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It no way lives up to the claims made for it
on 28 October 2009
Firstly let me point out that this DVD is produced and published by The Fixed Point Foundation, which clearly states that it is committed to publicly defending Christianity through education [and] events and this is evident in the whole approach to the debate. The debate is presented by and "chaired" by Larry Taunton who is founder and executive director of the foundation, and the director is Michael Lennox, whilst Carson Lennox is another member of the production team - in charge of Location Production Services. A pure coincidence or keeping it in the family?
Dawkins has commented regarding an earlier debate organised by the same organisation, the "God Delusion" debate in Birmingham, Alabama, prompted by his book of the same name, that the format was rather strange, in that it ensured that Lennox got the last word on every single issue. The fact that the foundation produced this debate is very evident in the framing of the debate to constantly require Dawkins to be defending his position, whilst Lennox is never once required to do so.
My most important objection to this DVD is that it failed to deliver what it promised. Based on the description given, I was looking forward to hearing a well-constructed scientific argument that challenged the science put forward by Dawkins. Whether it was more convincing than Dawkins' arguments or not would remain to be seen, but I had expected, from the description, that it would at least challenge me to think it through very carefully. Furthermore, I really wanted to present this to my teenage children, who have already heard Dawkins' arguments, so that they would have a balanced set of arguments on both sides of the debate, in order for them to reach their own conclusions.
In practice, I never once heard Lennox put forward any scientific argument for anything. He constantly waffled around statements of his belief, but without ever providing any substance to support them. One other review says that Lennox's book is far more persuasive than his side of the discussion. Well, if that is the case, it is not only a shame that this debate didn't present those elements, but, given its description, in my opinion downright misleading. After seeing this debate and finding it fall so far short of my expectations, I most certainly do not feel inclined to throw more money away by spending it on his book, so it is an opportunity lost.
As for previous reviews, so Dawkins "admits" that Jesus did exist. Those who have read his books would not be in the slightest bit surprised by this as he has always confirmed this to be the case. His issue with Christians is not about the existence of Jesus but about the claim that Jesus was supernatural. So Dawkins admits that science only explains one of the three big questions posed by our existence, but this is only because he is being completely scientific by not claiming a hypothesis, however scientifically feasible, as being a scientific explanation if no evidence has been found (yet) to confirm it. Both of these big quesions have had highly feasible hypotheses proposed (big bang and primordial soup) and there are even a number of scientific observations that provide strong pointers to these hypotheses but Dawkins quite rightly is not ready to claim these as sufficient to treat the hypotheses as proven explanations.
As Dawkins points out in his summing up, the fact that an explanation has not yet been offered does not justify the conclusion that "in that case it must be magic". If the same rigourous requirements for evidence were applied to the "feelings" presented by Lennox, he would have had to make exactly the same admissions about his theist beliefs. Based on his contribution to this debate one could only conclude that not only could no evidence be presented to support the theist view of these questions, but that there do not even exist feasible hypotheses to lead us in their direction, only his beliefs and those of like minded folk. He certainly didn't present any scientific hypotheses, unless we count his simple statement of beliefs as a hypothesis, and based as these are on significant supernatural elements, they can't help but lack the credibility level of those hypothesis. On this basis, Dawkins inability to provide (admissible) explanations of these two big questions is far from providing automatic victory for the theist viewpoint of them.