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We are living today in a genuinely frightening scenario: religion and science are engaged in a kind of war: a war for understanding, a war about whether we should have good reasons for what we accept as true. The sheer fact that over half of Americans don't believe in evolution (to say nothing of the number of Congressmen who don't believe in climate change) and the resurg We are living today in a genuinely frightening scenario: religion and science are engaged in a kind of war: a war for understanding, a war about whether we should have good reasons for what we accept as true. The sheer fact that over half of Americans don't believe in evolution (to say nothing of the number of Congressmen who don't believe in climate change) and the resurgence of religious prejudices and strictures as factors in politics, education, medicine, and social policy make the need for this book urgent. Religion and science compete in many ways to describe reality - they both make "existence claims" about what is real - but they use different tools to meet this goal. In his elegant, provocative, and direct argument, leading evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Jerry Coyne lays out in clear, patient, dispassionate details why the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion - including faith, dogma and revelation - is unreliable and leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions. Indeed, by relying on faith, religion renders itself incapable of finding truth.


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We are living today in a genuinely frightening scenario: religion and science are engaged in a kind of war: a war for understanding, a war about whether we should have good reasons for what we accept as true. The sheer fact that over half of Americans don't believe in evolution (to say nothing of the number of Congressmen who don't believe in climate change) and the resurg We are living today in a genuinely frightening scenario: religion and science are engaged in a kind of war: a war for understanding, a war about whether we should have good reasons for what we accept as true. The sheer fact that over half of Americans don't believe in evolution (to say nothing of the number of Congressmen who don't believe in climate change) and the resurgence of religious prejudices and strictures as factors in politics, education, medicine, and social policy make the need for this book urgent. Religion and science compete in many ways to describe reality - they both make "existence claims" about what is real - but they use different tools to meet this goal. In his elegant, provocative, and direct argument, leading evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Jerry Coyne lays out in clear, patient, dispassionate details why the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion - including faith, dogma and revelation - is unreliable and leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions. Indeed, by relying on faith, religion renders itself incapable of finding truth.

30 review for Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tom LA

    What can possibly go wrong when people who haven’t touched a philosophy or theology book for most of their lives get on the pulpit to talk about... philosophy and theology? Well, that’s exactly what Coyne did here, galvanized by Richard Dawkins and some others who built a second career out of downloading their misunderstanding of philosophy and religion into the minds of the uneducated masses. In a way that reminded me of the appalling documentary “Religulous”, Coyne’s definition of “Religion” a What can possibly go wrong when people who haven’t touched a philosophy or theology book for most of their lives get on the pulpit to talk about... philosophy and theology? Well, that’s exactly what Coyne did here, galvanized by Richard Dawkins and some others who built a second career out of downloading their misunderstanding of philosophy and religion into the minds of the uneducated masses. In a way that reminded me of the appalling documentary “Religulous”, Coyne’s definition of “Religion” and “Faith” seems to apply only to the aberrations. The embittered author cherry-picks easy, soft targets (like the example of the parents of a seriously ill girl who refuse any medical treatment and all they do for her is pray) and, unsurprisingly, avoids engaging in any serious analysis of intellectually powerful positions like the ones of Ratzinger, Bonhoeffer, not to mention St. Thomas or St. Augustine. I agree with philosophy professor Edward Feser’s brilliant review of this book, especially when it comes to Coyne’s lack of depth and inconsistent use of terms like “religion” and “faith”. Here are some quotes from Feser’s review: “Faith versus Fact is some kind of achievement. Biologist Jerry Coyne has managed to write what might be the worst book yet published in the New Atheist genre. True, the competition for that particular distinction is fierce. But among other volumes in this metastasizing literature, each has at least some small redeeming feature. For example, though Lawrence Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing is bad as philosophy, it is middling as pop science. Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great was at least written by someone who could write like Christopher Hitchens. Though devoid of interest, Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation is brief. Even PZ Myers’s book The Happy Atheist has at least one advantage over Coyne’s book: It came out first. The book flies off the rails before it reaches page one. In an unintentionally comic passage in his preface, Coyne explains what he has in mind by “religion.” First, he tells us that his main target isn’t religions that emphasize practice, such as “the more meditation-oriented versions of Buddhism.” Rather, it is religions that emphasize controversial truth claims about the world—in particular, “theistic faiths,” those that affirm the existence of a God or gods. But even more specifically, he says, he will “concentrate on the Abrahamic faiths: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.” Two sentences later we learn that in fact it is “mostly the various brands of Christianity that occupy this book.” But far from all the brands, since in the very next sentence he adds that, actually, he “will talk mostly about science and religion in the United States.” By the following page he qualifies this even further, indicating that the views of “regular believers” interest him more than do the fancy arguments of theologians. Next it is conceded that it is “only a few specific areas of science,” such as Darwinism, that are rejected by religious believers. Yet, as Coyne admits, even “evolution . . . is accepted by many Jews, Buddhists, Christians, and liberal Muslims.” In short, when all the qualifications are in, it seems that Coyne’s paradigm of “religion” is Bible Belt creationism. Apparently, he was absent the day his college statistics class covered the notion of a representative sample. But to be fair to Coyne: he doesn’t always use the term “religion” in this idiosyncratic way. And that’s the problem. He has no consistent account at all of what religion is. On one page, he will tell you that Jainism is not really the sort of thing he means by “religion.” Forty pages later, he’ll offer Jainism as an example of the sort of thing he means by “religion.” If the views of some theologian are clearly compatible with science, Coyne will assure us that what theologians have to say is irrelevant to determining what is typical of religion. But if a theologian says something that Coyne thinks is stupid, then what theologians have to say suddenly becomes highly relevant to determining what is typical of religion. When churchmen refuse to abandon some doctrine, Coyne tells us that this shows that religion is dogmatic and unwilling to adjust itself to modern knowledge. When churchmen do abandon some doctrine, Coyne tells us that this shows that religion is unfalsifiable and desperate to adjust itself to modern knowledge. It seems Coyne also missed that lecture in logic class about the fallacy of special pleading. Coyne speaks repeatedly of “religion’s methods,” as if there were some common technique applied by scholastic logicians, Buddhist monks, and Appalachian snake handlers. The theology of Thomas Aquinas, Hindu nationalism, the cargo cults of Melanesia, Scientology—all of these and more are casually lumped together as examples of religion, as if the differences weren’t at least as significant as whatever similarities Coyne thinks he sees. This is like pulling random lines from a physics textbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and an episode of Star Trek and then putting them forward as equally typical illustrations of “science” and of “science’s methods.” Coyne’s own method, then, is to characterize religion however he needs to in order to convict it of irrationality. Nor is “religion” the only term Coyne uses in a tendentious way. The question-begging definition is perhaps his favorite debating trick. He characterizes “faith” as “belief without—or in the face of—evidence” and repeatedly uses the term as if this is what it generally means in religious contexts. Naturally, he has no trouble showing that faith so understood is irrational. But this simply is not how faith is understood historically in Christian theology. For example, for scholastic theologians, faith is assent to something that has been revealed by God. And how do we know that God exists and really has revealed it? Those are claims for which, the theologian agrees, evidence needs to be given. Of course, Coyne will disagree about whether the evidence really shows what theologians say it does. The point, though, is that whether we should have evidence for what we believe is not what is in dispute. Coyne acknowledges that “theologians intensely dislike” the definition of faith he proposes. So, he not only attacks a straw man but implicitly admits that that is what he is doing. Indeed, you will find in Coyne’s book more straw men than you would at a casting call for The Wizard of Oz. Coyne mocks John Paul II’s claim that “truth cannot contradict truth,” insinuating that the pope sought merely to conform science to religious doctrine. In fact, the pope was no less concerned to emphasize that theology has to take seriously the findings of science. [...] So Coyne really does embrace scientism, right? Not necessarily, since a couple of pages later he acknowledges that philosophy constitutes a “kind of knowledge,” and indicates that it is distinct from science but can be “useful to scientists.” Furthermore, he dismisses the accusation of scientism as a mere “canard” ritualistically flung at New Atheists. And so his settled position—at long last, the reader thinks—would seem to be that scientism is false and that there is knowledge to be had outside the boundaries of science. But not so fast, because a couple of pages after that he says that if scientism is the view that science is “the only reliable ‘way of knowing,’” then “most of my colleagues and I are indeed guilty of scientism” and “scientism is a virtue”—never mind that he has just dismissed the accusation of scientism as a “canard.” Reading Coyne trying to do something as simple as defining his terms is like watching him play tennis with himself. And losing.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Mitton

