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on 25 October 2016
Perfect. Delivered on time and the product was exactly as described
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on 28 August 2012
I have seen Professor Lennox debating with the likes of Hitchens and Dawkins in the past... and get a sound beating it must be said. However several reviews and a couple of friends seemed to suggest that this tome contained the best anti-atheist rebuttals to be found. Well I have read it now and whilst this may be true it only serves to emphasise the paucity of the case for God (theist or deist). In truth this really is more a case for ID than theism per se but Lennox is a Christian and he can't help but let this distract from the case he tries to make. This is a flaw but there are strengths in the book; notably the mathematical references as one might expect and his engaging tone. These facts notwithstanding, he never really makes a very strong case for God.

Although the Maths is his strength I think others have picked the very large and obvious holes in the probability conjecture already so I will go no further.

As pointed out by 'worldlasiestbusker': "He is weaker when it comes to the discussion of the scientific method. He revels in pointing out the limitations of the scientific method but these would be nothing new to anyone with a passing interest in science. No alternate approach to investigating the world around us is noted, let alone analysed for comparison

Evolution, both the idea that organisms change over time and the theory developed to explain the changes, receives a lot of attention. The topics cited as problems with evolutionary theory are the standard fare of creation science: transitional fossils, irreducible complexity and the statistical probabilities of particular proteins arising by chance. These topics have been addressed by evolutionary biologists in books, peer reviewed papers and courts of law, so I will simply state that there is nothing new in Lennox's new wording of old arguments.

Some of the quotes used to emphasize points in the book are very old. In many cases, evidence arising after the death, or in some cases during the lifetime of those quoted, make their observations irrelevant to the points Lennox attempts to reinforce with their words. For example, Lennox cites Joseph Hooker's problems with Darwin's manuscript for "Origin of Species," ignoring Hooker's eventual wholehearted endorsement of the text and the mechanisms it described.
Evidence put forward in favour of a supernatural entity with influence over the universe are the argument from incredulity and the anthropic principle, both of which received better, but still unconvincing, attention from Roy Abraham Varghese, writing as Antony Flew, in "There is a God."

The example of Aunt Matilda's cake was insufferably trite. So as to not suffer it, I will give it some attention here. Lennox posits that Aunt Matilda bakes a cake. Try as they might, the scientists who can measure its chemical composition and physical characteristics cannot explain why Aunt Matilda baked it. She won't give up the information, choosing to smile knowingly and keep quiet. The scientists' inability to determine the meaning behind the cake is used as a metaphor for science's inability to explain why we exist. The metaphor didn't work for me on two levels: First, the conceit that our existence requires explanation was not given justification. If scientists who posit a universe obeying strict physical laws gave rise to life as we know it are correct, there is no overarching reason for our existence. In that model, it is our ability to think in the abstract, a powerful advantage over other animals, which led us to imagine a reason for our existence might exist. Second, the fictional account of Aunt Matilda's antics didn't account for all possible avenues of investigation. Any scientist worth their salt would approach Matilda's friends and family, asking if there were any significant events corresponding with the day in question. If all her associates were involved in her obstructionist shenanigans, the scientists could review the relevant literature: registers of births, deaths and marriages, and the local and national newspapers. If sufficiently desperate, the scientists could follow her around and see what she does with the cake (though at this point I'd as likely eat the cake myself, applying my morality with regard to dealing with annoying people who waste my time, in turn imposing my own reason for the cake's existence). Imagine the methods that might be employed had our government decided that understanding the importance of the cake was a matter of national security. My heavily laboured point is Lennox's example involved the effable. The information in question exists and is knowable. Positing an ineffable example would have been less annoying but, being ineffable, would have been self defeating as ineffable things (invisible pink unicorns, Bertrand Russell's celestial teapot, Jesus' alleged resurrection) are, by definition, ineffable and cannot be investigated.

