The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions
A book for nonbelievers who embrace the reality-driven life.
We can't avoid the persistent questions about the meaning of life-and the nature of reality. Philosopher Alex Rosenberg maintains that science is the only thing that can really answer them—all of them. His bracing and ultimately upbeat book takes physics seriously as the complete description of reality and accepts all its consequences. He shows how physics makes Darwinian natural selection the only way life can emerge, and how that deprives nature of purpose, and human action of meaning, while it exposes conscious illusions such as free will and the self. The science that makes us nonbelievers provides the insight into the real difference between right and wrong, the nature of the mind, even the direction of human history. The Atheist's Guide to Reality draws powerful implications for the ethical and political issues that roil contemporary life. The result is nice nihilism, a surprisingly sanguine perspective atheists can happily embrace.
A wide-ranging if somewhat dry demonstration of how science can explain the workings of the universe. Rosenberg, a professor of philosophy at Duke University, distinguishes his project from that of the so-called New Atheists such as Richard Dawkins by not seeking to prove the nonexistence of God. Instead, he is concerned with providing a materialist description of reality: he outlines a Darwinian picture of human existence whose developmental trajectory is determined by the laws of physics, in particular the second law of thermodynamics. Along the way he attempts to construct a vision of morality with the snappy title of "Nice Nihilism," one based not on God but on natural selection, as well as debunking a number of ideas he takes to be illusions, such as free will or the notion that humans have a consciousness that actually thinks about things. In all this Rosenberg is competent and occasionally compelling throughout, but it is hard to shake the feeling that his descriptions of human behavior and thought are reductive and simplistic. Still, as an attempt to offer a comprehensive, secular vision of how reality functions in the absence of God, it is fascinating and thought-provoking.
A reality disappointment
This “philospher" ’s meanderings almost make an atheist want to become a theist. He needs to get a better grip on the word ‘design’ that ALWAYS involves pre-thought and planning. Nature has NO designs, only evolutionarily resultant structures that enable some functionality within their current environments. Most atheists have a pretty good grip on reality and many would consider this a “guide” to a state of further confusion rather than toward clarification and edification.