Item description for God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? by John Lennox...
Overview Some commentators claim that science has finally killed the concept of God by virtue of its own all-encompassing explanations of reality. Atheism, they say, is the only intellectually tenable position, and any attempt to reintroduce God is likely to impede scientific progress. In this stimulating and thought-provoking book, with impeccable logic, irrefutable documentation, and extraordinary Christian grace, John Lennox invites us to reexamine such claims. Is it really true, he asks, that the nature of science points toward atheism? Could it be possible that theism sits more comfortably with science than atheism? Has science truly buried God or not?
Publishers Description Some commentators claim that science has finally killed the concept of God by virtue of its own all-encompassing explanations of reality. Atheism, they say, is the only intellectually tenable position, and any attempt to reintroduce God is likely to impede scientific progress. In this stimulating and thought-provoking book, with impeccable logic, irrefutable documentation, and extraordinary Christian grace, John Lennox invites us to reexamine such claims. Is it really true, he asks, that the nature of science points toward atheism? Could it be possible that theism sits more comfortably with science than atheism? Has science truly buried God or not?
"Recent books touting atheism have been grounded more on dyspepsia than on dispassionate reason. In this book John Lennox considers the best, most recent science from physics and biology, and demonstrates that the picture looks far different from what we've been told." --Michael Behe Author, Darwin's Black Box
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Studio: Lion Books
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.46" Width: 5.54" Height: 0.43" Weight: 0.52 lbs.
Release Date Dec 1, 2007
Publisher Kregel Publications
ISBN 082546188X ISBN13 9780825461880
Availability 0 units.
More About John Lennox
John Lennox is a professor of mathematics and the philosophy of science at the University of Oxford. A popular Christian apologist and scientist, Lennox travels widely speaking on the interface between science and religion. He is the author of Christianity: Opium or Truth?, The Definition of Christianity, God's Undertaker, and Key Bible Concepts."
Reviews - What do customers think about God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God??
Logical presentation for theistic belief Feb 11, 2008
Reading John Lennox's work I'm very impressed with his ability to present a logical, scientific view of a most difficult and tenous subject as the debate of Science and God.
Dr. Lennox presents arguments in the diverse fields as Astronomy, Biology and the fossil record to present a clear case for his beliefs. He is able to accomplish this without resulting to insults or low brow attacks. It presents a valid argument, and leaves it to the reader to be better prepared to make up their own mind of this subject.
Of all the books I've read on this subject, this is the one I would recommend first and foremost.
Great alternative to Dawkins Delusion Dec 8, 2007
John is not only an outstanding teacher at Oxford, but with this book you'll find him an outstanding writer as well. For those seeking a contrast to Richard Dawkins works, you'll gain much from your reading of this work.The Grand Weaver[[ASIN:0310269520
The Corpse Won't Stay Put Dec 1, 2007
When I was young, a stray thought would occasionally wander into my curious mind. I was raised in a Christian home and attended church regularly. The thought that occurred to me was this: "I wonder if you have to ignore disciplined, serious, critical thinking in order to embrace faith?"
I wouldn't have put the thought into those words, at the time--after all, I was only 2 years old--but it's fair to say that is the basic thought.
I secretly feared that the answer to that question might just be, yes.
Since that time, I have been grateful to be exposed to strong, capable intellects who have written about faith in God from an educated, informed, intellectually powerful and sophisticated position. "God's Undertaker" by John Lennox would fall into that category of writing.
Lennox deals with topics such as worldview and how it influences thinking and reasoning; the scope and limits of science; information theory; evolution; and other subjects that deal with science and faith and the interplay between the two. And he is careful to try and do so from a rational, logical, point of view, without resorting to "God of the gaps" argumentation.
Actually, his insights on "God of the gaps" arguments are very interesting and helpful. For example he makes a distinction between "bad gaps" and "good gaps" when it comes to scientific reasoning. He writes, "Good gaps will be revealed by science as not being within its explanatory power. They will be those (few) places where science as such points beyond itself to explanations that are not within its purview."
Lennox' abilities as a mathematician allow him to bring some slam dunk arguments to the impossibility of randomness and chance when it comes to issues like the of origin of life, the genetic code, intelligence, and even information theory. And he explains how Darwinian atheists like Richard Dawkins--who denies the role of intelligence in these matters--nevertheless, attempt to sneak intelligence into their hypotheses without admitting it.
Unscholarly, idle, self-defeating Dec 1, 2007
(Please note added postscript in support of my charge of lack of scholarship)
The essential message of God's Undertaker can be stated as, 'Even if you don't understand the complicated bits in this book about Schrodinger's cat, Paley's watch, Dennett's algorithms or Matilda's cake, you can take it from me, because I am a clever and erudite Christian with lots of academic letters after my name, that there is a personal God-creator, and that Darwinism is pernicious rubbish.'
