Johnson (Intuitive/Counter Intuitive, 2014, etc.) makes a confident prediction that religious belief will soon vanish from the earth, supplanted by scientific reason.
Bombastic prognostications of the triumph of reason over superstition have a long historical pedigree. Research chemist Johnson offers his own version, couched within a history of the progressive march of empirical science. According to the author, the history of human thought generally bifurcates into two periods—one dominated by the “intuitive mind-set,” followed by the emergence, during the Enlightenment in the 17th century, by the “mind-set of reason.” In the former, he says, the attempt to understand human identity and the world at large was mainly an exercise in imaginative storytelling, completely detached from evidentiary substantiation. It was out of this age of poetical contrivance that religion was born, he says, but the advent of science subjected human belief to rational questioning. Since then, Johnson says, religion has been repeatedly exposed as indefensible. He sees numerous signs that religious belief is withering under the attack of reason, and he asserts that faith is on the wane and its institutions are losing their political clout. The author foresees a future in which religion essentially disappears and becomes a historical curiosity, like other roundly defeated schools of thought, such as alchemy. This study is basically two books bound into one: the first book describes the nature of the transition from irrationality to scientific rectitude, and the second is an assemblage of essays about the irrationality of religious faith. Throughout both, Johnson’s prose is transparent and self-assured, and the historical breadth of his argument is impressive. Along the way, he astutely raises serious questions about the epistemological reliability of intuition. However, his entire argument rests upon a sweeping caricature of all religion as benighted folklore, ignoring a rich history of theologically minded philosophy, as well as the many famous advocates of science who believed in God.
A wide-ranging study that too often relies on sweeping, partisan declarations.