    It's already happening. Coyne's Faith vs Fact is being panned as biased, curmudgeonly, and ignorant. It is none of these. Neither is it an atheist book. It is a book about knowing - epistemology - and how we can confidently and reliably know what is real. Coyne argues that reason and the scientific method are the only methods we have to investigate, understand, and describe the world around us. These tools are based on observation, repeatability, and refinement. Faith offers something different. It's already happening. Coyne's Faith vs Fact is being panned as biased, curmudgeonly, and ignorant. It is none of these. Neither is it an atheist book. It is a book about knowing - epistemology - and how we can confidently and reliably know what is real. Coyne argues that reason and the scientific method are the only methods we have to investigate, understand, and describe the world around us. These tools are based on observation, repeatability, and refinement. Faith offers something different. Faith-based reality is built on ancient texts, clerical and personal ideas, and feelings. Coyne points out the importance of how the two worldviews tackle errors. In science, we re-evaluate. We check against new knowledge. We ask for expert insight. We change our minds. Piltdown Man might be the greatest hoax ever foisted on science but we admit to being fooled. The textbooks have been changed. Not so with faith. Faith begins with answers and looks for evidence. When the evidence doesn't fit it is changed. Maybe a 'day' means a billion years? Maybe radioactive decay constants aren't constants after all? Coyne writes at length about what he calls accomodationism or an agreeable nod between the two worlds. This is the philosophical home for most people. Terminal cancer kills unless god intervenes. A few fish would never feed a crowd unless Jesus blesses them. Coyne argues that faith has nothing to offer fact. Must it be all or nothing? Coyne says yes. Are there 'better' or more informed religions? Coyne says no - they are all dueling fantasies. Certainly there are learned and urbane theists but their contribution to science is the same as the blood-letting shaman. Coyne doesn't dismiss faith out of hand. He invites theists of all ilk to present their case. He only asks that we slice and dice their claims in the same way that we look at any other assertion. So far their are few serious takers. Doesn't religion make the world better? More loving? Certainly not for young girls in Afghanistan. But that's not real religion? You've just tripped over your own snare. How can one decide between competing inventions? The most interesting chapters confront those of us who shrug their shoulders and wonder So What? I was shocked to learn that only a handful of American states have made it illegal for parents to withhold life-saving medicine from their children based on faith. In all but two states it is legal to withhold vaccinations because of religion. And how much money and public angst has been spent defending against the views of one small but vocal Christian sect who tries to insert its medieval views into the science classroom? I wonder if Coyne is writing for the proverbial choir. Studies and polls show time and again that feeling will triumph over fact almost every time. But for anyone interested this is a well written, well argued, and well presented case for the primacy of reason. Five stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane Graft

    I was fortunate enough to win an advance copy of Jerry Coyne's upcoming book, "Faith vs. Fact, Why Science and Religion are Incompatible", from Goodreads. Jerry Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, the author of the book "Why Evolution is True", and blogs copiously at his wordpress blog, likewise named "Why Evolution is True". Spoiler - Fact wins! (Although, if you are familiar with Coyne's writing at all, that's not really a spoiler. Regul I was fortunate enough to win an advance copy of Jerry Coyne's upcoming book, "Faith vs. Fact, Why Science and Religion are Incompatible", from Goodreads. Jerry Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, the author of the book "Why Evolution is True", and blogs copiously at his wordpress blog, likewise named "Why Evolution is True". Spoiler - Fact wins! (Although, if you are familiar with Coyne's writing at all, that's not really a spoiler. Regular readers of Coyne's blog will find no surprises here.) This book is a clear and carefully constructed outline of the conflicts between science and religion, written from the point of view of a strong advocate for science. The book is divided into several major chapters, with many subchapters in each: "The Problem", "What's Incompatible?", "Why Accommodationism Fails", "Faith Strikes Back", and "Why Does it Matter?" Something that pleased me very much was the content of the chapter "What's Incompatible?" Before he launches into his analysis, he dissects the definitions of "Science", "Religion",and "Incompatibility" in quite some detail, and also discusses the various different areas where science and religion regularly come into conflict. He's made sure to be very clear about what he is talking about, before we get into actual arguments. I very much appreciate this approach. A topic he covers at some length is "accommodationism." For those unfamiliar with this term, it's the idea that science and religion don't actually need to conflict. This view is held by many liberal believers, including religious scientists. It is also held by some members of the secular community, who hold that even though religion is not actually true, it nevertheless is good for society. Coyne holds no truck with this notion, and spends quite a bit of the book arguing against the accommodationist position. A major point Coyne makes in the accommodationism section of this book is the failure of NOMA to resolve the science vs. religion issue in any meaningful way. For those new to this area of discussion, "NOMA" stands for "Non-Overlapping Magisteria," and is an idea originally put forth by biologist and essayist Stephen Jay Gould back in 1999. Gould's idea was that science would apply only to questions of empirical truth, and religion would apply only to questions of morals, meaning and values. As long as those two areas did not overlap, science and religion could exist side-by-side in harmony. Coyne makes the point that this "non-overlapping" ideal does not accurately represent either science or religion. Religion constantly makes empirical fact claims about the world, and science certainly can be applied to study morality, so the overlap is unavoidable. The "Faith Strikes Back" section largely looks at believers' attempts to deflect the conflict, either by apologetics that claim that science actually points to (their) religion, or by attempts to discredit science. Coyne looks at (and rebuts) such apologetics as the argument from fine tuning, or the science does bad things trope. He spends some time addressing the derogatory term "scientism" where theists accuse science supporters of operating on faith just as much as theists do. To level the playing field he coins a neologism, religionism. He defines religionism as "The tendency of religion to overstep its boundaries by making unwarranted statements about the universe or by demanding unearned authority". His concluding section "Why Does it Matter?", looks at the harmful effects of faith mostly in examples relating to healthcare, and he does not confine this to only religious faith, but also looks at faith in medical quackery as another aspect of the same problem. As he draws to a conclusion, he speaks out strongly against faith, in a style reminiscent of recent books by Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens. As I read through this book, the one question I kept asking myself was "who is the intended audience for this book?" Was it aimed at atheist accommodationists, liberal believers, religious scientists? I wasn't entirely sure. So I emailed Jerry to ask this question, and he sent me an answer that he had provided to just that same question from his publisher: (Publisher) "Who is the target audience for your book: those who stand with you on the side of science, those who wholeheartedly believe the word of their God, or those in the middle who think that science and religion are compatible?" (Jerry Coyne) "The target audience for the book is diverse. First, it includes the many “accommodationists” who feel that science and religion are compatible. A lot of these are religious believers, including those who are science-friendly but claim not only that science and religion are compatible, but that they actually help each other to find truth. Other accommodationists in the target audience argue that science and religion are compatible because they’re separate and non-overlapping areas of inquiry, with science giving us the facts and religion giving us our values, morals, and meanings. Even some religious fundamentalists see science and religion as compatible because both are products of a mind given us by God. Combine these people with the many nonbelievers who either haven’t thought much about the issue, or have a kneejerk view that there’s no conflict between science and faith, and you’ll get a sizeable portion of Americans. The other people I wrote for constitute the “choir”: those who find science and religion incompatible but are looking for a full discussion of the issue. In short, the target audience comprises those who have an interest in science and also some knowledge of religion. That’s most of us!" So how well does this book succeed? Writing for the "choir" I think this book does admirably well. For those secularists who are confronted with a barrage of religionists arguing either that there's no conflict, or that science is evil, or that science proves religion, this book can be a helpful resource. Clear arguments and careful definitions make this a book to refer back to. For the rest of his intended audience, I'm not as sure. A strongly-worded book such as this may simply wind up invoking the backfire effect in many cases. When people are confronted with material that directly contradicts their deepest convictions, their reaction is not usually to rethink their position, their normal reaction is to double down and become even more convinced of their own rightness. So if someone who is completely convinced that religion and science can harmoniously co-exist read this book, I doubt it would change their minds, no matter how well-argued the book is. However, for someone who is on the fence about science vs religion, this book might be what pushes them over onto the "faith is not a good thing" side. For someone who has recently deconverted, this book may prove useful as they sort out which of their former attitudes about the world they should keep and which to discard. So overall I give this book a good recommendation for secular and science-oriented readers, as well as those who have not yet made up their minds on this issue.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Todd Martin

