A Guide to Reality, Part 1

Alex Rosenberg is the R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy and chairman of the philosophy department at Duke University. He’s published more than 100 articles and reviews. Among his books are Microeconomic Laws: A Philosophical Analysis, Hume and the Problem of Causation, The Structure of Biological Science and Darwinian ReductionismLike most philosophers these days, he writes for an academic audience. In 2011, however, he published a book for a general audience: The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions.

The title is a little misleading, since Rosenberg derives his atheism from a more fundamental belief called “scientism”. That’s the view according to which, in Rosenberg’s words, “the methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything”. Unfortunately, there is no word for a person who accepts scientism other than “scientist” and you can be a scientist without believing in scientism. For that matter, you can be an atheist without believing in scientism. 

On the other hand, if you’re sure of God’s existence, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality probably won’t change your mind. It’s a book for people who are willing to take science extremely seriously, even to the point of concluding that many of humanity’s most common beliefs are wrong. Since I’m one of those people, I enjoyed the book, even while disagreeing with some of Rosenberg’s conclusions.

Because The Atheist’s Guide is well-written and covers so much ground (for example, physics, evolution, perception, consciousness, free will, history and morality), I thought it would be an interesting exercise to work through it, explaining and responding to Professor Rosenberg’s views right here on this blog (while continuing to write about other things, like class warfare and mowing the lawn). 

If you want to consider the professor’s views first-hand and be able to correct my account of what he has to say (assuming you want to participate), the paperback and electronic versions are going for less than $15 online.


Next time:  the relationship between science and atheism.

5 thoughts on “A Guide to Reality, Part 1

  1. Since the Creator is author of reality, denial of the existence of the Creator is the denial of reality.

    As a result, the atheist must create his own reality.

    Such a philosophy is called constructivism and has been used in American public education for over 50 years.

    That American public education is a complete disaster is therefore no surprise.

    Another result of denying the existence of God is that the atheist then must make himself or some other human being, the author of reality.

    That means there are 7 billions versions of reality running around the planet.

    The result is total, fatal incoherence.

    Rosenberg is obviously a crackpot, just like Karl Marx and should be laughed to scorn before his ridiculous spreads like an intellectual plague.

    • I can’t say I agree with any of your eight sentences, but it would be interesting to know who this “Creator” is, if that were possible and there is or was such a thing. For those of us unfamiliar with the term, constructivism is “based on experimental learning through real life experience” (Wikipedia). The movement is associated with John Dewey and Maria Montessori. (Please don’t take this reply as an invitation to further “discussion”.)

  2. Even as a theist, I found the book interesting. I disagreed with nearly everything Rosenberg claimed, of course (and wrote quite a few blog-posts about it), but I did enjoy the read.

    I recommend it myself. The only point of disagreement I see is the idea that this is based on taking science seriously. I’d say that these conclusions are drawn from his scientism, not science.

    In any case, I’m glad to run across a discussion of the book, and thinking on it. I’ll have to keep an eye on future comments.

  3. Pingback: A Guide to Reality, Part 15 (the End, or Maybe Not Quite) | Whereof One Can Speak

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