Can Science Explain Everything?

John C. Lennox, Good Book, 2019


Explains that this is an introductory book meant to be more accessible than his "God's Undertaker", which was the first of his books that I read and which got me hooked on his books.

Introduction: Cosmic Chemistry


  • Science side
    • Science is an unstoppable force for human development that will deliver answers to our many questions about the universe, and solve many, if not all, of our human problems: disease, energy, pollution, poverty. At some stage in the future, science will be able to explain everything, and answer all our needs.
  • God side
    • A divine intelligence is behind everything there is and everything we are. We look to the complexity and wonder of the universe and our astonishingly rich and diverse blue planet, and find it self-evident that there is a wonderful mind behind our beautiful and amazing world.

p11 Describes his upbringing in the difficult times of Northern Ireland, which he labels "The Troubles". He appreciates the fact that his parents showed compassion in those times and encouraged him to think for himself, to read widely about a variety of worldviews. Notes his debates over 20years with leading atheists such as Richard Dawkins. Asserts a will to "treat people with different worldviews with respect, to find out how they arrived at their position, and why they feel so passionately about it."

1. Can you be a scientist and believe in God?

  • p13 Why not?
    • Science's explanations demonstrate that God is just not necessary.
    • Belief in God is old fashioned.
    • 'God of the gaps' thinking simply won't do anymore.
    • The sooner we get rid of religion, the better.

p14 Stephen Weinberg, Nobel Prize winner in the quarks and leptons area, is one who is hostile to faith. Lennox quotes him more extensively on p18 of Gunning for God.

p14 "The world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religion. Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization."

p14 Lennox's response: "I hope you didn't miss the rather sinister-sounding totalitarian element in this statement: "anything we scientists can do ..."

p14-15 Cites the aggressive "give up this childish faith in God" pressure he got as a young student at Cambridge. He decided to take the risk -- "a brilliant scientist trying to bully me into giving up Christianity"

p16 "I resolved to do my best to be as good a scientist as I could and, if ever I had the opportunity, to encourage people to think about the big questions of God and science and make up their own minds without being bullied or pressured."


  • a dark side of academia
    • scientists that set out with preconceived ideas
    • do not want to discuss evidence
    • appear to be fixated not on truth, but on propagating the notions that science and God do not mix
    • those who believe that those who believe in God are simply ignorant.
  • a sampler for the Nobel Prize in Physics
    • Peter Higgs, atheist, 2013, Higgs boson
    • William Phelps, American, Christian
    • 60% Christians from 1901 and 2000
    • 100 years of Nobel Prizes, 65.4% Christians
    • 423 prizes,Christians 78.3% Peace, 72.5% Chemistry, 65.3% Physics, 62% Medicine, 54% Economics, 49.5% Literature.

p18 As an example of a current professional scientist, he cited Sean Carroll

"We humans are blobs of organized mud, which through the impersonal workings of nature's patterns have developed the capacity to contemplate and cherish and engage with the intimidating complexity of the world around us ...The meaning we find in life is not transcendent ..." "The Big Picture", Random House, 2016, p3-5.

p18-19 After a paragraph of testimony in which he asserts that "it is atheism to which science gives little support", he launches into a wonderful story of his trip to Siberiea to lecture to a group of mathematicians. I'm not quoting the whole story, but it would be a powerful testimony as a quote.

  • Having become known as one who could translate math articles into Russian, he was invited to Siberia to lecture.
  • They were most impressed, even shocked, that he believed in God
  • He was invited to give a lecture about why he believed in God. The first lecture of this type there in 75 years. It packed the auditorium with professors and students.
  • He spoke about the history of science and how its great pioneers were firm and convinced believers in God.
    • Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Faraday, Clerk-Maxwell
    • At these assertions, he detected anger in the audience! He asked why.
    • Professor stood: "We are angry because this is the first time we have heard that these famous scientists on whose shoulders we stand were believers in God. Why were we not told this?"
    • Lennox's reply "Is it not obvious that this historical face did not fit with the 'scientific atheism' that you were taught?"

p20 Cites C.S. Lewis: "Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator." Miracles, Simon & Schuster, 1996 p140.