Disregarding the fact that there is no evidence from empirical science to support belief in the existence of a creator-god who stands in an absolute relation to Nature, Lennox attempts to blind us with carefully selected references to writings by scientists to persuade us that such an imaginary being does exist. Unfortunately for the good name of evangelical Christianity, parts of his book turn out to be unscholarly and self-defeating.
The book's sensationalist title, cross-and-coffin jacket illustration and publishing house give the game away from the start. The author is using a title that will cash in on the God market and the controversy over 'intelligent design'. Even before opening the book, we know from the fact that it is published by Lion Books that this is a work that will not give rise to genuine enquiry or any sort of scepticism with regard to absolutist religion.
But there is worse to come. Turn to page 57 and you will find a short list of Modern Philosophers - Descartes, Berkeley, Leibniz, Spinoza and Locke - who, the author airily claims without any supporting quotes or references, support his belief in a creator god. The fact that they were all in mutual disagreement* is ignored. Now turn to the index and look up each of these philosophers in turn and you will find that each, with the exception of Spinoza, whose name does not appear in the index, is mentioned once only - on page 57! This idle practice of name-dropping in order to make a work look impressive is well known to the markers of dissertations and theses in the better universities. From someone who puts MA and PhD after his name it is inexcusable. It demeans his work, discredits his academic honours and does nothing for the good name of Christian academics. I very much doubt if Lennox has read any of these philosophers in any depth, and it should be noted that David Hume, author of Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, is omitted from the list, presumably because his brilliantly argued scepticism with regard to theism and deism (does Lennox understand the difference?) and his lucid statement of the problem of evil (does Lennox believe in Satan and original sin?) are too dangerous a threat to the author's evangelical agenda. (*See added note for more on this)
There are other instances of unscholarly writing in this book. In claiming Epicurus, the nature-worshipping philosopher and advocate of hedonism, as an ally, Lennox seems to lose the plot. Bishop Paley's argument, based on Cleanthes' 'argument from design' in Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is dusted off and trotted out all over again as a 'proof' that a creator exists. But Paley's argument supports polytheism as well as monotheism: if I look at the ocean, why do I have to infer that it was created by the same god as the god who created trees, or the god who created bumble bees? After all, one man does not manufacture a watch, or a house - or for that matter a nuclear submarine and its weapons of mass destruction capable of reducing millions of innocent civilians to radioactive cinders. All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all? I don't think so. I think they evolved, don't you?
Lennox attempts a little merriment by making fun of the idea that a hypothetical Matilda can be part of her cake, demonstrating thereby that he has no clue about Spinoza's monist world view, which was so influential on the scientific advances made by Faraday (name-dropped once) and Einstein (not mentioned at all). (See added note)
The fact of the matter is that theology and science do not mix, as the former relies on arguments of persuasion to swing gullible people to believe in unsubstantiated ideas, while the latter uses logic and hypothetical deduction based on empirical observation and experimentation to discover the physical laws of the universe. The first is divisive; the second unifying. If we believe that we are all one, as Spinoza argues, then, necessarily, to hurt others is to hurt oneself; if we take Lennox's word for it (or, for that matter, Bin Laden's) that we are not all one, division, backbiting, wars and terrorism result.
Let Hume have the last word:
"When we run over our libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact or existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion." (Hume, Enquiries into the Nature of Human Understanding)
I mentioned in my review that Descartes, Berkeley, Locke and Spinoza were in fundamental disagreement, and criticized Lennox for name-dropping Faraday and not making any mention of Einstein. In this PS I'd like to expand on those criticisms in support of my charge that God's Funeral is 'unscholarly'. Here goes:
1. Descartes and Locke are in fundamental disagreement (Read Descartes' Meditations):
Following Plato, Descartes claimed that we are born into this world with innate ideas and are already primed with certain sorts of knowledge which we possess a priori, or prior to physical experience of the world. Descartes also claimed that the idea of God is stamped on our minds like a 'maker's mark'. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke (1632-1704) attacked this proposition, saying that all knowledge is gained as a result of experience. He maintained that the mind is a 'blank slate' at birth and that when we see, hear, smell, taste or touch an object, we gain knowledge of the thing itself. Locke's view was influential on Hume's skepticism with regard to human understanding.
2. Descartes and Berkeley are in fundamental disagreement (Read Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge)
Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753) saw Descartes' rationalism as a threat to religious belief (Yes, they were squabbling then, as now!) as it seemed to put human reason on a par with God's and to suggest that humans had the ability to understand and describe the universe in mathematical and geometrical terms down to the last detail. So while Berkeley accepts, with Locke and Hume, that impressions of the world come to us through the senses, he claims that the experience of them is not physical but in the mind's perception.
