190 of 206 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarifying the issues about science and religion
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...
Published on 8 Nov 2007 by Nigel Cutland
39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, whatever your current stance
This is not a bad book at all, and it is written (on the whole) in an accessable style. It stands out from other similar books by attempting to clarrify what the author considers to be the real issues. It also scores by just focussing on one aspect of the theism/atheism/agnosticism debate, and obviously this is the aspect about which the author is most informed. There was...
Published on 5 Sep 2008 by S. Gerhand
Most Helpful First | Newest First
190 of 206 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarifying the issues about science and religion,
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
87 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get to the important bits...,
Anyway, there are many good general qualities about this book already addressed by other reviewers. For me the most notable and pressing points of value that Lennox makes are the following:
1) There isn't a necessary tension between science and religion - rather between competing worldviews - most notably (for the purposes of this book) - naturalism and theism. Either one of these basic outlooks can use science legitimately to expand material knowledge, but either one can also quite easily end up using it selectively to fit in with it's ultimate assumptions and aims. So, prescriptive worldviews are the problem. (It was the Aristotelian worldview that Galileo had to overcome - held by secular academics as well as church authorities - not Christianity as such.)
2) 'God of the gaps' can actually be a tag given to naturalists in some cases ('evolution' of the gaps), where gaps in our knowledge are assumed to be obviously fillable by evolutionary processes, ahead of the necessary evidence. However, it can also be applied to areas where science has reached its distant shores and has been left with a logical impasse which it is impotent to cross using experimentation and naturalistic concepts. In other words, it is possible for science and reason to identify and demarkate areas that are inexplicable by scientific investigation itself (- in other words it's not merely a matter of time before they are fixed). There is one area (possibly among others) below where Lennox clearly seems to think that this has happened.
3) DNA - still unexplained in terms of origins, and according to the mathematical prowess of Lennox (using information theory) inexplicable unless you accept that there must be a more fundamental source of information within the universe, from which DNA can have been 'programmed' (my quote marks). Essentially, Lennox draws upon various information theorists to tentatively posit a 'law of conservation of information' which would mean that information (and hence 'intelligence') cannot be built-up from unintelligent inputs, and is hence more fundamental to the design of the universe than previously thought (it is accepted in the case of energy, why not intelligence?). In making this point, Lennox appears to give a damning critique of the explanations used by Richard Dawkins in his book 'Climbing Mount Improbable' where he tries to make the evolution of DNA seem more credible according to Darwinist mechanisms. Possibly I have overly simplified this central proposition of Lennox, but the details are there to be read (should you feel compelled to argue with it), and I'll be damned if I can find, on the internet, any decent responses to the point Lennox is making. It is as if nobody wants to notice, or engage with, such a point. Perhaps some generous and enthusiastic Naturalist can put me straight in the comments section to this review, regarding where Lennox has gone wrong with this proposal, because it seems pretty convincing to me. (and please don't quibble about where 'God' must have got the intelligence from etc - the issue is WHETHER IT IS FUNDAMENTAL OR NOT - we follow the evidence first - then worry about the consequences - right?)
An important point to make, since it relates to the probable expectations of most readers out there, is that Lennox's arguments don't particularly make a case for Christianity - (and he doesn't actually mention it that much) - his arguments point merely towards a creative force and a fundamental property of intelligence within the universe - which of course is compatible with the majority of religious thought (including - although it doesn't necessarily lead to - Christianity)
The five stars are because the book was less dogmatic (religiously) than I expected, and more thought provoking in areas that I thought would have been considered out of bounds by Lennox (evolution), than I was expecting. The pleasure I took here wasn't because I was particularly delighted to give Darwinism a kicking, merely because I wasn't familiar with his arguments and they took me by surprise. Conceivably , admittedly, Lennox could have made almost all the same key points without introducing distinctly Christian allusions at all.
39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, whatever your current stance,
On p. 166, he states "Is the scientific method not applicable everywhere?", as a criticism of biological sciences not accepting an arguement which he believes would be considered watertight in the physical sciences. Well, the answer is no, the method, or paradigm to use Kuhn's terminology, is not always the same accross different sciences. There are very good reasons for that, because there are differences in the type of information being considered, and not all methods of investigation are going to be equally productive. The most fruitful ones come to be the dominant paradigms in a particular area, in a process that Dawkins might describe as natural selection of memes. Lennox does not seem to appreciate this, which I find strange for someone who is a Fellow of Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Oxford. He clearly feels at home when talking about the physical sciences, but is much less so regarding biological sciences, where he resorts to using lots of quotations, rather than stating arguements in his own words. Some of the analogies he uses betray this, for example when discussing a work of art to illustrate the limits of the scientific approach: "how could science tell us whether a painting is a masterpiece or a confused smudge of colours" (p.39). This is obviously a subjective judgement, and certain branches of psychology, such as experimental aesthetics, would use scientific methodology to do precisely that. He goes on to conclude that science is poor at, or does not attempt to answer "why" questions, which may be the case with the physical sciences (his opinion, not mine), but I certainly do not think is true of the biological sciences.