Whereas contemporary atheist books read as attempts to convince the faithful they are wrong, "God's Undertaker" reads as an attempt to reassure the faithful they are right. It is unlikely anyone not exposed to Christian dogma from an early age would be convinced to believe in God by this book. Anyone who had questioned the information provided by their religion sufficiently to have lost faith would find nothing here to convince them that their decision to leave their church was wrong. A Christian who reads Lennox's book might be reassured that the issues addressed therein have been sufficiently dealt with, put "God's Undertaker" on their book shelf and fail to read any further on any of the topics Lennox touched. In offering this level of hollow reassurance, Lennox has done both his readers and the scientific principles he claims to uphold a disservice"

For my part I was left wishing this had been the wonderful defence of God erroneously claimed by many reviews on here. Afterall, as Lennox alludes, it would be so nice if there was a loving theistic 'Logos' out there. Sadly wishing it were so doesn't make it so.
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on 31 January 2015
Lennox has produced a very accessible and compelling argument to dispel the popular belief (aka the conflict thesis) that science and religion are at loggerheads and that the former is superior to and invalidates the latter. Lennox writes that the real conflict is between two worldviews, that of naturalism and theism, and that the real question should be which worldview does science support? What follows is a very strong case for the compatibility of theism and science. Lennox surveys a wide range of topical issues in the history and philosophy of science and in the natural sciences. Topics covered include the limits of reductionism, mechanism and agency, evolution, irreducible complexity, DNA and information.

The book is worth buying alone for the very helpful chapter on evolution, which surveys the various uses of the term and the validity of the distinction between micro and macro evolution. It also addresses popular misconceptions of the fossil record by making the important conceptual distinction between intermediate and transitional forms and the role of stasis and sudden appearance in the record.

Overall the book is engaging, well written, and full of insight. I have read many books on this subject and "God's Undertaker" is a personal favourite.
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on 26 March 2015
I grew up in a Protestant household. However, in my teenage years I drifted away from the faith and I'd describe myself as an agnostic at the time.

Over the last few months I have dwelled over one of the, if not, the most important question in the world - is there a God? I had seen some of Lennox's debates on YouTube, and this convinced me of his competence as a Christian apologist and intellectual.

Anyway, to the book. He made some very convincing points in favour of God. For example, he explains the way that the universe is expanding in such a precise way that even the most microscopic alteration would cause the universe to fall apart. There are many more fantastic points that he makes to show the precision of the universe - and how it strongly suggests intelligent design. In fact, I'd say that many of the revelations he makes are actually mind-blowing!

Lennox is a fantastic intellectual, and he also manages to add some humour to the book as well, which helps! This is one of the better arguments for theism out there. Could not recommend anymore.
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on 7 February 2015
I was put onto this book while actually shopping for another (an Amazon review of the other book pointed me to this).

Reading the previous reviews of this book, I see the usual stuff- those with some form of spiritual belief taking confirmation/ justification of their beliefs and Atheists dismissing the book because it was written by a Christian who is twisting scientific findings to push his point (I won't comment on this much as I think the belief of the author / scientist will always influence the text...even Atheist scientists who go too far the other way). These comments are to be expected when such an emotive subject is discussed and peoples beliefs are questioned - both sides should remember that they operate on faith based arguments / interpretations and 'know' their argument to be correct. That's right Atheists, remember the old burden of proof argument (I.e. it is up to the claimant to proove their point)...well offering a belief now means that there is also a burden of proof on you to prove yours. We are all operating at faith here...

I bought this book, less to inform me as to whether the universe was intelligently designed, rather to show that the possibility has npt been ruled out. This, in my opinion, is what the book does, very succinctly, taking a look at scienfic findings and drawing logical theories that they could be due to intelligent design (the structure / role of DNA, for example). Essentially, it brings another viewpoint to the table and argues, with reason, for another explanation for the way things are. Those with a spiritual belief should welcome this as should Atheists, who will be able to debate with thosemwho don't share your beliefs in a scientific way.

Removing all emotion / belief from the equation, this book shows that there need be no divide between science and religion (i although I prefer the term spirituality). Science shows us how things exist (e.g. how DNA works), in doing so, it does nothing to debunk intelligent design theories.

What I urge everyone to do is buy the book, read the book and ask yourself the question - has any discovery so far ruled out the notion of intelligent design (note, I am being careful to avoid linking it to any specific religion/ deity). If you read the book as an Agnostic and put your beliefs aside, you will very much enjoy it.
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on 17 July 2010
On the front cover of this book is the question 'Has science buried God?'. Lennox clearly suggests not. He presents a number of challenges to the scientific statements which are sometimes taken as proof that God cannot exist.

Whilst reading through the chapters it became evident that there are a number of over reaches made in order to conclude that science has buried God.

It was refreshing to see that Lennox is in agreement with areas of evolution, and indeed is enthusiastic regarding pushing our knowledge of the universe through science. He, rightly, demands proof/evidence rather than speculation to determine fact and points out where one ends and one begins on a number of occasions.

