Reader Alexander called my attention to this item in the Science Focus section of the BBC. (Note that it’s in the science section, not the “religion” section!) It’s a 33-minute podcast interview with John Lennox, whose Wikipedia page says this (my emphasis, and yes, that’s THE Templeton Foundation, which now has a damn Oxford College named after it):
John Carson Lennox (born 1943) is a Northern Irish mathematician specialising in group theory, a philosopher of science and a Christian apologist. He is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and an Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford University. He is also an Associate Fellow of the Saïd Business School.
. . . Lennox has been part of numerous public debates defending the Christian faith, including debates with Christopher Hitchens, Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Peter Atkins, Victor Stenger, Michael Tooley, Stephen Law, and Peter Singer.
Green Templeton College resulted from a merger in 2008 between Green College and Templeton College, and here are the facts (my emphasis):
The college was founded in 1965 as the Oxford Centre for Management Studies. The College was based at Egrove Park in Kennington, south of Oxford. Its buildings were opened in 1969, and were awarded listed status in 1999.
It was renamed Templeton College in 1983 as a result of a donation from Sir John Templeton, in honour of his parents, Harvey Maxwell and Vella Handly Templeton. The intention was to raise professional standards in British management. The endowment was one of the largest endowments ever made to a British educational establishment. Initially a “society of entitlement” in the University, Templeton College began admitting graduate students in 1984 and became a full graduate college of the University by Royal Charter in 1995.
The podcast interview with Lennox is below (click on the link), though you may not get through much of it before your digestive system goes awry.
The podcast notes:
With science providing more and more insights into the workings of the Universe, many people have turned their backs on religion entirely. Why invoke a God to explain the world, the argument goes, when science does a perfectly good job? Professor John Lennox, however, begs to differ.
Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, Lennox is both a scientist and a Christian. In his new book, Can Science Explain Everything? (£7.99, The Good Book Company), Lennox argues that the worldviews of religion and science are not incompatible. In fact, he goes one step further, arguing that science actually points towards the existence of God.
In this episode of the Science Focus Podcast, he speaks to BBC Focus staff writer James Lloyd.
Listen to as much of this podcast as you can stand, and then, perhaps, to the much shorter video below.
Just a few comments. First, note that Lloyd, the interviewer, does ask hard (and good) questions. Lennox wiggles and weasels but ultimately shows his hand. His schtick is to conflate science and religion by taking two familiar paths: changing the definition of “faith” so that scientists are said to have faith, and arguing that science and rationality also point to the existence of God. (That, of course, is the mission of the Templeton Foundation.)
As for the first bit, he notes that science deals with unrepeatable events, like cosmology, and so to investigate them—or to do any science—requires “faith in the rational intelligibility of the universe”. As he says, “In science there’s a mixture of faith and there’s a mixture of investigation and observation and all the rest of it.” In other words, he’s equating science with his Christianity, which, he says, also requires a mixture of faith and empirical evidence.
This is of course bogus. We don’t have faith in the rational intelligibility of the universe: we try to find out if the universe is intelligible, and if it obeys rules. It does, because we can make predictions based on the ubiquity of those rules. An intelligible universe, then, is not an article of faith but a conclusion based on observation of repeated patterns and fulfilled predictions. It’s like having “faith” that the sun will rise tomorrow. And that is very different from religious faith. (See here for more of my take on this issue.)
As far as “science” supporting Christianity, Lennox argues that the grounding principle of Christianity—the existence of a divine Jesus who was resurrected—is strongly supported by history. Here are some of my notes and transcribed quotes:
“Christianity is a rational faith, but when it comes to the historical side, then we use the kind of abductive inference we use in historical science.”
Ancient historians produce “very powerful evidence”; they are “very sure of . . . most of the basic facts of Jesus’s life and so on.”
And, says Lennox, Christianity also makes sense: The God and Christ explanations make sense of what we discover because an explosion of science occurred under Galileo, Kepler and Newton, “all of whom were religious”.
That’s also bogus. There were also Jews, Hindus, Muslims and atheists who made profound scientific discoveries, not to mention the “pagan” Greeks. The faith of someone who makes a discovery is not evidenced by the nature of that discovery. Kepler’s laws no more buttress Christianity than does the structure of DNA (determined by two atheists) show that there is no God. What science does show is that we make discoveries by assuming there is no God, and that adding the assumption of a God has never pushed science forward one iota—except to the limited extent that some religionists may be inspired to do science by their religious faith. But of course that doesn’t show there is a God. These days, of course, most accomplished scientists are atheists, and we don’t need God to make further progress.
Lennox also sees, beyond the copious “historical evidence for Jesus” (is he aware that it’s limited to what’s in the Bible?), further evidence for God and Jesus based on his “experience.” He regards this “experiential evidence” as quasi-scientific. For instance, Lennox asserts that “Christ’s claims can be inductively tested”. Jesus said, argues Lennox, that He would return, and “if we trusted Him as Saviour and Lord then we would experience forgiveness, peace and inner harmony and power to deal with life.” And, says Lennox, he’s seen that happen over and over again in people who have accepted Jesus. Ergo, PROOF! (Of course, you can cite examples of people who have said they gained inner harmony and forgiveness from accepting the tenets of Islam, Hinduism, or Judaism, or even atheism, but somehow Lennox forgets that.)
Finally, Lennox claims that miracles do occur, and that there are at least three times God intervened in nature beyond reviving Jesus: the Big Bang (he doesn’t think it could happen naturalistically), the origin of life, and the evolution of humans. He seems to accept the rest of evolutionary biology, but argues, like a true Intelligent Design proponent, that the origin of life and the evolution of humans either couldn’t happen naturalistically and thus involved the hand of God. This kind of human exceptionalism is a trademark of the ID/creationist Discovery Institute.
Why did the BBC put this on? And if they did, why don’t they have ME on to argue that science and religion are incompatible? I’m here, Mr. Lloyd!
Altogether, for a smart professor, Lennox makes some remarkably weak and almost humorously stupid arguments. But this is how religion distorts the rationality of wish-thinkers. Lennox is a serious wish thinker. You can get a precis of his ideas in this three-minute video:
As for Lennox’s debates against atheists, here are three videos. I haven’t watched any of them, but will look in.