No Sense of Obligation
No Sense of Obligation
Science and Religion in an Impersonal Universe
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Some of the Praise for No Sense of Obligation

. . . fascinating analysis of religious belief --

Steve Allen, author, composer, entertainer

[A] tour de force of science and religion, reason and faith, denoting in clear and unmistakable language and rhetoric what science really reveals about the cosmos, the world, and ourselves.

Michael Shermer, Publisher, Skeptic Magazine; Author, How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science

About the Book

Rejecting belief without evidence, a scientist searches the scientific, theological, and philosophical literature for a sign from God--and finds him to be an allegory.

This remarkable book, written in the layperson’s language, leaves no room for unproven ideas and instead seeks hard evidence for the existence of God. The author, a sympathetic critic and observer of religion, finds instead a physical universe that exists reasonlessly. He attributes good and evil to biology, not to God. In place of theism, the author gives us the knowledge that the universe is intelligible and that we are grownups, responsible for ourselves. He finds salvation in the here and now, and no ultimate purpose in life, except as we define it.

Chapter 1

Sort of a hypothesis

I used to have a colleague I shall call Robin. He is a bright guy and a good scientist, and I think highly of him. He is also a member of a small Baptist sect and a Biblical literalist. Once, Robin owed me a favor, so I said, in essence, "Sit down. I would like to know why you hold your religious belief without evidence or, if you have evidence, what that evidence is."

We talked for the better part of an hour. Robin told anecdotes, talked about reports of "miracles" from all over the world, and spoke of his inner conviction, his inner feelings. I asked why he thought the religion of his parents was right and all others were (therefore) wrong. I asked if he would be a Koranic literalist if he had been born in Islamabad instead of Cleveland. He calls this my "accident of birth" argument, but he has no real answer to it.

Early on, I asked whether his belief was allegorical, that is, an approximation to the truth, or simply his way of getting at God and no better or worse than someone else's. Was his belief a hypothesis that he would employ as long as it worked, or was it absolutely true?

No, he answered, it is absolutely true.

At the end of the hour, he said, as best I can recall, "Look, what you said earlier, about being a hypothesis. [Pause.] I guess it is sort of a hypothesis." Saying so made him feel threatened. You could see it in his body language, hear it in his voice, see it in his eyes. So I quickly stopped the conversation.


1. Sort of a hypothesis

2. Science, evidence, and nonsense: Why science has a greater claim to objectivity

3. Signs, wonders, and anecdotes: How people use evidence selectively

4. Questioning authority: Why the Bible cannot be literally true

5. The evil that men do: How what we call evil is the result of our biological nature

6. Aquinas's error: Why the philosophical arguments fail to establish the existence of a purposeful creator

7. Experimentalist's universe: Why we are biological systems governed by the laws of the universe

8. The magnificent structure of nature: Why the universe is more compelling than any mythology

9. Questions theists ask.

Matt Young is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Physics and the Division of Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, and was formerly Physicist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado. While with NIST, he earned the Department of Commerce Gold and Silver Medals for his work in optical fiber communications and was named Fellow of the Optical Society of America. His previous positions include Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Waterloo, Assistant Professor of Electrophysics and Electronic Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Associate Professor of Natural Science at Verrazzano College, and Visiting Scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Professor Young is a member of the Optical Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Federation of American Scientists, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and the Rocky Mountain Skeptics. He is the author or co-author of roughly 100 publications and was twice Guest Editor of the prestigious Conference on Precision Electromagnetic Measurements. He is the author of Optics and Lasers, including Fibers and Optical Waveguides (fifth edition, 2000) and The Technical Writer's Handbook: Writing with Style and Clarity (1989); both books have appeared in foreign translations and are still in print.

Finally, Professor Young is a former Trustee of Congregation Har HaShem, a Reform synagogue in Boulder, Colorado, and of the Hillel Council of Colorado, a Jewish campus organization.

The author's home page is mmyoung.


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