on October 24, 2007
John Lennox, who teaches mathematics and philosophy of science at Oxford University, comes out of the closet as a "creationist" (some will say) in this incisive and readable book. That is to say, not only does he place theoretical limits on the "magisteria" of science, he also finds positive empirical limits to what physics and biology can in fact explain about our strange, glorious, troubling cosmos.
I haven't read Lennox' previous books, so I don't know how far he has gone this way before, but it seems a gutsy move. (When he begins the section on biology, aware of the acrimony that has surrounded the evolution debate, he taps out his own tongue in cheek epitath: "Here lies the body of John Lennox . . . ") Oxford was once the home of Wesley and Boyle and Lewis, but Richard Dawkins casts a shadow there now -- one member of the science faculty told me maybe 60% of his colleagues agree more or less with Dawkins, whether they've read him or not. And unlike Alister McGrath (who however has the class and good taste to recommend this book), Lennox is more in the Intelligent Design camp than "theistic evolution" or "biologos." But the term "camp" here is misleading: to Lennox, the search for truth seems less a "darwinian" competition between fortified and hostile foes lobbying shells at one another, but as a genial and informed dialectical journey among pilgrims.
The book covers all the main questions: the nature of science, origin of the universe, anthropic "coincidences," origin of life, mutations, fossils. Lennox dialogues with Dawkins, as one would expect, and with many leading scientific thinkers. The prose is clear as a mountain creek tumbling over stones.
The main weakness of the book, in my view, has to do with Lennox' discussion of Intelligent Design. Here he quotes a number of people -- Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, Hugh Ross -- who are in the eyes of many skeptics highly controversial. I don't mind that -- I spent a couple months defending Behe against some rather savage and unfair attacks, so I appreciate his ability to shrug off the jihadist strand of evolutionary apologetics. But I do think Lennox needs to interact with more serious critics at this point a bit more, to establish his arguments. Still, he goes into far more detail than Dawkins on this issue.
In short, this is an excellent contribution to the "God" debates. Readers may also enjoy my new book, The Truth Behind the New Atheism, which responds to Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and Hitchens on a variety of topics, including some covered in this book.
on November 1, 2007
After reading The God Delusion a year ago I became gripped and eventually spellbound by the God vs. no god debate that seems more and more to be occupying the collective attention of our culture. In my desire to gain a fuller understanding of both perspectives, I've since immersed myself in the most popular literature on the subject (penned by Harris, Dawkins, Hutchings, Davis, Flew, McGrath, Collins, DeSuza etc.). The arguments and lines of reasoning expressed in John Lennox's book entitled "God's Undertaker" are, by far, the most deep and insightful I've read on the subject to date.
Lennox begins God's Undertaker by making a critical distinction between science and materialist/naturalist philosophy that, in and of itself, provides a resounding response in the negative to the question posed in the book's subtitle (Has science buried God?). Lennox explains that science in an uncontaminated form seeks exclusively to explore the universe by examining its physical properties and apparent laws without making claims about what might or might not exist beyond its own domain. Science therefore neither rules out nor affirms the existence of the supernatural. Naturalism, on the other hand, is philosophically bound to a preconceived notion regarding the nature of reality; namely that it is limited exclusively to the substantial and, consequently, that truth can only be found through an examination of material phenomenon. In short, it is naturalism, not science, which is at odds with theism.
Lennox goes on to illustrate the importance of making such a distinction by pointing out the deceptive and duplicitous way in which materialists use the well earned respect of science to cloak arguments against the existence of God that not only lack scientific support but are in fact faith based and not scientific at all! Lennox hammers home the irony of this point, giving no slack to the likes of Dawkins who, while blindly ascribing god-like qualities to neutrons and electrons, mockingly portray theists as deluded dunces who base their lives on a completely imaginary deity.
Lennox is no enemy of science. He is a purist who believes that what science points to is equally as important as what it explicitly reveals. Consequently, he is not only in awe of what science has achieved but he enthusiastically declares the important role science has played in the development of his own belief in God. Anchored by the very science that has been high jacked by Dawkins and company, Lennox demonstrates that belief in a single all powerful God is not only rational but is in fact the best conclusion one can draw from the known physical universe. Lennox does this in the heart of God's Undertaker by engaging the scientific arguments used by materialists head-on in an "ask for no quarter, give no quarter" fashion that pays homage to his Celtic heritage.
