The Devil’s Delusion

The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions

(Paperback edition, Basic Books, September 2009)

“Berlinski’s book is everything desirable: it is idiomatic, profound, brilliantly polemical, amusing, and of course vastly learned. I congratulate him.”

William F. Buckley Jr.

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.

Interview with Eric Metaxas

Reviews

Don’t Write Off Religion Just Yet (John Gray)

“David Berlinski plus any topic equals an extraordinary book.”

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

“Berlinski’s book is everything desirable: it is idiomatic, profound, brilliantly polemical, amusing, and of course vastly learned. I congratulate him.”

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY JR.

The Devil’s Delusion is an incendiary and uproarious work of learned polemical writing, unique in its scientific sophistication and authority. Rather than criticizing science from the outside, Berlinski excoriates its atheist pretensions from within. Refusing to defer to scientistic credentialism, he makes the compelling argument that the anti-God fetish of modern science has driven many scientists into a mad nihilism that has crippled their scientific work as well… The Devil’s Delusion is a promethean work that clears away this debris of modern science and culture. It liberates conservatism from its thralldom to a spurious scientism and establishes the foundations for a realignment with real scientists, among whom there are many potential friends… It is the definitive book of the new millennium.”

GEORGE GILDER, AUTHOR OF WEALTH AND POVERTYTELECOSM, AND OTHER BOOKS, WRITING IN NATIONAL REVIEW (SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED)

“A powerful riposte to atheist mockery and cocksure science, and to the sort of philosophy that surrenders to them. David Berlinski proceeds reasonably and calmly to challenge recent scientific theorizing and to expose the unreason from which it presumes to criticize religion.”

HARVEY MANSFIELD, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY

“With high style and light-hearted disdain, David Berlinski deflates the intellectual pretensions of the scientific atheist crowd. Maybe they can recite the Periodic Table by heart, but the secular Berlinski shows that this doesn’t get them very far in reasoning about much weightier matters.”

MICHAEL J. BEHE, PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, LEHIGH UNIVERSITY, BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF DARWIN’S BLACK BOX AND THE EDGE OF EVOLUTION

“Berlinski knows his science and wields his rapier deftly. He makes great sport with his opponents, and his readers will surely enjoy it.”

TOM BETHELL, BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE POLITICALLY INCORRECT GUIDE TO SCIENCE

Delusions of Grandeur: Review of The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions (Crisis, May 9, 2008)

What You Ought To Be Reading: The Devil’s Delusion (Chicago Tribune, April 14, 2008)