God and the Atom

God and the Atom

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by Victor J. Stenger
     
 

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This history of atomism, from Democritus to the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, chronicles one of the most successful scientific hypotheses ever devised. Originating separately in both ancient Greece and India, the concept of the atom persisted for centuries, despite often running afoul of conventional thinking. Until the twentieth century, no direct… See more details below

Overview

This history of atomism, from Democritus to the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, chronicles one of the most successful scientific hypotheses ever devised. Originating separately in both ancient Greece and India, the concept of the atom persisted for centuries, despite often running afoul of conventional thinking. Until the twentieth century, no direct evidence for atoms existed. Today it is possible to actually observe atoms using a scanning tunneling microscope.

In this book, physicist Victor J. Stenger makes the case that, in the final analysis, atoms and the void are all that exists.

The book begins with the story of the earliest atomists - the ancient Greek philosophers Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus, and the Latin poet Lucretius. As the author notes, the idea of elementary particles as the foundation of reality had many opponents throughout history - from Aristotle to Christian theologians and even some nineteenth-century chemists and philosophers. While theists today accept that the evidence for the atomic theory of matter is overwhelming, they reject the atheistic implications of that theory.

In conclusion, the author underscores the main point made throughout this work: the total absence of empirical facts and theoretical arguments to support the existence of any component to reality other than atoms and the void can be taken as proof beyond a reasonable doubt that such a component is nowhere to be found.  


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Stenger, an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Hawaii, argues in this quick philosophical treatise and history of atomic theory that the existence of the atom proves that God doesn’t exist. Skimming the centuries, Stenger explains how ancient Greek atomists like Democritus and Epicurus insisted that the world—including the soul—is made up of atoms; further, they posited that when the body perishes, so too does its ethereal counterpart. This contradicted the “antiatomist” views of Aristotle and, later, the Christian idea of an immortal soul. But it was ultimately the writings of the atomists—some of which were rediscovered during the Renaissance—that fed the scientific revolution and abetted the rise of rational thought over religious dogma. Stenger (God: The Failed Hypothesis) rapidly covers a lot of ground: a swift jog through modern physics, followed by brief considerations of dark matter, dark energy, and the origin of the universe, concludes with the assertion that there is no empirical evidence for the existence of a higher power. Stenger’s argument is convincing, but it’s unclear whom he expects to convert, as those most likely to read the book probably already agree with him. Illus. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Stenger’s argument is convincing."
-  PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Praise for the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis:

"I learned an enormous amount from this splendid book."
- RICHARD DAWKINS, author of the New York Times best-seller The God Delusion

"Marshalling converging arguments from physics, astronomy, biology, and philosophy, Stenger has delivered a masterful blow in defense of reason. God: The Failed Hypothesis is a potent, readable, and well-timed assault upon religious delusion. It should be widely read."
- SAM HARRIS, author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation

Kirkus Reviews
An emeritus professor of physics and astronomy traces the roots of modern science, including the discovery of the Higgs boson, to the materialist Greek and Roman philosophers 2,500 years ago. Stenger (God and the Folly of Faith, 2012, etc.) once again picks up the cudgels for radical atheism: "[A]toms and the void indeed are all there is….Atomism is Atheism." Identifying his philosophical stance with that of Democritus and Epicurus, whom he considers to have been closet atheists, he rejects any notion of divine creation or purpose in the universe. Stenger traces the search for the ultimate particle from the earliest notion of the atom up to the present time. The search began with the discovery of the laws of motion by Galileo, Copernicus and Newton and continued with Faraday and Maxwell's unification of electromagnetism and more, culminating in the theory of relativity and quantum physics. Today, writes the author, scientists believe electrons, photons and quarks to be elementary. With the discovery of the Higgs boson, "modern science has fully confirmed the model of the world first proposed 2,500 years ago," he writes, and "the atomic model exemplifies the notion that we can reduce everything to its parts." Stenger brushes aside the philosophical importance of the quantum paradoxes such as the wave/particle duality. Admitting that the description of most complex systems, such as neuroscience or political science, cannot be derived from particle physics, he nonetheless dismisses the notion that "new laws of nature operating on the collective scale must come into play." Readers unfamiliar with the scientific issues will find this difficult reading. A disappointing rehash of the science-vs.-religion debate.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616147549
Publisher:
Prometheus Books
Publication date:
04/09/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
637,277
File size:
3 MB

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