“Who Made God?”- Book Review

Edgar Andrews’ Who Made God?: Searching for a theory of everything may be the funnest book I’ve read so far this year.

Andrews is a world-class scientist, whose lifetime of work at the University of London and as a consultant of several major chemical companies throughout the world give him a platform for attempting to write a book such as this.  Who Made God? is titled after what Andrews found to be “the sceptics favourite question” from atheists regarding the issue of the existence of God.  He might have also titled his book An Hypothesis of God’s Existence. He spends several chapters on defense, before spending most of the book studying the idea of God in the fashion of an hypothesis–that is, rather than arguing from the evidences to conclusions, in true scientific fashion, he sets forward an hypothesis–namely that God exists and that this God is the God described by the Old and New Testaments.  Then using his extensive insights, both in physical and biological science, he examines whether what we find in the world confirms or falsifies the hypothesis.

Andrews excels in the explanation; he takes complex ideas such as quantum physics, string theory, and genetic mutations and puts them into words and ideas that the non-technician can understand.  His wit and analogies make the book hard to put down, even if one finds oneself sludging through some pretty thick scientific mud.   For example, “There are several problems with Stenger’s (another physicist and author) bold claims.  First of all, he confuses ‘nothing’ with ‘nothing’–which is an intellectual feat in itself.”  or “I have a feeling that Dr Stenger might be like a man climbing Everest in a T shirt–brave but somewhat alone.”  These are just a few examples.

He also will make some happy as he not only discusses the major evolutionary and creationist worldviews (and their implications), but also builds in discussion about theistic evolution (noting several different types) and the Intelligent Design movement.  One of his major strengths is his consistent ability to distinguish between science and philosophy.  He notes that in searching for origins, evolutionists often fall into philosophical speculation of things like multiverses (many universes) and, he points out, once science has opened the door to philosophical speculation of one type, then creationism and other groups are just as welcome to enter the fray.  He doesn’t argue that the two spheres have no overlap, but rather that we must acknowledge them and not make empirical “scientific” statements that actually belong in the philosophical realm.

All that said, Andrews’ book is worth the read for anyone simply interested in science in general and especially for those who are interested in the overlap between science and Christianity and on the question of God’s existence.

One extremely helpful thing about the book is Andrews starts each chapter with a 2-3 paragraph summary of what will be discussed, along with a helpful list of 2-4 vocabulary words introduced for the non-scientists among us.

So, that said, I encourage anyone interested in these things to pick up a copy of Edgar Andrews’ Who made God?.

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“The Road”- Movie Review

And you thought the past few weeks were a rough winter?

I had the chance back in November to attend a screening of The Road, a new film based on Cormac McCarthy’s (No Country for Old Men) award-winning book of the same title.

The Road is a gritty tale, not for the faint of heart.  Viggo Mortensen (“Aragorn” in Lord of the Rings) once again proves as tough as any movie monsters thrown at him, whether man or myth.  (I’m not sure how much weight he lost for this role, but it’s disturbing–rightfully so.)  He plays the father of a young boy, both of whom are living in a post-apocalyptic world that is bleaker than any nightmare I’ve ever had.  We aren’t told in the film what caused the end of the world (nuclear war seems most likely, based on a few descriptions), but the end came and it was nastier than cafeteria meatloaf.  Planet and animal life is all but non-existent.  What few humans remain are either on the hunt or the run.  Forget dog-eat-dog–this is a man-eat-man world, and the filmmakers do little to spare us along those lines.  Find food or be food, seem the options left.

The father and his son struggle to survive as they attempt to find help (and hope, which they have little of).  This is more than man vs. nature, though.  The father’s sleep is haunted by the world that was–specifically the memory of his wife.  (I don’t want to give away too much here.)  McCarthy’s narrative draws on mythological themes, and one sees that in several of the scenes, including an almost-unrecognizable appearance by Robert Duvall.