Further reflection on some of the great scientists who were Christian

  • Johannes Kepler, discoverer of the law of planetary motion
    • "The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics."
  • Michael Faraday (1791-1867), arguably the greatest experimental scientist, Faraday's Law
    • On his deathbed, asked by a friend "Sir Michael, what speculations have you now?"
    • "Speculations, man, I have none! I have certainties. I thank God that I do not rest my dying head upon speculations for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.""
  • Galileo. I was glad he devoted a couple of pages to some debunking of the Galileo propaganda designed to paint faith and science as being at war.
    • Galileo was a firm believer in God and the Bible and remained so all his life.
    • Simplistic and popular propaganda has been dishonestly used to support an atheistic worldview.(my opinion)
    • Lennox does discuss some of the errors in judgment of Galileo.

p24 Lennox notes that his Siberia, Russia audience probably had a better feel for the dangers of challenging a powerful, almost totalitarian, scientific orthodoxy than we do. But he cites one of the most famous debates, Wilberforce and Huxley in 1860, to illustrate how far off track the discussion of faith and science can get.

C. A. Russell "The common belief that ... the actual relations between religion and science over the last few centuries have been marked by deep and enduring hostility ... is not only historically inaccurate but actually a caricature so grotesque that what needs to be explained is how it could possibly have achieved any degree of respectability."

2. How did we get here: from Newton to Hawking.

p25 How did we get from Newton's belief to Hawking's atheism?

p25 Cites Sagan's arrogant "The cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be."

p26 "Sagan's statement is simply an expression of his atheistic belief." And I would add, a profound expression of his arrogance to make such a sweeping statement without a shred of real scientific or other compelling evidence.

p26 Feynman "outside his or her field, the scientist is just as dumb as the next guy" Lennox uses this as intro for one of the dumbest statements made by a brilliant man like Hawking - it has become quite famous in philosophical circles. In The Grand Design, Hawking and Mlodinow make the mind-boggling statement "philosophy is dead ... Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge". Lennox's reply is "I thought it rather unwise to say philosophy is dead at the beginning of a book whose main topic is the philosophy of science." I thought Lennox was quite restrained in this assessment of the Hawking death of philosophy statement. Most other reactions I have heard, including my own, have been much more extreme.

  • p26 "wrong to suggest that science is the only way to truth.
    • that is called "scientism", and is widespread today
    • if accepted, would wipe out half the faculties of our universities, history,literature,languages, art, music...
    • These disciplines require the use of reason. "Reason has a far larger scope than science."
  • Einstein once said that scientists make poor philosophers - Hawking cited as example by Lennox
  • British Astronomer Baron Rees, friend of Hawking, asked by Gaurdian his opinion of Hawking's pronouncement that the creation of the universe did not require a God.
    • "I know Stephen Hawking well enough to know that he has read little philosophy and less theology, so I don't think his views should be taken with any special weight."

Science can't deal with "why" questions.

  • p27 Aunt Matilda has baked a cake that shows the limitations of science by even top scientists
    • the biochemists inform us about the structure of the proteins,fats, etc of the composition. (the how)
    • The physicists will be able to analyze the cake in terms of fundamental particles. (the what)
    • The grin on Aunt Matilda's face says that she knows the "why" of the cake, which they can never know unless she tells them.

p28 "Nobel Prize Winner Sir Peter Medawar points out that the existence of a limit to science is very likely because of its inability to answer childlike elementary questions:

'I have in mind such questions as: "How did everything begin?" "What are we all here for?" "What is the point of living?"'

