Item description for Can a Smart Person Believe in God? by Michael Guillen...
Overview Is it possible to reconcile science with what one believes about God? Television journalist Guillen believes that by embracing the discoveries of science, people can see God, the universe, and humanity in full, multidimensional glory.
As Christians, we are often urged to turn away from scientific discovery and rely solely on the Bible as the source of our faith. On the other hand, many people in areas such as science, law, and education insist that Christian faith is lowbrow or unintelligent. But is it possible to reconcile science with what you believe about God? As someone who has grappled with the issues of science and faith in the public eye for more than a decade as a television journalist, Dr. Michael Guillen believes it is possible. In fact, by embracing the discoveries of science we can see God, the universe, and humanity in full, multidimensional glory.
Fortunately, you don't have to be a genius to enjoy this book. The bite-sized chapters are full of fascinating scientific tidbits in an easy-to-understand format. Captivating stories of the author's childhood in the Mexican barrio of East L.A. and his work in television and research are woven throughout. There is even an entertaining SQ (Spiritual Quotient) test for readers to take.
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Studio: Thomas Nelson
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.8" Width: 5.1" Height: 0.5" Weight: 0.3 lbs.
Release Date Sep 5, 2006
Publisher Thomas Nelson
ISBN 0785287892 ISBN13 9780785287896
Availability 0 units.
More About Michael Guillen
Guillen is a theoretical physicist and former science correspondent for ABC News. He taught physics at Harvard for eight years, during which time he won awards for his distinguished teaching. He currently serves as president of Spectacular Science Productions and chief consultant for science and religion for Crystal Cathedral Ministries.
Reviews - What do customers think about Can a Smart Person Believe in God??
Why should anyone believe in God? Jul 27, 2006
To determine what to believe in we first have to find out what is known about God. The Judeo-Christian God that Guillen wants us to believe in is a creator god who supposedly created everything in the universe. As part of this creation package he also gave us a "soul" that survives death and whose fate in the next world depends on how well you observed his rules in this world. There is a mysterious aspect to him too: he cannot be seen or heard but he himself sees and hears everything and knows just what you think. With this device he has you over the barrel: he knows everything about you, and if you didn't observe his rules your soul ends up in "Hell" after you die. But before you buy into this scenario you will want to know what evidence is there for any of this. You start with the Bible and you note that the oldest parts of it were not written down until the seventh century B.C. This is much later than the religions of neighboring Egypt and Mesopotamia so that the possibility exists of borrowing from these antecedent civilizations. And lo and behold, the Bible does contain a flood story that is obviously borrowed from the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh. And Moses, the Egyptian who led the Exodus, is a monotheist, not a polytheist like the other Egyptians. But wait, the Egyptians also had a monotheistic religion under pharao Akhenaten which was suppressed after his death. Is it possible that Moses was one of Akhenaten's followers who was forced underground and then took the opportunity to flee Egypt with the Israelis? Quite possible, for the time frame fits, but unprovable. Yet there are hints. To Akhenaten the one and only god was the sun god Aten. Aten was also known by other names, one of which was Amun-Ra and another one was Amen. And not coincidentally the Hebrew prayers always end with the word "Amen," an invocation to the Egyptian sun god and not to their own god Yahweh. Next, you check out theology. To theologians God is, by definition, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and eternal. Pretty strong stuff. Omnipotence means that he can make anything happen. And here we come to the real problem: there is much evil in the world and if he really is omnipotent he could put a stop to it. He obviously did not prevent Nazi and Communist mass murders or the Rwandan genocide. This leaves only two possibilities: either he is omnipotent and he wanted these massacres to happen, or he simply does not exist. There is something to be said for his love of massacres for if you know your Bible you know that he once drowned the entire human race for not following his rules and left only one family alive. That must count as the greatest mass murder in history, greater than any of those twentieth century massacres he seems to have approved of. Its intent is basically similar to killing cattle that have the foot and mouth disease - you just kill the diseased ones as England did and grow more from uninfected cattle. You might say that by drowning us he has treated us like cattle. But I prefer the second possibility because the theory of evolution tells us that we were not created but evolved, thus invalidating the creation story of evey religion there is. Which leaves us GODLESS. And that is why a smart person can not believe in God. But Guillen has his own unique way of determining what to believe. His parents and grandparents were all pentecostal ministers and he is the only one in the family who took up science and obtained a Ph.D. from Harvard. He has taught physics at the university level and was also a science popularizer on TV. In this book-length sermon he postulates the existence of an SQ or Spiritual Quotient, analogous to an IQ but measuring your degree of spirituality. To him both IQ and SQ are needed for a complete person - it is like stereo vision allowing you to appreciate both the physical and the spiritual worlds, both science and religion, to the fullest. But if one of them is low or missing you are a cyclops. High IQ - low SQ person is an intellectual cyclops or an atheist while a low IQ - high SQ person is a spiritual cyclops of blind faith like some seventeenth-century churchmen. If you have that stereo vision, however, you can see both science and faith clearly and to you they do not conflict. And having glimpsed such a paradise, how can you not believe in God? Along the way we are given statistics that ninety four percent of Americans believe in God and that only one percent of us are atheists. For such a rare breed of person he has met quite a few of them and this book is aimed at converting them to God. He himself says that while in the company of intellectuals he was reluctant to speak of his faith and did not even say his prayers daily as he had been taught as a child. But that changed when he outed himself on TV and the public responded wonderfully, convincing him that his belief was right. This book does not even attempt to discuss religion seriously and relies on the emotional appeal of his anectotes to try to make a point. He comes across as a likeable, well-meaning person permanently disabled by his childhood indoctrination that he lacks the courage to reject. His "stereo vision" is a pitiful attempt to solve this dilemma.
