God's Undertaker

Has Science Buried God?

John C. Lennox, Wilkinson House, Oxford, 2007


p7 In setting up his Undertaker theme, he quotes three of the most anti-faith scientists, Dawkins, Weinberg, and Atkins. He properly notes that rather than evidence, they reflect "repressive, even totalitarian overtones.."p15

p9 "So, is naturalism actually demanded by science? Or is it just conceivable that naturalism is a philosophy that is brought to science, more than something that is entailed by science? Could it even be, dare one ask, more like an expression of faith, akin to religious faith?"

p10 Comments on Anthony Flew and his BBC interview.

p11 Comments on intelligent design debate, sets aside "crypto-creationism" and young Earth , but argues for intelligence in the design of the universe and life. Is there scientific evidence for design or not? Is there scientific evidence that points to theism?

p13 "The question that is central to this book turns out to be in essence a worldview question: which worldview sits most comfortably with science - theism or atheism? Has science buried God or not? Let us see where the evidence leads?"

1. War of the worldviews

p14 To the outrageous quote of Atkins: "Humanity should accept that science has eliminated the justification for believing in cosmic purpose, and that any survival of purpose is inspired only by sentiment.", Lennox replies "Now, how science, which is traditionally thought not even to deal with questions of (cosmic) purpose, could actually do any such thing is not very clear ... What is very clear is that Atkins reduces faith in God at a stroke, not simply to sentiment but to sentiment that is inimical to science."

p14 About a Dawkins quote from "The Humanist" Lennox says "Dawkins goes a step further. He regards faith in God as an evil to be eliminated."

p15 "faith, in Dawkins' opinion, has graduated (if that is the right term) from being a vice to being a delusion." "For Dawkins, God is not only a delusion, but a pernicious delusion."

p15 Lennox responds to a Dawkins quote from the Daily Telegraph: "scientific belief is based upon publicly checkable evidence, religious faith not only lacks evidence; its independence from evidence is its joy, shouted from the rooftops." In a page of text, Lennox carefully destroys this quote, himself quoting from Romans 1:20 and other texts of Paul to make clear that the Bible values an evidential approach. "It is no part of the biblical view that things should be believed where there is no evidence." "mainstream Christianity will insist that faith and evidence are inseparable." Then he makes the case that Dawkins has not engaged any serious Christian scholar.

p16 "Dawkins' definition fo faith as 'blind faith' turns out, therefore, to be the exact opposite of the biblical one. Curious that he does not seem to be aware of the discrepancy. Could it be as a consequence of his own blind faith?"

p16 At the end of this response, Lennox takes the Dawkins statement from "A Devil's Chaplain": "Next time that somebody tells you something is true, why not say to them: 'What kind of evidence is there for that?' And if they can't give you a good answer, I hope you'll think very carefully before you believe a word they say." Lennox's reply: "One might well be forgiven for giving in to the powerful temptation to apply Dawkins' maxim to himself - and not believe a word that he says."

p16-17 Discusses a poll that showed scientists to be 41.8% believers in 1916 and 39.6% believers in 1996. "relatively little change in the proportion of believers to unbelievers during those 80 years of enormous growth in scientific knowledge.."

p17 "Dawkins may well be right about the difficulty of accomplishing his rather ominously totalitarian-sounding task of eradicating faith in God among scientists."

p17 To balance the scale a bit, he names as eminent scientists who are believers Collins, Phillips, Heap, and Houghton.

p17 "Certainly the confessed faith in God even of eminent scientists does not seem to have any modulating effect on the strident tones used by Atkins, Dawkins and others as they orchestrate their war against God in the name of science."

p18 "What is more, the fact that there are scientists who appear to be at war with God is not quite the same thing as science itself being at war with God. For example, some musicians are militant atheists. But does that mean music itself is at war with God? Hardly."

p18 "Statements by scientists are not necessarily statements of science. Nor, we might add, are such statements necessarily true... For example, the assertions by Atkins and Dawkins, with which we began, fall into that category. They are not statements of science but rather expressions of personal belief, indeed, of faith - fundamentally no different from (though noticeably less tolerant than) much expression of the kind of faith Dawkins expressly wishes to eradicate."

p18 Statements of Houghton and Prance.

p19 Quotes Melvin Calvin, Nobel prize winning biochemist about the role of religion as a foundation of modern science. The Calvin cycle in plant biology is named after him.

p19 In section titled "The forgotten roots of science", he discusses the role of the Hebrew view of God as being the Creator and upholder of the universe. "This is perhaps something that ... ought to be 'shouted from the housetops' as an antidote to the summary rejection of God."

