Saturday, August 21, 2010

Book Review: Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything by Edgar Andrews

Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of EverythingYou might think that Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything by Edgar Andrews is a “just another” popular-level response to the new atheism. But you’d be wrong. While it is a popular-level book, it is anything but a typical response. British scientist Edgar Andrews (who himself debated Dawkins in 1986) takes a unique and extremely readable approach that not only critiques the likes of Richard Dawkins and Victor Stenger, but also makes a case for Christianity from a scientific perspective. He makes his case with reason and logic, all while weaving it together with clever wit, interesting analogies, and a unique style. The result is a book with a great deal of scientific depth, while remaining completely accessible to both the expert and the man on the street. This review will highlight some of the apologetic angles that Andrews takes.

The book is composed of seventeen chapters, each with an introductory page summarizing the idea that will be covered, along with explanations for any tricky words. Andrews tackles the tough question: “who made God?” early on in the book, but opens up the more important questions of “what do we mean by God?” as well as looking at the role of science in answering the big questions. Dawkins, Dennett and the new atheism make their brief appearances, but this is not a book spending all its time fighting back. Instead, Andrews has his own case to make.

Taking a scientific look at the God question, Andrews proposes that “…the ‘God hypothesis’ approach gives us much more freedom to explore the nature of God because we can make any assumptions we choose concerning the attributes of God and then see where these assumptions lead us.”(60) Andrews doesn’t want to begin from the ground up to see if he can arrive at God through a long process of philosophical acrobatics: “With the philosophical approach, God is the endpoint of our deliberations. With the hypothetical approach, he is the starting point.”(60) He takes this angle so God is the foundation – the hypothesis – that can be tested: “…the hypothesis of God is a foundation on which to build – an assumption that leads to a whole host of conclusions that can be tested against human experience including (but by no means limited to) scientific observations.”(62)

How does Andrews actually go about testing this hypothesis? He elaborates: “Our hypothesis, then, is that the God of the Bible exists, and I shall seek to demonstrate that this hypothesis explains human observation and experience far better than atheism or even science can ever do – and remember that I write as a scientist as well as a Christian.”(89) Anticipating detractors to his approach, the author clarifies that this angle is not fallacious: “Let me reiterate; I am not here assuming what I set out to prove. The hypothesis is not itself proof of anything. The proof will lie in the consistency of what is hypothesized with human experience and observation.”(91)

Andrews proceeds to test the God hypothesis as it compares to an atheistic hypothesis when it comes to cosmic origins, the origin of the laws of science, the moral law, and the origin of first life, and living organisms. He notes the limits of science to explain everything: “The claim that, given time, science will explain everything is simply the atheist’s version of the God of the gaps.”(96) Andrews also explores the issues of design found in DNA and the cell:
…I have problems with those who (1) admit that nature gives every evidences of being intelligently designed; (2) introduce an alternative materialistic explanation for the appearance of design; and then (3) without further discussion conclude that only their alternative explanation can be true. Meet the neo-duckians, whose logic demands that ‘If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is indubitably a chicken.’ Such are those who tell us that the cell’s molecular language is merely an accident of nature.(187)
Is Andrews an ID proponent? He doesn’t seem to jump on board completely: “My own view is that ID is an inference drawn from science rather than part of science itself.”(209) Andrews does look at design features and notes that an inference to design is fair enough. He explains his position:
ID as an inference from science is just as legitimate as the multiverse and, in my view, much more so. Of course, you are free to define science in such a way as to include its philosophical implications, but if you do you cannot be selective – you must admit ID alongside the multiverse and any other theory that can be neither proven nor falsified by scientific data. Or else you must exclude all such theories from your definition of science.(210)
Andrews is no friend of neo-Darwinism, to be sure. As he notes, “a theory that of origins that, with little imagination, can explain anything, actually explains nothing.”(213) Furthermore, “The problem I have is that evolution can always contrive an answer to these questions and can therefore never be falsified.”(215) 

With his scientific “God hypothesis” angle and a completely accessible writing style, Andrews presents a book that is, in this reviewer’s opinion, a perfect gift to just about anyone – from layman to expert. Andrews adds wit and humor that is fresh and unique. The content is engaging, exploring the sciences from string theory and the multiverse to time, conscience, moral law, the origin of life, and miracles. Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything is entertaining, logical, scientific, fascinating, and fun. It was a pleasant surprise.

* Edgar Andrews, Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything (Darlington, England: EP Books, 2009).


Adrian said...

hey, I was wondering how you are able to post only a portion of the review, and not the whole thing, and then a link for the entire thing. having trouble finding otu how i do that on mine. thanks for the help

Brian said...

It's a blogger feature - you can read more about it here.

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