God and the Atom: From Democritus to the Higgs Boson: The Story of a Triumphant Idea

Victor J. Stenger, Author
Victor J. Stenger. Prometheus, $25 (300p) ISBN 978-1-61614-753-2
Reviewed on: 02/04/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
Stenger, an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Hawaii, argues in this quick philosophical treatise and history of atomic theory that the existence of the atom proves that God doesn’t exist. Skimming the centuries, Stenger explains how ancient Greek atomists like Democritus and Epicurus insisted that the world—including the soul—is made up of atoms; further, they posited that when the body perishes, so too does its ethereal counterpart. This contradicted the “antiatomist” views of Aristotle and, later, the Christian idea of an immortal soul. But it was ultimately the writings of the atomists—some of which were rediscovered during the Renaissance—that fed the scientific revolution and abetted the rise of rational thought over religious dogma. Stenger (God: The Failed Hypothesis) rapidly covers a lot of ground: a swift jog through modern physics, followed by brief considerations of dark matter, dark energy, and the origin of the universe, concludes with the assertion that there is no empirical evidence for the existence of a higher power. Stenger’s argument is convincing, but it’s unclear whom he expects to convert, as those most likely to read the book probably already agree with him. Illus. (Apr.)