p20 list of notable scientists of faith. Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Faraday, Babbage, Mendel, Pasteur, Kelvin, Maxwell.

p20 Discussion of the explosion of scientific advancement between 1500 and 1700 and the statements of Whitehead and C. S. Lewis about it. Alfred North Whitehead was an "eminent historian of science and mathematician" who characterized the reason for the advance as "modern science must come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God... My explanation is that the faith in the possibility of science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconsious derivative from medieval theology."

p20 C. S. Lewis' succinct version of it was "Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver."

p20 By contrast, Joseph Needham records about the Chinese encountered in the 18th century: "For them the idea that the universe could be governed by simple laws which human beings could and had discovered was foolish in the extreme. Their culture simply was not receptive to such notions."

p21 Interesting comments on T. F. Torrance, John Brooke and Peter Harrison who wrote about the hindrances caused by Christianity owing to the "Augustinian theology that dominated Europe for 1000 years" because it focused so much on eschatology that it thought the Earth was to pass away and was not worth studying.

p22 Besides the idea of order in the creation, faith helped in the development of science by helping to break it free from the Aristotelian method of "deducing from fixed principles how the universe ought to be". "The fundamental shift in perspective was made much easier by the notion of a contingent creation - that is, that God the Creator could have created the universe any way he liked. Hence, in order to find out what the universe is really like or how it actually works, there is no alternative to going and looking."

p22 Start of an excellent section on the Galileo story.

p25 The story of the Huxley-Wilberforce debate at Oxford in 1860.

p26 Lennox undertook these two descriptions to counter the widespread conception, one might say myth, that science and faith are locked in a great conflict. He summarizes by "On careful analysis, then, the two main props commonly used to support the conflict thesis crumble."

p27 An eloquent paragraph in which he talks about how science has been deified, or perhaps one might say nature has been re-deified after faith in God took away the deification of nature early to clear the way for scientific advancement.

p27 "However, it is apparent that even more was involved. A central element in Huxley's crusade is highlighted by Michael Poole. He writes:
"In this struggle, the concept of 'Nature' was spelt with a capital N and reified. Huxley vested 'Dame Nature', as he called her, with attributes hitherto ascribed to God, a tactic eagerly copied by others since. The logical oddity of crediting nature (every physical thing there is) with planning and creating every physical thing there is, passed unnoticed. 'Dame Nature', like some ancient fertility goddess, had taken up residence, her maternal arms encompassing Victorian scientific naturalism."
from Lennox "Thus a mythical conflict was (and still often is) hyped up and shamelessly used as a weapon in another battle, the real one this time, that is between naturalism and theism."

p28 With credit to E. O. Wilson for describing two versions of materialism/naturalism. Wilson's worldview, which Wilson calls "scientific humanism" is contrasted with another which he calls "political behaviorism".

p29 Two confident assessments, that of Wilson and that of quantum chemist Henry F. Schaeffer.

2. The scope and limits of science

p30 Interesting couple of paragraphs about the internationality of science, which can form a community to "get on with its scientific work untrammeled by extraneous and potentially divisive intrusions" like the God question. In part at least, science can "be kept religiously and metaphysically neutral".

p31 Defining science

p31 Michael Ruse: science "by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law." Lennox replies "Cosmologists might understandably be peeved to be told that their activities did not qualify as science."

p31 In pointing out an important arena of science that Ruse's definition leaves out, Lennox says: "For, there is another way of looking at things that is an essential part of the methodology of contemporary science, and that is the method of inference to the best explanation (or abduction, as it is sometimes called). " Lennox does concede that "Scientific theory that is based on repeated observation and experimentation is likely to, and should, carry more authority than that which is not."

p 33 In support of his discussion of the statement that "for many, science if practically inseparable from a metaphysical commitment to an agnostic or atneistic viewpoint" he cites Massimo Pigliucci and Christian de Duve.

p 33 "the notion that there is a Creator God is a rational notion, not a non-rational one. To equate 'rational explanation' with 'natural explanation' is at best an indicator of strong prejudice, at worst a category mistake."

p 33 Reviews the judge's statement in the Kitzmiller, et al vs Dover case where he limited science to methodological naturalism.

p 33 Deals with the disparity between philosphers like Kurtz who view naturalism as arising from science and scientists like Lewontin with his famous "we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door" quote and his affirmation that his naturalism and antipathy to faith preceeded and conditioned his view of science.

p 34 Lennox does affirm a valuing of naturalism as making a clear distinction between good science and superstition ... between astronomy and astrology ... and I liked his God of the gaps statement: "It also helps avoid lazy 'God of the gaps' thinking that says of some phenomenon, 'I cannot understand it therefore God or the gods did it.'"

