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39 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent, but perhaps too small, 3 Mar. 2011
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This review is from: God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway? (Paperback)
John Lennox's little book says very little that his previous book `God's undertaker' does not. At just 85 pages of written word, this is indeed a small book.

The contents of each chapter can be summarised as follows:

Chapter 1 : Considers Hawking's argument that `Philosophy is dead'. Anyone familiar with the rudimentary argument against this claim knows that Hawking is in fact making a circular claim, i.e. that philosophy kills philosophy. This is because the claim is itself made FROM philosophy. The second half of this chapter looks at Hawking's idea of God. Like Dawkins he limits God to a mere `God of the Gap's' hypothesis and thereby fails to consider any other derivative concept of him. Lennox is quick to expose this and offer an alternative explanation - i.e. God as the uncaused cause.

Chapter 2 : Considers Hawking's claim that because of gravity the universe will create itself out of nothing. Lennox again raises the rudimentary rebuttal to this argument by asking, who then created the laws of gravity. The second half of the chapter then asks the ultimate question, i.e. are the "laws" of nature actually "something". The answer is, no they are not. They are deductive principles put together by rational beings. However, these laws have of themselves no separate or objective existence. Therefore the conclusion is that Hawking's argument is simply illogical.

Chapter 3 : Considers Hawking's replacement for God, i.e. M theory. Lennox draws attention to the fact that the theory itself is not universally accepted, and in reality has NO scientific evidence. The theory is merely a rational exercise which seems plausible on paper - beyond that it has nothing. Lennox next turns to Hawking's arguments about the rational perception of nature. Hawking's argument is really a hark back to the age old idea which Socrates discussed, i.e. does the world have an objective existence, or is it merely a rational construct. Hawking's ideas here seem muddled in that he seems to say that it's a rational construct, but then goes onto promote a high form of scientism. All Hawking's succeed in showing is that whilst he might be a brilliant physicist, he is a terrible philosopher.

Chapter 4 : Considers Hawking's use of the phrase "spontaneous creation". Lennox argues that Hawking fails to consider how the phrase has been used by philosophers throughout the ages and so has fraught his argument with philosophical difficulties. However, as Hawking's believes that he has already killed philosophy I doubt he would be too concerned by this.

Chapter 5 : Considers whether science without rationality could function. If anyone wants to promote a high degree of scientism, they need to be aware that the notion self refutes. Most noticeably this rebuttal comes from the argument, `prove to me scientifically that science is all there is'. As you cannot you are merely stuck with the ideas of abduction (the best possible explanation) and inference (what is observed). It is these two notions that science is based on. Both ideas show that nothing is really concrete and so attempting to eliminate God from the picture is ludicrous. This therefore leads onto Hawking's rebuttal of miracles and in turn freewill. Lennox arguments that it is the laws of nature that show us that a miracle occurred and that it is historically difficult to simply discount miracles on the basis that those who believe in them are `scientifically primitive'. Lennox finally argues that if freewill does not exist, due to man being a deterministic biological machine, then why should anyone actually believe Hawking's book? If man is also part of a deterministic machine (i.e. the universe), which is itself part of an undeterminable multi-verse in which anything is possible, then it is logically possible that God could exist in one of those universes, and due to his omnipotence and omnipresence, it is logically possible that he is present in ours. All of these arguments once again serve to show that Hawking's really is a poor philosopher.

The book itself uses the bog standard response to Hawking's book. Perhaps it is because Hawking's book is so poor in quality that this book is such an easy rebuttal. Whether this is a con or a pro, I'm still unsure of. As the book contains much of the arguments promoted in "God's undertaker", albeit with a slight focus on Hawking's new book - this for me made me feel a little cheated at having to spend the market price of £5 on this small book. I completed the book in about 2 hours which really gives you an understanding on how long it really is.

Occasionally Lennox also mentions Intelligent Design in his arguments but never really expands on whether he believes in ID or not. This is a fault that his former book also suffers from. On one page he'll talk about fine tuning, and then on the next Intelligent Design. This causes the informed reader some difficulties. However, the lay reader is unlikely to notice. Overall it's a good rebuttal, in that it does what it says on the tin, rebut Hawking's book. However, the cons are unfinished explanations and the size of the book. Overall, thoroughly recommended to the lay reader who is unlikely to know the usual rebuttals but unlikely to satisfy the more informed reader in that the arguments raised are the usual rudimentary ones. And finally, the language used in the book is simple enough to clearly convey the argument to any reader.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Apr 2011 14:14:15 BDT
will1957 says:
I have just read the book and this review is as good any as you will find on it. I agree with the Mr Shepherd that Lennox shows Hawking's grasp of the nature of God, philosophy, and logical argument is poor. However, Lennox leaves the job half-completed. Having demolished Hawking's argument, I think Lennox should have tried to build a stronger case for his side of it. He touches on Intelligent Design, a theory I consider manifestly suspect, but goes little further.

