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on 8 November 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.

Nigel Cutland
Professor of Pure Mathematics
University of York, UK
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on 8 August 2008
Curious how the most negative reviewers of this book don't seem to engage with it's central points and hence don't seem to have read it properly?

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.
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on 5 September 2008
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 also some discussion of the philosophy of science, which is all too often omitted or taken for granted. However, one of things that occurred to me, whilst reading this book, is that rarely do we get any discussion of the more fundamental point of what constitutes evidence. This is not as obvious as it first sounds. For example, in medical research, there are clear criteria for what constitutes strong or weak evidence for a particular treatment. In some areas of science, experimental data is considered the gold standard, whereas in others, correlational data is favoured. Outside the scientific arena, there are again very different criteria for what would constitute legal evidence. By the end of the book, the author clearly believes he has presented evidence in favour of intelligent design. If you read the range of reviews here, it is clear that some people agree with him, whereas others consider that he does not present any evidence at all. Possibly a philosphical question, but one which is very relevant to this debate.

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.
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on 24 December 2007
This is a very important book, as witness the glowing review of it in the Guardian - not known for its praise for God-botherers. Not only is it both concise and clear, it packs an enormous amount of information in. Lennox, though a mathematician, clearly has a wide knowledge of cosmology, physics, philosophy and biology to name just a few of the disciplines he discusses. I have a first degree in microbiology and genetics and yet learned a lot of new genetics from reading this.

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
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on 30 April 2008
Possibly the best thing about this book is the foundation from which it approaches the current debate. Lennox identifies the real confrontation as not being Science vs. Christianity (a fundamental category mistake), but as Materialistic Naturalism vs. Christian Theism. Lennox provides some great evidence for those who actually want to think for themselves about the direction in which science points.

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.
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on 9 November 2007
It is difficult to describe how good this book is. Well written, clear, intelligent, interesting and in some places original. For a while I thought it was a bit dense for the ordinary reader but that is only in a very few places. In actual fact the book is readable, stimulating and to some degree, mind stretching. I now realise that maths is the foundation of everything!

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
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on 1 January 2008
The Guardian gave this book a brilliant review and that interested me. They were right - whatever you believe or don't believe this one is a must in the religion and science debate. Lennox might be a Christian but forget any fuzzy warm feely stuff. This mind is razor sharp.

The whole God debate just got a lot more interesting - and I have to say - a lot more academic.
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on 28 October 2007
I've been doing a lot of reading around the whole issue of Dawkins v faith, and I have to say I found this book the most helpful of the lot. Lennox is an Oxford lecturer in Maths and Philosophy of Science, and a practising Christian. He gives a thoughtful response to Dawkins et al, but goes further than McGrath and other critics of Dawkins in presenting a case for how science actually points towards the existence of a Creator.

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.
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on 30 November 2015
Being a believer in God but not a scientist, I have felt that I have my doubts if science is able to disprove God, but am not equipped to argue back. Furthermore, that science has disproved God seems to be a forgone conclusion. The view of Creationists is not to be uttered at school as it is seen as non-scientific and a view held only by the ignorant. Science is presented as factual and the truth while God a myth, a notion to be laughed at in the scientific age. Evolution is taught not as a theory but as if it is established facts! I have been caught up in debates with atheist scientists and I do often feel bullied.

This book is our ammunition in defending our position against that of the atheist scientists. Counterarguments that I have read often start from a different point (for example, theology or personal experience) and therefore can be easily discarded by scientists. But this book is different - it takes on the debate within the own game rules of science. First the author lays out what it means by believing in a Creator and what it doesn't mean. He painstakingly teases out the nuance of the notion which is confusing and misleading in the past and present. Along the way, he briefly traces the development of science and philosophy of science through history to identify where the current confusion arises and in turn to dispel it. Second, he presents the naturalistic view in different areas of science, and launches his counterarguments citing scientific advancement and knowledge. In turn, he exposes the fact that it is unscientific not to believe in a Creator even as this is the inference that the scientific evidence clearly tends. There is therefore nothing objective about the naturalist or materialist position - a position that is not squared up with the evidence - but a belief or a worldview of the beholder. As the author sums up, "The crux of the matter is: Are we prepared to follow where the evidence leads - even if it points away from a purely naturalistic interpretation?" (p. 190)