    There was a time when religious explanations of the world abounded: illness, weather, births, death, earthquakes, celestial events and more were attributed to a god or gods (the vestiges of some of these superstitions are still with us, such as when we say “bless you” in response to a sneeze to ward off evil spirits). Over time science has provided much better explanations of these natural phenomena and today religion’s explanatory power is increasingly relegated to ‘god of the gaps’ issues (at There was a time when religious explanations of the world abounded: illness, weather, births, death, earthquakes, celestial events and more were attributed to a god or gods (the vestiges of some of these superstitions are still with us, such as when we say “bless you” in response to a sneeze to ward off evil spirits). Over time science has provided much better explanations of these natural phenomena and today religion’s explanatory power is increasingly relegated to ‘god of the gaps’ issues (at least until science comes up with an answer to those mysteries as well). But so what? People are free to engage in superstitious beliefs if they so choose. The problem is that these beliefs have important ramifications in the real world, from denial of evolution, to the role of women in society, to access to contraception and reproductive services, to the health of us all through religious exemptions to vaccination. It would be one thing if religion could actually inform the debate of these issues … but it can’t. Religion does not pose hypothesis, produce data or seek evidence for its conclusions. It relies on faith, which by definition consists of ‘belief without evidence’. Quite simply … religion is incapable of producing knowledge (which, of course, is why different religions disagree with one another). But what about science, isn’t it just another form of belief? Of course not, people trust in the scientific method because it works (the fact that you are reading this text on an electronic device should be all the proof required in this regard). We trust that the sun will rise tomorrow because it did so yesterday and all the days before and the scientific method has similarly earned our trust. And while science can produce erroneous conclusions at times, it is inherently self-correcting and will discard those errors as evidence dictates. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson has said “The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” Which brings us to the book at hand. Dr. Jerry Coyne, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago teaches evolution and has therefore experienced the incompatibility of science and religion first hand. Through his writing, website and debates he’s honed his arguments to a razors edge and brings his points to bear in his latest book Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. In it he demonstrates that science and religion are indeed incompatible, that the failure to accept scientific evidence is harmful to society, that science (construed broadly) is the only true path to knowledge, and that belief without evidence adds nothing of value to the discussion. He also addresses the arguments of those who would disagree with his conclusions in a fair manner (without resorting to strawmen or mischaracterization) and adroitly dispatches each of these points in turn. I also appreciate the fact that Professor Coyne characterizes ‘faith’ as the primary source of the problem. At best, fallacious assumptions and unsubstantiated claims are a distraction from the real issues at hand, at worse they lead to terrible outcomes. Thus we have anti-vaccination believers, alternative medicine and homeopathy adherents, and global warming denialists whose beliefs are not religiously motived, but who continue to cause considerable harm. Faith is not a virtue, it is a poison “which causes people who would otherwise be sane, sensible and rational individuals to believe in things which in some part of their brain they must surely know are complete and utter twaddle” *. Ample evidence exists that the use of critical thinking skills, rationality and the scientific method can produce solutions to real world problems and that faith cannot. Religious faith is but one form of belief without evidence, though it is one that has enjoyed unique privilege and power in US society. Fortunately, it is on the wane. The fastest growing ‘religious’ group in the US are those who claim no religious affiliation (aka the ‘nones’). The percentages of those who identify as atheists or agnostics is at the highest point in history and the young are the most likely to profess no religious beliefs. Religion is on its way out in the US and barring some unforeseen natural or man-made disaster (belief and insecurity go hand in hand) we’ll begin to reap the benefits of an increasingly rational society. * Quote: Unknown source

  5. 4 out of 5

    Book

    Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible by Jerry A. Coyne “Faith Versus Fact" is an excellent book that presents the persuasive argument that while faith and science compete to describe reality; science is the best tool to find out what is true about our universe. Evolutionary geneticist Jerry A. Coyne follows up his masterpiece of Why Evolution Is True, with an outstanding book of its own that clearly separates science from religion. This persuasive 336-page book includes th Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible by Jerry A. Coyne “Faith Versus Fact" is an excellent book that presents the persuasive argument that while faith and science compete to describe reality; science is the best tool to find out what is true about our universe. Evolutionary geneticist Jerry A. Coyne follows up his masterpiece of Why Evolution Is True, with an outstanding book of its own that clearly separates science from religion. This persuasive 336-page book includes the following five chapters: 1. The Problem, 2. What’s Incompatible?, 3. Why Accommodationism Fails, 4. Faith Strikes Back, and 5. Why Does It Matter? Positives: 1. Professor Coyne is a persuasive writer. Well-written and well-reasoned book. Engaging and accessible. 2. A great topic; why science and religion are incompatible. 3. Great use of logic, history, reason and facts to persuade the audience at an accessible level. 4. A quote fest, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it by Neil deGrasse Tyson”. 5. Clearly states his main thesis. “…understanding reality, in the sense of being able to use what we know to predict what we don’t, is best achieved using the tools of science, and is never achieved using the methods of faith.” “My claim is this: science and religion are incompatible because they have different methods for getting knowledge about reality, have different ways of assessing the reliability of that knowledge, and, in the end, arrive at conflicting conclusions about the universe.” 6. Makes a very strong case that there are very clear differences between science and religion. “Science and religion, then, are competitors in the business of finding out what is true about our universe. In this goal religion has failed miserably, for its tools for discerning ‘truth’ are useless. These areas are incompatible in precisely the same way, and in the same sense, that rationality is incompatible with irrationality.” 7. The three reasons why the issue of science versus religion has been revived. “The conflict between religion and evolution didn’t really get going until religious fundamentalism arose in early-twentieth-century America.” 8. An expose of the Templeton foundation. 9. Clarity and lucidity of thought throughout the book. “These are empirical claims, and although some may be hard to test, they must, like all claims about reality, be defended with a combination of evidence and reason. If we find no credible evidence, no good reasons to believe, then those claims should be disregarded, just as most of us ignore claims about ESP, astrology, and alien abduction.” 10. A good explanation of what constitutes science. “What is “known” may sometimes change, so science isn’t really a fixed body of knowledge. What remains is what I really see as “science,” which is simply a method for understanding how the universe (matter, our bodies and behavior, the cosmos, and so on) actually works. Science is a set of tools, refined over hundreds of years, for getting answers about nature.” “Scientific truth is never absolute, but provisional.” 11. Provocative. “There is simply no way that any faith can prove beyond question that its claims are true while those of other faiths are false.” 12. The problems with religion. “Religion begins with beliefs based not on observation, but on revelation, authority (often that of scripture), and dogma.” “Take the Resurrection of Jesus, for which the only supporting evidence is the contradictory accounts of the Gospels.” 13. Clearly explains why accommodationism fails and does a great job of dissecting the problems with non-overlapping magisterial (NOMA) that popularized Gould. “In the end, NOMA is simply an unsatisfying quarrel about labels that, unless you profess a watery deism, cannot reconcile science and religion.” 14. Miracles in perspective. “Miracles were really the result of fraud, ignorance, or misrepresentation.” 15. Destroys myths with expertise. “But science has completely falsified the idea of a historical Adam and Eve, and on two grounds. First, our species wasn’t poofed into being by a sudden act of creation. We know beyond reasonable doubt that we evolved from a common ancestor with modern chimps, an ancestor living around six million years ago. Modern human traits—which include our brain and genetically determined behaviors—evolved gradually.” 16. Mormonism takes a direct hit. “But as with the existence of Adam and Eve, both genetics and archaeology have shown that the Middle Eastern origin of Native Americans is a fiction.” Game over. 17. Morality as it relates to evolution. “Finally, and perhaps most important, evolution means that human morality, rather than being imbued in us by God, somehow arose via natural processes: biological evolution involving natural selection on behavior, and cultural evolution involving our ability to calculate, foresee, and prefer the results of different behaviors.” “We have an enhanced morality but it is the product of culture, not biology.” 18. Looks at popular arguments in defense of “God” only to reject them with ease. “Rather than assuming that the world was created for humans, the more reasonable hypothesis is that humans evolved to adapt to the world they confronted.” 19. The faith in reason tactic. “My response to the ‘no justification’ claim is that the superiority of science at finding objective truth comes not from philosophy but from experience. Science gives predictions that work. Everything we know about biology, the cosmos, physics, and chemistry has come through science—not revelation, the arts, or any other ‘way of knowing.’” 20. The harm of ill-founded dogma. “The harm, as I’ve said repeatedly, comes not from the existence of religion itself, but from its reliance on and glorification of faith—belief, or, if you will, ‘trust’ or ‘confidence’—without supporting evidence.” 21. Notes and references included. Negatives: 1. Why Evolution Is True was such a great book it’s hard to live up to those lofty expectations. 2. Philosophy and theology is not Coyne’s forte but he provides enough to make his case. 3. Lack of charts and visuals to complement the narrative. 4. I would have liked to have seen a bit more on the legal side. Examples of religion doing harm and a summary of cases where science and religion intersect besides the obligatory mention of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial”. In summary, a book worthy of five stars. Sure it’s not the masterpiece that I Why Evolution Is True but it’s a book that needed to be written and is another great contribution to society. Religion fails to accurately describe the universe as it really is and in fact has impeded progress. Coyne makes the persuasive case that science is the best method to find the truths about his world and you will not get any disagreement for yours truly. An excellent book, I highly recommend it! Further suggestions: “Why Evolution Is True” by the same author, “Undeniable” by Bill Nye, “God and the Multiverse” by Victor J. Stenger, “Science and Religion” by Daniel C. Dennett, “Why People Believe Weird Things” by Michael Shermer, “Atheism for Dummies” by Dale McGowan, “The Soul Fallacy” by Julien Musolino, “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless” by Greta Christina, “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by Peter Boghosian, “God Is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens, “The God Virus” by Darrel Ray, “Moral Combat” by Sikivu Hutchinson, “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “Nonbeliever Nation” by David Niose, “Freethinkers” by Susan Jacoby, “Nailed” by David Fitzgerald, and “Think” by Guy P. Harrison.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt Manry

