Some reviews of FvF

So far Faith versus Fact hasn’t been widely reviewed, which I find a bit puzzling (and hope it will be remedied); but here are three reviews that appeared recently.

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education: The review, by the religious scholar Timothy Beal, is called “Fundamentally atheist,” so you know what it’s going to say. It is, of course, that I don’t understand the nuances of religion and conflate all faiths as some form of fundamentalism.

Unfortunately, Coyne’s impressive ability to explain evolutionary biology and other scientific research and theory contrasts dramatically with his unacceptably simplistic understandings of religion generally and theology specifically, especially as it relates to what really is at the heart of the religion-science debate, namely the Bible and biblical authority.

I love Beal’s ending, which accuses me of not only preaching to the choir (seriously? Aren’t there people on the fence out there; and aren’t religious books even more susceptible to such an accusation? And where, exactly, did the metaphor “preaching to the choir” come from?), but also of trying to ruin his academic field! My emphasis on the butthurt below:

That said, I suspect understanding is not the goal of Faith Versus Fact. Its aim appears to be more polarizing, and that makes good market sense. Righteous refutations from the religious right will create buzz, and the growing choir to whom Coyne is preaching will rush to buy the book. After all, it’s been a while since Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great (Twelve, 2007).

If Coyne’s book succeeds, and I believe it will, it will prove that not only academic biblical studies but also the academic study of religion generally can safely be ignored. Those of us in those fields are used to being dismissed as irrelevant by mainstream popular culture, as well as by fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. But by a highly acclaimed university scholar and public intellectual? That’s depressing.

Poor Dr. Beal: under assault by a scientist! But he’s wrong about my views. Of course I have no objection to the academic study of religion—as an human-produced phenomenon that’s been of immense importance in history. In fact, I just recommended Dan Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, a popular but academic study of religion, as a good introduction to understanding where religion comes from. (I also recommend Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained, though neither of these books really explains the origin of religion in an airtight way.) And I’ve read a fair amount of stuff about how the Bible was put together: historical reconstruction of the scriptures—a field that’s often fascinating. What I object to are academic studies of theology that are anything more than historical accounts of human thought, and to studies which have any aim of understanding the divine. As Dan Barker says, “Theology is a subject without an object.” Thomas Jefferson was right when, as chairman of the commission for laying out the University of Virginia, he wrote this:

“In conformity with the principles of our Constitution, which places all sects of religion on an equal footing… we have proposed no professor of divinity … Proceeding thus far without offence to the Constitution, we have thought it proper at this point to leave every sect to provide, as they think fittest, the means of further instruction in their own peculiar tenets.”

In other words, teach your doctrine in your churches, not in the public schools and universities.

2. The Humanist, review by M. Dolon Hickman. This is a positive review, for which I’m grateful:

I loved this book. I loved Coyne’s premise, I loved his conclusions, and I loved the way he presented his case. Though I have previously encountered certain items of Coyne’s evidence, he makes even the familiar seem new, by arranging facts in unexpected ways, by teasing out unseen trends in the data, and by placing known answers against new sets of questions. He demonstrates a rare talent for presenting complex thoughts in a style that is fresh, approachable and entertaining. And while the book walks readers through a very thorough and well-researched series of arguments, the tone is consistently friendly and non-combative. Finally, Faith vs. Fact is chockfull of memorable zingers that should help amateur debaters keep Coyne’s arguments against religious accommodationism on tap.

I would recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in science, atheism, or humanism. It is also certain to be of value to activists, social workers, health care workers, teachers, lawyers, and, indeed, anyone who regularly encounters the undue influence of quasi-scientific religious thought.

3. The Independent gave the book a positive review, which surprised me. Written by Brandon Robshaw (a writer and Ph.D. candidate at The Open University), it’s gratifyingly called “Faith vs. Fact by Jerry A. Coyne: A perfect candidate to replace the late Christopher Hitchens.” Several readers sent me the penultimate paragraphs:

No doubt this book will attract the spiteful ire that defenders of faith have already directed at atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. But the ad hominem nature of that ire suggests a certain insecurity.

