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 →
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 late Christopher Hitchens, when asked does he believe in free will, replied, ‘I have no choice.’ It’s a question I dread, actually, because I don’t have a very well thought out view about it. I have a materialist view of the world. I think that things are determined in a rational way by antecedent events. And so, that commits me to the view that when I think that I have free will, and I think that I am exercising free choice, I am deluding myself. My brain states are determined by physical events, and yet that seems to contradict, to go against, the very powerful subjective impression that we all have that we do have free will.”
Richard Dawkins (from FREE WILL – Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins)
I am reminded of the statements of atheists committed (dogmatically) to an evolutionary theory of the origins of life who admit, in moments of candor, that the world looks as if it were designed. Still, the obvious, natural explanation is discarded for complex, highly nuanced explanations of origins of the world we know. Not that the truth is always simple. It isn’t.
But, we have a tendency to subscribe to the esoteric explanations of scholars because scholars are esoteric and, well, scholarly. Not that evolution is esoteric, at least not anymore. But, we tend to take scholarly, and particularly scientific analyses, on face value as a objective findings of objective people (because we tend to think that scientists are necessarily objective).
As I work my way through Darwin’s Doubt, by Stephen C. Meyer, the pace slows as we go from basic information, concepts and analyses to complex ones. In my first article, I covered four chapters dealing with the fossil record, the Cambrian explosion and addressing some conclusory solutions to the problem it poses to the theory of evolution. In my next two articles, I took on chapters 5 & 6 and chapters 7 & 8 dealing with more complex solutions that, in turn, expose more problems.
Over the course of those chapters, we traversed the fossil record and got progressively deeper into molecular and biological minutia. In Chapter 9, we stood back and looked at the forest in mathematical and probabilistic terms. The problems that we encountered at the microscopic level reveal problems of cosmic proportions as we examined the complexity of DNA and the plausibility of random mutations leading to functional results on which natural selection could work among the dizzying number of possible outcomes. In Chapter 10, we go back in to the deeper evaluation looking at genes and proteins.
I have little faith. At least, I live like I have little faith. It is true. The intellectual arguments for God are sometimes easier to latch onto than actually living like I am accountable to God.
Living a life accountable to God is harder than simply believing. Living an accountable life means yielding myself on a regular basis, but I find my nature to be less than yielding at times. Even in the best of times, human nature is stubborn and hard.
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