    *I received this book by winning a Goodreads giveaway.* Jerry Coyne has a thesis: Science and Religion are incompatible. Now the real question is this: Does he show this? Well, no I don't believe so. This book is simply aimed at people who already accept the same conclusion as Coyne. Jerry Coyne does not approach this topic objectively or neutral. He is a New Atheist who has expressed his dislike of religion countless times (just go read his blog). While one must say that Coyne does bring up some *I received this book by winning a Goodreads giveaway.* Jerry Coyne has a thesis: Science and Religion are incompatible. Now the real question is this: Does he show this? Well, no I don't believe so. This book is simply aimed at people who already accept the same conclusion as Coyne. Jerry Coyne does not approach this topic objectively or neutral. He is a New Atheist who has expressed his dislike of religion countless times (just go read his blog). While one must say that Coyne does bring up some interesting points (his discussion of accommodationism was somewhat interesting), I believe that Coyne simply does not explicitly show a substantial amount of conflict between science and religion. Of course, Coyne also makes some absurd claims about the Bible that are just simply wrong. For example, on page 72 Coyne says: "Take the Resurrection of Jesus, for which the only supporting evidence is the contradictory accounts of the Gospels." Wait....what? Did he read anybody besides Richard Carrier and Bart Ehrman to come up with this information about the Bible? Basically, you will love this book if you already agree with Jerry Coyne.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    In the preface Coyne states his thesis clearly: "My thesis is that religion and science compete in many ways to describe reality-they both make "existence claims” about what is real-but use different tools to meet this goal. And I argue that the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion-including faith, dogma, and revelation-is unreliable and leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions. Indeed, by relying on faith rather than evide In the preface Coyne states his thesis clearly: "My thesis is that religion and science compete in many ways to describe reality-they both make "existence claims” about what is real-but use different tools to meet this goal. And I argue that the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion-including faith, dogma, and revelation-is unreliable and leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions. Indeed, by relying on faith rather than evidence, religion renders itself incapable of finding truth.” p. xi-xii Coyne deserves credit for making his intention so transparent from the beginning but this also puts the success or failure of the entire book right in the open. If his thesis is to be established he will have to have convincing and consistent definitions of religion and science as well as faith. Chapter 1 is titled “The Problem” and is really just a long recitation of the standard sociological data that is familiar to anyone who follows the endless chatter that surrounds this discussion. Various polls about how religious the US is and how many people reject evolution are brought forward and the usual polls about scientists and their disproportionate level of disbelief in God are also presented. Coyne provides a painfully superficial account of how a “linchpin” of religions, free will, is on the outs (certain Calvinists would get a chuckle out of this assertion) and that most scientists are now physical determinists and that genetic makeup and environmental factors are the only means by which “decisions” are made. If taken seriously this would mean that one should put the book down immediately. Thankfully Coyne is not dismissive of philosophy like other neo-atheists but one would hope he would come to grips with the corrosive effect a denial of free will has on epistemology. On the next page (16) he also gives brief praise to the idea that physicists are finally figuring out how the universe came from nothing. This kind of statement does not give one much hope for Coyne’s abilities outside his own field. On page 21 the asserts that “religious claims are empirical hypothesis”. On the previous page he has mentioned that mixing of the scientific with the metaphysical is not science so one would hope that he would understand that most claims made by the religious are metaphysical claims about reality but this seems to escape him. He claims that Trinitarian Christianity is an empirical claim which is truly bizarre. I know of no Christian who would claim that one could know that God is triune through empirical means. Twice in the first chapter he makes mention of apophatic theology yet seems to be very mistaken on what it means. “(S)ome argue that religion makes no existence claims at all. That last category includes adherents to apophatic theology, which says that one can say nothing about the nature of God (although his existence never seems to be in question, and the books that say nothing about him are many), as well as those who assert that God isn’t a humanlike spirit, but a nebulous “ground of being” that defies concrete description.” p. 24 While some take apophaticism too far the majority do make positive claims about God and Coyne seems unaware of the distinction between God’s essence and energies which most apophatic theologians like Lossky spend a lot of time unfolding. To oversimplify, this allows those very theologians to not speak of God’s nature yet still discuss His acting in the world. Equally confusing is his next comment about those who claim God is a nebulous ground of being that defies concrete description. This seems to be a swipe at scholastics but anyone familiar with St. Thomas Aquinas (as Coyne later claims to be) will know that he used an apophatic approach combined with defining being itself (ground of being) as what we call God. Chapter 2 is titled “What’s Incompatible?” and sets out to define science and religion. To start Coyne makes a frank admission that “Until I started pondering the relationship of science and religion for this book, I never really thought about what “science” was, although I had been doing it for three decades.” (p. 27). He goes on to explain that this is typical for scientists and they normally learn “on the fly”. He doesn’t seem to be the least bit bothered by this but the lack of training of scientists in the philosophy of their own discipline is a gaping hole that is made manifest every time a scientist makes a philosophical statement that leaves those educated in philosophy baffled at how someone so intelligent could say something so foolish. Coyne even gently corrects Richard Feynman for this on page 38 after approvingly quoting him on his embracing of uncertainty. Feynman said “I’m not absolutely sure of anything” which Coyne points out is incorrect and gives a few examples. The author sadly seems to have not considered that convincing those who are skeptical of science might be easier if scientists were skilled in the philosophy of science. This would bring the epistemic problems into focus and give scientists the tools to address them. In the end Coyne struggles to define science. Perhaps this would have been easier if he had not neglected such a basic philosophical notion for 30 years. He even ends up using apophaticism in describing what truth is in science (p. 30)! His attempt to define religion begins on page 41 and consists of little more than a paragraph. He claims he will use a definition from the Oxford English Dictionary but quickly abandons it for tangential topics that should only be explored after a firm definition has been established. It is absolutely crucial at this point in the book to have a very thorough examination of what religion is or his thesis will be left in tatters and that is what happens. Coyne would probably argue that religion is inherently difficult to define but that is not the readers problem, Coyne stated his thesis and fails to define both of the key terms in it. He does a much better job describing what he means by incompatibility on pages 63-65. This section is thoughtful and shows an understanding of what incompatibility is and is not (for instance, logical incompatibility is not being asserted here). This sensibility probably stems from his endless arguments with creationists. Unfortunately he has so mishandled the definitions of religion and science that his careful explanation of incompatibility has no use. In defining faith on page 67 the wheels come off again. He claims that the New Testament gives the definition of faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This is a very lazy claim. It would not take much research to see that the Greek word used for faith in the New Testament and as it has been used throughout Christian history is a kind of trust. Coyne takes the route of giving the OED “theological” definition and then contorts it to mean what he wants, belief without evidence. Knowing that making fideism stick is his best weapon, the author makes a few feeble attempts to claim his definition but fails. Using Tertullian’s out of context statement about absurdity as proof for Christian fideism is a big sign that a person is not doing their own research. That quote is actually embracing reason by using classical rhetoric in a writing against Marcion. Coyne next takes Pope Francis out of context in quoting a homily he gave in November 2013, showing that he was condemning curiosity. In fact Francis was condemning curiosity in counterfeit spirituality, seeking after visionaries who get messages from the Virgin Mary every day, as an example. Next comes Martin Luther whose classic “For reason is the greatest enemy of faith” quote is taken out of its Anabaptist context and used for a cheap point that only succeeds with someone who does not check the reference. Perhaps the biggest howler is on page 74 when discussing the fact that Christians would not give up their belief under any circumstance. “I haven’t cherry picked these responses while ignoring dissenting views: I’ve simply never seen any Christian avow in print that he’d abandon belief in the resurrection if science proved it wrong. Of course, such evidence would be difficult to get, but because the only evidence for the Resurrection is the Bible, which is known to be unreliable in many other matters, it seems judicious to avoid defending Jesus’ revival so strongly” p. 74 The odd thing here is that you can find that very concession in the New Testament in verses quoted 30 pages earlier in the same book! Even if no modern Christian were willing to admit it, St. Paul did in 1 Corinthians 15. I could go on but this is enough. In the end, the colossal failure of chapter 2 to provide the definitions crucial to establishing his thesis completely undermines the central argument of the book. The seemingly endless string of errors in quotations and basic philosophical and theological concepts are the last nail in the coffin. What little good you find is not worth the time or the money.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Murphy

