Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review of 'The Reason for God' - Part 3

Chapter 6: “Science has disproved Christianity”

Most of this chapter is non-contentious and doesn’t really need much said about it. It’s basically just a discussion of the conflict model of science vs. Religion, which I agree is not an accurate description of reality. This is not because I think religion and science coalesce, but because like many popular level criticisms of religion, it is too simplistic, and too black and white. The reality of the situation is much more complicated than some atheist writers would lead you to believe.

Despite the fact that the chapter doesn’t say anything starkly wrong in my opinion, I think Keller still fails to address the best skeptical arguments against religion from the scientific perspective so I walk away unsatisfied once again.

Chapter 7: “You Can’t Take The Bible Literally”

My mouth was hanging open for approximately two thirds of this chapter out of sheer surprise of what he was saying (in a bad way). I don’t really feel like trying to refute any of his points here, as this is supposed to be a book review not a refutation. Keller refers to the Da Vinci Code many times as examples of “biblical skepticism” and “historical revisionism”. I understand he is trying to write for the popular level, but seriously, no one interested in this subject takes the Da Vinci Code seriously anyway, stop wasting my time Keller!

I was especially gobsmacked at Keller’s attempt to gloss over cultural anachronisms in the Bible and moral horrors (such as slavery) by trying to say that they aren’t the key message, so you should first accept Christianity as true, and then try and figure those out later. It’s a package deal, If I disagree with biblical teachings, I’m not going to follow the Bible. Honestly, I almost feel like saying that even if Jesus were God, I wouldn’t be a Christian because of the content of the Bible.

He attempts the argument that Biblical slavery wasn’t as bad as the slavery of the middle ages. He tries to say that slaves weren’t actually owned by slave-masters back then, only their labour was, but ignores the passage in Exodus where it explicitly states that the slave is the property of his master. I find this is typical of Christian apologetics, it’s disingenuous. At least he makes some reference to views that skeptics actually hold, but his refutations of them are extremely vapid and effectively amount to “the evidence for this older, skeptical view of the Bible has been crumbling steadily for the past thirty years, even as it has been promoted by the popular media...” Weak man, weak.

Chapter 8: “The Clues of God”

This chapter was bad. His first argument relies on outdated science, he quotes Stephen Hawking from the 90’s saying that “almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang.” This is problematic because the most up-to-date understanding of the Big Bang Theory is that it only shows us an inflationary event from a dense state, it does not reveal a singularity or a creation moment. Keller’s use of this argument shows that he has either not kept up to date, or is intentionally staying out-of-date because he can use it to support his case.

His second argument is the fine-tuning argument. This is dealt (in my opinion) a death-blow in Victor Stenger’s latest book ‘The Fallacy of Fine Tuning’. The fine tuning argument is built on many false premises two of which I’ll list here.
1) That the ‘constants’ are variable
2) That the constants are independent

Once those assumptions are removed, fine tuning falls flat.

His next argument is that because nature is regular, god must exist, because we can’t create a rational explanation for why nature should be regular. This weak argument encounters a fatal flaw when one points out that one cannot make a rational argument for why nature shouldn’t be regular either.
Then he goes to beauty, and says that’s a clue for god. I’m not convinced, beauty is subjective, it doesn’t actually exist and is entirely explicable under naturalism.
He finishes the chapter with what is essentially Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism, which is built upon an argument of C.S. Lewis’ from Miracles. The argument basically says that if our brains are the result of natural evolution, we cannot trust them. I find that every person I’ve seen making this argument doesn’t really understand evolution or the scientific method.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4
Part 5


  1. I commend you for trudging through what sounds to be an extremely boring and fallacy-ridden book for the benefit of the rest of us earthlings. Do you plan to do an in-depth refutation of it or are you just sticking to giving a broad overview?

  2. Thanks, I do my best haha.

    To be honest it will vary from chapter to chapter, as I wrote each chapter's summary after reading each individual chapter.

  3. The quote from Hawking is from his 1998 book, “A Brief History in Time.” You are right that he did not believe in a singularity or creation moment, preferring to think of it as an inflationary event.
    Additionally, Keller is once again disingenuous, because the very next sentence in that book after the quote given is: ‘It is perhaps ironic that, having changed my mind, I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe – as we shall see later, it can disappear once quantum effects are taken into account.’ (p. 50)
    Tsk, tsk. Using old science, AND taking it out of context. Nice work, Keller.

  4. I wouldn't say the book is boring. It's actually a really interesting book. And this is not justification for his mistake, but many atheists and people of other religions take parts of Christianity out of context also, so it isn't something just subject to Christian abuse. Just pointing out the obvious, I hope.

  5. <-- Jesus-freak

    Seriously enjoying your blog. Thanks so much for a) reading the arguments b) being civil in your critique. Super rare and awesome.

    Can you elaborate a little more on your Chapter 6 review comment "...Keller still fails to address the best skeptical arguments against religion from the scientific perspective so I walk away unsatisfied once again."

    I'm drawing a blank. If you don't want to fill up your comments section you can always email me:

    No idea if you still check this blog, looks like the last post was in 2015, but hoping for the best.

    Thanks UA!

    1. It was so long ago that I actually read this book that I do not remember which arguments he actually addressed in that section. When I get home from work tonight I can attempt to put together a list of what I think are some of the more compelling arguments for atheistic belief from a scientific angle though. Thanks for reading!