About Me

My photo
This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Friday, April 08, 2011

A Shot of Faith

I received this book free from Book Sneeze pursuant to publishing a review.

The author has a PH.D in philosophy but also has an engineering background, so the purpose of this book is to argue that believing in God is rational from the point of view of a scientific mind. It tends to be problematic to try to defend faith in God this way, the arguments for God based on reason (e.g., there has to be a first cause -- as if it has to be a benevolent God) tend to fall apart upon scrutiny. But, the book wishes to provide a "simple yet solid case for Christian belief" and do so in a down to earth, even cheerful way.

The book starts by raising one segment of atheists -- aggressive atheists of the Sam Harris school. This is something of an easy target, since many who reject the existence of God are far from this type of person. Still, the book says this "new strain" of atheists are of particular importance and the book is in place to deal with such "militant" types. Or, "ardent" atheists. Why not simply make your case? We are told this upfront in one of the early bullet points, which provide both a summary and a quick reference guide for the battle. I find this a dubious and unnecessarily combative beginning.

The book starts off with talk of "evidentialism" or the view that beliefs to be rational should have evidence to prove them true. But, this can't be true, the author argues, since all beliefs have to have some foundation. Which have no supporting evidence. I don't accept the premise. No gotcha. Sorry. The foundation of any "belief" can have rational basis. God, e.g., was thought, is though, to be reasonable given it seems to be the only "reasonable" way to describe certain facts or visions or whatnot. There are other ways to describe them, but I put that aside. Finally, even not all beliefs could be defended rationally, this need not lead to "all" beliefs would be irrational. Again, no go.

Next, "faith" is listed as something "by way of testimony." Well, not really. Sometimes. Sometimes, we have faith in a friend because others back it up. Sometimes, it is merely faith based on what you yourself believe. Anyway, the faith has to be within reason. Faith in God for atheists is not, since it carries too much baggage. We are just barely into the argument and it is on its last legs. But, the author, impressed with his self-assumptions, by now argues the burden is on the other side. Again, no go. If we assume God exists, just as many other assumptions that later (at times fairly recently, such as certain sex roles no longer assumed by the majority as being true), it does make it easier. Sorry though, I don't see the book getting to "God as a default position."

The book is written in a down to earth fashion and has useful bullet point summaries but I fear it won't provide much "ammo" for those who reject its basic premises. Scientists believe in God. Believers aren't just uneducated types. That's a strawman though.   Two stars.