The book starts by stating two key premises, which are necessary for the arguements put forward. The first one is a criticism of Dawkins stating that the basis of religion is faith, which is non-evidence-based. Lennox says that this is blind faith, and that Christian faith is in fact evidence-based (although this comes back to my earlier point about what constitutes evidence). Lennox obviously speaks for himself, and people that he knows, but not necessarily for Christians as a whole. I have had many discussions with people who have made it quite clear to me that the very essence of their faith is that they KNOW that God exists, and do NOT require evidence. So I do not think he can claim to speak for all Christians here, but I accept the point that it is equally unfair to classify all religious faith as blind faith. His second point is that he does not feel that science, defined in terms of a method of investigation and deduction, is incompatible with religion, and that there is ultimately scientific evidence in favour of the existence of God. The disagreement is between naturalism, where the forces of nature explain everything, and theism, where things have proceeded only via the intervention of a supernatural being. A good point, which makes it clear what he intends to discuss. He then goes on to put forward an arguement in favour of intelligent design.
Assuming this is a true representation of the arguement for intelligent design, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, this is the book's strength. It puts forward that arguement clearly. Whether you agree with it is another matter, but it puts it forward with sufficient clarity to allow you to make some form of judgement. Exactly where this sits with evolution, I think is less clear. Lennox acknowledges that some aspects of evolutionary theory are supported by evidence, whereas others are speculative. However, the complexity of the process, and the mathematical probabilites involved, lead him to conclude that the intervention of a supernatural being was necassary to start the process off. As he constantly refers to his position as theist, rather than deist, regular ongoing intervention must have been required throughout the process: it is simply too complex, and too mathematically improbable to have happened by chance. At least, that is what I think he is saying: some form of evolution may well have happened, but only with the help of divine intervention. To back up his arguement further, he cites examples of man-made items, which could not exist without a creator (i.e. humans), and says it is equally improbable that natural items came into being without a creator. Some man-made items, such as computers, have gone through an evolutionary process (in the most basic and uncontroversial sense of the word), but that process could not have occurred without the ongoing intervention of their creators.
Anticipating criticism, Lennox also talks about the God of Gaps. This is the tendency to look at gaps in scientific knowledge, and cite them as evidence for the existence of God or some other supernatural force. When you cannot explain something with science, God or a supernatural agency is used as a default explanation. Despite bringing it up frequently, and claiming to have put it to bed, I still think it remains a problem.
In conclusion, this book is worth reading, and enough information is provided to allow the reader to draw their own conclusion. But the final appraisal will depend heavily on the reader's own criteria for acceptable evidence. Do you accept intelligent design must be true because the alternative seems just too improbable? Do you go with evolution, for which we have some evidence, but some areas are still pretty shaky? Are we ever likely to get strong evidence either way? Can you still enjoy the debate without it - oh yes.
72 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Triumph of a polymath mathematician,
He also has a great writing style which is witty, charming and remarkably free from rhetoric and rant which so often mar such books on both sides of the debate. Whether you agree with Lennox's conclusion or not, he will take you on a fascinating journey of discovery, on which very few readers will have visited all the varied stopping-off points.
Dr Trevor Stammers, Lecturer in Healthcare Ethics, St Mary's University College, Surrey
43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Scientific and Philosophical Defence of Rational Faith,
In the opening chapters Lennox surveys the leading theories in cosmology and physics to show that on the macro scale our universe shouts "design" much louder than "random chance". The fact of a beginning to all things, the fine tuning of many independent constants, the beauty of mathematical formulae and many other pieces of evidence are amassed against the hypothesis of naturalistic materialism. The conclusion that an intelligent mind is behind the universe is seen at least to be a plausible, rational explanation.
Lennox then sails in to the stormy waters of Biology and Biochemistry to see what the unfolding world of DNA and chemical microstructures has to say to us. He draws on his vast knowledge of mathematics and information theory to shows the incredible implausibility of the first mutating self-replicator arising by purely by chance. He shows that whilst random mutation and natural selection can certainly carry some weight, they crumble under the full force of atheism which demands they be the full explanation for all the specified complexity in the world.