Specifically, Lennox confronts the naturalist's take on cosmology, microbiology, evolution, and biogenesis and mounts a particularly robust argument for an intelligently designed universe in later chapters devoted to information science. While it is beyond the scope of this review to elucidate each of Lennox's arguments, I will state that I found them to be well-balanced and, in most cases, compelling. I highly endorse this read for anyone interested in the origins of our universe.
on November 8, 2007
In this very readable and well-researched book John Lennox does a brilliant job of exposing the real issues involved in any discussion of the relationship between science and religion. The fundamental point, which he makes so well, is that the debate is NOT about science VERSUS religion, but has to do with different world views (namely naturalism - the view that there is nothing but nature and the material world - contrasted with theism - the view that there is a God ) and the relationship of each with science. Dr Lennox then asks the all-important question: Which world view sits most comfortably with science?
What is so important about this book is that it does not counter the popular rhetoric and sloganeering (characteristic of many of those who believe that naturalism is the world view that is the logical consequence of science) with more of the same. In his careful and systematic examination of the scientific evidence Dr Lennox shows that science is not only highly consistent with a theistic world view, but even points towards it. To this end he takes us on a journey that considers the history and limits of science, as well as many of its most up-to-date findings including modern evolutionary theory, design theory, irreducible complexity and information theory. Bringing to bear his analytical and logical skills as a research mathematician, he also exposes many fallacious arguments that are often used to "prove" that science has buried God.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who seriously wishes both to understand the real nature of the debate that is currently receiving much exposure in the media, and to come to a conclusion based on evidence and reason rather than prejudice and emotion.
Professor of Pure Mathematics
University of York, UK
on July 7, 2011
This is a wonderfully lucid and fascinating discussion of the current "storm" raging around "The Gang of Four" (our shiny new atheists, led by Richard Dawkins). In my view, the author gets enormous credit for establishing the obvious fact that the debate is NOT between science and religion. After all, a large chunk of scientists are not atheists. The real argument is between materialists (AKA naturalists) and theists. And it is not at all clear that the "brights" have emerged triumphant.
The book is written with gentle humor, impeccable logic, and a vast amount of information. Lennox is especially good at dealing with propositions such as these:
"The only way to truth is via science."
"There is no absolute truth."
Do you see a logical problem with these statements? Raise your hand and collect a virtual cookie if you do.
The problem is that these statements refute themselves. "The only way to truth is via science" is, alas, not a scientific statement and therefore untrue IN ITS OWN TERMS. The same goes with "There is no absolute truth," which also refutes itself and winds up being incoherent, like the first statement. (By the way, I suspect that "incoherent," like "problematic," is one of those polite professorial words which actually mean "Take it out back and bury it, it's dead."
Probably my favorite take-home item from this book goes as follows. The "brights" claim that evolution proves atheism is right, which is an absurd argument. BUT if you take that and turn it around, you wind up with the idea that atheism desperately needs the theory of evolution to be true. This would explain why the evolutionist camp is beginning to treat any question or disagreement as a matter of Heresy. Until now, that has been a mystery! That is to say, I believe I could publish a scientific paper tearing quantum mechanics to pieces, and nobody would try to burn me alive or fire me. But evolutionists? That's a different kettle of fish entirely.
Another favorite is: "Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver."
An excellent book! "Try it, you'll like it!"
on May 16, 2011
The first time I heard of John Lennox was listening online to his debate against Richard Dawkins. Not only was he able to stand up to Dawkins's arguments, but he concluded with a sterling appeal to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the final proof that God exists and has revealed himself to us. Dawkins responded that he was "disappointed" that Lennox would bring that matter up in a scientific debate, but I was encouraged. Later, hearing Lennox in person speaking in Washington State, I was further impressed by his knowledge, fluency, and ability to explain complex ideas to a popular audience.
John Lennox is Professor in Mathematics in Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College. In addition to being a leading mathematician and philosopher of science, Lennox is a committed Christian and an outspoken apologist. In addition to debating famous atheists like Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, Lennox speaks to popular audiences to encourage their faith in God and the biblical revelation.
This recent book presents a strong case for God as the intelligent, powerful Creator of the universe. As an expert in mathematics, including probability and chaos theory, Lennox analyzes and explains the fine tuning of the physical forces and constants of the universe, and the information richness of the genetic code. These facts point to intelligent input. Lennox does not "argue from analogy, but [makes] an inference to the best explanation" (p. 175). This is not a "god of the gaps" argument, where, as science progresses, the need for "god" shrinks. Rather, it is an "atheism of the gaps" argument, as each new scientific advance provides more, not less, evidence for a divine, intelligent Creator.
The book surveys the major areas of debate--the origin and design of the universe, the origin of life, the origin of the major types of life, and the information-rich content of the genetic code. In each of these areas Lennox documents his statements well, citing leaders in each field. He selects the strongest, not the weakest, argument of his opponents and treats them fairly. In all these diverse subject areas, he emphasizes the issues that relate to his own strength and expertise.