The author is a mathematician and it shows in the way how he tackles the controversy systematically (like a mathematical proof), presenting the ongoing naturalistic arguments and then breaking them down step by step by revealing their inconsistencies, which are, by the way, ample. He is very good at isolating what science really says from propagated personal interpretations and in turn corrects many twisted arguments and straightens contorted truths, which have flooded our museums and mass media as facts and have been used to pressurise people into taking on their viewpoint. Dawkins being so vocal publicly of his naturalistic view has been one of the focal points of the contention.

At the end of the book,one would conclude that it requires more faith in believing in 'evolution' (a naturalistic process that can explain the origin of life) than in believing a Creator / Designer. It does beg the question: how does such a position become the mainstream public thought? I think here is an explanation: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passion, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Timothy 4: 3-4) Here is what C. S. Lewis says, "we must sharply distinguish between Evolution as a biological theorem, and popular Evolutionism ... which is certainly a myth.' (quoted on p. 97). This is supported by other scientists too: "Evolution" began to be invoked in biology, apparently as a substitute of God. And if in biology, why not elsewhere? From standing for a technical hypothesis... the term was rapidly twisted to mean an atheistic metaphysical principle whose invocation could relieve a man of any theological shivers at the spectacle of the universe. Spelt with a capital E and dishonestly decked in the prestige of the scientific theory of evolution (which in fact gave it no shred of justification), "Evolutionism" became the name for a whole anti-religious philosophy, in which "Evolution" play the role of a more or less personal deity, as the "real force in the universe". (Donald McKay, quoted on p.97) "The danger here is that a methodological premise which is useful for limited purposes has been expanded to form a metaphysical absolute." (p.97) The author also notes a very unusual situation about Evolution: one of science;s most influential theories, biological macroevolution, stands in such a close relationship to naturalistic philosophy that it can be deduced from it directly - that is, without even needing to consider any evidence... (p.98) Of course, unusual closeness of relationship between a scientific theory and a world view does not determine whether that theory is true or false. What it does mean, however, is that there may be so much a priori philosophical pressure from the reigning naturalistic or materialistic paradigm, that aspects of the theory may not be subjected to the wide-ranging, rigorous, self-critical analysis which is, or should be, characteristic of all science. (p.99)

The author concludes," I submit that, far from science having buried God, not only do the results of science point towards his existence, but the scientific enterprise itself is validated by his existence." (p.210) This is a strong position! He continues, "Inevitably, of course, no only those of us who do science, but all of us, have to choose the presupposition with which we start. There are not many options - essential just two. Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second." (p. 210)

I wish children at school will be taught the limits of science and the fact that to some questions, it simply cannot answer. This is a book that gives a balanced view of science and should be widely read as the counterforce against the general trend.

.
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on 30 May 2014
Having grown up in a claustrophobically Catholic milieu (son of a former mother superior, nephew of a missionary nun, brother of a novice nun, cousin of a missionary priest, pupil at a catholic seminary) I had sought escape from all this by affecting hostility towards it. Whereas I have at long last managed to separate my attitude towards the Catholic Church (as it was) from my attitude towards God, I remain a dyed in the wool cynic. Though no scientist, I am not stupid, and I can spot a specious argument when I see one. Nevertheless, I found this book to contain compelling arguments which would give food for thought to all but the most blinkered. Since reading this book, I have become aware of the breathtaking glibness of the statements made in TV science documentaries by scientists whose faith in naturalism is every bit as blind as that of the priests who attempted to teach me the love of God by beating the living daylights out of me at school.
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