A secular Jew takes Richard Dawkins to school

Give credit to whom deserves credit. An atheist friend of mine recommended me a book. Do you have atheist friends? I do! It’s The Devil’s Delusion by David Berlinski. The subtitle should say all: “Atheism and its scientific pretensions.” Dr. Berlinski has the academic credentials and he also has no pretensions of being a believer. He calls himself a “secular Jew,” but proceeds to build a very convincing case against the idea that somehow “science” has debunked religion or that scientific discoveries have made it impossible to believe in the possibility of God.

This book is a must read whether you agree with the premises or not. Basically, he is reacting to popular writers, such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and others, who are among the most militant atheists and who have no use for God or religion. On the contrary, they see believers as a danger to the progress of society, a group that must be closely scrutinized, and if possible, silenced. And they believe science is on their side, and have made millions writing about it.

It is against the idea of science delivering the fatal blow to religion that this books comes out swinging. Already in the first chapter, Dr. Berlinski sharpens his intellectual saber. He says, “Confident assertions by scientists that in the privacy of their chambers they have demonstrated that God does not exist have nothing to do with science and even less to do with God’s existence.”

He highlights the two ideas that are at play here: “The first is that there is something answering to the name of science. The second is that something answering to the name of science offers sophisticated men and women a coherent vision of the universe. The second claim is false if the first claim is. And the first claim is false. Nothing answers to the name of science…” And he uses the next 225 pages to demonstrate how inconsistent and plagued by interpretation the “scientific” scheme is. And how this scheme cannot utter one iota of information that is for certain about the existence of God.

The book in meteoric is its assertions and thus has received criticism from the militant camp. It’s been called “incendiary” and “polemical writing,” but it is a fascinating and sometimes even funny book, if you like dry humor and quaint words. I am loving it so far. Just to give you one example of Dr. Berlinski’s indictment against the premises of the new high priests of scientific revelation, he quotes the geneticist Richard Lewontin: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs…in spite of its failures to fulfill any of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories.” And why do we do that, he asks. Well, Mr. Lewontin responds, “we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” And it only gets better from here.

And who would have thunk that we would have to turn to a secular Jew to offer us a spirited defense of the “religious thought and sentiment”? Nothing surprises me anymore!

Ivanildo C. Trindade