Lennox is keen to emphasis the limitations of science, but this in no way makes him anti-science. There are also examples of clearing up a few myths here and there along the way.

It is no surprise to find that the one thing Lennox does not do in this book is prove God exists. He does however show that there is still room for the possibility of God, and comfortably so too.
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on 25 February 2015
Excellent. Dawkin's lack of intellectual rigour, and perhaps intellectual honesty, is certainly exposed. Some aspects of atheism are taken apart with significant skill. Where it is a little disappointing is toward the end. In particular, it seriously fails to engage with what David Hume actually says, in the round, about forming judgements on miracles and in fact misrepresents his line of reasoning. It says so much that's interesting about the relationship between world view and views of truth but never acknowledges the role of Hume (in relation to what he calls 'the passion') in highlighting this. It misses the reality that Hume cannot produce an overt criticism of biblical aspects of his thought because of his contemporary context. Nor does the author really examine how his own world view has shaped his take on the relevant science. That's a pity. Otherwise. it's a pretty remarkable achievement.
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on 17 December 2014
As a short review it is one of the best around. Lennox covers many of the general ideas that have emerged from scientists open to intelligent design causation. If you want a thorough understanding then this will be introductory in some respects, for example, on the issue of where the signal of natural selection is supposed to be in terms of molecular biology/genomics. But many of the problems facing the evolutionary faithful are reflected on to some degree, and there is some historical information on key events and meetings that helped characterise the tensions between conventional (Darwinian) thinking and that of Dembski, Behe, Flew (in later life) and others. If you've already read much of the material coming out of the inteligent design movement then you will have come across many of these ideas already. But as a short introduction, it does a very good job. Hence, the book gives you an opportunity to understand many of the important issues and leave it there, or to use the book as a platform from which to do further exploration of the work of Behe, Dembski and others if they seem to grab your attention.
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on 20 May 2012
Note - to view this review with working links to sources and so on, search for my blog entitled Geoff's Shorts.

It's easy to view creationists through the lens of caricature. From Dr Kent's belief that dinosaurs died out due to spontaneous nasal combustion, to the belief that the 300 mile Grand Canyon formed in about five minutes, we can find instances of claims that would have to work hard to be considered merely absurd. But still, it is perhaps unfair to judge a group based on the worst of its members. Though I have yet to hear good creationist arguments I do know smart creationists. With that in mind I was quite happy to receive a recommendation to read Professor John Lennox's book on the subject, God's Undertaker.

I went in with high hopes - my initial readings on evolution were prompted back in 2003, when I studied evolutionary computation. Lennox's background in mathematics would surely mean he could speak with authority on this area.

He was born on the same island as I, a coincidence of birth which admittedly does not make him more likely to be correct, but caused me to warm to him nonetheless.

He's also a talented linguist, speaking Russian, German, Spanish and French in addition to his native English. He has been published and has given lectures in many languages.

Why are languages important?

Some feel evolution cannot be true because it offends their interpretation of Genesis. Yet Genesis does not confine itself to writings on the diversity of life we see - it also gives extensive time to the diversity of languages we speak. For those who have not read Genesis 11 recently I will summarise - originally, after the flood, everyone spoke only one language. The Tower of Babel was constructed, so high it reached the heavens, then God came down, created separate languages, scattered the people to separate lands and confounded the common tongue.

Yet the modern, unchallenged explanation for the diversity of languages we encounter is that a gradual process of change led to new languages diverging slowly from an original base. It is not controversial in any circles that I know of to say that Spanish and Italian share a common ancestor in Latin. It is also quite obvious that no Latin speaking mother gave birth to a Spanish speaking son with whom she could not communicate; the process is incremental and not visible from generation to generation. True, this is not evolution but the comparison is apt - the accepted theory disagrees profoundly and irreconcilably with a creationist literal interpretation of Genesis. Given that he is not a proponent of intelligent etymology, I hoped his objections to evolution found their motivations elsewhere.

With that I started.

I think this book will seem very convincing to those who are unwilling to expend an inordinate amount of time doing further research. He writes with authority and gives a spirited defence of theistic evolution, but then some cracks begin to appear. I enjoy an occasional science book but there are gaps in my knowledge and when I read a tome that covers biology, abiogenesis, cosmology, theology, probability and computing I have to put a certain amount of trust in the honesty of the author. Luckily I can choose the areas with which I'm most familiar as a benchmark of the quality of the author's work.

Take the below quotes on Anthony Flew to warm up:

"`My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates,' writes Anthony Flew, in connection with his recent turning from atheism to theism."

