Victor Stenger’s: In God: The Failed Hypothesis

book-binding-mustreadI am reviewing a book that has caused a fair bit of controversy, and an exceptional amount of discussion between atheists, philosophers, and theologians. In God: The Failed Hypothesis, Victor Stenger argues that there is no evidence to support the existence of a deity, and that the existence of such a being, while not impossible, is highly improbable. There are many individual arguments in this book that can be defended or attacked, such as the scientific plausibility of miracles (as well as the definition of a miracle) and, more notably for this review, an argument against cosmological complexity: the idea that the sheer complexity of the known universe is evidence of a grand designer, or God. As each point Stenger raises is worthy and capable of creating discussions spanning hundreds of volumes, I am going to focus on the latter point for the sake of this review, particularly since I noticed a serious flaw with the book at this point. Now, for the most part, Stenger is very well-reasoned in his arguments: after all, he does hold a Ph.D. in physics and is currently Emeritus Professor of physics at the University of Hawaii. Stenger’s premises range from the extremely abstract to the incredibly intricate, drawing upon his knowledge of physics in order to support his beliefs. That being said, the reader of this need not have a degree in physics to actually follow what is being said, nor is such a degree necessary to offer counters to Stenger’s argument. For example, (we finally get to that lapse in logic I pointed out earlier) Stenger claims that the universe is not miraculous in that it is complex, but that it would be far more miraculous if it were NOT. Using a snowflake as an example, Stenger shows us how in many particles, in situations where there is substantially lower energy, revert to a more complex state, rather than a simpler one (a water molecule freezes to become an intricate crystalline formation). Stenger goes on to suggest that since nothingness is the simplest state, it must be the most unstable, and therefore it should be unsurprising that the universe would go from nothingness to complexity without instigation. Although scientifically sound, Stenger has made a drastic assumption: he has given nothingness the quality of instability. The only way nothingness can be ANYTHING is if by “nothingness” we mean the simplest state of particles…at which we still have SOMETHING. Throughout the book, Stenger makes similar assumptions (though it can be argued, accurately, that this is more often than not the case in such situations). Regardless, I have to recommend this book to anybody who enjoys peering into the deeper mysteries of the universe. Also, do not be turned off to this book by the author’s atheism or the title: the only person who can shatter your faith is you. Personally, I always encourage those around me to challenge themselves with such material, as it allows our beliefs to grow into something truly complex and entirely our own. If any of this intrigues you, pick up a copy of Victor Stenger’s God: The Failed Hypothesis. I hope that the book provides you all with thoughtful and meaningful reflection.

Source: Jake Depew, Assitant Editor