October 23, 2007

Book Review: What's So Great About Christianity?

BUMP: I'm bumping this to the top for today's interview with Dinesh D'Souza on Heading Right Radio. It has a great comment thread, and I hope our participants listen to the show live today at 2 pm CT!

Last week, I received Dinesh D'Souza's newest book, What's So Great About Christianity?, and found it immediately intriguing. The atheist movement has gained tremendous strength and intellectual vitality in the past few decades, and now features such luminaries as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins among its rhetorical front line apologists. The apologetics of Christianity have had fewer bright lights, and certainly none as intellectually prepared as D'Souza in this comprehensive refutation of the atheist argument.

It would be impossible to offer a comprehensive recapitulation of the entirety of D'Souza's argument in this space. In fact, that's what has kept me from reviewing this book until now; the sheer breadth of D'Souza's argument goes well beyond a blogpost or a newspaper review. He draws from a wide variety of resources from the sciences, philosophy, and apologetics, and derives an argument so interdependent and so solid that taking it a portion at a time diminishes the whole.

Some of the basics can be addressed. D'Souza argues that the scientific argument for atheism simply doesn't address the entire human experience. First, he reviews the history of science and argues that reason only takes one so far. It never answers the question of why, not even in the human experience. Physics can explain, for example, the motion of a glass of water when struck by a human hand and predict the outcome, but it can't answer for why the hand struck the glass.

Similarly, one can explain the Big Bang's physics, but no one can answer for the why, which creates a large problem for atheists. The Big Bang and the implications of Einsteinian physics show that the universe had a beginning. Something with a beginning has to have a causative event -- but if the universe is all that is, what caused the Big Bang? What caused it, and what lies outside of the universe that could have sparked it? Physics can explain the universe, which acts in very precise and predictable ways, but it can't explain the why.

D'Souza also addresses the difference between evolution and Darwinism, at least as he perceives it. Like the Catholic Church, he sees no conflict between evolution and Christianity. In fact, he argues that the Book of Genesis actually aligns itself well with the Big Bang theory, offering that Light came first (the Big Bang initiating event) and that Day and Night came later (the formation of the Sun and the Moon). He decries the Darwinist movement in science which has at its basis an explicit bias against religion, and which therefore rejects any evidence of God or a metaphysical reality, and has a compelling argument for this from the mouths of the scientists themselves. In doing so, they have rejected the scientific method itself, D'Souza insists, turning Darwinism into a religion rather than relying on evolution as an explanation limited to the physical reality of our universe.

In this, D'Souza attempts to point out the fact that while the physical sciences can explain the universe, it can only explain the universe. He relies heavily on Immanuel Kant in this area by reminding us that science remains bound by human perception. Humans experience the universe with their five senses, and scientific exploration -- conducted through experimentation -- has the same limits. We cannot perceive the why, and being physical creatures in the universe, cannot use our physical senses to perceive anything beyond it. These are the limits of reason and science -- certainly nearly boundless in a vast physical universe, but not limitless.

The book makes a fascinating counterargument to atheism, perhaps the best from the secular world I've yet heard. D'Souza does not remain satisfied to argue on his own intellectual turf in terms of religious doctrine, but instead boldly uses science and philosophy outside of religious territory to take the argument to the opponents' home field. D'Souza provides a breath of fresh air to the faithful, and an accessible if complex support for religious belief.

Dinesh D'Souza will be my guest on Monday's Heading Right Radio show. Don't miss it!


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