This is an extremely well-written, measured, and intelligent book. As the title suggests, it has a relatively limited aim, but the book achieves it very well. The author also wrote Fermat’s Last Theorem and much else in science; he has a Ph.D. in mathematics and has been a visiting scholar at Harvard.
The author is not writing as an adherent of any particular faith, though the book suggests he believes in some sort of God, and he does have a chapter on how archaeology upholds as historically true much of what the Bible claims.
Caveats: He is anti-young-earth and generally pro-evolution (though pointing out its limits); there is also a dubious sentence (59) on the supposed ossuary of Jesus (not James). I didn’t follow some of the more technical arguments.
- He writes that religious practice is apparently rooted in what is now Israel and nearby areas.
- It seems to me that the bizarreness of the quantum world is itself evidence of God: It amounts to being supernatural.
- In concluding his discussion of chaos theory, etc. (176), the author writes: “And if we fail in our efforts to understand even the simplest of natural processes, how can we even pretend to have knowledge that is so complete and so powerful that we can claim to have disproved the existence of God?”
- “The God of literal interpretations of Scripture written for primitive peoples thousands of years ago certainly does not exist. And religions have their flaws, as all human institutions do. But God — a power well outside our ability to comprehend, transcending the creation of the universe we see around us — may well exist, and science has not, and will not, disprove it.” (252-53, emphasis added)
- The author calls chapter 11 (“Between God and the Anthropic Principle”) the book’s “most important” (177).
- He spends a lot of time on the “multiverse” claim of atheists (also dealt with by William Lane Craig in Reasonable Faith, by the way); perhaps the claim is now being made more frequently, to refute the incredibly-fined-tuned-universe point. It seems to me that, in addition to what Aczel says, it and its problems can be folded into Pascal’s Wager: Again, it can only affect the degree of probability, and it is certainly no more plausible than believing in God.
- The author likes Pascal, by the way, and mentions his wager (parenthetically calling it “somewhat cynical”).