p28-32 False objections to belief in God

  • Dawkings and 'The God Delusion' - Belief in God is a delusion?
    • Not a psychiatrist, so outside his competency area.
    • Competent psychiatrists differ profoundly, like Professor Andrew Sims
      • "The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality is one of the best kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally."
  • Freud's Objection, argument that god is a creation of man as a psychological crutch
    • Manfred Lutz, German psychiatrist
    • Freud's explanation for belief in God works very well provided only that God does not exist.
    • Therefore atheism is the "comforting delusion", not faith
    • Marxism adopted the Freudian view, but those subjects in totalitarian states saw the flip side of it.
    • Polish Nobel Laureate for Literature Czeslaw Milosz:
      • "A true opiate of the people is a belief in nothingness after death - the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged."
  • The "tooth fairy" fantasy
    • In response to "tooth fairy", "Santa Claus" type fantasy beliefs, Lennox asked a large audience how many of them came to belief in God as adults. Hundreds of hands were raised.
  • Do we have to choose between science and God?
    • Hawking felt he had to reject any idea of God to pay allegiance to science.
    • Sir Isaac Newton honored the creative activity of God in every law of physics he discovered.
  • p33-35 Why did Hawking feel he had to choose, while Newton didn't?
    • Confusion about the nature of God.
      • In the past, hearers would assume that you meant the God of the Bible.
      • Now, many assume you mean the "god of the gaps", a god we invent as an explanation for the blanks in our understanding.
      • "If you define God to be a god of the gaps - a place-holder, an "x" to stand temporarily for something that science has not yet explained - then of course you have to choose between science and God, because that's the way you have defined God."
      • p33 " does not compete with God as an explanation. Science gives a different kind of explanation."
    • Confusion about the nature of scientific explanation
      • Newton regarded the law of gravity as one of the evidences of God's genius in designing the universe.
      • Hawking offered gravity as his main reason for denying the existence of God.
      • Hawking, Dawkins, others' rejection of God rests on serious misunderstandings of the nature of explanation.
    • What does science explain?
      • The law of gravity gives us a brilliant way of calculating the effect of gravity.
      • It does not tell us what gravity actually is!
      • Ludwig Wittgenstein: "At the basis of the whole modern view of the world lies the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena .. the modern system makes it appear as though everything were explained."
      • The laws of nature describe the universe; but they actually explain nothing. The very existence of laws of nature is a mystery in itself.
      • Richard Feynman: "...the fact that there are rules at all to be checked is a kind of miracle; that it is possible to find a rule, like the inverse-square law of gravitation, is some sort of miracle. It is not understood at all, but it leads to the possibility of prediction - that means it tells you what you would expect to happen in an experiment you have not yet done."
      • "The very fact that those laws can be mathematically formulated was for Einstein a constant source of amazement and pointed beyond the physical universe to some spirit 'vastly superior to that of man'."

p35 Rational Explanation. A given scientific explanation of something it not necessarily the only rational explanation that is possible. There can be multiple explanations that are equally true at the same time.

  • Why is this water boiling?
    • "Because heat energy from the gas flame is being conducted through the base of the kettle and is agitating the molecules of the water."
    • "Because I would like a cup of tea."
    • The two explanations do not conflict or even compete. They complement each other. Both are necessary.
    • Aristotle distinguished between the material cause (mechanism or process) and the final cause (purpose, intent)
  • Explanation of internal combustion engine
    • Physics of internal combustion.
    • Henry Ford
    • The two explanations do not conflict or even compete. They complement each other.

p37 "Stephen Hawking claimed that God is not necessary to explain why the universe exists in the first place - why there is something rather than nothing. He believed that science could supply the answer. He wrote:

"Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing."

This statement looks scientific, and it was certainly written by a scientist. But not only is it not scientific; it is not even rational, as some rudimentary logic will show."

  • The first flaw: Self-contradiction
    • "'Because there is a law like gravity' - that is, because there is something - 'the universe ... will create itself from nothing.' Hawking assumes the law of gravity exists. That is not nothing, so he is guilty of a flat contradiction."
  • The second flaw: Laws do not create
    • "Note carefully what Hawking says: 'Because there is a law like gravity ...' When I first read this, I thought 'Surely he meant to say,'Because there is gravity..' For, what would a law of gravity mean if there were no gravity for it to describe. "p38 "We saw above that Newton's law of gravitation does not explain gravity. Furthermore, it certainly does not cause gravity. In fact, the laws of physics are not only incapable of creating anything; they cannot cause anything to happen.
  • The third flaw: Self-creation is incoherent.
    • "Hawking's statement that 'the universe can and will create itself from nothing' is meaningless. If I say, X created Y, this presupposes the existence of X in the first place in order to bring Y into existence. If I say 'X creates X', I presuppose the existence of X in order to account for the existence of X. To presuppose the existence of the universe to account for its existence is incoherent."
      "What this shows is simply that a nonsense statement remains a nonsense statement even when written by a world-famous scientist."

p38 Paul Davies: "There's no need to invoke anything supernatural in the origins of the universe or of life. I have never liked the idea of divine tinkering: for me it is much more inspiring to believe that a set of mathematical laws can be so clever as to bring all these things into being." Quoted by Clive Cookson, "Scientists who glimpsed God", Financial Times, April 29, 1995, p50.

This was disappointing to me - I have a very high regard for Paul Davies and he has written some very articulate descriptions of the conditions necessary for the universe and life. I have seen several authors suggest an intelligent cause outside of space and time, and that's what I would have expected from Davies based on the other material from him that I have read.

