Sorry not to have replied sooner. Most all the parts of your reply were important, hence the length.
It appears your critiques of this book are that it doesn’t appeal to the upper echelon of logical reasoning. I missed the point where this was Paulos intention.
To ask that the things offered as proofs are in fact proofs as written isn’t asking for much. Otherwise, I have to take Paulos’ arguments in the book on his say-so.
I can’t offer rigorous critique of any logical fallacies.
You are *much* too modest. You had the ability to understood the Pythagorean Theorem in eighth grade or earlier. If mathematical-style arguments *can* be understood by any inteligent person, then there is no-one better than Paulos alive to do it. Otherwise, we must accept mathematical proofs on the mere authority of mathematicians. I thought a slogan around here was ‘on the word of no-one’? Well, just because Paulos agrees with you or me or anyone doesn’t mean he’s given a single good argument; and just because you (and Steve Weinberg for that matter) *like* the conclusions of his arguments is a very weak reason to *accept* them - although to accept the word of authorities isn’t a *terrible* ground for believing, just a weak one.
I can say that your argument sounds an offal lot like a case for throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Not to mention, you repeat that this book was hastily written, while it appears your critique of this book falls victim to the same logic.
An offal lot, eh? You accidental poet, you. True, the reviewer mentioned ‘hasty’ - i shouldn’t have. It doesn’t matter to a reader how long it took to write the book - good or bad is good or bad.
I don’t doubt that after you read this book you can find errors. My argument is that sometimes errors are necessary to make a specific message palpable and set an individual on the right course for further inquiry.
No, that’s about as wrong-headed as it can get. Deliberate or lazy errors don’t reliably promote the truth no matter how small the ratio of error to truth. Perhaps you only meant “Don’t pick at small details; sometimes boring material needs punching up.” That *may* be so. All my professional life I’ve sold things - shirts, chemistry, George Berkeley - and i never had to lie about my products, nor has making mistakes encouraged the common . But if *you* insist that errors are *necessary* at times to enlighten people, it may indeed be so.
(1) a book that is based 5% on logical fallacies that makes a reader 20% less likely to fall victim to a logical fallacy.
(2) a book that is based 1% on logical fallacies that makes a reader 5% less likely to fall victim to a logical fallacy.
I would argue that they are both helpful books and a world that has both choices is better off than a world that has just one.
Alas, how do we know that either of these profiles match the book Irreligion? In fact it seems the ratio is much higher than 5%. Just on the arguments presented in the text reviews shown here, even the extract from the *sympathetic* choices have deep and confusing problems. The cracks in the book are pretty deep and neither about little things nor just for specialists to chew over. You understood the critiques i’d made, and those reviewers who pointed out problems, didn’t you?
Also along this point, what peaks some people’s interest to open a book may not work for others. For instance, I have some ex-college roommates who have shown increasing interest towards atheist literature.
Scott, this is exactly why i’ve jumped into this thread. But I’m the teacher who’s being asked to recommend a book. It doesn’t really matter to me that i’m a theist, and my student’s not. I still want to recommend a book that *works* - if by ‘work’ is meant it purports to have arguments and proofs, well then I cannot recommend *Irreligion*. That’s a pity: the books I do recommend to young atheists are not so interesting to read, although they are more informative.
Bertrand Russell is a good choice, btw. Try also John Perry. He has a decent website too. He also has a little book from Hackett Publications called Dialogue on Good, Evil and the Existence of God. I happen to think that has the best exposition of a good atheistic argument about suffering. He also makes use of statistics in his argument, and correctly identifies the difference between a population and its members, a difficult concept for non-specialists to keep straight. Perry’s also a Sartre scholar, too: there’s a funny picture on his webpage of him on a flume ride as ‘John Perry descends into nothingness’.
Now then! As a theist, and as a putative expert (ho ho, har har) on reasoning, i happen to think it has all the defects of any of those non-theistic arguments, and its criticism of the theistic position is also defective. However!! I would indeed recommend it to a student.
So, there’s no good reason to recommend this book. First, there’s at least one other easy-to-read book out there (Perry’s) that does it better on at least one mathematical argument; second, it’s a little strange to further atheism and freethinking at the expense of argumentation, and at the expense of muddling a person’s head with things that are called proofs but aren’t. Lastly, the book might help make more atheists. But if the sampling of arguments from the reviews is any indication, then a fat lot of good *Irreligion* will do for a freethinker, unless he wants to fall back on an authority, and how free is that?