p 34 Good paragraph in which he points out a serious downside of naturalism. Any "data, phenomena, or interpretations of such" that does not fit the naturalistic way of thinking would be - is - fiercely resisted.

p 34-5 The view of Kurtz is that the naturalistic philosphy simply arises of necessity from our study of the universe. But the examples of George Klein and Lewontin seem to be counterexamples. Of Lewontin's famous "we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door" statement, Lennox reflects: "This statement is as astonishing as it is honest. And it is the reverse of Kurtz's position."

p 35 "the real battle is not so much between science and faith in God, but rather between a materialistic world view ... and a supernaturalistic, or theistic worldview."

p 35 If you built a visible-light spectrometer, it would be nonsensical to argue from its data that there is no such thing as ultraviolet light or xrays. They are beyond its horizon of observation.

p 36 After arguing that an atheist and a theist would get the same results from a natural experiment, he cautions that "methodological naturalism" can tend to support an atheistic worldview and concludes that we should avoid the use of that terminology. Quotes McMullin as an example of a scientist with theistic convictions who might yield too much ground with this phrase.

p 37 Philosophical commitments might not affect much our study of "how things work", but more dominant in "how things came to exist in the first place", or ourselves as human beings.

p 37 "Follow the evidence where it leads - always?"

p 37 "essence of true science - that is, a willingness to follow empirical evidence, wherever it leads."

p38 Reflects on Rutherford and Crick whose discoveries resulted in almost instant paradigm changes, but those were in areas which did not cause people great philosophical struggles. Then mentions Flew, whose "Follow the evidence where it leads.." led to a dramatic change late in life.

p 38 Counsels the avoidance of two extremes: 1) seeing the relationship between science and religion solely in terms of conflict and 2) seeing all science as philosophically or theologically neutral. References Mikael Stenmark "How to Relate Science and Religion" for a more thorough discussion.

p 38-39 Discusses scientism with Peter Atkins as example. Characterizes the scientism of Atkins and Dawkins with the assumptions that: 'For only science can tell us what is objectively true; only science can deliver knowledge. The bottom line is: science deals with reality, religion does not.' Points to philosophy, literature, art, morality as areas which derive their understanding from other than science.

p 40 Bertrand Russell seems to be endorsing scientism in his "what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know" quote, but he moderates that elsewhere.

p 40 Here is Lennox's wonderful "Aunt Matilda's Cake" story, with a team of scientists doing an exhaustive scientific analysis of the cake, but determining nothing of the "why" of the cake. Counters Russell's polemic with "All we have to do is ask her."

p 41 "The claim that science is the only way to truth is a claim ultimately unworthy of science itself." Quotes Medawar and Francis Collins on questions that science cannot answer.

p 41 Interesting quote of Bertrand Russell in which he backs away from scientism and expressing almost a longing.

p 42 Aristotle's four causes applied to Aunt Matilda's cake:

  • Material cause : the material of which the cake is made
  • Formal cause: the form into which the materials are shaped.
  • Efficient cause: the work of Aunt Matilda the cook
  • Final cause: the purpose for which the cake was made - someone's birthday.

p 42 Austin Farrer's statement about science contrasted with Atkins' scientism.

p 42 "It is one thing to suggest that science cannot answer questions of ultimate purpose. It is quite another to dismiss purpose itself as an illusion because science cannot deal with it."

p 42 Lennox comes down to a strong statement that scientism is self-defeating and incoherent. "For the statement that only science can lead to truth is not itself deduced from science. It is not a scientific statement but rather a statement about science, that is, it is a metascientific statement. Therefore, if scientism's basic principle is true, the statement expressing scientism must be false. Scientism refutes itself. Hence it is incoherent."

p 43 Another delightful segment in which he uses Aunt Matilda's cake to address a common confusion. "We have seen how unaided scientific reasoning cannot find out why she made the cake. But that does not mean reason is from that point on either irrelevant or inactive." Uses this to point out that reason is not irrelevant to revelation.

p 43 "theists claim ... Someone who stands in the same relation to the universe that Aunt Matilda stands to her cake .. that Someone has revealed why the universe was created ... not abandoning reason, rationality and evidence at all ... simply .. questions which unaided reason cannot answer. Ends this section by referring to Francis Bacon's two books: the Book of Nature and the Bible.

p 44 Wonderful story of the Ford motor car - persons in remote area think Mr. Ford is a god inside the engine. When they get an engineering degree and understand the engine's working, they do not therefore conclude there is no Mr. Ford because they understand all the operations of the car.

p 44 Comment on the famous "I have no need of that hypothesis" statement of Laplace.