    I'm not sure where even to start in my review of the book, mainly because all thoughts and opinions are highly variable based on emotion and experience. So, I'll start there. If I was anything going into this book, I was an accommodationist. I attended a conservative religious university that required statements of faith from its professors, but have never felt that my education there was lacking scientifically (my majors/minor were Psychology, Environmental Studies, and Religion). I was fortuna I'm not sure where even to start in my review of the book, mainly because all thoughts and opinions are highly variable based on emotion and experience. So, I'll start there. If I was anything going into this book, I was an accommodationist. I attended a conservative religious university that required statements of faith from its professors, but have never felt that my education there was lacking scientifically (my majors/minor were Psychology, Environmental Studies, and Religion). I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar class my Freshman year that was entitled Conversations in Neuroscience but, in actuality, was more discussions in evolutionary biology, the conflict/non-conflict of science and religion, and included samples of writings by authors I'd never heard of at the time, but now am becoming quite familiar with (EO Wilson, Dawkins, etc). A decade later, my faith has been all over the board, my science knowledge continues to improve, and I continue to learn about factors that go into policy (as mentioned in this book, politics are a big part of science funding). So, with my personal history in mind, I have to say that my initial response before beginning this book was a disagreement with Coyne's thesis. I know many intelligent folks who are both spiritual (religious) and knowledgeable of science. I like that Coyne spends a great deal of his time speaking to that crowd (the liberal Christians, the accommodationists, the scientists who also profess a faith of some kind). The easy attack would have been the outliers, the groups that the majority already see as kind of "out there". He addresses those as well, but turns the tables back to the more liberal crowd. In the end, its a fascinating read, with many good and thoughtful points. There are some things I agree with, some I'm not sure I agree with, and many things that definitely require much more thought on my part to hash out and let sink in. Admittedly, I'm a hippie in the sense that I'd like for "everyone to just get along", so to hear a voice so outspoken that we can't all just get along, is sometimes difficult to digest. I'm not saying I disagree with his thesis, but that it is something none of us really *want* to agree with. With that said, regardless of agreement or disagreement, faith or no faith, I would recommend this book. I learned about Coyne by reading "Why Evolution is True" in an online genetics class, and was excited to continue reading more by the author. I'm quite fascinated in the subjects both objectively and subjectively. I love to learn why people do what they do and why life is meaningful to them, as well as how we can keep life around and meaningful in the future (that's where the environmental stuff, the psychology stuff, the religious studies, and a few other subjects come together for me). So, this is one more well written and thoughtful perspective to add. In the end, we're all just trying to do our best to make it through this crazy world. So, where ever you are on the spectrum, whatever your opinion, consensus, or faith tells you... go out there with love and compassion and openmindedness. Be open to listening to others. You don't have to change your mind all the time. But there is so much to learn.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Weird science to feed the confirmation bias of the "believers" in none. The first page is excellent. But that is the quotations page. Than there are a few pages about compatibility between faith and research. But to make it more appealing, the author calls it science just to blur the limits more. Whatever. Than I was lost in a sea of polls. Polls can be twisted. Polls are impersonal. People hide information from the pollsters for many different reasons and although on paper 300 to 6000 people mig Weird science to feed the confirmation bias of the "believers" in none. The first page is excellent. But that is the quotations page. Than there are a few pages about compatibility between faith and research. But to make it more appealing, the author calls it science just to blur the limits more. Whatever. Than I was lost in a sea of polls. Polls can be twisted. Polls are impersonal. People hide information from the pollsters for many different reasons and although on paper 300 to 6000 people might look representative for 600 000 000, there are many ways to screw it both knowing and unknowingly. Bottom line, the whole reasoning is rotten. Sure, the scientists are non-believers and the world at large is what the author omits can also be used word by word to show that older white male with a good income are scientists unlike the world at large. I also disliked the fundamentalist approach to the subject. People within religion are making big steps to bring the literalists back to the light of what is now common knowledge. And Coyne dismisses theese efforts because they are not apparently pure enough. Next there is another lament about how the Templeton foundation gives its private money in exchange for compatibilist papers while the State seems to give less money to the university bureaucrats like himself. Yet I could not find one reference to how the scientific bureaucrats like himself are pooling some money to give their own prize for young research scientists. And than is back in the poll marshes. Apart from Coyne's inability to detect cherry picking he does not seem to understand the problem with the polls. Yet this second time the polls are directed against the Muslims who are treated as one uniform mass. I happen to read The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice. Jerry Coyne seems to have a big problem with authors like Chopra Deepak. Ms. Rebecca Musser writes about the same time how she exited a human trafficking cult. In those post 2001 days Rebecca Musser found Deepak Chopra and other New Age writers and none of the Dawkins' wonder of the science. In short: I find it appalling how time, ink and trees are wasted on stupid dogmatic texts instead of just spreading the knowledge.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Radhika Shendye

    While the author has some very good points to make about why science and religion are incompatible, the chapters lacked structure. He went back and forth over the same thing in multiple chapters which got boring. Secondly he used the argument that "because all scientists tend to be atheists, it supports my case" and went on explaining this for a long time. However, this is only a correlation and cannot be considered causation without better reasoning. All scientists could be atheists, and it sti While the author has some very good points to make about why science and religion are incompatible, the chapters lacked structure. He went back and forth over the same thing in multiple chapters which got boring. Secondly he used the argument that "because all scientists tend to be atheists, it supports my case" and went on explaining this for a long time. However, this is only a correlation and cannot be considered causation without better reasoning. All scientists could be atheists, and it still can be a co-incidence. I would have preferred that he expanded on his other core logical reasoning, rather than coming back to use this point after every few pages. Some chapters are really interesting, but not all. I do think that he's tried to bring out a different perspective, but for a scientist, I'd have expected more focus on logic. Even his statistics was not clear. He considered atheists and agnostics in one group at times, and atheists in a separate buckets on other occasions. It got hard to believe his numbers. I wasn't even able to complete the book. Might try again after some time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    This is the most cogent synthesis I have read so far about the failings of faith—NOT religion per se, but any kind of belief without evidence—as an alternative "way of knowing." Contrary to critiques from people who have probably not read the book, neither particularly strident nor judgmental. The book is particularly notable for its survey of a wide range of theological arguments and for its strong case that respect for "being a person of faith"—again, not religion per se—does measurable damage This is the most cogent synthesis I have read so far about the failings of faith—NOT religion per se, but any kind of belief without evidence—as an alternative "way of knowing." Contrary to critiques from people who have probably not read the book, neither particularly strident nor judgmental. The book is particularly notable for its survey of a wide range of theological arguments and for its strong case that respect for "being a person of faith"—again, not religion per se—does measurable damage to our world, beginning but not ending with the many children who have died after being denied medical care by their devout parents. These parents are generally not prosecuted, because withholding care on religious grounds is legal in most American states; if we awarded less respect to faith as a society, Coyne argues, we would eliminate these exceptions. Lives hang in the balance.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ahsan Sharafuddin

    A lucidly written thesis by Professor Coyne, where he persuasively argues and clearly demonstrates why science and religion are thoroughly incompatible, despite some laughable attempts made by so-called 'experts'. Well-written, well-reasoned and engaging. Thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. A lucidly written thesis by Professor Coyne, where he persuasively argues and clearly demonstrates why science and religion are thoroughly incompatible, despite some laughable attempts made by so-called 'experts'. Well-written, well-reasoned and engaging. Thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    In Faith Versus Fact, Coyne successfully makes the case that science and religion are incompatible. The book is well researched well written. He supports his statements with thirteen pages of notes, fifteen pages of references, and the book contains a table of an index so you can easily revisit your favorite subjects. Like books I’ve read by Dawkins, Sagan, and Hitchens; this is another book I wish I would’ve had access to as a younger person, especially during my religion / science accommodatio In Faith Versus Fact, Coyne successfully makes the case that science and religion are incompatible. The book is well researched well written. He supports his statements with thirteen pages of notes, fifteen pages of references, and the book contains a table of an index so you can easily revisit your favorite subjects. Like books I’ve read by Dawkins, Sagan, and Hitchens; this is another book I wish I would’ve had access to as a younger person, especially during my religion / science accommodation phase. I’m going to read this again with a highlighter as there is so much good information in this book which I need to remember. IMO, this is an especially important book for our times as religiosity is creeping in to politics, our public schools, and many other aspects of society where it does not belong. Science and reason are needed more than ever to tackle the problems facing humanity, thoughts and prayers to supernatural entities are just not cutting it. There have been past presidents (GW Bush) and there are currently US politicians in charge of policy making who are creationists / born-again / evangelists who allow their religion to influence their decisions about national policy. Despite the fact that religion as never added anything to our understanding of the natural world and it's the 21st century (for crying out loud!), these decision makers continue to advocate for supernatural myths and misinformation such as intelligent design to be taught in science classes in public schools. Polls have shown that the United States has the lowest acceptance of evolution amongst industrial countries. This is shocking. As Coyne states, “Bit by bit, the list of phenomena that once demanded an explanatory God is being whittled down to nothing. Religion’s response has been to either reject the science (the tactic of fundamentalists) or bend their theology to accommodate it.” Pretty soon the God of the gaps will have no gap to reside in. The book is divided in to five chapters. In the first chapter, Coyne outlines the problem with with the argument that science and religion can be compatible. In the second chapter, he explains the incompatibility through conflicts of method, outcome, and philosophy. He explains why accommodation fails in the third chapter and takes on the supernatural. This is probably the highlight of the book for me. He finishes the chapter with three test cases of how science disproves religion: Adam & Eve, Mormonism, and Theistic Evolution. Regarding Adam and Eve: modern genetics and DNA disprove the existence of our homo sapiens being created in a sudden act, and without Adam and Eve there is no original sin, and therefore no reason for a savior to die for forgiveness of such. The topic of the fourth chapter is faith striking back against science as its foundations continue to be eroded by scientific discoveries. Finally, the fifth chapter asks the question “why does it matter if science and religion are incompatible?”. Reasons listed include the suppression of scientific research (i.e. stem cells) and vaccinations, opposition to assisted dying, and climate change denialism. Coyne narrows his focus on Christian Science and Jehovah’s Witnesses and includes some specific examples of people were harmed and even killed by adhering to treatment methods approved by religion to treat serious medical conditions rather than seeking professional help through doctors and hospitals. I found the book to be fascinating and reinforced my belief that science and religion are have no business being friends. I’ll end this with my favorite Ingersoll quote, also featured in the book: “There is no harmony between religion and science. When science was a child, religion sought to strangle it in the cradle. Now that science has attained its youth, and superstition is in its dotage, the trembling, palsied wreck says to the athlete: “Let us be friends.” It reminds me of the bargain the cock wished to make with the horse: “Let us agree not to step on each other’s feet.”

