- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Posted October 28, 2013
This is an excellent source for understanding why we must be more skeptical. The writing is fantastic and reaches into the soul. Chet Raymo is one of my favorite authors.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 14, 2010
"Skeptics and True Believers," it seems to me, does what other books of this ilk do - tantalize the reader by a provocative cover only to ultimately disappoint with lack of content. The book is many things; a bridge between science and religion it is not.
My primary complaint is that he commits an intellectually fatal error. Science must be empirical, public, repeatable, predictable, etc. It is this careful circumscription of science that is its greatness. The problem is that he lets his hubris take over by concluding that anything that won't fit inside of the criteria of scientific research isn't real at all. But this is circular reasoning: scientists admit only material reality, since that alone is empirically observable. But spirits are immaterial, so they won't be empirically observable. Ergo, spirits are not real! Why is it so difficult for certain scientists to see that material primacy, spiritual primacy, or material/spiritual duality are not conclusions coming from the lab, but are instead premises; in fact, are foundational intellectual principles? It does no good to assert that consciousness or things traditionally thought of as spiritual are "emergent phenomena," as he says - this too is a premise and not a conclusion.
But of course Raymo has "proof": very few scientists believe in matter/spirit duality any more! This is an argument from authority or popularity, but is not necessarily logical. What seems hypocritical is that Raymo dismisses exactly that sort of argumentation when it is used by others. This instance is but one example; it is difficult to maintain faith in Raymo's literary good intentions.
Precisely that which is promised on the cover, to at least point to connections between science and religion, is exactly what Raymo fails to do. He says that one can live ethically without recourse to God or any bowing to a realm of spirits. In the whole book the affirmation of a morality independent of religion is stated in one brief paragraph. What is wanting is any support for this affirmation.
The reader is therefore left to square an unsupported assurance of the possibility of a seemingly Godless morality with the statement that our only purpose in life is to pass on our genes. But exactly how should one go about this? Many of us, for example, are traditionally morally repulsed by the commission of rape or incest, perhaps especially when merely used as a means of passing on genes. But I simply cannot see how such a conclusion can be derived from empirical data. This is the age-old philosophical problem of deriving an "ought" statement from an "is" statement. Now most of us can get on with life; most religions have simplified such matters for us: "Thou shalt not." This is an example of the sort of practical everyday morality, one of those black-and-white assurances that Raymo so seemingly gently, but still vehemently, derides in his book.
Is it any wonder that so many people prefer the relative comfort of an empirically false but ultimately more human and livable cosmology?
So Raymo fails miserably to bridge any sort of epistemological gap between science and religion. He is worth reading only to tune in to the streams of thought that produce this sort of writing. To his credit Raymo is easier reading than Dawkins or Harris, two of his literary brothers in arms.
0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 7, 2002
If science is to have a priest and poet, Raymo should have the strongest claim to the title thanks to his outstanding verse and reverential outlook. The connection between science and religion that he proposes is simple enough: The world, as revealed to us by science, is so magnificent as to evoke naturally feelings of veneration, admiration, and even transcendence. So there is no need to look for those same feelings in religions that demand irrational belief in the supernatural as part of the package. To be sure, acquiring the ability to observe nature in such an undistracted manner as to be able to feel what Raymo feels about it is not a simple matter. Most people have never practiced that ability, assuming they possess it. Nevertheless, the book is fundamentally a plea for keen and unbiased observation and acceptance of whatever one experiences. If only we would all do more of that¿ A fine book, and a pleasure to read (four and a half stars, rounded to five).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 6, 2011
No text was provided for this review.