God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion is the latest book by Victor Stenger, a scientist and leading author of the new atheist movement, whose group whose members take any uncompromising position in denying the existence of any god or creator or intelligent design to the universe.
In this book, Stenger makes many good points about the conflict between science and religion, particularly the Christian religion. He speaks convincingly about the historic record, showing how time and again religious believers and the Church have held back the advance of science.
Stenger also makes a powerful argument against the influence of religion on science today, and indeed, on our everyday lives. He writes about the political influence of the religious right and the way that impacts everything from environmental issues to abortion rights and stem cell research. He discusses those parents who refuse to allow their children medical treatment and vaccinations for religious reasons. He points out how believers in a traditional God helped the tobacco industry fight against the health warnings about cigarette smoking. He writes of those who still fight against the teaching of evolution in school and deny global warming. On all these points, Stenger provides clear and easily understood evidence.
However, Stenger also attempts to use science, and especially physics, to argue that there is no God or creator, and no design to the universe other than that which has evolved from chance. He also argues against any force that is not observable and repeatable under controlled conditions. He denies life after death, any type of psychic ability, miracles, or ability of the mind to control or affect the world around us or events that take place in our lives. He argues against the existence of a soul or conscience.
These arguments are less convincing to me. Many things are not observable or repeatable in controlled circumstances, but they still happen to people all the time. It is not easy to prove a negative, and just because something has not yet been proved to exist does not mean it does not.
Stenger argues that faith in anything at all is folly, but he has an enormous amount of faith in science. He speaks of the many failures of religion, and yet does not address the failures of science, which are also multitudinous.
Overall, the book is certainly a worthwhile look at one side of an argument that will probably continue to be ongoing for years to come. It will make you think, and that is always a good thing. While, like me, you will probably agree about some things and disagree about others, if you have an open mind, you will find the book stimulating and informative.