R.I.P. Victor Stenger (1935-2014)

August 30, 2014 • 4:51 pm

I was shocked to hear the news today: at the meeting someone asked me, “Did you hear about Victor Stenger?”, and my heart sank.  And what I feared was true: he died (on August 27) at his home in Hawaii.

I didn’t know Vic personally, but we exchanged a fair number of emails over the years, and I always enjoyed his books about physics and about religion, even when I didn’t agree with him. But we did see eye to eye on the incompatibility of science and religion, and so we were compadres in that area. Vic was always he was a nice guy to me, and a tireless soldier in the battle for science and reason. In the end, you can’t do much better than that in this world.

I’m in a rush, and can’t do justice to the man, so go read Hemant Mehta’s memorial to Vic (with some video clips) over at The Friendly Atheist.

Here is a list of his popular books from Wikipedia. I hadn’t realized he was this prolific.


34 thoughts on “R.I.P. Victor Stenger (1935-2014)

  1. That was a shock. I greatly admire his career both to promote science and atheism. I especially liked his continual take down of the common fine tuning argument, which Stenger found multiple rebuttals for. My favorite book of his is Timeless Reality, which I think summarized his overall views on physics. I liked it also in part because he concentrated on the physics, and only made a few minor comments on atheism, what I mean by providing a full exposition of the physics you could see clearly god hypothesis made little sense.

    Anyway my condolences to his family.

  2. Bummed. I had a few exchanges by e-mail… was hoping to meet him someday. I really love his “Comprehensible Cosmos” — a book that helps to dispel the common myth that most everything we know of is weird, wacky, and incomprehensible. Instead, you get a nice, compact, bulleted manual that shows how physical concepts interrelate, which things depend on what, and how much of reality is actually explainable by modern physics (answer: damn near all of it).

  3. Loved reading his clear reasoned arguments, demarcating between science and religion. A hero to me in upholding ‘evidence’ based approach to life. I wish I had communicated with him. He lives by the memories he leaves, in books and articles. Condolences to his family and well wishers

  4. This is turning out to be quite a sad August. Dr. Stenger’s books, while not as lyrical as Steve Pinker’s, were so clear and lucidly written as to be impossible to misunderstand or misrepresent. His contributions to the general appreciation of science, physics, and the ongoing God debate were much needed, much appreciated, and will be much missed. RIP.

  5. I’ve read God: The Failed Hypothesis, and am looking forward to The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us and God and the Folly of Faith.

    Here are a few choice quotes from the first named book:

    “We have no evidence for Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, and the Loch Ness Monster, so we do not believe they exist. If we have no evidence or other reason for believing in god, then we can be pretty sure that God does not exist.”

    “The only precepts unique to religion are those telling us not to question their dogma.”

    “A God with no observable effect is indistinguishable from one who is nonexistent. Certainly worshiping such a God serves no useful purpose.”

    “While many laypeople have been led to believe that science has found evidence for God, this is simply not the case.”

    “Far from providing us meaningful goals, religions prescribe tribal values: amity for our tribe; enmity for other tribes; mind-closing faith; abject worship of authority.”

    “A man who says, “If God is dead, nothing matters,” is a spoilt child who has never looked at his fellow man with compassion.”

    RIP, Dr. Stenger.

    1. Yes, I too have The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us on my to reads list.


    2. “The only precepts unique to religion are those telling us not to question their dogma.”

      Oh, burn!

  6. I too am sad to see him go. I have read this book The Fallacy of Fine Tuning, and I am meaning to read other books from him.
    Warp speed, Dr. Stenger.

  7. Sometimes, late at night, when I couldn’t sleep, sitting down with one of Victor Stenger’s books was so calming, so clear and right, it really helped everything. His “God: The Failed Hypothesis” was one of the first great books about science v. religion to come my way and it will always be one of the best. From all accounts, he was a lovely and gentle man and we will miss him and his wonderful writing very, very much. Thank you, Victor, for helping us understand our world and universe as they really are!

  8. This is so sad. RIP Vic Stenger.

    I’ve read a lot of his articles but none of his books yet. I’m going to the library in the morning to check one out. Can anyone recommend which book I start with?

    1. Depends on your interests. If you want a full-frontal assault on the concept of “god”, try God: The Failed Hypothesis. If you’re specifically interested in the fine-tuning argument (and haven’t been reading this website long enough to have memorized the oft-repeated and very amusing calculations of Ben, Torbjorn, and others), then The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning. Et cetera.

      1. I, too, can warmly recommend “God: The Failed Hypothesis”.

        Stengor’s death is indeed a major loss!

      1. Stephen – Vic indeed lived here for at least part of the year. He had been in poor health for a while, but kept in touch via email. My last exchange with him was about Jerry – he said that if the Conference on World Affairs or CU-Boulder ever convinced Jerry to visit, he surely wanted to meet him.

    2. Thanks for the suggestions, folks. I checked out “God: The Failed Hypothesis”, for starters. Looks like very good reading.

      His CU website is very good too.

  9. I’m so sorry to hear this! He seemed to be a very likable person.

    And he had a unique and shelf-filling voice among skeptics. I have his “GOD: The Failed Hypothesis” in my own shelf, but I expect there will be others.

  10. “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings” – Victor Stenger

    Dr. Stenger’s articles on science & religion are the main reason why I occasionally went to the HuffPost.
    Goodbye HuffPost, and thank you, Victor!

  11. I worked with Vic on a couple of projects and found him delightful to deal with and possessing a mischievous sense of humour. I hope you don’t mind if I post a link to an article I wrote, based on an interview for Skeptic Magazine which gives a gives a flavour of his personality: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/11-06-15/

    Vic, you will be missed.

    Andrew Zak Williams

  12. He had an entire book on quantum woo which was his most distinctive contribution to skepticism.

    I saw him at the Skeptic/Templeton co-sponsored conference in LA in 2008 and he seemed self-conscious over the fact that he was telling the worst jokes on a panel of three. Honestly, they weren’t that bad.

  13. Damn.

    He was an anchor of calm clear reason in a stormy sea of religious and wooist irrationality.

    My condolences to his family and friends. Even knowing him only through some of his writings and videos, I too feel a sense of loss at his passing and will surely miss him.

  14. I only heard about his death this morning – thanks to an article inserted in the section for readers’ opinions on a local news website. I follow the news on the websites of BBC, Fox News and others daily, but there was no mention on these sites about the death and the work of this marvellous man. What a travesty!

    Don’t know whether it is true, but he is charged with that telling remark: “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings”.

    Fortunately we have a long list of books by him to last us for many a day and a year!


  15. Shame.

    I used to be very active on a mailing list he used to use to get feedback/discussions for his books. WOrk got in the way a few years ago and I dropped out. Now … 🙁

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