  14. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Atkinson

    Not the most riveting intellectual journey I have ever attempted. Dr. Coyne like many of the New Atheists badly misses the point, at the same time he writes an error free, totally logical argument. The problem with men like him and Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc. is that they forget that their whole lives are their best counterargument. Why is it so important to them to attack the inevitable straw man; fundamentalist three Abrahamic religions in their lit Not the most riveting intellectual journey I have ever attempted. Dr. Coyne like many of the New Atheists badly misses the point, at the same time he writes an error free, totally logical argument. The problem with men like him and Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc. is that they forget that their whole lives are their best counterargument. Why is it so important to them to attack the inevitable straw man; fundamentalist three Abrahamic religions in their literal splendor? At this point, it kind of kicking a dead horse is it not? No serious thinker believes the first homo sapiens were Adam and Eve. The Bible is a collection of allegories and metaphors combined with the tribal history of the Hebrew people. Yes, religions hands are bloody, but so is every other huge human enterprise that has had it hands in helping billions of people who are starving and needy. I have not seen atheists travelling the world holding sick babies no one wants due to their inherent moral nature. I guess what I am saying is this book is fine for an intellectual diversion, but no new ground is covered here. Any wise person understands especially scientists that no one really knows squat about the Universe, why it is here, what we are supposed to do, anything. All the things we do know we cannot prove such as love, the existence of the soul, and an inherent belief in some form of creator. The one major complaint I have about this wonderfully clear reasoned book is that Dr. Coyne certainly suffers from the confirmation bias that he claims rules the lives of the indoctrinated. For example, he says the least religious societies are also some of the least dysfunctional. Unfortunately, he showed his stay in academia has been too long as he used Denmark,Sweden, Norway the countries used by every liberal to prove everything. He neglected to mention that the former Soviet Union based on athiesm was a dismal dysfunctional terrible imploding society, North Korea also athiest is a nightmare in great need of compassion and morality. In fact every communist country that is athiest has disastrous human rights records. Convenient that he did not mention any of these countries in his "you do not need religion to have a moral society chapter." I guess when I read men like Coyne, I just see a waste of a great mind; fighting so hard to convince himself that nothing matters. It clearly matters to him; and what is basis for all that transcendental angst. Evolutionary biology?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alan Fuller

    I read this book to compare it to a couple of Intelligent Design books I've read recently. What surprised me wasn't the things that the two books disagreed on, but the things they actually agree on. Mr. Coyne asserts that ID is scientifically discredited. What reason does he give for that? "While intelligent design creationism does have religious roots, it is those very roots that have discredited it as valid science, for there’s simply no evidence for the claimed intervention of a teleological I read this book to compare it to a couple of Intelligent Design books I've read recently. What surprised me wasn't the things that the two books disagreed on, but the things they actually agree on. Mr. Coyne asserts that ID is scientifically discredited. What reason does he give for that? "While intelligent design creationism does have religious roots, it is those very roots that have discredited it as valid science, for there’s simply no evidence for the claimed intervention of a teleological designer in evolution." There's nothing about the molecular science or basis in Information Theory to discredit it. It's because the people who study it are religious. I think that's called "genetic fallacy." That's pretty much what ID people say about their critics. People discredit ID because its opponents don't consider anything but methodological naturalism as science. That is an idea that comes from nineteenth-century materialism. Coyne gives a secular definition of faith which agrees with his view of religion. Science is knowledge based on evidence. Faith is belief based on nothing. It would be hard to disagree with Coyne if such were the case. The sad part is that a lot of religious people would agree with him. The Bible says that faith is based on evidence and can be seen in the actions of those who have it. It also says that faith is tested. To Coyne all religions are the same. Truth doesn't play a part in his understanding of religion. He says religion is bad because it causes child abuse. He cites a study which says 172 children, infants and fetuses died during a 20 year period due to the refusal of parents to seek medical attention for themselves or their children because of religious beliefs. He says nothing of the more than 20 million children during that same time who were sacrificed by their mothers to the gods of materialism. I'm talking about abortion. Coyne dismisses cosmological, teleological and morality based arguments for the existence of God. Such arguments are based on a "god of the gaps" according to him. He admits that science doesn't know the answer to these questions, but they are working on it. He has faith that someday these things will be understood. This seems like a science of the gaps.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Scott Schneider

    Jerry Coyne is definitely going to Hell, that is if Hell exists, which it probably doesn’t. His new book “Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible” should probably be resubtitled as “Why Religion is Contemptible.” It is a strong, provocative well-reasoned book that makes a very good case that science, being fact-based, is the only way to learn the truth about the world, while religion is faith-based and has no such grounding. He does a great job debunking the beliefs of most rel Jerry Coyne is definitely going to Hell, that is if Hell exists, which it probably doesn’t. His new book “Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible” should probably be resubtitled as “Why Religion is Contemptible.” It is a strong, provocative well-reasoned book that makes a very good case that science, being fact-based, is the only way to learn the truth about the world, while religion is faith-based and has no such grounding. He does a great job debunking the beliefs of most religious people, e.g. in the virgin birth, the resurrection, Adam and Eve, the flood, etc. and recounting the horrors religion has unleashed on the world, e.g. opposition to vaccination and modern medicine. However, there are some flaws in the book. First, while he devotes most of the book critiquing Christianity and Islam (and Mormonism, Scientology, etc.), they are easy targets. He says practically nothing about Judaism, which is much less of a dogmatic anti-science religion and much more compatible with science, particularly the dominant Reform variety. And while he decries the “god of the gaps” philosophy, he seems to espouse a similar theory where evolution fills all gaps. All human behavior is conjectured to be the result of evolutionary forces (a la Sociobiology) which no supporting evidence other than fanciful theories about how they are or might have been adaptive. It is too bad that he doesn’t believe, and there isn’t any evidence for, resurrection. Then we could bring Stephen Jay Gould, one of the deities of evolutionary biology, back to life to debate Coyne. That would be a debate worth watching!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Hageman

    "Science, construed broadly, is the commitment to the use of rationality, empirical observation, testability, and falsifiability as the only way to gain objective knowledge about the universe." Probably one of the most direct books to emerge during the New Atheist movement..and probably a bit more relevant than even those published by the 'horsemen'. The specified focus on the incompatibility between science and faith makes this a worthwhile purchase for every believer and non-believer to have on "Science, construed broadly, is the commitment to the use of rationality, empirical observation, testability, and falsifiability as the only way to gain objective knowledge about the universe." Probably one of the most direct books to emerge during the New Atheist movement..and probably a bit more relevant than even those published by the 'horsemen'. The specified focus on the incompatibility between science and faith makes this a worthwhile purchase for every believer and non-believer to have on his or her shelf.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Wally Muchow

    This is a very worthwhile book to read if you are looking for arguments or reassurance that believing in science is the way to organize your life. The book is good at laying out the issues and why religion or faith is not successful way to organize society. Coyne covers everything from theological arguments to discussion of the damage religion can do to children or society. It is a powerful and easy to read book which should be force fed to every Republican in government.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ernest Barker