Jerry Coyne is the perfect candidate to replace the late Christopher Hitchens as the fourth Horseman of the New Atheist Apocalypse.

This is all very flattering, but of course nobody, much less me, can replace Hitch (please don’t contradict this in the comments!), and I have no pretensions to do that. If anyone is a candidate for the Fourth Horseperson, it’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But the next-to-last paragraph is right on: negative reviews of books by the New Atheists often reflect not only insecurity, but jealousy.

By the way, if you’re reading the book and find errors or typos, please email them to me. I’ve already accumulated a dozen, which will be corrected in the next printing and in the paperback.


  1. jaxkayaker
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Sounds like Beal didn’t actually understand the book. He should be made to reread it by The Chronicle.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted May 24, 2015 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      I’m only about 1/3rd of the way through; it is slow going when reading it out loud to my wife who, to my surprise, asked me to read it that way. Nevertheless, I doubt that I’ll be surprised by what is coming.

      I suspect that Beal understood the book and feels he and his colleagues have beeen attacked. Depending on what sort of religious studies he does, he may well be right.

    • Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      I think he hastened past Jerry’s “hasten to add” passage in the Preface.


    • Sastra
      Posted May 24, 2015 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Oh, Beal understands well enough. Jerry and other New Atheists are going after the question of whether God exists and he

      1.) doesn’t want them doing that


      2.) they should do it some other way.

      Because then it would be more fair and effective. And we should totally trust a Christian’s word on this, because they want to help us.

  2. NewEnglandBob
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Hickman hit it right on the nose with his review. He articulated all that I thought about the book, but far better than I could.

    +42 😀

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 24, 2015 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      We could break the paradigm here – 5th horseman?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        Horsepeople. 🙂 Maybe just say centaurs.

        • Ann German
          Posted May 24, 2015 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          amen, sister

        • Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

          I’m sure Jerry would enjoy the company of equines…but, if I know him, he’s a cat person.

          That leaves us with four horsemen — Hitch, of course, representing Death — plus one cat person plus one Somali exile plus Da Pinkah plus….


  3. muffy
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget a very special review from the cat of one of your readers. Kitty sits *on* the book when this reader is trying to read…

    I LOL’d when I read that yesterday, because when I wake up, the first thing I do is reach for my mobile and read WEIT. Every morning. And every morning my cat rudely pushes it aside and sits on my chin.

  4. SF
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I bought Jerry’s book yesterday and went to a local coffee shop minding my own business reading the book, drinking very nice ginger tea, when over time no less than four different people were so disturbed by the title that they volunteered conversation and bad attempts to convert me to Jesus which I laughed and smiled off mostly with light banter. Most of them were polite, but one person asked me rudely, something to the effect of what it would take me to convert to Jesus, which I answered, that would take a brain tumor. Anyway the book is toxic, but seriously having gotten through the first two chapters, it is very nuanced and extremely well argued, bringing out a different line of argument that hasn’t been covered by other new atheist books. I can tell it is going to be a great book, even if in my case it is “preaching to the choir,” of course the minority atheist choir.

    • Posted May 24, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      You should have asked the proselytizers the converse question, “What would it take to make you give up your faith?”

      • geckzilla
        Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        Haha, catch a person reading a holy book in public and have the reverse of this happen to them? Random bystanders would probably hear it, be offended, and step up and defend the reader. Oh, the converse of so many faithy things is nonsensically offensive in our culture. One side is just spreading the good word and the other is attacking.

        • Posted May 24, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

          “One side is just spreading the good word and the other is attacking.”

          A frustrating double-standard.

    • Scote
      Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      I’d offer to form a book club where we read and discussed FvF chapter by chapter…

      So far, I’ve found proselytizers unwilling to do what they ask of others. “Read our book, they say.” And I offer an even exchange, to read as many words of their book as the will read (and proof they’ve read in discussion) of a book of my choosing, for instance, “The God Delusion.”