Near the end of his book Lennox discusses the philosophical contribution of David Hume, who supposedly destroyed the argument for God based on the design found in various creatures. These pages summarize and state well the fallacy of Hume, and the emptiness of modern arguments by atheists who quote him.
This book is fun to read, even though sometimes the reading is heavy. I recommend it to all who desire to argue for the existence and work of the God of the Bible. It also is helpful to all Christians who have feared that their beliefs somehow are unscientific or unreasonable.
on December 10, 2011
Science, God, Evolution, do they mix? Science does not negate the existence of God. This book brings plenty of evidences for this. Additionally, Richard Dawkins insists, "Don't question evolution!" This book exposes why! It's easy for an evolutionist to feel "encyclopedic" about evolution. Yet there are so many questions unanswered and in serious conflict, yes, we can read here that there is much more ("swept-under-the-rug") information against evolution than for it (and that has nothing to do at all with religion)! It certainly doesn't hurt to seek out both sides of the coin, and the other side is bountiful! Prof Lennox covers a sizably yet balanced amount of info on virtually all of the basics (even genetic homeostasis, racemization and other topics rarely, if ever, mentioned in other books). He leaves plenty of names and references to even explore deeper. Since Prof Lennox is also a mathematician, he dwells most convincingly on the improbableness of the most complex DNA, RNA coding ever happening by chance.
Easily the first book I would recommend on this topic, and would be enjoyable for anyone with little or curious interest on this. This book is a well tested collection of essays and discourses Prof. Lennox presented in many colleges, student courses, and even debates with the "big guys" Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and more, thus his thoughts are refined and proven accurate by not merely "peer-review" but also "anti-peer review." Even looking over the "faults" Amazon customers try to highlight in their desperate reviews, there is least for Prof Lennox' books of nearly anything!
If there is only one (very up-to-date) book on this subject to read, this is the one! You will learn and enjoy!
on December 13, 2010
It is always interesting to find what libraries purchase as part of their collection. However what is often more telling is what they chose to ignore.
Dr John Lennox is a premier academic in the U.k. however his book is largely unknown by people outside the God Vs Science debate.
Dr Lennox shows in this book how the framers of the God / Science debate mislabel the argument and make a "category mistake".
It is well argued and thought provoking read on why, rather than disproving the existence of "God", current science actually raises some interesting questions that are not answered by the new atheists and provides some limited comfort to Christian's in particular.
"God of the gaps" debaters will be saddened by Dr Lennox rebuttal of their argument.
However libraries are not apparently stocking the book and as a result miss out on the cutting edge of the "faith" side of the God Vs Science debate. This seems to indicate that supposedly open libraries are not interested in full and frank debate about one of the major discussions of our time.
Many of the arguments raised in Dr Lennox' book have not been addressed by the 'scientists must not believe in God' cheerleaders and their ignoring of John Lennox arguments does them no credit.
on November 20, 2014
Some interesting arguments that leave me more open to the existence of God. For example:
"If we were to receive (as featured in Carl Sagan's novel Contact) a signal consisting of a sequence of prime numbers, we would assume it was coming from an intelligent source. No scientist would ever dream of objecting that postulating intelligent origin for the sequence was not an explanation since it would be tantamount to explaining the sequence in terms of something more complex than the sequence itself."
In other words, why would we be willing to say that such information coming from space is likely to have an intelligent source, but not say the same about life on Earth? Even the simplest lifeforms on Earth are far more complex and information-heavy than a hypothetical space signal, yet we're hesitant to say that there could be any intelligence responsible for creating the former.
Lennox lost me in a few places though. For example, he uses the inductivist turkey argument to say we shouldn't rule out the possibility of miracles:
"Just because the sun has been observed to rise in the morning for thousands of years, it does not mean that we can be sure that it will rise tomorrow... [likewise, Hume] couldn't be sure that a dead man will not rise up tomorrow. That being so he cannot rule out a miracle."
This would seem to suggest that we should give the same credence to the possibility of resurrection as to the possibility of the sun rising tomorrow, which is just silly. Surely you have to factor in the likelihood of things. The sun rising tomorrow is a lot more likely than a dead man doing the same. Seems to me that if you want to say miracles are possible, you also have to say that Leprechauns and celestial teapots are possible. Where do you draw the line?
Lennox also writes that the resurrection is "the supreme evidence for the truth of the Christian worldview", but I don't see how you can call that evidence. Do we have anything more to go on than the Bible? And why does Lennox choose to believe in the Christian miracles but presumably not the miracles of other religions, such as those described in the Koran?
Overall though, a very thought-provoking read and I recommend it to any atheist-leaning person to help battle-test their beliefs.
on February 6, 2010
I think "God's Undertaker" is a solid introduction to Intelligent Design. It's especially helpful from an evangelical Christian apologetics standpoint in conversation with the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" i.e. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. As I recall, John Lennox is a member of the Plymouth Brethren.
