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am 9. November 1999
Swinburne takes the moldy old "primal mover" argument for the existence of God and brilliantly revitalizes it to such an extent that it is nearly unrecognizable. I am an atheist-an open-minded one. If the arguments for God's existence ever become compelling again, I will change camps. This book was so fresh and original that it deserves a second read-which I am doing. I cannot say that I am convinced but I am very intrigued by Swinburne's argument. It is difficult to summarize his long and subtle argument here. Any attempt to do so would do it injustice so keep that in mind. He suggests that God-a simple non-material being-is the best explanation for the totality of the information that we have about the universe and that no other theory explains the universe as simply or completely as the existence of God does. In other words, using the old principle of "Occam's Razor" (the principle that "the simplest (not more complex) solution is often the correct one") God, rather than seeming a holdover from dark, superstitious times, is a very efficient and elegant solution to the reason why the universe exists at all. You will have to read the book to appreciate this in all its interesting details. And it is interesting and very thought provoking. At the very least, it is a very clever and subtle restating of a very old argument. That alone is enough reason to buy this book if you are interested in these issues. At the most, he may be onto something. A second reading is necessary. One complaint: Swinburne tries to simplify his larger volume for this edition. He writes like a typical academic-which means that his prose is often leaden and dry. It appears that he has shortened his work without necessarily making it more elegant in its presentation. I thought of many examples and illustrations he offered which were not as helpful as he must have thought they might be. If you can dig your way through his flat writing style and have some background in this area, this is a must read book.
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I understand why Swinburne closes this volume with some "dissatisfaction," because it is a very brief distillation and summary of his much more detailed work elsewhere and it does, as he readily admits, invite any number of critical replies he does not have room to address. Nevertheless this volume is a good introduction to his thought.
Be warned: the God of Swinburne's "natural theology" does not quite have all the attributes one expects in the God of traditional theism. His God is not, for example, "eternal" (in the sense "outside of time altogether," though he is "everlasting"), nor (therefore) does He have full foreknowledge of what His creatures will do, nor is He sovereign over moral law.
Swinburne's basic idea is that although no particular argument clinches the case for God, several arguments together render His existence altogether more likely than not. And, according to Swinburne, He provides an explanation for scientific law in the sense that His existence explains why there are such laws at all.
In this work, written as a popular reply to Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, Swinburne boils down his arguments to the bare minimum and aims to present them readably to a popular audience. He does it well, though the interested reader is referred to his other work for details.
He is probably at his least convincing in dealing with theodicy and the problem of evil. But other reviewers have already commented on that, so I'll say no more about it here.
All in all, if you are looking for an introduction to Swinburne's thought, this book is an excellent choice.
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am 23. Dezember 1997
In "Is There a God?" Swinburne seeks to provide a less sophisticated version of the case for theism which appears in his classic "The Existence of God" (1979). While accomplishing his task with great brevity, I concur with the previous reviewer that this book may not be accessible to the lay audience. Swinburne's arguments are characteristically erudite and will require considerable attention on the part of readers.

Although this book may not acheive its intended success in the mass market, I consider it an excellent introduction to Swinburne's work. From that standpoint, "Is There a God?" may be used as a primer to his more substantial scholarly writings.

In this present title, Swinburne's first ("God"), third ("The Simplicity of God") and sixth ("Why God Allows Evil") chapters are particularly noteworthy. His two-page epilogue summarizes with great clarity one's responsibilities should theism be true.

--David A. Frenz
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am 3. März 1999
Swiburne writes clearly and his arguments for God's existence are interesting and suggestive. In the end, though, they come down to the notion that God is the "simplest" explanation for things we observe in the natural world. It was never clear how postulating the existence of something unlike anything else in experience could be a "simple" explanation of the world. Maybe it's "simpler" just to take the existence of the world as an unexplained fact, a mystery. The discussion of why God allows pain and suffering is the weakest part of the book and is almost a parody of traditional theodicy. At one point in his discussion of animal suffering, Swinburne argues that forest fires aren't necessarily bad for animals because they give them an opportunity to escape danger, which he regards as a "significant intentional act." Since "significant intentional acts" are goods things, it follows that forest fires could be good for animals. This sounds like a joke but Swinburne was serious. The reader wondering why God allows suffering would be better advised to read the book of Job.
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am 12. April 1999
I am afraid I must agree with the above reviewers. Swinburne reaches the end of his own book with 'some dissatisfaction.' Readers who have come from any books by Richard Dawkins will feel the same way at the conclusion of 'Is there a God?' For a thrilling read with serious theological implications, read Dawkins. I even preferred the 'Contrarian Theological Afterword' (I think that's the right title) chapter of The Whole Shebang, by Timothy Ferris, to Swinburne's unconvincing presentation. Why are our scientists and science writers leaving our professors of theology in the dust when it comes to writing about God for the lay person? For all that effort, Swinburne might as well have quoted Lear's 'Nothing will come of nothing' as an ultimate argument for the existence of God: no God, no universe. And he would have been as convincing in a lot less space. I can only assume Swinburne's other works reveal his ability.
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am 21. Juni 1999
The book of Swinburne is intended for a general public. He has tried to give a not so hard explanation and defense for the existence of God. Although I agree with most things in the book, it is still not always very good. I think the main problem is, that it is a version of his academic book on the existence of God. Swinburne uses in that book a very broad argumentation to prove that the existence of God is more probable than his non-existence.
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am 24. September 1999
As an open-minded atheist, I must say this book wasn't bad. It got me thinking...however, I don't think that because of the astonishing complexity of our universe, it necessarily reveals one, immortal God. Swinburne's book was difficult to grasp at times, but I hung in there and didn't worry about some of those parts.
The fact that he says our complex universe essentially purports the theistic God is completely false and incoherent. The universe is compatible with polytheism, deism, and a finite being. The cosmological argument for the theistic God is severely flawed. Anyways, I found Swinburne insightful and wonderful. His exceptional work has been brought to my attention in some senses.
He is by far my favorite xian philosopher. I hope to enjoy some of his other critiques on xianity inasmuch as I enjoyed this one. I think that Richard Dawkins is really awesome. Swinburne didn't do a very good job of refuting Dawkins. There were some obvious gaps in Swinburne's refutations.
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