I think Lennox appropriately criticizes the non-scientific language. I also consider Lennox to be the top voice in making the distinction between "law" and "agency" - a law can't do anything without an agent to initiate and enable the process.

Lennox appropriately cites C.S.Lewis p39 on the nature and limitations of "laws of nature":
"They produce no events: they state the pattern to which every event ... must conform, just as the rules of/Users/rodnave/Desktop/Photos/ElySocsel122719 arithmetic state the pattern to which all transactions with money must conform - if only you can get hold of any money ... For every law, in the last resort, says: 'If you have A, then you will get B". But first catch your A: the laws won't do it for you." (Miracles, Fontana,1974, p63)

p41 Allan Sandage, discoverer of quasars and winner of the Crafoord prize in astronomy. "I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence - why there is something instead of nothing."

3. Mythbusters I: Religion depends on faith but science doesn't

p43 "I am often told that the trouble with believers in God is just that: they are believers. That is, they are people of faith. Science is far superior because it doesn't require faith. It sounds great. The problem is, it could not be more wrong."

p43 Describes exchange with atheist Princeton ethicist Peter Singer. Seemed not to realize or acknowledge that his atheism was a faith.

p44-45 Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion" proclaims his faith in his atheist philosophy of naturalism. But he classifies "faith" for God believers as "believing where you know there is no evidence" or "blind faith". But "the faith expected on the part of Christians is certainly not blind." Quotes John 20:30-31 about eye-witness experiences with Christ. "Indeed, a strong case can be made that much of the material in the Gospels is based on eyewitness testimony."

p45 "Do atheists have faith? This confusion about the nature of faith leads many people to another serious error: thinking that neither atheism nor science requires faith. Yet, the irony is that atheism is a belief system and science cannot do without faith."

p45-46 "Physicist Paul Davies says that the right scientific attitude is essentially theological: 'Science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview.' 'even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith a law-like order in nature that is at least in part comprehensible to us.' " Templeton Prize Address, 1995,

p46 Albert Einstein: "science can only be created by those who hare thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding. This source of feeling,however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive a genuine man of science without that profound faith. The situation may be explained by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." (

p46 John Polkinghorne: "Science does not explain the mathematical intelligibility of the physical world, for it is part of science's founding faith that this is so.." (Reason and Reality, SPCK, 1991, p76)

p47 A remarkable discussion of human reason following Polkinghorne's statement and including the classic statements of Einstein and Wigner about mathematics and reason.

p47 "On what evidence, therefore, do scientists base their faith in the rational intelligibility of the universe, which allows them to do science? The first thing to notice is that human reason did not create the universe." "Not only did we not create the universe, we did not create our own powers of reason either. We can develop our rational faculties by use; but we did not originate them. How can it be, then, that what goes on in our tiny heads can give us anything near a true account of reality? How can it be that a mathematical equation thought up in the mind of a mathematician can correctly correspond to the workings of the universe?"

p47-51 Mathematics and human reason

  • Albert Einstein
    • "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible"
  • Eugene Wigner
    • "The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences."
  • Charles Darwin, "Darwin's doubt"
    • "...with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy."
  • John Polkinghorne If you reduce mental events to physics and chemistry, you destroy meaning.
    • "For thought is replaced by electrochemical neural events. Two such events cannot confront each other in rational discourse. They are neither right nor wrong -they simply happen. The world of rational discourse disappears into the absurd chatter of firing synapses. Quite frankly that can't be right and none of us believe it to be so."
  • John Gray, Atheist.
    • "Modern humanism is the faith that through science humankind can know the truth - and so be free. But if Darwin's theory of natural selection is true this is impossible. The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth. " (Straw Dogs,Granta Books, 2002, p26)
  • Thomas Nagel, strong atheist.
    • "But if the mental is not itself merely physical, it cannot be fully explained by physical science. Evolutionary naturalism implies that we shouldn't take any of our convictions seriously, including the scientific world picture on which evolutionary naturalism itself depends. " Mind and Cosmos, p14.
  • John 1:1-3.
    • "In the beginning was the Word ... The Word was God ... All things were made through him."
  • C. S. Lewis
    • "The Naturalists have been engaged in thinking about Nature. They have not attended to the fact that they were thinking. The moment one attends to this it is obvious that one's own thinking cannot be merely a natural event, and therefore something other than Nature exists." Miracles p23
4. Mythbusters II: Science depends on reason but Christianity doesn't

p53 "The flip side of the common objection addressed in the last chapter is that science depends on reason, and belief in God does not. This notion is as widespread and as completely wrong as the topic of the previous chapter."

