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God and the Atomby Victor J. Stenger
Synopses & Reviews
This history of atomism, from Democritus to the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, chronicles one of the most successful scientific hypotheses ever devised, making the case that, in the final analysis, atoms and the void are all that exists.
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.
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.
"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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Victor J. Stenger (Lafayette, CO) is adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado and emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis, God and the Folly of Faith, and many other books.
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