Book Alert: Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible

There are plenty of what can perhaps be best described as “me-to” books that simply replay the same arguments, and that applies to both the religious and non-religious sides of the full conversation. Now please don’t misunderstand me here, there are many great books out there, and even if they do not develop the conversation a bit further, that need not in any way imply that the book is bad. However, occasionally something pops up that does indeed take the conversation to the next level.

Side Note: I’ve not yet read the book (but I will), and so the basis for this book alert is a review by Steven Pinker … yes, “the” Steven Pinker.

Who exactly is Steven Pinker?

Steven Pinker is the well-known and highly-respected experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist, popular science author, and Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. He has also been named as one of the world’s most influential intellectuals by various magazines, and has won awards from the American Psychological Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Institution, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, and the American Humanist Association.

In summary, if he is giving a book a thumbs up, then it may indeed be worth checking out.

What is the book?

The book is Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible, by Jerry Coyne, a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology and Evolution. You can find it on …

The description reads as follows …

In his provocative new book, evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne lays out in clear, dispassionate detail 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.

Stephen Pinker’s Review

You can find the review within the peer-reviewed journal Current Biology, under the title of “The untenability of faitheism”, and so here are a few snippets to tempt you into reading more …

Between 2005 and 2007, a quartet of bestsellers by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens launched the New Atheism. Emboldened by the growing success of science in explaining the world (including our own minds), inspired by new research on the sources of religious belief, and galvanized by the baleful influence of religion in world affairs (particularly 9/11 and its aftermath), these Four Horsemen of the New Atheism — as they came to be called — pressed the case that God does not exist and that many aspects of organized religion are pernicious.

…The backlash against the New Atheists has given rise to a new consensus among faith-friendly intellectuals, and their counterattack is remarkably consistent across critics with little else in common. The new atheists are too shrill and militant…

…According to this new consensus, science, too, relies on faith, namely its commitment to the empirical method and its assumption that the universe is lawful…

… His latest book, Faith Versus Fact, is intended not to pile on the arguments for atheism but to advance the debate into its next round….

… Coyne rejects the common argument that science itself is based on faith in the validity of reason and the lawfulness of nature. He reiterates the point made by many philosophers that we don’t, in fact, ‘believe’ in reason; we use reason — as does, necessarily, anyone who raises the question of the validity of reason in the first place…

… the existence of the God of scripture is a testable empirical hypothesis …

… Ancillary beliefs, such as the existence of an immaterial soul or a realm of fate beyond matter and energy, are just as falsifiable…

… Faith Versus Fact is clear and gripping, and should be read by anyone interested in the tension between science and religion. By meeting the claims of the faitheists and accommodationists head-on, Coyne shows that in this debate the two sides aren’t preaching to their choirs or talking past each other, and that the truth does not always fall halfway between two extremes.

If that motivates you to read more of the review, then you will find it here, or better yet, simply click on over to Amazon and see what other reviewers are saying.

(Disclaimer: Yes this is a book plug, and no I have no financial interest here, nor am I being paid to advertise (I don’t do ads … ever), I simply think this might indeed be a very good book).

Finally, just for your entertainment …

My favourite one star comment from Amazon is this one

A man who doesn’t believe in God should be a red flag right there. One can be fooled easily reading this book. Do the research, and you will find faults with this book. In fact a lot of scientist would disagree with this book.Like I always say if we came from Apes why are there still Apes on Earth.

About here would by the right place to proceed to face-palm.

2 thoughts on “Book Alert: Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible”

  1. Chris Petersen – A twentysomething man who enjoys talking about/learning about deep concepts and how they apply to our thinking and understanding of the universe. I am Deist. I believe the God theory makes the most sense of our universe when it comes to meaning and the question of "why" (or even why the question "why" exists) More specifically, I am a Christian because I believe it's the only faith that answers the human condition effectively and the person of Jesus continues to prove to be a good greater than my preconceived good every time. Feel free to ask/rant/debate on any post. I'm usually pretty good at getting to them, but if the volume of activity on the site increases (or I just grow weary of debate for a few days) I may not respond. Don't take it personally, I just need to manage my time and energy.

    I’ve always thought that the only time faith and science were incongruent is where faith contradicts science blatantly. After all, the best that can be argued is that Naturalism is all that can be “known” and the metaphysical may still be possible. If science says “Rocks sink in water” and a faith says “rocks never sink in water”, we have a problem. Most cases however, “miracle” (as an event and not a continual state) is a theory that can’t be proven/disproven.

    Faith and Science are however incongruent when the Diest stops looking for answers and assumes God did it. God theory is never disprovable through scientific discovery (yet the certainty of God is), but we have an obligation to look for natural answers first. Yet even if everything had a natural answer, God theory still doesn’t go away. Even if knowledge of this universe was complete, the metaphysical may still be possible.

  2. This is not the kind of book you read during a subway trip, while everyone around you sees the cover and think:”oh, there is someone I want to punch in the face… to show that my god is all about love.”

    No, you read this in the privacy of your bedroom.


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