Book Review: Why science does not disprove God

Why science does not disprove God
Amir Aczel

Right or wrong, this is one of the best books that I have read in a while. Not that the book is perfect, but it is quite entertaining and thought-provoking. Its main message is that science cannot be used to disprove the existence of God, simply because it cannot. Not surprisingly, the main antagonist is Richard Dawkins, arguably the face of the New Atheism movement. Incidentally and for the record, I admire Dawkins’ writings (only the science ones), but I digress.

In “Why science does not disprove God” Aczel takes the reader in a more or less chronological brief history of science, with an odd detour about “Why archeology does not disprove the bible”. This chapter, in my opinion, is the weakest part of the book because ir does not contribute anything to the main topic. Also, the chapter on art and the “invisible boundary” did not quite “click”. Its message is not quite as strong as the rest of the book.

These minor sins are more than atoned for in the other chapters. My favorites were the one on quantum mechanics, the one about mathematics and probabilities and (surprisingly refreshing for me) the one about how we cannot possibly really understand the “infinite” concept. I had no idea how much I did not know about infinity. I particularly liked the chapter on how absurd is the claim that our universe came out from literally **nothing**. When I heard the “universe from nothing” argument for the first time it sounded really illogical to me, but I thought that maybe I did not know enough physics or mathematics, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt. Well, Aczel certainly knows his physics and mathematics and finds the universe from nothing equally flawed. Full disclosure: I have said elsewhere that I am a pharmacologist/neurobiologist with a tad of physics envy… So there.

The chapter on evolution seemed a little bit dismissive to me and it was unfair of Aczel to compare the relative mathematical sophistication of physics vs biology, particularly evolution. We (speaking as a biological scientist) will get there! It is just that we need to come up with better (rather, different) mathematics to understand biology in a true quantitative way. Let’s not forget that life is without question, the most complex aspect of nature. We truly know more of what fundamentally goes on at the center of stars than what goes on fundamentally at the center of cells.

The final chapter cogently and convincingly summarizes the point of the book. I think that even if one does not agree completely with what Aczel says in it, this chapter is a delight to read. I think that regardless of your personal leanings in these topics, you will enjoy the book.

Two of my favorite quotes:

“But the New Atheists, who claim to speak for science, are more like religious evangelists bent on converting us to their narrow point of view that God does not exist.”

“But God—a power well outside our ability to comprehend, transcending the creation of the universe we see around us—may well exist, and science has not, and will not, disprove it.”

Hopeful, isn’t it?

(:-)

Note: For my honest feeling on theism or lack thereof, go here.

Also, why don’t you check out my other posts? You may find something you like…

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Picture credit: William Morrow Publishers

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11 Comments

  1. I am a Christian and a Biologist at the same time and they (along with my family and friendships I have with people) are the most important parts of my life. I am very interested in reading the book in the near future. A few thoughts from the theist in the group, first, God doesn’t need little me to defend Him. Also, God doesn’t need me to ignore evidence such as the overwhelming evidence for evolution in order to keep me strong in my theistic orientation. If I believed God needed those things, he would be a much smaller God than I would be able to take seriously.

    I agree that theology was invented by people to understand God (which is an oxymoron) just as science was invented by people to understand the universe. -logy is the study of and the faulty human attempts to understand either does not detract from the awesomeness of both..

  2. Guess I should have said….I agree completely with Martin J. Clemens! I’m sick of the War on Science and sick of the theists attacking science in this manner. Religion is superstition, myth and useless beliefs which (at least in the U.S.) are hindering science and holding back society.

    1. Although I respect your opinion, I am not prepared to agree with you about religion in general being “useless beliefs”… On the other hand, do the misapplication and misrepresentation of theism hinders scientific progress and hold back society, absolutely! Thanks for your comment!

  3. When I try to think of God and thoughts of possible dis-proof–I think of how humanity might re-start civilization on an another planet. Everything will be completely foreign—if God is a true a figment of our imagination then the concept would not survive the transplantation. I believe it would be a truly spiritual matter for our concepts of ‘God’ to survive transplantation to another planet. The physical evidence that many Christians cite would be an afterthought.

    Firstly, gravity changes how the human body responds to stimuli (at least that is my impression)–

    Secondly, our biochemistry may respond radically to a new environment and I believe it to be too unpredictable to anticipate how our personalities may change in the face of evolution.

  4. Such attempts to label people and limit the scope of new avenues of thought don’t seem worthy of praise, to me.

    Sure, science cannot prove God doesn’t exist, a negative cannot be proven. Though I’ve not seen even one person pretending to use science to disprove God, quite the opposite, I’ve seen many people trying to use science to prove that God DOES exist. Though none, to my knowledge, have had any measure of success.. If a finding, whether scientific or not, disagrees with theology, then who is Mr. Aczel to cast doubt on that finding based on his aversion to its greater meaning?

    If God, and his theology, are true, there is nothing science can do to harm him. If he is not, then we’d all be better off knowing the truth.

    I respect and admire your personal stance on the issue, in seeing that, to those who believe, religion has a value that cannot be measured (not to speak of the harms that it clearly offers as well), but that science too, has enormous value for nearly everyone, and the two are not incompatible. I don’t think there’s any reason to position these two institutions as opposites, but it’s important to recognise that they aren’t synonymous or necessarily complementary.

    Of course, I don’t mean to offend, you know that this is a subject I feel passionately about.

    1. No offense taken my friend… And you are right about the futility of trying to use science to prove or disprove the idea of God. Also, I think that God and theology are two very different things. Theology was invented by people. It may have little to do with a truly incomprehensible God. My two cents…

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