      I have to say, I’m sort of glad they bailed. I wasn’t really looking forward to reading, say, “Pilgrim’s Progress” or “The Book of Mormon” (the later which Mark Twain calls “chloroform in print”). Not really an even exchange with entertaining reads like TGD or FvF which are written as popular books using facts, wit and clarity.

      • Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        Oh Lord, DO NOT READ the Book of Mormon. I read a good deal of it, but by no means the whole thing (and I made it through the Bible and the Qur’an!). It’s soporific, deadly, dull, leaden, and a blatant ripoff of the Bible in both language and material. I wonder how many times it contains the words, “And so it came to pass. . .”

        Has ANY reader here gone through the whole Book of Mormon? Pilgrim’s Progress is infinitely better!

        • Dave
          Posted May 24, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I can claim this distinction! I was given a copy of the Book of Mormon by a couple of missionaries who accosted me in the street earlier this year. Out of curiosity I forced myself to read it all the way through, although I knew more or less what to expect.

          As you point out, it’s dull, repetitious, unimaginative and very hard going. The fraudulent nature of it is transparently clear from the fact that it’s written in exactly the same prose style throughout, despite supposedly being a compilation of writings by various Jewish prophets exiled in North America over a period of roughly 1100 years. This is in stark contrast to the Bible, also a multi-authored compilation, but one where the wide variations in style are very obvious even when flattened out by English translation.

          As a true masochist, I’ve also forced my way through the Koran, though it took me about a year to do it. I’ve been reading the Bible for about 2 years now, currently bogged down in the last quarter or so of the Old Testament. What’s next? “Dianetics” perhaps??

          • Sastra
            Posted May 24, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

            Try A Course in Miracles. See how far you can get.

            I almost got through what you can download for free on kindle — a surprisingly hefty chunk. Or maybe that’s just how it seemed.

          • Reginald Selkirk
            Posted May 25, 2015 at 9:37 am | Permalink

            the fact that it’s written in exactly the same prose style throughout, despite supposedly being a compilation of writings

            There is software available designed to tell if different books are by the same author. Has anyone ever applied this to the BoM and comparatively to the Bible? I suppose it would suffer some in that the Bible is usually read in translation (although the original Hebrew & Greek are available) while the BoM is available exclusively in translation (until someone finds those golden tablets again).

            • Posted May 25, 2015 at 11:58 am | Permalink

              Might say the KJV and the BOM are similar, IIRC.

              I asked a LDS classmate once why they used the KJV – being an American-focused religion and such. He shrugged and suggested it was because it was in the public domain!

        • abram
          Posted May 24, 2015 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          I was raised LDS and read all of the “triple combo” (B of M, D&C, P of GP) at least three times between the ages of 8 and 14, along with the Bible of course.

          • Posted May 24, 2015 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

            I was also raised LDS and I never read any of the standard works all the way through. I just couldn’t force myself to keep going.

        • Ken Phelps
          Posted May 24, 2015 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

          I first tried out the Book of Mormon in a motel room in Moab, Utah when biking there.
          I just randomly opened it and started reading. After a few paragraphs, I actually stopped and carefully checked out the book itself for signs that it was a parody planted by a mischievous biker. No such luck. The first thing that popped into my mind was the story of the King and the Duke in Huck Finn. The book, like the con men, is transparently a stilted and incompetent imitation of something that it is not.

          It always amuses me when Mormons point out that it was written by an uneducated man, as if this demonstrates its divine provenance. My response is pretty much along the lines of “No shit, that much is apparent.”

          • merilee
            Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

            You must have been really bored in Moab, Ken, or exhausted, to resort to reading The Book of Mormon;-)So many other great things to do in Moab (good noms, too(.

      • thh1859
        Posted May 25, 2015 at 6:27 am | Permalink

        See the musical. It lives up to its hype.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      The title must really chap their religious asses. It’s funny how the religious use the “other ways of knowing” argument to demonstrate (poorly) that revelation is really just another kind of fact. It is clear scientific facts have meaning to them, otherwise they wouldn’t try so hard to be considered on the same level.