"...very recently philosopher Anthony Flew gave as the reason for his conversion to theism after over 50 years of atheism that biologists' investigation of DNA..."

These quotes would support Lennox's case if they were true. They are not - Anthony Flew is now a deist. Deism and creationism are mutually incompatible, which could explain Lennox's repeated slip of the keyboard.

Later, Lennox defines a transitional form:

"An intermediate form would only be transitional if it could be shown to have descended from A and was an ancestor of B. To establish those relationships, of course, some mechanism would have to be exhibited that was demonstrably adequate for the task."

Having thus defined them out of existence he goes on to bemoan their absence.

Read the below description of Dawkins' weasel program, a small demonstration of how randomly generated text can be mutated, then the offspring selected for how closely they match the text "METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL":

"Each time a monkey hits a letter, the letter it types is compared with its target letter - a highly non-random process. This comparison, of course, has to be done by some mechanism, a computer (or by a Head Monkey, as mathematician David Berlinski delightfully suggests). If the monkey has typed its target letter the comparison mechanism retains that letter - another highly non-random process - and the monkey stops typing, its job done."

Again, a strong point, casting Dawkins as dishonest, misleading, and bungling. Again it suffers from being flat-out wrong. For example:

"If the monkey has typed its target letter the comparison mechanism retains that letter - another highly non-random process - and the monkey stops typing, its job done."

This is not true - all characters are free to mutate at every copy event. Coders will find source code here in many languages. Non-coders will find a screenshot countering this claim here. If you'd like to see footage, there is a video here. (Skip to 5:30.)

I found Lennox's criticism of genetic algorithms all the more absurd when I recalled that a few chapters earlier he'd used their efficacy in defence of theistic evolution:

"...computer-implemented genetic algorithms are routinely used for sophisticated engineering optimization purposes - for example, to construct the best possible shape for an aircraft wing. It would be absurd to suggest that the fact that these evolutionary algorithmic optimization processes are themselves blind and automatic constitutes an argument that they do not have an intelligent origin."

If Lennox is confident that blind, automatic, goalless algorithms producing randomly generated designs, breeding with mutation and subjecting output to a fitness function is a sound method for producing the wings of the aircraft within which he regularly flies, and a method of greater efficacy than human intelligence alone, then where is his argument?

Let us leave the computer lab for the biology lab. When discussing the evolution of bacteria, Lennox writes:

"More recent work on the E. coli bacterium backs this up. In this research no real innovative changes were observed through 25,000 generations of E. coli bacteria. Biochemist Michael Behe points out that now more than 30,000 generations of E. coli have been studied, equivalent to about a million human years, and the net result is that evolution has produced: `Mostly devolution. Although some marginal details of some systems have changed during that thirty thousand generations, the bacterium has repeatedly thrown away chunks of its genetic patrimony, including the ability to make some of the building blocks of RNA. Apparently throwing away sophisticated but costly molecular machinery saves the bacterium energy. Nothing of remotely similar elegance has been built. The lesson of E. coli is that it's easier for evolution to break things than to make things.' - Lennox, 2009

Lennox fails to mention that around generation 31,500, just outside the bounds of his self-imposed generation restriction, there was a major, observed evolutionary leap - the bacteria evolved the ability to metabolise citrate. Later work on frozen samples revealed this real, innovative change began in generation 20,000.

This is the equivalent of saying that in thirty years I showed no evidence of producing Amazon reviews. (I'm 31 at time of writing.)

What am I to make of this? Is he intentionally misleading? If so it is hard to take his other claims on faith. Is he merely behind on his research, or straying too far from his core competencies? Perhaps, but if so, what else has he misunderstood?
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on 1 March 2008
This is definitely the best book i've read on the topic of atheism vs theism and the relationship of science between the two.
Dr John Lennox(who teaches philosophy of science and also mathematics at Oxford University) also dissects(very well) the likes of the fanatics such as Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins and really takes them out using highly logical and scientific methods.
He deals with issues such scientism(the belief that whatever science explains is correct and all other wrong) and logical positivism in very logical and understandable ways(for me).
Also he discusses the implications of mathematics in the search for God and about the origin of life and DNA and evolution which are very interesting and thought-provoking read. He shows that evolution does not contradict the belief in God and that its only the fanatic and dogma minded atheists who think it does.
Definitely recommended for all theists and atheists alike and i hope that this book encourages more dialogue and further refutation of the atheists.
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