    Coyne destroys religion with the use of facts. This books marks the beginning of the end of religion. He effectively shreds all arguments for a divine being that was responsible of the creation of the earth and all that is in it. It is a readable book and is a must for anyone that wants to understand evolution and the difference between faith and fact.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    A good book, providing a helpful tour through key arguments against faith, and against compatibility between science and religion. Most of these arguments I've heard before, but Coyne does a good job of laying them out, including defining terms thoroughly. I liked the concept of "religionism" as presented here, and I liked the rebuttal to the "you can't prove a negative" canard. A good book, providing a helpful tour through key arguments against faith, and against compatibility between science and religion. Most of these arguments I've heard before, but Coyne does a good job of laying them out, including defining terms thoroughly. I liked the concept of "religionism" as presented here, and I liked the rebuttal to the "you can't prove a negative" canard.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Comprehensive, lucid, and readable.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bob Peterson

    If only everyone would read this book. It's simply the best in its class. If only everyone would read this book. It's simply the best in its class.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    I found this (audio)book stimulating, engaging, and largely convincing. Coyne's book is really an argument against two beliefs/ideas: 1. Gould's non-overlapping magisterium principle (NOMA), the idea that religion and science have different purposes and don't conflict or making contending claims. 2. Science-religion compatibilism as two complementary ways of knowing about the world, a belief frequently pushed by the Templeton Foundation. Coyne is ruthless but I think accurate in his theses. He di I found this (audio)book stimulating, engaging, and largely convincing. Coyne's book is really an argument against two beliefs/ideas: 1. Gould's non-overlapping magisterium principle (NOMA), the idea that religion and science have different purposes and don't conflict or making contending claims. 2. Science-religion compatibilism as two complementary ways of knowing about the world, a belief frequently pushed by the Templeton Foundation. Coyne is ruthless but I think accurate in his theses. He dismisses Gould by showing that religions make hundreds of claims about reality that either have no evidence behind them or contradict scientific findings. These include the efficacy of prayer, the intervention of God in the world through miracles, the resurrection of Jesus, the age of the earth, the origins and evolution (or lack thereof) of human beings, the purposes of men and women, the origins of skin color, etc, etc, etc. Many of these claims have been disproven by scientific and historical research. For others, no one has yet offered evidence that would pass Hume's miracles test or that doesn't appeal to special pleading and private knowledge. Gould claims that religion is mainly about morality and meaning-making, but this just describes the religious practice of liberal intellectual elites, not the common practices and beliefs of the vast majority of believers. For the vast majority of believers, religion means little if at least some of these supernatural claims are not true. If Jesus did not rise from the dead or Mohammed did not receive the words of the Qur'an directly from God, these faiths effectively fall apart or become philosophies. Coyne's central contention is that any belief based on faith, or belief without evidence, is inherently opposed to science, which is the process of gathering and empirically testing knowledge about reality. Scientists must know what would falsify their claims for it to be possible to prove those claims to be valid, and all good ones can describe what evidence would make their claims untrue. Heck, even a good historian should be able to do that! Coyne perceptively shows the tension between faith and science by asking the religious what evidence would make them disbelieve in their faith. Some people may have good answers, but polls show that the majority of American and British believers will accept the central claims of their religions regardless of what evidence they encounter. In other words, most religious belief is unfalsifiable, and hence deeply in tension with science. I think Coyne makes his most provocative but also most compelling argument when he says that religion hasn't taught us anything about the objective world at virtually any point. They can devise systems of morality, commentaries on society, and other discourses, but none of this produces anything approaching scientific knowledge about natural processes in the world. True, religious scientists have produced knowledge about reality, but that was through the practices and procedures of science, not the epistemological tools of faith (revelation, dogma, authority, holy texts, miracles, traditions). Moreover do theologians study God? No! They study texts and each other, producing a discourse but no testable, falsifiable, credible knowledge about reality. Religions, unlike science, have no way of sorting out which claims are more valid than others. How are we to know if the Islamic path to salvation is "more true" than the Christian one, or any of the sub-variations of these faiths? Religions continue to proliferate throughout the world, but if they were moving towards more systematic knowledge about God or the world we would expect them to be shrinking in number, just as the expansion of science has winnowed down the number of accepted explanations for things like the causes of disease or the origins of human beings. Coyne also makes a great point in saying that so many of the advances that have immeasurably improved human life, especially in the last several hundred years, are owed to the expanding practice of science and its liberation from religious blinders. After all, most scientists, especially the most accomplished ones, are not religious. Coyne shows why this is no coincidence. As you can tell by now, this book definitely raised my new atheist hackles. But why make science and faith out to be enemies? Isn't there room for liberal believers and secularists to work together to combat more harmful and ignorant forms of faith? Coyne says mostly no, but I say yes and no. Coyne argues that we should stand firm that these are incompatible and unequal ways of knowing about the world. Ultimately, I think he is right. Secularists and scientists should keep the long term goal of establishing this incompatibility in mind. However, in the shorter term, a lot of good can be done (and harm avoided) by working with the liberally religious to defeat religious fundamentalism and its spawn: abstinence only education, climate change denialism, creationism and ID, religious violence and intolerance, and many other religiously inspired inaccuracies and atrocities. I think Coyne could have shown a little more tactical flexibility on this account. Still, he's right to say that taking a soft line on the compatibility question lends religion an aura of legitimacy, which makes our society excuse religious ignorance and misdeeds that it doesn't tolerate in non-religious forms. Thus, there is harm in compatibilism. I think secularists can and should work with liberal believers on tactical, political issues without endorsing compatibilism in any way. I recommend this book for, well, anyone. It's accessible, fairly short, often funny, and well-supported. Coyne mostly manages to maintain a level tone, and he has major credibility as a scientist. It is a challenging and thought-provoking read for anyone interested in the relationship of science and religion.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Rine

    Trying to think of a book that went so far downhill, so quickly and without even a slight change in trajectory. The first two chapters were generally good, and I was thinking "3-4 stars for this book at this point". And then chapters 4 and 5 saw Coyne circle ever downward into cheap point-scoring, emotional rhetoric and surprisingly irrational (dare I say unscientific?) argumentation. In the end, an interesting initial discussion followed by a crash and burn into simple prejudice and preaching t Trying to think of a book that went so far downhill, so quickly and without even a slight change in trajectory. The first two chapters were generally good, and I was thinking "3-4 stars for this book at this point". And then chapters 4 and 5 saw Coyne circle ever downward into cheap point-scoring, emotional rhetoric and surprisingly irrational (dare I say unscientific?) argumentation. In the end, an interesting initial discussion followed by a crash and burn into simple prejudice and preaching to the New Atheist choir. Science and religion are incompatible, Coyne seemingly argues, because religion is not science. And science is the only method/institution which yields actual truth, knowledge or fact. Other disciplines (the arts, humanities, ethics, justice, social sciences, economics, philosophy, etc.) are only valid insofar as they use scientific methods; otherwise, there is no knowledge or truth to be found in them. Which brings me to my second major problem with the book (after its nosedive into mediocrity), that in his passionate defense of secular humanism, he's apparently decided to double down on "secular" and forget "human". I was honestly hoping that Coyne would find a way to make his New Atheist beliefs appealing and compelling, and applicable to the way I and virtually all humans live our lives. But like other attempts, Coyne fails. Meaning and purpose? Illusory. Morality? Herd adaptation with no real content, or objectivity, beyond "whatever supports the society we want". The mysteries of consciousness and self-identity? Coyne handwaves a "science of the gaps," asserting (without evidence) that such phenomena have purely naturalistic explanations that science will no doubt find someday. While Coyne does attempt to parry the charge of "scientism", it's a particularly weak section of the book. His counterargument is basically, "Scientism is just an insult, and one that can be defined in many ways, so it's therefore invalid." Never mind that the lion's share of the book falls directly under the most basic and common definition of the term, the unevidenced belief that only naturalistic science is the means to truth, and that all other means are invalid. As Coyne tautologically states, "Everything we know about biology, the cosmos, physics and chemistry has come through science--not revelation, the arts, or any other 'way of knowing'." Everything we know is that which can be proven or examined by science, in other words, so obviously science is the only way to knowledge, truth and fact. This statement assumes what it is trying to prove, that only scientifically verifiable facts count as truth or real knowledge. It's much like arguing that football is the only sport, because all the records in the sport are held by football players--not basketball players, cricket players, or players of any other "sport". His readings and portrayals of religious believers and theologians was actually decent in the first chapter or so, then got more tendentious and biased as the book moved along. His critiques of religion (using, of course, exclusively examples of religion behaving badly) were red meat for atheist partisans, but will elicit only eye-rolls from anyone even remotely familiar with Christian history (obvious warts and all). These arguments were not simply prejudicial, however--many were straight-up logically incoherent. For example, Coyne cites an article that catalogs 172 deaths of children and "fetuses" over a 20-year period due to religiously-motivated withholding of medical treatment. Considering that many times more children die from drowning in bathtubs every year, one wonders why scientists are so concerned about a tiny proportion of religious nuts who actively reject modern medicine. But the logical inconsistency here is simply Coyne choosing to value the lives of children and unborn babies when doing so counts as a strike against religion, when elsewhere in the book he speaks out in favor of abortion, fetal stem cell research (which by definition destroys the fetus), and speaks approvingly of atheist ethicist Peter Singer, who favors postnatal abortion of infants on demand. Perhaps, for Coyne, it is only those human lives snuffed out by his ideological opponents that carry moral worth, if only as cheap rhetorical devices? After reading Coyne and actually thinking through the logical consequences of his positions (more than he did, apparently), I not only find I'm unable to live as a human being within his narrow naturalistic worldview; I'm wondering why anyone would want to at all. My review should not be construed to reflect on the quality of Coyne's writing, which is very readable (much like his much better book, "Why Evolution is True"). It reflects the tone and quality of argument and reasoning within the book, which starts out with interesting questions and food for thought, then quickly craters into typical New Atheist screed and dogma, without wrestling at all with the implications of its own arguments.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eric Wojciechowski

