Dawkins. Coyne. Sagan. Hitchens. Harris.
These are the names that dominate my book shelf, and they're all atheists. It's not that I haven't familiarized myself with theistic arguments (apologetics and otherwise) - it's that it's a problem of "read one and you've read them all". People like Ken Ham build their arguments on the basis of, "I can't explain X; therefore, a god did it."
Then along comes Fred Heeren. The first I heard about him was from some staunch and vocal atheists who wouldn't stop singing his praises - very scientifically-minded, nicer than Jesus himself, and two steps away from being a good atheist (the last always said with a wry grin). The last part is most significant: Fred's a Christian and has managed to win the respect of people who don't really hesitate to let their disdain of apologetics known.
"Show Me God" is the first of four books in a series. This first volume attempts to make the argument that our universe shows evidence for God. Take what you want from the fact that I remained a firm naturalist and atheist after reading this book; ultimately, I'd say that it's a good book.
What I Like
Heeren, time and again, makes great arguments against many (possibly all, but I can't be sure enough to say it, especially not having read Krauss' A Universe From Nothing) existing naturalist hypotheses and theories for the reason and nature of the universe:
- Fred makes a convincing argument that we are, in fact, in a very sweet spot for creating life. The odds of our existence are overwhelmingly small, and the likelihood of us being in the universe seems likely.
- In an attempt to address the incredibly small odds of our existence, some have postulated that our universe is a "crunch and bang" model - eventually, our universe will reach a critical density, collapse in on itself, and explode once more into another universe. Given infinite time, this means that we would eventually be created as a universe such as our own. Heeren, however, refutes this by saying that, by current measurements, our universe is of such density that we're likely to be a type of universe the expands and never collapses in on itself - thus, no "crunch and bang".
He makes other good arguments - against the "first anthropic principal" and the "primary anthropic principal", for example - which, bearing in mind that I have no formal education or experience in cosmology, seemed to stand.
The book is packed nicely with scientific facts, stories, and interviews. It's a great departure from the likes of Ken Ham - rather than fluff and pretensions at being scientific, Fred actually grounds his refutations of naturalist arguments in science. It's a great introduction into cosmology and physics - Fred does a great job of conveying what are otherwise complex topics into something the layman can understand.
What I Didn't Like
Fred makes great attempts at refuting naturalist arguments, but the part where I strongly disagree with him is when the dust settles: for lack of existing natural explanations, he says that the only possible explanation is supernatural.
I find this to be a deeply-flawed conclusion; we have, historically, come upon facts of the universe that we cannot explain with our understanding of nature at the time, and made the mistake of assuming that the only explanation must be supernatural. Look no further than Isaac Newton: unable to explain the seemingly consistent, concentric orbits of the planets, he fell back to the idea that God must occasionally intervene to keep them from spinning out of the solar system or into the sun. Thus, Fred (in my opinion, mistakenly) assumes that, if we have no naturalistic explanations, then supernaturalism must be the answer.
It's irrelevant to Fred's ideological platform, but he has breaks in the book of a dialogue between himself and a fictional character "Carl", who represents the lazy reader who has no interest in the scientific material and wants to jump to "the God stuff". I read the first couple of breaks, but then began skipping them whenever I encountered them.
What I Really Didn't Like
Toward the end of the book, Fred started getting into meaning of life one can and cannot derive from their view of the universe. It struck me as out-of-place in a book that I expected to be an argument for the existence of God based on cosmological evidence.
If you were like me - an atheist looking for a book written by "the other side", you'll do well with this book, because, assuming you don't find Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" an easy read, you'll actually learn something. I don't think you'll be convinced at all of the concreteness of the existence of a designer, but you'll come out knowing a bit more about cosmology.