Of course, there are more detailed books available - for e.g., "Signature in the Cell" by Stephen Meyer. But, again, "God's Undertaker" is a solid introduction which especially packs quite a punch for its small size (about 200 pages). I don't know if this is necessarily the best way to look at it but the way I look at it is, if we place "Signature in the Cell" in the heavyweight division and "God's Undertaker" in the lightweight division, each is arguably the best book in its respective class.
In any case, others have already done finer reviews of "God's Undertaker" than I can manage. So I just wanted to make a quick note for those who might have the older version of the book (ISBN: 082546188X) and are considering purchasing the newer version (ISBN: 0745953719). Or who are considering one over the other. I own both.
What's the difference between the older (2007) version and the updated (2009) version? Not much, but there is a difference. The main difference is that, while both versions have the same 11 chapters in the 2007 version, the updated version contains an additional 12th chapter titled "Violating nature? The legacy of David Hume". In this chapter, Lennox interacts with Hume's argument against rationally believing in miracles.
My opinion is, if you already own the first version, and you own a book like C.S. Lewis' "Miracles" or even better Victor Reppert's "C.S. Lewis' Dangerous Idea" (which, as Paul Manata said, is like Lewis' "Miracles" on steroids) or another philosophical book which deals with the alleged problem of miracles, then it's probably not worth purchasing the updated version.
However, if you don't own other books on the topic, or are unfamiliar with the philosophical issues over miracles, and are looking for a brief, non-book length treatment (otherwise you'd just buy Reppert's book), then it'd be worth purchasing the updated version. Although even still I think I'd recommend looking at a free online article on miracles such as one on Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy rather than spending the extra money. But the problem is philosophical resources can tend to be a bit technical so you might have to work your way through the article whereas Lennox's chapter is written with the layperson in mind.
And for those who own neither the older version or the updated version, it'd be best to get the updated version of course.
on April 19, 2016
Scientific Evidence Trumps Philosophical Argumentation:
Of all the different philosophical proofs of God's existence, I found the various versions of the Cosmological Argument to be the most convincing; however, ONLY when the premises and conclusion are backed-up by tons of convincing Scientific Evidence.
Even the Cosmological Proof of God's Existence becomes absolutely pointless and worthless, unless there is copious amounts of Scientific Evidence backing up every premise and the conclusion as well.
In the end, it always ends up being the Scientific Evidence which convinces you that God really does exist, and not the philosophical proof itself.
Scientific Evidence, Observational Evidence, Empirical Evidence, and Experiential Evidence trump philosophical sophistry every time! A philosophical proof is absolutely worthless unless the premises and the conclusion are backed-up by lots of EVIDENCE.
Faith or trust in true evidence, produces a True Faith or a True Belief.
Faith or trust in false evidence, produces a False Faith or a False Belief.
ALL faith or belief or trust is based upon EVIDENCE. If there is no evidence, then there will be no faith. I have absolutely no faith in the philosophical proofs that are lacking evidence or run contrary to the Scientific Evidence.
When it comes to the Cosmological Argument, I have purchased a few books from William Lane Craig. He has become the world-wide philosophical expert on the Cosmological Argument. If you want to learn the best and received the best evidence on a subject, then you go to the best.
For a nice selection of different philosophical proofs for God's existence, check out the little book "Does God Exist?" by William Lane Craig. Even though this is a short book, William Lane Craig tries to present adequate amounts of scientific evidence to support each of the premises and the conclusion generated by each philosophical proof.
I have also purchased and been reading:
KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (LIBRARY OF PHILOSOPHY & RELIGION) January 1, 1979, by WILLIAM LANE CRAIG.
"The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz: (Library of Philosophy and Religion)" by William L. Craig.
It's the scientific evidence that convinces you that God really does exist. These various philosophical proofs ONLY come alive when their premises and conclusions are completely backed and sustained by scientific evidence.
If you are willing to venture away from William Lane Craig, then I would recommend these books:
"God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?" by John Lennox.
"Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case" by Frank Turek.
"Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target" by John Lennox.
"I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist" by Norman L. Geisler, Frank Turek.
"There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind" by Antony Flew, Roy Abraham Varghese.
These were the first ones that I read, which combined philosophical argumentation and scientific evidence to make their case. I found them quite convincing. The Scientific Evidences proves whether the philosophical argument is true or false. It is the Scientific Evidence which convinced me that God exists, not the philosophical argument or philosophical proof. The philosophical argument simply gives the Scientific Evidence a structure and a goal. The philosophical argument puts the Scientific Evidence to good use and convincingly demonstrates that God really does exist.