The film explores the issues of love (father-son), hope (or lack of), and ultimately faith.  One major idea of the film is its fleshed-out humanism, though it is the bold and honest kind envisioned by someone like Nietzsche, not the cream-puff “there is no God, but let’s love each other anyway and everything will be alright” philosophy so popular.  One scene involves the young boy praying in thanks for food discovered.  Not knowing any better, he simply prays to the people who left it, though the father cannot even bring himself to that. Having an unreasonable hope is one thing; but operating with no hope is an entirely different animal to be confronted with.  McCarthy drives that home.

The Road is the kind of movie that you shouldn’t even think about taking your kids to see.  But it is a movie that perhaps you need to.  The ideas in it will have you thinking for days (I saw it almost two months ago, and I’m still disturbed and perplexed and intrigued.)  It will perhaps inspire you in revolt to anchor your hopes a little deeper and a little surer.  If nothing else, you’ll stock up on more canned goods next trip to the grocery store.

“Collision” Movie Review

What happens if you take an outspoken New Atheist from the UK and a pastor from Moscow, Idaho and toss them together for a few days with cameras constantly rolling?  Well, that’s obvious.  You get “Collision”, a new documentary released late last month on DVD and (I have to add the proper kudos) a birthday present from my beautiful wife. (She gets me.)

Atheist Christopher Hitchens and Pastor Douglas Wilson are no strangers to each other via writing and the Interweb.  Several years ago, Christopher Hitchens was doing some writing on new atheism and his main slant in its support–namely that religion is irretrievably evil.  He received some rather intriguing responses from a man in Idaho named Douglas Wilson.  Apparently, the dialogue was so good that the two men were invited to co-author a book entitled Is Christianity Good for the World? However, despite co-authoring a book, the two men had never met in person before the several days of public debates of the same title as the book that this film revolves around.

The film, directed by Darren Doane (this is where I show my film buff skills with a brief synopsis of the previous films he has done…ok, I haven’t seen them), has a quick overall pace, but knows how to settle in for the important moments.  At the end, I was thinking, “I could watch another hour or two of this,” which is good.  Most documentaries start off great and then make you claw your eyes out during the second half of the film as the movie goes preachy on whatever topic.  (Or they add a self-congratulatory biography of how poor Al Gore, the senator’s son, overcame all his obstacles…)  Collision doesn’t do either.

It helps that Hitchens and Wilson are both big personalities.  There’s a scene in the middle where the two of them are quoting their favorite sentences from author P.G. Wodehouse and just laughing until they cried.  They debate each other in such a way that if you saw them at the booth across the restaurant you would want to pull up a chair and listen in.  As Hitchens acknowledges, Wilson’s adherence and claim to actually believe the Bible make the debates work.  Hitchens comments of his boredom with debating the water-downed beliefs in the UK which bend over backwards to not really believe much of anything.  Of course, Hitchens himself is sort of a rock-star personality, as the camera crew often catches fans recognizing him on the street and he makes no attempt to stay humble about such things.

Doanne in his direction does a great job of allowing the debate between the two to advance within the film itself.  Although I am certain that some of the main points were made by each man at their various debate stops, you never get a sense that something has been recycled from earlier in the film.  He also does a great job of giving pretty equal airtime to both men.

I was wondering whether the Reformed theology of Wilson would be a help or a hurt during the debates.  But as most (good) theologians realize, the major problems of either Calvinism, Arminianism, or something-in-between are really problems that theism in general must answer (questions regarding foreknowledge, freedom of will, divine sovereignty, the problem of evil, etc.), so in that regard it doesn’t really change much of the overall argument.

If I could sum up the basic arguments, Hitchens argues that Christianity promotes wickedness, and Wilson responds that atheism can’t have a category called “wickedness” to put Christianity in.  Obviously, these themes are teased out in greater detail by both men, but you’ll have to watch the movie to see them.

Collision is an excellent movie.  For those interested in religious issues, it will be even more fascinating.

(FYI- The movie does not have a rating.  There are two instances of profanity in it for those concerned.)