In part this book is a refutation of various writings of Richard Dawkins (both are lecturers at Oxford University), but it goes far beyond that. It shines light on the poor philosophy that lurks in the shadows of the recent New Atheist writings. It deals in broad terms with the limits of science and the epistemological ignorance of those who insist, with Bertrand Russell, that the only source of knowledge is scientific knowledge.
Lennox also spends a long time identifying and avoiding a "God of the gaps" approach to Christian apologetics. His objection to this form of lazy intellectualism comes across loud and clear. Lennox highlights the "bad gaps" that we don't know the answer to because science hasn't advance well enough and refuses to simply posit "God did it" as the explanation. But he also shows a number of "good gaps" where atheistic materialism fails because of what we do know, not what we don't know. Lennox also highlights the ironic "evolution of the gaps" dogma of those committed to a naturalistic worldview who meet any deficiency in our current understanding with the creedal cry of "evolution did it"!
In summary, I know of no better contribution to the atheism / theism debate than this book. It will provide a great resource for those wishing to defend Theism. And it will be a challenge to those who can sufficiently divorce themselves from their atheistic presuppositions to objectively evaluate the evidence.
49 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to beat,
Of all the responses to the current New Atheist publishing phenonmena, this is my favourite. I am very grateful to John Lennox for a book which I hope will enjoy a wide circulation and certainly deserves one.
David A. Robertson
Editor Free Church Monthly Record and author of The Dawkins Letters
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, a worthy response to Dawkins!,
This review is from: God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? (Paperback)John Lennox is not only especially versed in astro-physics and modern biology, he is also able to write simply and accurately for those of us who are not. It is a tour de force for those who have often wondered, "Ah,yes. Darwin's fine, but is there any more to it than 'survival of the fittest'?" I loved the book.
30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful Overview of Science/Faith Debate,
Towards the end of the book Lennox assumes a bit more mathematical knowledge than most readers will possess (he certainly lost me in a few places). But the style is mostly very readable and accessible to non-specialists. As a balanced overview of the issues raised by Dawkins and his respondents, this is highly recommended.
32 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's a new cat amongst the pigeons,
The whole God debate just got a lot more interesting - and I have to say - a lot more academic.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arguments against atheism by John Lennox,
Arguments against atheism
By Howard Jones
This is one of several recent books to address the popularised atheistic views of Richard Dawkins, Peter Atkins, and others (see Poole, Markham; and Victor Stenger for a good summary of the atheist viewpoint). John Lennox is Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College of Oxford University. He explores some key philosophical questions, such as whether science has really replaced religion and accounted satisfactorily for the apparent design of the universe and the values of the natural constants that are so fortuitous for our existence. As in Poole's book, much is made of the `conversion' to theism of former passionately atheistic philosopher Anthony Flew.
Lennox claims, with some support, that science itself has its basis in monotheistic religion. The main thrust of the book is the conflict, not between science and religion but between naturalism and theism - did God make the universe or did it come into being through entirely natural processes? Lennox challenges the view of Atkins that all religious or mystical experience is outside the purview of science: for mystical experience is as much an activity of mind as solving Schrödinger's equation, and study of the mind is psychology, which is usually regarded as science. But Lennox dismisses Atkins' scientism (that science is the only way to truth) as unhelpful as a world-view. Science cannot by itself provide answers to questions of `Why events are such as they are'. However, `God of the Gaps' gets similar short shrift: for Lennox, as for Richard Swinburne, God is not an alternative to science as explanation when science doesn't have any answers; God is `the ground of all explanation'.
There is an extensive discussion of evolution here as this is the cornerstone of modern biology and is the source of much antagonism between scientists and fundamentalist creationists. It is also the basis of the Intelligent Design movement so deserves thorough philosophical investigation. Perhaps surprisingly, both theologists and biologists are generally against its precepts. Indeed, the discussion of all of the science, and especially biology, as well as of the theological issues is exemplary. It is immediately accessible to anyone interested in the science and religion discussion and this is a book I would unhesitatingly recommend for its erudition and reasoned debate. The book concludes with a Notes and References section, which includes some further reading, and a rather brief Index, though I have found all the entries I wanted on searching.
Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, UK.
Against Atheism: Why Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris are Fundamentally WrongThe New Atheism: Ten Arguments That Don't Hold Water
Most Helpful First | Newest First
God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? by John C. Lennox (Paperback - 20 Mar 2009)