3. Reduction, reduction, reduction...

p 46-47 Discussion of "God of the gaps" and a nice quote from Richard Swinburne. Needles Dawkins for trying to sell idea that God is an alternative to science as an explanation. "Dawkins is therefore tilting at a windmill - dismissing a concept of God that no serious thinker believes in anyway."

p 47 Good discussion of "de-deifying" the universe, using gods to explain nature is a science-stopper. Talks about early Greeks, but then gives scripture references for the de-deifying of sun, moon, etc in the Bible, much earlier than the Greeks.

p 50 Thomas Aquinas on God as the First Cause and a web of causation forming secondary causes.

p 50 Danger of re-deifying the universe as science as seen as the explainer of everything.

p 51-2 Discussion of "Hilbert's Programme" in which he sought to reduce all of mathematics into a collection of formal statements. Was foiled by Godel's proof that this dream was unrealizable. Godel also proved in his Second Incompleteness Theorem that no system can prove its own consistency. I don't really understand any of this, but Lennox claims that it proves that there is a limit to reductionism.

p 53 Tackles epistemological reductionism and ontological reductionism. Crick and Dawkins draw comments along the lines of epistemological reductionism.

p 53 Excellent example of a brick building as a case against epistemological reductionism. Can't explain the building of the building from just the bricks. Credited to Michael Polanyi .

p 54 Lennox's own excellent case against epistemological reductionism. The message on a piece of paper cannot be derived from the chemistry and physics of ink and paper. Excellent discussioin including the nature of language, information stored in DNA, and a critique of the use of the concept of "emergence" to explain the origin of information. "The building does not emerge from the bricks nor the writing from the paper and ink without the injection of both energy and intelligent activity."

p 55 Goes further with the concept of information with a quote from Peacocke and defends the idea that neither writing on paper nor writing in DNA "emerged automatically from matter by a mindless, unguided process".

p 55 Tackles ontological reductionism with quotes from Dawkins and Crick to exemplify the "nothing but" signature of such reductionism.

p 56 Darwin's doubt.

p 56 Polkinghorne's response to ontological reductionism. Good statement by Lennox. "After all, it is the use of the human mind that thas led people to adopt ontological reductionism, which carries with it the corollary that there is no reason to trust our minds ..."

4. Designer universe?

p 57 Quote of Ward .

p 58 Quotes of Simpson on the skeptic side and Dyson, Davies and Einstein on the side of wonder.

p 60 Quotes Wigner, Davies, Penrose and Polkinghorne on the remarkable nature of mathematics in relation to nature.

p 61 The nature of induction and the act of faith that nature will behave tomorrow like it did today. Bertrand Russell responds with his "inductivist turkey" who gets fed every day and expects it tomorrow. With Christmas approaching its induction is headed for a dramatic failure. Quote from Davies.

p 61 Second paragraph good summary by Lennox. Quote from Ward reinforces the view of God as lawmaker for the natural universe. Even Hawking in an ABC interview showed some sympathy with the lawmaker premise.

p 62 Haldane quote comparing science and theism.

p 62 Keith Ward's response to Atkins' self-contradictory 'cosmic bootstrap'.

p 63 Hawking - science can't explain why there is a universe.

p 63 Lennox begins to develop the subject of "agency", which he does very well. "We certainly expect to be able to formulate theories involving mathematical laws that describe natural phenomena, and we can often do this with astonishing degrees of precision. However, the laws that we find cannot themselves cause anything. Newton's laws can describe the motion of a billiard ball, but it is the cue wielded by the billiard player that sets the ball moving, not the laws. The laws help us map the trajectory fo the ball's movement in the future (provided nothing external interferes), but they are powerless to move the ball, let alone bring it into existence."

p 63 He mentions William Paley as one who understood this long ago.

p 64 Lennox continues to develop the idea of agency. "It is a perversion of language to assign any law, as the efficient, operative cause of any thing. A law presupposes an agent; for it is only the mode, according to which an agent proceeds: it implies a power; for it is the order, according to which that power acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the law does nothing; it is nothing."

p 64 Allan Sandage's version.

p 64-65 General discussion of the progression of thought about the beginning of the universe, ending with the evidence for the big bang.

p 65-66 Antipathy toward beginning - Engels division between idealism and materialism. Steady state models. John Maddox's opposition to idea of beginning.

p 67 Discussion of beginning of physical universe.

p 68 Charles Townes quote

p 68 Fine tuning

p 69 The Hoyle resonance of carbon. Hoyle quote. Other ways to characterize the fine tuning.

p 70 Mentions "Rare Earth" type fine tunings, refers to Hugh Ross, then to Privileged Planet.

p 72. Anthropic principle. Leslie's firing squad. Rees' Just Six Numbers.

p 73 Polkinghorne argues against multiverse. Also Swinburne. Quotes Harrison and Penzias. Christian de Duve.