  5. Posted May 24, 2015 at 9:18 am | Permalink


  6. Randy Schenck
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I really don’t pay any attention to reviews, particularly on a book such as this. Sure it’s going to be heated as any book that does not worship religion will be in this country. I also know the people who write the books must pay attention to the reviews, both good and bad. Writing a good non fiction has to be the most difficult to write especially when much of it is about fiction.

    The evolution book, I suspect was a bit easier because it was mainly science. This one is much more of a challenge because you have to get the fiction part (religious) right as well as the science.

    It’s a very good book and for anyone interested in the facts about this subject and also realize the importance of the issues, you have to read it.

  7. John Taylor
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Amazon says my order was undeliverable. Strange since they have my address correct and have shipped to me before. I had to go out to a book store to get my copy.

    I’m almost finished. It seems to me that the first reviewer didn’t read the book.

  8. Vaal
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Can’t read The Chronicle review, subscribers only.
    I’m just wondering if it’s only butt-hurt
    ad hom or if the author actually addresses
    any of Jerry’s arguments.

    • Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      If you want, email me and I’ll send you the text. You can judge for yourself if he has any substantive arguments.

    • Posted May 24, 2015 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      The comments for “Fundamentally Atheist” can be read here.

  9. Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Brandon is a commenter here. And, in fact, mentioned that this review would be appearing in a comment on a previous page.


    • Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Yes, I know that, and he let me know in advance that he was doing it, although of course he appropriately didn’t tell me what he thought of the book.

      • Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        I think we all “knew” that he wouldn’t be excoriating you! 😁


    • Diane G.
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 12:46 am | Permalink

      FWIW he also has an entertaining blog about the misuse of language.

      • Posted May 25, 2015 at 3:12 am | Permalink

        Indeed! Which I think Jerry linked to via Brandon’s name in the OP.


        • Diane G.
          Posted May 25, 2015 at 5:27 am | Permalink

          Well, there are probably a lot of readers–like me, ahem–who don’t click on all the links in a given post… 😀

          (I just happened to look at his blog when he posted his notification of the upcoming review, a few days ago…)

  10. Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    “But by a highly acclaimed university scholar and public intellectual? That’s depressing.”

    No, that’s refreshing.

  11. jstackpo
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Reference typos….

    In addition to correcting the next printing (are you making book on how many printings there will be before the “Second Edition”?) could you pose your errata sheet here for the use by us early adopters, please.

    • jstackpo
      Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Ah, “post”, not “pose”.

    • Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Yes, that’s a good idea. I’ll try to make it a “page” that I’ll put on the side along with Da Roolz.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Da Bomz?

  12. Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I won’t contradict what you wrote, but I will mention that I was immediately reminded of Old Payola Roll Blues by Stan Freberg:

    CA) Oo I’ve wanted to do that for as long as I’ve been in show biz.

    BS) Hey wait a second. How long have you been in show biz?

    CA) About a minute and a half.

    BS) Oh. Now let’s see if you can act humble in front of the press.

    CA) Okay. Oh I’ll never replace Elvis…

    BS) All right

    CA) He’s the king…

    BS) All right, All right all ready! Don’t overdo it.

  13. tgczarny
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I cannot help but think when hearing the title “religious scholar” claimed by an author that whatever is to follow is simply a frantic attempt to justify collecting a paycheck. The ship is sinking beneath them, but the band plays on.

  14. Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Beal, in admitting to fighting a desperate last stand, hoisted himself on his own petard. Though obviously not what one would describe as a “glowing” review or one that fairly characterizes the book…I’m hard pressed to think of a more effective one.

    He has, after all, just identified it as the work that killed religious studies, his own field, as an academic discipline!


    • thh1859
      Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Not a bad sentence for the fly leaf: “The book that’s killing religious studies.”

      • Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        Yes, but would have to wait for the second edition — or, at least the second print run.


  15. thh1859
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    “…Proceeding thus far without offence to the Constitution, we have thought it proper at this point to leave every sect to provide, as they think fittest, the means of further instruction in their own peculiar tenets.”

    Over the centuries the common meaning of “peculiar” has changed. But it’s current meaning is even more appropriate in this context.