p53-54 The difficulty of defining science. Back to Aristotle almost 2500 years ago. Contrast to Plato who had much less of an experimental bent. Galileo corrected Aristotle's mistake about a heavy ball hitting the ground faster from given height. You just have to engage reason and do experiments.

p55 Lots of discussion about the "scientific method", but a big part of it is common-sense rational thinking. The Bible is full of this kind of thinking. Greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength. "Mind" is prominently included.

p56 Job 38 questions from God to get Job to use his mind.

p57 The controlled studies of Daniel and his friends.

p59 Ark of the Covenant experiment with two cows.

p60 Much of todays formality of science forbids the supernatural dimension, and methodological naturalism works for believer and non-believer in a modern lab. But if you "follow the evidence where it leads", the mantra of long-time atheist Anthony Flew, you might find as he did that the information in DNA and the almost unbelievable complexity of life suggests the involvement of intelligence.

p61 Lennox quotes the dramatic passage from Lewontin, which climaxes with "we cannot allow a divine foot in the door."

p62-63 Lennox makes the point that Jesus' teachings had abundant examples of common-sense reasoning.

5. Can we really take the Bible seriously in a scientifically literate world?

p65-70 Discussion of age of Earth and Big Bang and an overview of "God's two books". Leads to a discussion of Copernicus and the Galileo story.Discusses metaphors in the Bible

p71 Discussion of Big Bang, Hoyle and Lemaitre and the expanding universe. Touches age of the universe and the variety of views and urges us to become better readers of "both books."

6. Miracles: a step too far?

p76 Quotes Richard Dawkins, who does present the dilemma of miracles in a straightforward way:
"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." (The God Delusion, Black Swan, 2000, p187)

Lennox notes that this echoes David Hume on the line "miracles are violations of the laws of nature". Dawkins states the dilemma well. Lennox follows with a list of outstanding scientists who are Christians. He quotes one of those, Francis Collins, to round out the nature of the dilemma of miracles.

p77 Francis Collins: "It is crucial that a healthy skepticism be applied when interpreting potentially miraculous events, lest the integrity and rationality of the religious perspective be brought into question. The only thing that will kill the possiblility of miracles more quickly than a committed materialism is the claiming of miracle status for everyday events for which natural explanations are readily at hand." (The Language of God, Simon & Schuster, UK 2007, p51-51)

p77 Discusses laws of nature as predictive of future behavior with great accuracy. Many scientists then see the universe as a closed system of cause and effect with no room for miracles.









7. Can you trust what you read?






8. How to disprove Christianity








9. The personal dimension

p103 The first Christians saw Jesus personally, but most of us have become Christians without literally seeing him. Jesus's words to Thomas:
John 20:29 "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

p103 We believe in many things which we have not seen.

  • We believe on the basis of evidence that we find to be reasonable and reliable.
  • p104 We believe the eye-witness testimony of Jesus' disciples. John 20:30-31
  • p105 We believe the Bible's record as reliable history. Hebrews 1:1-3
  • p106 Jesus' words are recorded in the gospels Mark 10:45, Luke 24:46-48, Acts 17:29-31.

p107-111 We do have to deal with understanding ourselves and our sins, realizing that we must come in repentance to Christ for forgiveness and redemption.

p111-117 A remarkable story of the extraordinary series of circumstances that brought him into the same railway compartment with two French-speaking attorneys. His facility with language and openness to sharing the gospel led to a deep conversation about the Christian faith. A key part of the message he is sharing with his readers is that God may have orchestrated a scenario in which I could use it to share the gospel.

p117-120 He proceeds with the nature of the path to Christ and the steps of repentance and faith that bring us to a relationship with Christ.

10.Entering the labortory: Testing the truth of Christianity

  • p121 How can you be a scientist and a Christian since everything in science is testable but nothing in Christianity is?
    • Many things in science have not been tested, like Hawking's radiation from a black hole.
    • Christianity can be tested. Repentance from sin and trusting Jesus for salvation works. Lives are transformed, peace with God, new fellowship with God and love for a community of Christians.

p122 A shout from the gallery - a story of a Chinese student whose life was transformed by coming to Christ.

p124 Brief recap of his testimony. Appeal to investigate from a distance, but then draw close to God. Assertion that science and Christianity mix. Quotes Colossians 1:15-50.

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