Important to God/Science Discussion Feb 22, 2006
This is a short (160pp) but interesting little book. Basically it focuses on how atheists promote the idea that "smart" people can't believe in God and how they have promoted the idea that science and religion are separate realms.
Guillen details why science and religion are not at odds but are in fact complimentary. He does tend to still keep them in separate compartments, whereas many Christian scientists wouldn't.. The new and important contribution Guillen makes to the issue is his idea of the "spiritual quotient", or SQ, the companion to IQ. His discussions on how people tend to ignore the intellectual part of their humanity (IQ) or ignore their spiritual part (SQ) is right on the mark. Usually it's the atheists ignoring the spiritual side (or reforming it naturalistic terms) and Christians ignoring the intellectual side of faith.
This book can be useful in discussions with atheists, but Guillen does stop a step or two short in not allowing science and religion to completely converge even though he believes they are from the same source. For example, he states science can't prove God. Think about that, it doesn't make sense. It's like saying an archaeologist who finds an object in the ground, concludes it's designed but then says he can't infer anything about the person who created it or if that person exist at all. That's absurd reasoning, especially after Guillen spends all that time showing how there is design in the universe.
Disappointing on almost all levels Feb 8, 2006
I picked up this slim book because it was directed to both believers and atheists. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to its marketing copy. "Can A Smart Person Believe In God?" never properly answers its title question and utterly fails to address the concerns of the nonbeliever. Unfortunately it doesn't even address all believers, as this work is willfully ignorant of the existance of any religion but evangelical Christianity.
Michael Guillen is an evangelical Christian who accomplished a lot in a field that usually doesn't attract religious believers. He feels this book will straddle these two disparate worlds, but all he's accomplished is demonstrating how out of his depth he is with a work like this. In order to reconcile science and religious belief, Guillen would have done well to learn plenty of philosophy, history of philosophy, history of religion, and history of science. But this book seems to have been put together with a few Google searches and a couple of lookups in an encyclopedia. He missteps left and right in invoking arguments that were abandoned more than a hundred years ago in trying to 'disprove' atheism, while at the same time admitting that most areas of religion cannot be measured scientifically.
His categorization of the different varieties of atheist were at best patronizing and in many cases far worse. While he quotes Robert Ingersoll, it isn't apparent that Guillen ever actually read his work for understanding. He seems unsure how to handle the "practical atheist" who is willing to accept a divinity should one actually manifest. And he saves his greatest contempt for the rock-solid atheist such as Richard Dawkins, labeling them Arrogant Atheists.
More than a third of the book suffers from the Argument from Authority when the authority is the Bible. Guillen never makes a case for why the nonbeliever or the non-Christian would accept the King James Bible as a solution. In fact, Guillen never addresses the existence of any form of religious tradition other than Christianity at all, which is probably the book's biggest failing on the believers' side. It's as provincial as a book on Life in the Twentieth Century only talking about New York City; yeah, it's big, but it isn't all there is.
The Spiritual Quotient is another one of Guillen's ideas gone wrong, because he doesn't seem to be able to define it very well. The scoring of his SQ test shows some hostility toward not only rational-types but again, non-Christians (not going to church counts against you). And he missed the boat by not looking into the work being done in neurology and evolutionary psychology which shows that religious ecstacy can be induced with proper stimulation of certain brain regions, or that humans may have been selected for belief in the divine as a social survival trait, whether or not any divine being exists or not.
Ultimately, the biggest failing of this book is that Guillen was the wrong person to write it. The intersection between science and religion is a fascinating field for discussion. But when a proponent dismisses atheism with one straw man argument after another, ignores the existence of most of the world's religious traditions other than his own, and treads on the field of philosophy without understanding it, the result is an embarassment that should not have been published.
A non-believer examines Guillen's thesis Jan 25, 2006
I approached this book with interest because, although I am a non-believer, I share Guillen's sense of wonder and awe when we contemplate the mysteries of the universe.
