Science, Faith and Semantics

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Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist and author, debated John Lennox, the Oxford mathematician and philosopher of science, in 2010.  This was the first of the Dawkins Lennox debates. Both men were both well-spoken and well-suited for the task.

Aside from the usual issues and points that are made in these sorts of debates about faith and science, some nuances emerge that I thought were interesting to consider. I highlight one particular interchange in particular.

Dawkins asserted, like an axiom, that faith is belief with no evidence (implying that faith is the antithesis of reason). Not surprisingly, Lennox disagreed. With a such a fundamental disagreement on the definition of faith, it seems to me, the focus should have been on the definition of “faith” – but it wasn’t.

Dawkins claimed that faith would not be faith if it was rational and evidence-based. In other words, Dawkins defined faith, in its very essence, as the absence of reason and evidence.

Lennox, on the other hand, described faith as the willingness to repose belief, trust and commitment in something for which there is evidence, but no “proof” (as in mathematical proof). In other words, Lennox describes faith as confidence in reason and evidence.

The way Dawkins defines faith it is the opposite of reason, while Lennox harmonizes them so that one (faith) emerges from the other (reason). Who is right? Continue reading

Understanding in the Gaps

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Science and religion, depending on the perspective, enjoy a beautiful (or contentious) marriage or have been the victors (or victims) of a bitter divorce in the modern world.  Debates on science and religion dot the Internet, providing plenty of food for fodder no matter which side of the family one might identify with.

One such debate involves Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist and author from Oxford and his Oxford fellow, John Lennox, the mathematician and philosopher of science. Both men are marvelously well spoken and present their competing views eloquently and  convincingly, though they cannot both be right in their ultimate positions.

The debate, which uses Dawkin’s book, the God Delusion, as the subject matter,  is quite long, not the usual fare in the MTV age of tweets and soundbites, but well worth taking the time to listen and watch. They begin with biographical information and early influences that inform their worldviews. The meat of the debate uses statements from Dawkins’ book as the outline.

Continue reading