    Years ago, I read Jerry Coyne's, "Why Evolution is True", and I felt that this was solid enough to put to rest the notion of Intelligent Design. But it's rather clear that having the facts, isn't enough. Even some people who should know better, rely on faith instead of just admitting, "I don't know". "I Don't Know". These three words should be stressed to every child to carry into adulthood as acceptable utterances rather than running to a god of the gaps explanation. As scientific studies have p Years ago, I read Jerry Coyne's, "Why Evolution is True", and I felt that this was solid enough to put to rest the notion of Intelligent Design. But it's rather clear that having the facts, isn't enough. Even some people who should know better, rely on faith instead of just admitting, "I don't know". "I Don't Know". These three words should be stressed to every child to carry into adulthood as acceptable utterances rather than running to a god of the gaps explanation. As scientific studies have pushed god further and further back, no longer requiring him/she/it as an explanation, what remains, the gaps, are still being filled in by he/she/it. Yet, with all missing pieces, it is a better answer to say, "I Don't Know." We used to know the Sun went around the Earth. We used to think demons or sins were the cause of illness. We used to think our morales could not have come from anything unless we have been told. All have since been shown to not be true. Perfectly naturalistic reasons have been found to change our opinions. Wouldn't it have been better if long ago those who thought these things said, "I Don't Know"? Maybe we'd have known some things earlier in human history. We're stuck with faith think still. The major down side is it teaches us to accept not knowing, to not go investigating. For me, I've been in the game for quite a long time so some of the material in here was a repeat. But, the examination of accomodationism, the attempt to reconcile faith vs science, was refreshing. Spoiler alert: One wins. Guess which? Faith is belief of belief, or belief without evidence while science is confidence in repeatable, testable, falsifiable, predictive, cumulative heaps of data. And with science, everyone is welcome to come at it while faith remains a stubborn wall. The big question is, how do you steer someone from faith to fact? No good answer. You need more than facts. But it appears the answer lies in whether or not the person wishes to examine their beliefs. If so, maybe getting them to question why they have them in the first place would be a good start. There are two other books for assistance here. And I recommend them below. Peter Boghossian, "A Manual for Creating Atheists" John W. Loftus, "The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True" If someone really wants to know, they'll go seeking. Otherwise, it isn't going to work. Like a drug addict, unless they want to stop, they won't stop. Someone apparently must hit bottom, have faith fail over and over, before giving up on it. The problem, as Coyne shows in his final chapter, is sometimes that reasoning comes to late and someone is dead. Finally, what I find fascinating about books like these are there need to have been written at all. Throughout, Coyne expresses his distaste for faith, as being a thorn in his long career in evolutionary genetics. It's the same complaint Richard Dawkins makes in the beginning of "Greatest Show on Earth". What other area, besides perhaps astronomy, can someone come along and simply say, despite the mountains of evidence, I just don't buy it. How frustrating these books need to be written at all. Think of what it would be like if this much time was given to showing how vampires can't possibly be real. Coyne states within the pages that he knows he won't see the end product of his work, that faith will still be practiced long after he's gone. But these works are necessary to lay that ground work, to get the ball going. Then, in a hundred years or so, maybe this will all be seen as silly as when we thought the sun went around the Earth. I wonder if my own children will see it? Hope so.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fred Forbes

    Despite my religious upbringing (One grandfather a Baptist minister, the other an Episcopal minister and me raised Catholic) I seem to lack the "faith gene" and fall pretty firmly in the camp of logic and prove it category. Still, I have some great friends who are quite religious including some priests and ministers and find them to be quite erudite and intelligent and they find significant positive relevance to their lives. For me, this book is certainly "preaching to the choir" in terms of str Despite my religious upbringing (One grandfather a Baptist minister, the other an Episcopal minister and me raised Catholic) I seem to lack the "faith gene" and fall pretty firmly in the camp of logic and prove it category. Still, I have some great friends who are quite religious including some priests and ministers and find them to be quite erudite and intelligent and they find significant positive relevance to their lives. For me, this book is certainly "preaching to the choir" in terms of stressing the only way to prove something is through the scientific method, with replicable results and valid testing methods. But I have tended to be what this book terms an "accommodationist" who tries to make way for both science and faith but that is one category of folks that Coyne does his best to demonstrate the error of their ways. And he may be right in his arguments, harsh though they may be. Some of his presentation is a bit severe so he certainly won't be swaying the deeply religious (it has been my experience that the more you prove someone's position is wrong, the more they tend to double down and resist even well meaning elucidation). At any rate, a well reasoned and interesting read, I just find I prefer the similar attitudes presented by Hitchner and Dawson to those of this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Faith vs Fact by Jerry A. Coyne. Coyne is an evolutionary biologist whose previous book, Why Evolution Is True, is one of the best explanatory reads for the lay person since Stephen Jay Gould was around. In this he tackles the uncomfortable topic of the presumed compatibility between science and religion and methodically and logically demonstrates how this is at best unlikely and at worst a canard. Granted, I'm in sympathy with this view, seeing accommodationism as special pleading for the purpo Faith vs Fact by Jerry A. Coyne. Coyne is an evolutionary biologist whose previous book, Why Evolution Is True, is one of the best explanatory reads for the lay person since Stephen Jay Gould was around. In this he tackles the uncomfortable topic of the presumed compatibility between science and religion and methodically and logically demonstrates how this is at best unlikely and at worst a canard. Granted, I'm in sympathy with this view, seeing accommodationism as special pleading for the purpose of not making waves, but he makes a strong case how accommodationism is a misguided notion and can lead to---and has led to---calamities, tragedies, and idiocies (like the current plague of religiously-bent politicians in government). Not likely to alter the view of the religiously minded in any fundamental way, it would be a good thing for them to read to come to terms where the two (in Gould's terms) "magisteria" consistently overlap with disastrous results. He's not as rigid as Dawkins in his assessments of religion, but given the conclusions this might be a distinction without a difference.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jerrid Kruse

    It's well written, but deceptively so. The arguments the author engages are the very same straw men he critiques Dawkins & others for taking on. He notes that Dawkins rails against the straw men of literalism, but then goes on to level his own attacks at what he considers the majority of believers (despite his own citation of 30% of believers holding such views). Further, the analysis is focused on the incompatibility of the methods of the two disciplines, but the argument only serves to highlig It's well written, but deceptively so. The arguments the author engages are the very same straw men he critiques Dawkins & others for taking on. He notes that Dawkins rails against the straw men of literalism, but then goes on to level his own attacks at what he considers the majority of believers (despite his own citation of 30% of believers holding such views). Further, the analysis is focused on the incompatibility of the methods of the two disciplines, but the argument only serves to highlight how the disciplines are different, not how they are incompatible. Indeed, instead of creating an argument against Gould's NOMA principle, he unwittingly supports it. As a scientist who was raised in a Christian home, I was expecting more. Instead, I was given an argument based on what I can only hope is a misunderstanding of faith & science & not a purposeful cherry picking of points to make. Of course, I couldn't blame the author for cherry picking given the tradition of his "opponent" in cherry picking. Given the many polls cited, the book is a more compelling argument for the need of scientific literacy than for the primacy of science over religion.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Terence Condren

    Should be required reading in every high school Well organized argument as to why faith cannot be used to understand truth and fact. Only science can do that because it is self correcting whereas faith demands blind adherence to conclusions that cannot be supported by any objective standard.

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Melbie

    "Facts are stupid things." Ronald Reagan, Republican National Convention, 1988. "Facts are stupid things." Ronald Reagan, Republican National Convention, 1988.

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