Robin McKie reviews books by Lewis Wolpert and Dan Dennett

From The Observer:

These are hard times for those who question mainstream religion. We live in a world inflamed by the godly, from rabble-rousing Christian fundamentalists to Muslim fanatics. In the Sixties and Seventies, doubters may have run the show, but today the God squad rules, at least in America and the Middle East. Only the brave or foolhardy risk its wrath.

Hence the surprise at the appearance, in the same month, of books published by two very different but equally distinguished non-believing intellectuals, writers who do not so much paddle in these troubled waters as plunge into them. Both look at religion as if it were a small, unpleasant growth in a Petri dish: not an approach likely to win many Vatican medals. Not that they care.

‘By asking for an accounting of the pros and cons of religion, I risk getting poked in the nose or worse,’ admits Daniel Dennett, a philosopher. ‘Yet I persist. Why? Because I believe it is very important to look carefully at the question: are people right that the best way to live a good life is through religion?’

Lewis Wolpert, a developmental biologist, is even more outspoken. ‘I know of no good evidence for the existence of God,’ he writes. ‘I am an atheist reductionist materialist.’ (Yes, but which kind, I wondered, recalling an old Glaswegian joke: a Protestant atheist reductionist materialist or a Catholic atheist reductionist materialist?)

More here.

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