5. Designer biosphere?

p 76 Starts with the familiar quotes of Paley, Gould and Dawkins.

p 77 Dawkins and Cricks statements about appearance of design. Dennett cited.

p 78 Paley and the watchmaker.

p 79 Darwin's fascination with Paley

p 78-84 Extensive section on the Paley story.

p 84 Begins the roll-call of the evolutionists who seek to be God's undertaker: Ingersoll, Huxley, Futuyma, Provine, Daniel Dennett, Dawkins, Simpson.

p 86 The two assertions of the neo-Darwinians.







From this point on the page numbers are from the revised paperback edition which has some added material and an extra chapter on responding to Hume. The page numbers don't differ from the first by more than 10 pages until you get to Chap 10 or so.

6. The nature and scope of evolution






7. The origin of life






8. The genetic code and its origin






9. Matters of information






10 The monkey machine






11 The origin of information

p 174 Information and the design argument. "The existence of complex specified information, therefore, provides a substantial challenge to the notion that unguided natural processes can account for life and makes scientifically plausible the suggestion that an intelligent source was responsible."

p 174 Argues that the inference of design is not an analogy argument, therefore challenging the famous objections of Hume.

p 174 From Meyer "DNA does not imply the need for an intelligent designer because is has some similarities to a software programme or to a human language. It implies the need for an intelligent designer because ... it possesses an identical feature (namely, information content) that intelligently designed human texts and computer languages possess."

p 174 From Yockey "It is important to understand that we are not reasoning by analogy. The sequence hypothesis (that the genetic code works essentially like a book) applies directly to the protein and the genetic text as well as to a written language and therefore the treatment is mathematically identical."

p 175 cites Dembski's "The Design Inference" in support of these ideas.

p 176 Discusses SETI and the program based on the assumption that we can detect intelligence. A good example of Lennox's style, with just a touch of humor. "Is the attribution of intelligent design to the universe science? Scientists, we emphasize, seem quite happy to include forensic medicine and SETI in the realm of science. Why, then, the furore when some scientists claim that there is scientific evidence of intelligent causation in physics (small furore) or biology (large furore)? There is surely no difference in principle. Is the scientific method not applicable everywhere?" Quotes of Collins and Gene Myers about the intelligence in the human genome.

p 176 Quote of Sandage "The world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance alone. I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is simply too well put together."

p 176 Quote of Anthony Flew: biologist's investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved."

p 177 Information as a fundamental quantity. Quote of Davies "The increasing application of the information concept to nature has prompted a curious conjecture. Normally we think of the world as composed of simple, clod-like, material particles, and information as a derived phenomenon attached to special, organized states of matter. But maybe it is the other way around: perhaps the universe is really a frolic of primal information, and material objects a complex secondary manifestation." He says Davies attributes the idea to physicist John Archibald Wheeler, who said "Tomorrow, we will have learned to understand all of physics in the language of information."

p 177 Discussion of the Logos concept in the Bible. "The Word, therefore, is more fundamental than mass-energy. Mass-energy belongs to the category of the created. The Word does not."

p 178 - discussion of information as non-material.

p 178 Dawkins quote on complexity of God "Any God capable of designing a universe ...must be a supremely complex and improbable entity who needs an even bigger explanation than the one he is supposed to provide."

p 178-179 Lennox pretty thoroughly demolishes Dawkins' "simple-to-complex" rule.

p 180 Further argument by Lennox that it is not just simplicity but explanatory power that leads to confidence in something. "Explanatory power often trumps simplicity .."

p 180 Pursues the "complex-to-simple" framework with a story of scratches on a cave wall which imply some degree of intelligence in making use of a symbolic framework. "is it not to be wondered at that our archaeologist immediately infers intelligent design when faced with two scratches whereas some scientists, when faced with the 3.5 billion letter sequence of the human genome, inform us that it is to be explained solely in terms of chance and necessity?"

p 181 Dawkins on multiverse. "it is tempting to think (and many have succumbed) that to postulate a plethora of universes is a profligate luxury which should not be allowed. If we are going to permit the extravagance of a multiverse, we might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb and allow a God."

p 182 "We are trying to explain one particular example of organized complexity (life) and it is therefore perfectly sensible to do that in terms of something that is more complex, if that is what is demanded by the evidence. The evidence, as we have seen, is that:

  1. Life involves a complex DNA database of digital information.
  2. The only source we know of such language-like complexity is intelligence.
  3. Theoretical-computer science indicates that unguided chance and necessity are incapable of producing semiotic (language-like) complexity."

p 183 In his "Who made God?" section he tackles Dawkins' infinite regress "then who created God?" arguments that he uses so much in "The God Delusion" and concludes that the statement "a created god is, a delusion, virtually by definition .." A good discussion which has the zinger that "The God Delusion" "could have been reduced to a pamphlet" since we all agree on that point. [God Delusion is 400 pages.]

p 183 Continues with an excellent discussion of the assertion that "God is not created" in which he invokes John 1.

p 183-184 Creation - "a fundamental issue that divides the world's philosophical and religious systems."

  • Greeks
    • Matter is eternal - has always existed and always will. God is emergent from the matter and imposed the order we see.
    • Creator is part of eternal system, so everything emanates from God and in some sense is God
  • Hebrew tradition (centuries earlier)
    • "Matter is not eternal: the universe had a beginning, and there is only one eternal God and Creator of all."
    • "God existed before the universe, and is independent of it.... God created it out of nothing ... maintains and guides it to its destined goal."

p 185 Discussion of idea of no eternal God but eternal matter that had no Creator.

p 185-186 Discussion of "Theory of Everything". Dawkins' hopes for such a theory. Godel's cold water on such a neat closure. Hawking input.

p 186 Discussion of ultimate explanation. "Logically, chains of cause and effect either go back eternally in an infinite regression, or there is a point where we stop at an ultimate reality."

p 186 Cites Austin Farrer in "A Science of God" to suggest that at some point we have to come to what we consider ultimate reality.
"An endless quest for explanation has been praised as a divine discontent. In fact it is a propensity most characteristic of rudimentary minds. 'Why does that man wear that hat?' 'Because he is a policeman.' 'Why is he a policeman?' 'Because he wanted to be one when he grew up.' 'Why did he want to be one?' 'Because he wanted to earn his living.' Why did he want to earn his living?' 'So as to be able to live - everyone does.' 'Why does everyone want to live?' 'Stop saying 'Why?' darling, and go to sleep.' Yes. Some time we must stop saying 'Why?' because we have reached the fact that is senseless to question; for example it is useless to ask why living things want to live."
[Lennox responds on p186 : "Even a child can point out the difficulty with infinite regress." He thinks Farrer hits the nail on the head with the following summary.]
"The issue between the atheist and the believer is not whether it makes sense to question ultimate fact, it is rather the question: what fact is ultimate? The atheist's ultimate fact is the universe; the theist's ultimate fact is God."

p 187 "The burning question, then, is: In which direction does science point - matter before mind, or Mind before matter?" points to Socrates' advice "examine the evidence and see where it leads.".

p 187 Quotes biologist James Shapiro on interface between biology and information.
Also Dean Kenyon: "If science is based on experience, then science tells us that the message encoded in DNA must have originated from an intelligent cause. What kind of intelligent agent was it? On its own, science cannot answer this question; it must leave it to religion and philosophy. But that should not prevent science from acknowledging evidences for an intelligent cause origin wherever they may exist. "

But E. O. Wilson denies the existence of such evidence.
"Any researcher who can prove the existence of intelligent design within the accepted framework of science will make history and schieve eternal fame. He will prove at last that science and religious dogma are compatible! Even a combined Nobel Prize and Templeton Prize (the latter designed to encourage search for just such harmony) would fall short of proper recognition. Every scientist would like to accomplish such an epoch-making advance. But no one has even come close, because unfortunately there is no evidence, no theory and no criteria for proof that even marginally might pass for science. There is only the residue of hoped-for default, which steadily shrinks as the science of biology expands."

Very different from the quote of Sandage.

p 188 God of the Gaps and SETI . Good reprise of his argument about the information carried by paper and ink.

p 189 Del Ratzsch and "counterflow"

p 189 "Similarly, it is knowledge of the nature of biological information, on the one hand, and knowledge that intelligent sources are the only known sources of information on the other, taken together with the fact that chance and necessity cannot generate the kind of complex specified information which occurs in biology, that point to design as the best explanation for the existence of information-rich DNA."

p 189 Comments that fear of "God of the gaps" type criticism has influenced some theologians toward an extreme "front-loaded" theology and gives van Till as an example. Lennox comments "Thus it would appear that those holding this view are obliged to believe that at least all the information for producing all the complexity we see around us was front-loaded into the universe at the original creation and none has been added since."