    What happened to the country of Jefferson, Ingersoll, and Twain?

  16. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Beal’s review is another one that comes close to my prediction, even in tone and snootiness this time.

    • Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      LOL, Diana! Do you want a prize?

      • Posted May 24, 2015 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        I think she deserves one. She got the salvo about “your being qualified to pronounce on matters biological, BUT…” just about word for word.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 24, 2015 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

        LOL! Of course I want a prize!

        • Posted May 24, 2015 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

          I think we should start a petition requesting Jerry award a prize to Diana. Who’s with me?


          • Helen Hollis
            Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

            I’m in.

          • Reginald Selkirk
            Posted May 25, 2015 at 9:41 am | Permalink

            I demand a prize for seconding your motion.

  17. Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t see why Christopher Hitchens would need replacement. He doesn’t, even if he’s not alive anymore. But to say that you’re playing in the same league as he did seems entirely appropriate to me. And why should one be bound to that biblical number of four riders anyway?

    • Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Well, I greatly mourn the loss of Hitchens’s eloquence and rhetorical abilities, so yes, I wish someone would come along who could be as much of a tiger on the platform as he was!

      • Posted May 26, 2015 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, nobody could destroy, so stylishly, using a velvet gloved fist (or a mace, if need be) as Hitch did. We loved him well and miss him.

  18. Andrikzen
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Timothy Beal’s lament is the same as everyone faced with the prospects that their expertise, knowledge and skills are on the cusp of obsolesces; time to adapt or become irrelevant, as he fears. If he wants to continue his pursuit of the mysteries of existence he should switch to theoretical physics. But here’s the rub, god (religion) is easy, quantum physics (science) is hard work.

    • gluonspring
      Posted May 24, 2015 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      True, but in this case he’s got an easier out. I doubt if his position would be in any jeopardy if he embraced unbelief and merely analyzed the Bible and theology as history. He has already written a book about how the Bible is an accidental book and that it’s absurd to consider it as some kind of authoritative guidebook. To lots of fundamentalists, he’s already as good as an atheist. He could probably become an unbeliever tomorrow and no one at the university would notice.

      I pity more the common preacher or priest who, truly, has no fall back position except to go out and learn some actual skill.

    • Posted May 24, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Well, it looks like others have been putting Chopra in his place while Jerry’s been distracted by the Albatross.


      • Posted May 26, 2015 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        Excellent slapdown by Wonkette of DeepFried!

  19. gluonspring
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    xxx,”something”. This is a test… sorry for the interruption

    • gluonspring
      Posted May 24, 2015 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      I’m unable to read the CHE article, but the last quoted sentence made me curious about Beal’s views on the Bible. Fortunately, he’s written books on the topic, so it’s easy to find:

      “The icon of the Bible as God’s textbook for the world is as bankrupt as the idea that it stands for, as religious faith as absolute black-and-white certainly. Just as the cultural icon of the flag often becomes a substitute for patriotism, and just as the cultural icon of the four-wheel-drive truck often becomes a substitute for manly independence and self-confidence, so the cultural icon of the Bible often becomes a substitute for a vital life of faith, which calls not for obedient adherence to clear answers but thoughtful engagement with ultimate questions. The Bible itself invites that kind of engagement. The iconic image of it as a book with answers discourages it.”

      I applaud his journey from “Bible believing evangelical” to someone who doesn’t take the bible as a serious authority. He’s 1/2 the way home… just keep going Beal, you’ll get there!

      It is always surprising to me, though, for people to jettison the source for what they believe yet retain their belief. Where do they think their beliefs come from, then? “Engagement with questions?” What does that mean? Are all engagements equal? If so, why call yourself a Christian? If they are not, what privileges one person’s engagement over the other?

      It always comes across to me as the ploy of someone whose faith was being undermined by an encounter with real knowledge but, at the last moment, they lost their nerve and stopped following the logic where it was surely leading them. Instead, they turn and apply all of their intellect to constructing a feather-bed on which to catch themselves.