Guillen, of course, believes (pages 11-12) in the "...God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.... who defines standards of behavior that invite us to transcend our baser, more destructive tendencies ..." Yes, some sections of the Bible provide fine standards of behavior - but this is not uniformly so. Guillen does not mention that God approved selling one's daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7), or that God apparently favored genocide, ordering the deaths of many tribes - among others, almost everyone in Jericho (Joshua 6), all the male Midianites (Numbers 31) and all the Amalekites (Samuel 15).
Guillen ignores the obvious question of whether God is cruel and vengeful - and the more likely explanation that the Bible was written by ordinary mortals who were themselves cruel and vengeful. Biblical scholars tell us that the Torah, the core of the Old Testament, is a compendium authored by a series of remarkable writers over a period of some 500 years, from about 900 to 400 BCE. Analysis of the Bible and its authorship does not detract from the wisdom contained in its pages, but should raises questions as to whether the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob dictated the Bible to Moses.
Guillen seems to believe that one can curry favor with God and that God can interfere in the affairs of our world. An especially dangerous belief is that "God is on our side" in whatever war we are currently prosecuting. Such a conviction was used by Islamic terrorists to justify destroying the World Trade Center - and has been used by many world leaders to intimidate those who disagree with their policies.
Guillen offers the pretence of fairness - for example, on page 33 he expresses the hope that he has "...done justice to [the] arguments [of atheists]..." but I think not. He has caricatured, ridiculed and patronized atheists. He has set up straw men and knocked them down, but hasn't come close to addressing the serious views put forward by thoughtful non-believers. Yes, some atheists are - as he notes - shamefully arrogant. But so are many religionists - arrogant to the point of believing that it is all right to disregard the views and feelings of any who disagree, to trample on their rights, to dispossess them from their lands and, if it seems convenient, to kill them. Guillen implies (pages 49-51) that the horrendous crimes committed by various leaders in the USSR, China and North Korea are related to "... their godless political philosophies..." This suggests that atheism is at the root of these crimes, for which there is no evidence. Long before the barbarities of the 20th Century, the world witnessed, throughout the millennia, barbaric cruelties that clearly were inspired by religion, but Guillen takes no note of this.
As evidence of a coherent worldview (pages 135-6) Guillen juxtapose angels and neutrinos, the devil and a black hole, monotheism and quantum mechanics. This is mind-boggling. Intelligent people believes in neutrinos, black holes and quantum mechanics because there is abundant evidence for them. Inexplicably, Guillen finds an analogy between such evidence and a belief in angels or in the devil. But somehow he suggests that intellectual people and spiritual people are moving toward a mutually coherent understanding of the world.
Guillen's approach to miracles (page 119) is astonishing. He suggests that because modern science can help a 63-year-old woman become pregnant, this somehow gives credibility to the story that God caused Sarah, at age 90, to become pregnant. He seems to be trying to make science complicit in legitimizing a miracle. Aside from statements of faith - where Guillen has as much right to his opinion as I have to mine - there are occasional misstatements of fact. For example, he states (page 137) that "The three angles of any triangle - wide, narrow or in-between - always add up to 180 degrees." Really? Try that on the surface of a sphere, like the one we live on. (A cheap shot, but I couldn't resist.)
Guillen finds meaning and purpose in life through his "...wise inner counsel [that Christians call] the Holy Spirit..." (page 140). All well and good. But many others find wise, inner counsel in their own ways. Inner wisdom is not denied to Jews, to Buddhists, to Muslims, to pantheists or to non-believers.
I think Guillen is probably correct (page 102) that we can never hope to fully understand the world solely on the basis of intellectual analysis and that some questions will always remain beyond the reach of scientific knowledge. But this does not justify the notion that we must formulate answers to those questions solely on the basis of faith. He alludes (pages 40-41) to "...the ubiquitous evidence for God's existence..." Where is that evidence? The evidence seems to be "... the deity inside my head, and also my heart and soul..." (page 44). That is not evidence, but simply a matter of faith. Although he has every right to maintain that faith, he has failed completely to make his case (page 146) that a smart person cannot avoid believing in God.
In the final analysis Guillen's thesis is unconvincing, lacking in logic, and unlikely to persuade many non-believers. Although secular humanists do not believe in God, they believe in the beauty and grandeur of the natural world and in the importance of cherishing and preserving it. They believe in human decency and dignity and caring and love, and in striving for justice and fairness to all human beings. They seek those goals as urgently as any devout religionist and their ability to achieve them is not diminished because of their agnosticism.
Blah. Aug 5, 2005
First let me say it's a pity that in Mr. Guillen's proffesional milieu a person should feel compelled to defend his faith in God.
This book is a let-down because the author defends his rather limited idea of spirituality and God (the sadist in the Old Testament that tells us to murder the children of our enemies), leaving little to no room for less dogmatic forms of spirituality. The tone of the book is defensive and unscientific. The author argues that God must exist because most people through the ages have believed in God. One could use this logic to justify scapegoating (killing) women as witches since so many people through the ages have believed in evil spells and black magic!