p 189-190 The reaction of Polkinghorne to the "God of the gaps" is very different. Lennox's comment is that Polkinghorne "emphatically rejects a God of the (bad) Gaps theology, nevertheless insists that we not 'rest content with a discussion in such soft focus that it never begins to engage our intuitions about God's action with our knowledge of physical process'
'if the physical world is really open, and top-down intentional causality operates within it, there must be some intrinsic "gaps" ("an envelope of possibility") in the bottom-up account of nature to make room for intentional causality ... We are unashamedly "people of the gaps" in this intrinsic sense and there is nothing unfitting in a "God of the gaps" in this sense either.'
And on the nature of God's interaction, it is 'not energetic but informational.'

p 190 In this discussion of the "God of the gaps", Lennox is building a picture of "bad gaps" which are based on just ignorance, and "good gaps" which are intrinsic openings for intentional causality which are revealed in our investigation of nature.

p 190 Discussion of Plantinga. Lennox comments "Clearly, if God has done some things directly (like create a universe), he is certainly responsible for some energetic action or interaction." Invokes conservation of energy at this point. "as Alvin Plantinga has pointed out, it is a matter of logic that if there is a God who does anything in the world indirectly he must ultimately act directly or create something directly. And once we admit that God has acted directly at least once in the past for the original creation of the world, what is there to prevent him acting more than once, whether in the past or in the future? After all, the laws of the universe are not independent of God; they are (our) codifications of the regularities that He has built into the universe. It would be absurd to think that they constrained God so that He could never do anything special. "

p 190 Lennox distinguishes "bad gaps", those that just say "We don't understand it so God must have done it." from "good gaps". "..we are likely to find that there are a relatively few 'good gaps' that do not yield, and indeed become increasingly opaque, to any purely naturalistic methodology. But they are of great importance as we can see by listing what we suggest they are:

  • the origin of the universe
  • its rational intelligibility
  • its fine tuning
  • the origin of life
  • the origin of consciousness
  • the origin of rationality and the concept of truth
  • the origins of morality and spirituality

p 191 "the detail of life points toward a Logos behind life. Part of that evidence has been to do with the limit to the capacity of selection and mutation - the edge of evolution - but the main argument has concentrated on the origin of life and its digital code. "

p 191 Neat story of the discovery of the double coding of one of Bach's sonatas - a hidden text corresponding to an ancient proverb -the music has been enjoyed for hundreds of years without realizing that the hidden code was there. For this he cites the German philosopher Robert Spaemann.

The hidden code in the "Violin Partita in D-minor" by J. S. Bach was discovered by musicologist Helga Thoene as a double coding of the music. By assigning letters to a formal scheme of numbers applied to the musical piece, you come up with a proverb whose English translation is "In God we are born, in Christ we die, through the Holy Spirit we are made alive." Spaemann reflects upon whether it could be purely chance that the message popped out from such a scheme. To the observation that you could understand the structure of the musical piece while ignoring the coded message within it, Lennox observes "The New Atheists would appear to be in exactly that position. They ignore the 'text' that is a human person with all the rich tapestry of her life, conversation and thought."

Violating nature? The legacy of David Hume

p 193 This chapter is a needed response to the strong influence of David Hume's thought as typified by:

"A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience as can be imagined."

p 193 It is interesting that Anthony Flew, a long-time champion of Hume's, reaches the conclusion that he is wrong: "Generations of Humeans have ... been misled into offering analyses of causation and of natural law that have been far too weak because they had no basis for accepting the existence of either cause and effect or natural laws ... Hume's scepticism about cause and effect and his agnosticism about the external world are of course jettisoned the moment he leaves his study."

p 193 Lennox starts his response with a caution drawn from Francis Collins about accepting miracle as an explanation too quickly.

p 194 Lennox makes the argument that we should distinguish between miracles and supernatural events. This would sound strange to a lot of Christians I talk to, but I have found myself thinking about this and making this case to myself and others. Lennox's statement is very succinct and the best that I have seen:
"Miracles (genuine miracles, that is) are supernatural events, but not all supernatural events are miracles in the strict sense. For instance, the origin of the universe and its laws, though a supernatural event, does not come under the rubric of miracle since miracles, strictly speaking, concern events that are exceptions to an already recognized normal course of things and as such they clearly presuppose the existence of such a 'normal course of things'. The creation of the universe together with its regularities which form the 'normal course of things' can scarcely be regarded as an exception to them."

p 194 Lennox then dives into the arguments of Hume and analyzes Hume's two arguments:

