As mentioned last week, I am following a book club type format for this book over on another blog. I was going to just participate over there but I have a lot more to say than I want to shove into their comments, so I figured I'd do a normal long form post over here and then just talk about 1 or 2 main points over there. I'm sticking to my normal format of bold for section heading, regular text for summary, and italics for my commentary.
Dawkins and the other new atheists claim that religion and science are at odds, but that is not the case. There is no inherent conflict between science and religion. Also, the scientific revolution came out of Europe at a time when the church was in charge.
The fact that the scientific revolution came out of church controlled areas only really says that the church was in charge for a long time. And the way the church treated Galileo for example shows that the church wasn't a fan. As to whether science and religion are inherently at odds? I'm not sure about that either way, but the quote given in the book was Dawkins talking about fundamentalist churches, and they are actually at odds with science, obvious examples are evolution and stem cell research.
Most scientific pioneers were theists who were motivated to do their science by God. Many examples are given.
This kind of thing simply doesn't interest me much. One problem is that both sides try to claim the scientists for their own. The only example I am very familiar with at all is Einstein because of his famous "God doesn't play dice" quote. He said himself that the quote was misused and yet it still gets misused. Also, atheists make the point that in a christian dominated society some atheists might just say they are Christians to be left alone. Ultimately it seems that it is impossible to know and it doesn't matter much anyway.
Hitchens says that the religiosity of those people doesn't mean much because it is the only viable option at the time. But if that is the case, how can we blame the bad on religion? You can't have it both ways, either religion gets credit for both or neither.
This is actually a damn good point. If some Christians are motivated to by their religion to do great science and others are motivated to kill people it is unfair to say the first group religion doesn't matter but the second group it does.
Dawkins claims that although many early scientists were Christians, its is much less common now than it used to be. The author says that there are still many Christian scientists and names 3 who recently wrote books.
The claim of Dawkins is not that there are no such scientists, but that they are much more rare. My understanding is this is true, a talk I recently saw by Neil deGrasse Tyson where he said Christians in the high levels of science (which he stated more clearly than this) is around 7%.
What About Galileo?
Basically the claim is that what the church did to Galileo is overstated and the common account is an exaggeration.
I don't know history well enough to say all that much about this, but the take in this book seems quite skewed. The one thing I will mention is everyone else I have read mentions house arrest while this book says he was sent home with a pension for the rest of his life. It just doesn't seem honest. Also, I'd like to point out that even the catholic church apologized for what happened, so clearly something negative happened there.
Naturalism Versus Theism
Naturalism says that there is no such thing as a miracle, there are only things we understand and things we don't. It is not science that is at odds with theism, it is naturalism. Albert Einstein once remarked that the most incomprehensible things about the universe is that it is comprehensible. Why should we be able to grasp the beauty, elegance and complexity of the universe? For science to work we have to assume that the natural world is orderly and rational.
This is true, but I'm not sure what else we can do. As Lawrence Krauss said, the universe might have come into existence 5 seconds ago and we just think it has always been here. There is no way to disprove this assertion and no point in trying.
Dawkins point out that our senses have been built for survival and therefore cannot necessarily be trusted. But Dawkins doesn't push it far enough, if we can't trust our senses we can't trust anything. How can we believe anything science tells us.
Well this is just silly, the point is to be weary of trusting your senses because they can be fooled, not that they can tell us nothing.
How can you trust that your reason is sound, you can use reason to show this. A quote from CS Lewis "If the value of reasoning is in doubt, you cannot try to establish it by reasoning"
A very interesting little paradox.
Therefore there is nothing in atheism to say the world is rational unless they abandon naturalism and return to theism, theism is the only thing that provides such a basis.
This is completely asinine. Theism doesn't provide any more answers than naturalism does. Just saying God did it answers nothing. In fact, the potential for miracles undermines science if anything because how can you tell if any experiment is normal or a miracle happening? The only real difference here is atheist being more comfortable with the answer of "I don't know"