  20. Darwinian Demon
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Hey Jerry, I guess may be more UK based reviews of FvF after the book is officially released here- 25th June according to…

  21. Brendan Eales
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    where, exactly, did the metaphor “preaching to the choir” come from?

    Exactly I don’t know but the choir is a physical section of a cathedral situated between the altar and the congregation where classically other clergy sit as well as the singers. It was also where the lectern or pulpit was placed.

    So I guess when the sermon is meant to bolster a position or support the orthodoxy represented by the clergy in the choir rather than teach or persuade the congregation the priest is preaching to the choir.

    I think he was being rude to you Jerry.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 25, 2015 at 12:53 am | Permalink

      Brendan, I’m pretty sure Jerry’s question was rhetorical, designed to highlight the irony. 🙂

  22. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    I loved this book. I loved Coyne’s premise, I loved his conclusions, and I loved the way he presented his case.

    “Choir”, “rearrange”, “to”, “preaching.”

    Posted May 24, 2015 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    “academic biblical studies but also the academic study of religion generally can safely be ignored.” How dare we ignore those whose studies are limited to a fixed,unchanging data set in deference to a discipline whose ever expanding quest for new data to generate a better explanation of how the world works and a better understanding of our universe as opposed to those who study an ancient text and the accompanying superstitions

    • Helen Hollis
      Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      The entire point to study something is to learn something afterwards.
      What knowledge have the bible believers given us?

  24. Diane G.
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    I always love reviews and two out of three of these were great. As for the first, one can’t complain about the author’s prediction for the book’s success and capitulation to what that means for his field!

  25. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Beal: “especially as it relates to what really is at the heart of the religion-science debate, namely the Bible and biblical authority.

    Christocentric much?

  26. sensorrhea
    Posted May 26, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Does the weakness and lack of anything new of the arguments in the negative review represent a stalemate or total victory?

    Theism is the art of being intellectually bankrupt but without taking delivery of the notes from the creditors.

  27. Posted May 26, 2015 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Nigh praise indeed from the Independent! Enjoy it!

    • Posted May 26, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      High praise, of course. Fumble fingers Monday. (I know, it’s Tuesday!)

  28. Vaal
    Posted May 26, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Having now read Beal’s Chronicle review, I found that it started out somewhat fair sounding and interesting, but ultimately ended up in the usual empty insinuations-without-argument.

    Though I’m just about to begin Faith vs Fact, it’s clear there’s always the inherent problem of dealing with religion: it’s a beast with a million heads. No matter how many versions you address, someone can always say “but you still haven’t addressed THESE versions!” Narrowing the field enough to make the discussion manageable, while keeping the target wide enough to be addressing the majority of how most religious people believe as (I believe) Jerry does, is entirely reasonable.

    Beal naturally brings up various examples of more esoteric theology that he claims Jerry’s arguments simply ignore. But, and this is so typical of New Atheist critics, he only raises them in a name-dropping fashion; he doesn’t actually take any of them and point out how they would be COMPATIBLE with science, and hence would act as counter-examples to Jerry’s thesis.

    Beal mentions Process Theology, for instance, which still takes God to be a personal being, with a will, is not simply the universe but interacts with it, etc. Mainstream process theology accepts the reality of the Christ story – putting it’s own spin: that Jesus was truly special in being representative of “perfectly synchronized with God” and thus was “the divine Word in human form.” (And that’s just a partial list from the claims under the name of process theology).

    In other words, Process Theology makes plenty of claims that would transgress outright on the method and epistemological virtues one would accept for science.
    As Jerry would ask, that’s one giant How Do You Know That set of claims.

    Beal also mentions negative or apophatic theology, which again, fall right into the problems Jerry has argued about for years: to the extent someone claims KNOWLEDGE that the apophatic God exists, he is going to violate the virtues of the scientific/skeptical approach. To the degree the proponents disavows belief and only proffers the possibility of an apophatic God, then this falls into the “gratuitous premise” category and is sliced away by scientific virtues like Occam’s Razor (Parsimony).

    So, as usual, we get a sort of supercilious name-dropping in lieu of actual arguments that Jerry’s case doesn’t hold up.

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