  1. There is an argument from the uniformity of nature
    • Miracles are violations of the laws of nature.
    • These laws have been established by 'firm and unalterable' experience.
    • Therefore, the argument against miracles is as good as any argument from experience can be.
  2. There is an argument from the uniformity of experience.
    • Unusual, yet frequently observed, events are not miracles - like a healthy person suddenly dropping dead.
    • A resurrection would be a miracle because it has never been observed anywhere at any time.
    • There is uniform experience against every miraculous event; otherwise it would not be called miraculous.

p 196 Lennox points out that Hume is famous for his argument against the "Law of Induction", but it is just that law that gives us confidence in the laws of nature and the uniformity of nature. In so doing, Hume has "exploded the very basis on which he denies the possibility of miracles.".

p 196 Lennox credits Hume with the "widespread contemporary view held by the New Atheists that we have a straightforward choice between mutually exclusive alternatives. Either we believe in miracles or we believe in the scientific understanding of the laws of nature, but not both - the latter, of course, being, in their view, the only option for the intelligent person."

p 196 Includes the essentially taunting Dawkins quote from "The God Delusion":
"The nineteenth century is the last time when it was possible for an educated person to admit to believing in miracles like the virgin birth without embarrassment. When pressed, many educated Christians are too loyal to deny the virgin birth and the resurrection. But it embarrasses them because their rational minds know that it is absurd, so they would much rather not be asked."

p 197 Lennox discusses the surprising fact that Hume explicitly denied cause and effect! Lennox comments that what we see as natural laws are not just descriptive, but contain our perception of "the internal logic of a system in terms of cause and effect relationships between its constituent parts." But Hume denied this! Hume says:

"All events seem entirely loose and separate. One event follows another; but we never can observe any tie between them. They seem conjoined, but never connected." In description of a billiard cue stick and ball "he could not pronounce that the one event was connected but only that it was conjoined with the other. After he has observed several instances of this nature, he then pronounces them to be connected. What alteration has happened to give rise to this new idea of connection? Nothing, but that he now feels these events to be connected in his imagination, and can readily foretell the existence of one from the appearance of the other. When we say, therefore, that one object is connected with another, we mean only that they have acquired a connection in our thought ..."

It is hard to believe that this is coming from Hume, whom we consider to be the father of hard-nosed physical materialism. Here he is, denying cause and effect, and even denying the reality of the physical world - depicting it as just being in a person's thought! Lennox's response it that "Hume explicitly denies the idea of necessary connection. He would thus undermine a great deal of modern science, science scientific laws involve precisely what Hume denies - cause-effect descriptions of the workings of a system."

p 198 Lennox cites Sir Alfred North Whitehead, who pounces on Hume's denial of cause and effect. "Sir Alfred North Whitehead pointed out that we all have everyday experiences in which we are directly aware of cause and effect connections: for example, the reflex action of a person in a dark room who blinks when an electric light is turned on. Obviously, the person is aware that the light flash causes the blink. Research shows that the photon stream from the bulb impinges on the eye, stimulates activity in the optic nerve and excites certain parts of the brain. Science has clearly shown the existence of a complex causal chain."

p 198 So it appears that Hume torpedoed his own argument against miracles, as noted by Lennox:

  1. Since he denies that the uniformity of nature can be established, he cannot turn round and use it to disprove miracle.
  2. Since he denies necessary causation, he cannot regard nature as described by laws embodying necessary relationships which would preclude miracle.

p 198 Probably the most succinct criticism of Hume's positions is the one from Anthony Flew, noted on p 193 above.

p198 But today we are not arguing against Hume's presuppositions. "Precisely because scientific laws embody cause-effect relationships ... such laws can successfully predict what will happen in the future with such accuracy that ... the orbits of communication satellites can be precisely calculated, and moon and Mars landings are possible." Lennox suggests statements of current scientists' arguments against miracle:

  1. Belief in miracles in general, and in the New Testament miracles in particular, arose in a primitive, pre-scientific culture in which people were ignorant of the laws of nature and so readily accepted miracle stories.
  2. Now that we know the laws of nature, belief in miracles is impossible.

Lennox makes a careful argument from the Bible, particularly Luke, against the perception that people were ignorant of the normal workings of things. Makes a strong historical case against assertion 1 above. Then makes a good argument that the regular laws of nature do not constrain the Creator of those laws. Quotes from C. S. Lewis.

p 202 Strong discussion against Hume's "uniform experience" objection to miracles.

p 202 On Hume's criteria for evidence, where Hume closes the door on the possibility and opens himself to the charge of begging the question.

p 204 Quotes Flew on miracle in his earlier writing.







Windows of Creation
Evidence from nature Is the universe designed?
Reasonable faith
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