However, the book is a good addition on the subject, even though as Mr Shepherd wrote, it covers most of the ground Lennox covered previously in "God's Undertaker"

Posted on 13 Jun 2011 16:47:13 BDT
Great review. Four stars is about right and your comments are very accurate. The only thing I will say is that Lennox simply didnt have enough time on his hands to increase the size of the book, as he is a man of many responsibilities (just check his website and you will see what I mean!)

Posted on 11 Jun 2013 20:50:49 BDT
Zazou says:
Thanks for the thoughtful review. As I have read both editions of God's Undertaker, you've convinced me that I have higher priorities on my reading list than "God and Stephen Hawkins".

But I'd like to address your remark on ID. In God's Undertaker, John Lennox clearly espouses ID in that he unambiguously opposes neo-Darwinism and conjectures about conservation of information (something William Dembski has attempted to quantify). I personally thought that the refutation of the evidence from molecular biology (namely similarities in supposedly non-functional DNA) was a bit hasty and John Lennox didn't spell out his main assumption, namely that there's no non-functional (aka junk) DNA. At the time, it was a bold assumption, even if it has since been confirmed by several convergent research results; and I would have welcomed an explicit statement and discussion.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Jun 2013 19:07:37 BDT
Thanks for your comments Zazou - I usually refrain from commenting on comments but it is so unusual for me to encounter someone who actually wants to intellectually engage on a topic, rather than just raise conjuncture, and therefore for once I'll make an exception to my normal rule.

What I meant by the ID comment is complicated. Alister McGrath for example has written two books on a kinda pseudo ID idea, i.e. Fine Tuning and Natural Theology. Effectively McGrath's main argument is that God creates a universe with set rules, but which allows for possibility and probability of things such as life. These things then lead to things such as beauty, love etc. The thrust of his argument is that without a God you would have had a universe with strict laws that would allow for nothing more than rocks or gases etc. i.e. no life, or at least not life as we understand it. McGrath goes out of his way to say that this is not a proof of God but is simply a rational way of talking about him.

Lennox on the other hand seems to encourage a form of creationism that crosses with fine tuning and the ideas used by intellectuals such as McGrath. However, his argument is structured slightly so that the central thesis is that this is a proof of God's existence rather than just a form of rationality. Dembski himself wrote an entire book on this 'proof', and the majority of his thesis has either been disproved or deemed simply a form of 'God in the gaps' thinking.

My central point in raising the entire this ID issue is that Lennox either A) says this is just a form of rational discussion, in which case I'd like to know where I can read more, or B) he says this is a proof and sets out to quantify it properly. Whether or not he is right with regards to his argument I am not here to say, all I am prepared to say is that he doesn't really explain his thinking to me enough that I can either agree or disagree with him.

Does that make sense?

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jun 2013 01:37:09 BDT
Zazou says:
It may not be entirely accurate to equate ID with the rejection of natural selection as the engine that propels creation to the top of mount improbable. But it's not too far-fetched. This would place John Lennox, William Dembski and atheist Thomas Nagel in the same camp. I think it's OK insofar as a mathematical definition of "design evidence" will map to a variety of philosophical concepts.

As a matter of fact, whether what comes out of the criticism of Darwinism by ID proponents and now an increasing number of atheists and agnostics will be scientific proofs of special acts of creation or the discovery of new laws of nature, what I've read of "No free lunch" seems totally correct in its use of probabilities. The accusation of popping up a "God of the gaps" just because Dembski as a theologian subscribes to bible inerrancy is unfair insofar as he states the problem of "discovering evidence for design" in strictly mathematical terms. Just what the modus operandi of the Designer is is out of the scope of ID; and it may turn out the observed "specified complexity" emerges not from currently known laws of physics but nonetheless from conditions present right from the beginning, i.e. the big bang, but currently not accessible to scientific investigation. At any rate, probabilities and natural selection cannot rationally conjure up DNA out of matter as we currently know it. This much seems proven.

For a superbly sarcastic debunking of scientism, check out the Devil's Delusion by David Berlinski.
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