The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions

Alex Rosenberg. Norton, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-08023-0
A wide-ranging if somewhat dry demonstration of how science can explain the workings of the universe. Rosenberg, a professor of philosophy at Duke University, distinguishes his project from that of the so-called New Atheists such as Richard Dawkins by not seeking to prove the nonexistence of God. Instead, he is concerned with providing a materialist description of reality: he outlines a Darwinian picture of human existence whose developmental trajectory is determined by the laws of physics, in particular the second law of thermodynamics. Along the way he attempts to construct a vision of morality with the snappy title of “Nice Nihilism,” one based not on God but on natural selection, as well as debunking a number of ideas he takes to be illusions, such as free will or the notion that humans have a consciousness that actually thinks about things. In all this Rosenberg is competent and occasionally compelling throughout, but it is hard to shake the feeling that his descriptions of human behavior and thought are reductive and simplistic. Still, as an attempt to offer a comprehensive, secular vision of how reality functions in the absence of God, it is fascinating and thought-provoking. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/22/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-393-34411-0
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-393-08333-0
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