book explores the limits of science and the pretensions of those who insist it can be–indeed must be–the ultimate touchstone for understanding our world and ourselves.

From the Hardcover edition.

Publisher: New York : Crown Forum, c2008
ISBN: 0307409872 (electronic bk. : Adobe Reader)
9780307409874 (electronic bk. : Adobe Reader)
Branch Call Number: eBOOK 215 BER
Characteristics: xv, 237 p. ; 22 cm


From the critics

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Oct 20, 2016

Dawkins and Berlinski:
“Richard Dawkins on David Berlinski – manicstreetpreacher presents the damning verdict on a pseudo-intellectual by a genuine one.”
“David Berlinski: très creepy”
by PZ Myers, posted March 7, 2006, at Pharyngula
the author numbered among ...
“Creationism scientists ranked by idiocy”
“What are David Berlinski's arguments against evolution and in favor of alternative hypotheses (e.g., intelligent design)?”
the author’s page at RationalWiki
“What on Earth is David Berlinski Talking About?”
posted September 5, 2005, at Evolutionblog
and, as suggested:
Pascal Robert Boyer books including:
“Religion Explained : The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought”
Basic Books 2001, pbk: ISBN-10: 0465006965, ISBN-13: 978-0465006960

Aug 18, 2014

Criticism: “David Berlinski makes an ass of himself defending intelligent design”
from the
Why Evolution is True website:

Aug 19, 2013

I was looking forward to having a sacred cow or two kicked. I seek out people who can show me a different way of seeing things, which is the only way of finding one's blind spots. I am disappointed. There is nothing original here, only a cynic who disbelieves everything who has found approval from people who particularly don't want to believe in science. Indiscriminate disbelief takes no more critical thinking than indiscriminate belief does. Reasoned skepticism recognizes that there are degrees of credibility. Reason is not defended from extremists (theist or atheist) by pretending that both sides are solely represented by the extremists. / If you are legitimately interested in seeing sacred cows (of all kinds) kicked, I recommend Pascal Boyer.

unbalancedbutfair Aug 16, 2013

This is a very important perspective. Rather than the militant atheist or militant theist, the agnostic finally gets a say. Perhaps only the agnostic can see the strengths and the weaknesses of both perspectives. After all, who dwells on the weakness of their worldview? If the book never quite realizes its potential, it still accomplishes much. If the book is overly dismissive of the scientific, it is in an attempt to balance the scales and always in the service of reason. If it strays into the snide, then it matches books written by the two sides about each other. He does a better job than most in making the esoteric (whether philosophical or scientific) understandable. One or two of your sacred cows will probably be kicked, but the man doing the kicking has a leg to stand on. And that's worth reading and considering.


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unbalancedbutfair Aug 20, 2013

Some form of this argument has appeared in every form of human culture. It is universal. For all men, this argument sometimes appears sound, and for some men, always. Is this a surprise? We are talking, after all, about the existence of God, and if the issue were easily decided, we would not be talking.


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