The New York Times bestselling author explains why any attempt to make religion compatible with science is doomed to fail.
What we read in the news today is full of subjectivity, half-truths, and blatant falsehoods; and thus it is more necessary now than ever to safeguard the truth with facts. In his provocative new book, evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne aims to do exactly that in the arena of religion. In clear, dispassionate detail he explains why the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion—including faith, dogma, and revelation—leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions.
Coyne is responding to a national climate in which over half of Americans don’t believe in evolution (and congressmen deny global warming), and warns that religious prejudices and strictures in politics, education, medicine, and social policy are on the rise. Extending the bestselling works of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, he demolishes the claims of religion to provide verifiable “truth” by subjecting those claims to the same tests we use to establish truth in science.
Coyne irrefutably demonstrates the grave harm—to individuals and to our planet—in mistaking faith for fact in making the most important decisions about the world we live in.
Coyne (Why Evolution Is True), an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, defines his position perfectly clearly: "Religion is but a single brand of superstition..., but it is the most widespread and harmful form of superstition." From this starting point, he describes the nature of scientific investigation, focusing on its reliance on evidence and the tentativeness of its conclusions, and contrasts it with religion's reliance on faith. Religions, Coyne argues, "make explicit claims about reality," which "must, like all claims about reality, be defended with a combination of evidence and reason." He builds a strong case that no such evidence exists for the claims he describes, discussing ways in which religious doctrines have negatively affected public policy and scientific advances in areas such as vaccinations and stem cell research. Though interesting, Coyne's overarching conclusion that science and religion must be incompatible is not persuasively articulated on a number of grounds, and he suffers from the same kinds of poor sociological thinking as his "New Atheist" peers, mistaking problems of politics for those of religious belief. By equating virtually all religious believers with fundamentalists, Coyne draws far too narrow a picture of religion, demonstrating science's incompatibility with one part of the religious spectrum but not across all of it.
More rant than persuasive arguments
This book reads more like an extended rant against religion rather than an organized discussion of faith and fact. The author rages against religious based faith yet seems oblivious to his own faith statements littering the text. He also inadvertently makes a strong argument for the existence of God. While countering arguments for the inevitability of humanoid evolution he shows how humanoids would almost certainly not evolve if the Big Bang were to happen again, at least not without invoking God. Yet here we are. Does that not imply God?
This is my least favorite of all books written by new atheist.