In his Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley argues that everything external to the mind exists only insofar as it is perceived by the mind: nothing can have being unless it is perceived. His slogan is `to be is to be perceived' or esse est percipi. Berkeley denies the existence of things external to the mind (`the things themselves') and holds that only experienced perceptions or ideas are real. While Locke espoused empirical realism, Berkeley espoused empirical idealism.
If we go along with Berkeley's empirical idealism and accept that being is nothing more than perception, a question arises over the existence of objects that are not being perceived. For instance: is the tree which I perceive on the other side of the road still there when I turn my back and stop perceiving it? Berkeley's answer to that question is to claim that the tree's continued existence is guaranteed by the fact that it exists in God's perception even when it does not exist in anyone else's. In this way he argues for the necessary existence of God. As in the case of Descartes, Berkeley takes the existence of God for granted and his argument is contingent upon the existence of God.
3. Leibniz is in fundamental disagreement with Spinoza (read Leibniz's Monadology and Spinoza's Ethics):
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) supposed a universe that consisted of an infinite number of created simple substances or monads, each one of which is like a one-way window with its own unique aspect of the universe in rather the same way that Frege's multiplicity of propositions each of which refers to a single, monolithic Truth.
According to Leibniz ours is the best possible world because the uncreated monad (God), being perfect, could only arrange the monads in the best way possible. This was the theory which Voltaire (1694-1778) deflated so elegantly and ruthlessly in his novel Candide.
Leibniz believed that free will and determinism are compatible. He disagreed with Newton's absolutist view of space as a container of atoms in the void, and instead claimed that the universe is a "plenum" in which microcosmic things contain universes within themselves. Put a drop of pond water under a sufficiently powerful microscope, Leibniz tells us in the Theodicy, and you will see another pond--and so ad infinitum.
Spinoza, on the other hand, identifies God (the infinite substance) with Nature, and takes all finite things to be modes of the single infinite substance, from which nothing can be set apart. For Spinoza, thought and matter are aspects of God-or-Nature, which is completely described (or 'conceived') under one aspect or the other and both at the same time. Spinoza argues that God-or-Nature is necessarily infinite in infinite ways, or aspects. Spinoza says that we humans have awareness of only two of these aspects: thought and matter.
Spinoza does not say `there is no God'; he says, `there is nothing but God.'
4. Hume is in fundamental disagreement with Berkeley and Descartes. (Read Enquiries into the Nature of Human Understanding and Dialogues concerning Natural Religion)
David Hume (1711-1776) agrees with Locke that we have no innate knowledge and claims that all our ideas come from `impressions of the senses'. He is an empirical realist who, like Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), will have no truck with Berkeley's empirical idealism. Johnson ridiculed Berkeley's idealism by kicking a rock and saying, 'I refute it thus.'
The central characteristic of Hume's philosophy is skepticism about the sort of a priori arguments Descartes used to justify certainty of his own existence in the Meditations.
In the Meditations, Descartes had been careful to present arguments for the existence of God which did not offend the Church of Rome, and his argument for the possibility of certainty, based as it was on clear and distinct ideas guaranteed by the goodness of a God `who does not deceive', later provided Rome with a very persuasive way of convincing people that Papal authority could be infallible. This was particularly important in the early seventeenth century when Rome's authority was under attack from Protestantism and Galilean science was putting pressure on the authority of the mediaeval philosophers, the scholastics, or 'schoolmen' (including Dun Scotus, William of Ockham and others) who believed that the planets were perfect spheres, the stars were fixed in a 'firmament' and that the earth was stationary at the centre of the universe.
Hume was particularly concerned to show that the sort of a priori argument used by Descartes could be used to make inferences that were invalid. He pointed out that while it was legitimate to infer a cause from an observed effect, (Cf Paley's watch analogy) it was emphatically NOT legitimate to infer quite new and different effects from that cause. So while we might infer from looking around the world that it must have had a creator, we cannot legitimately infer that such a creator can make things happen that conflict with the observed laws of nature. This acute observation puts miracles out of court. All we have at our command, Hume insists, is experimental reasoning based on observation of the physical world, and abstract reasoning, logic, mathematics, geometry etc, derived from the relations between simple ideas. This is the basis for empirical science: observation, hypothetical deduction, and proof by experiment.
5. The fundamentalist Christian Michael Faraday was in disagreement with the Establishment Christian, Isaac Newton:
Faraday's attention found focus in the nature and properties of electro-magnetic force and the relationship between force and matter. He was particularly concerned with problems associated with Newtonian physics, whose suppositions of gravitational action between indivisible material atoms instantaneously and 'at a distance' conflicted with his religious belief in God as a plenum of force. This same belief made the concept of a concrete material atom problematic, in that the supposition that atoms were solid and separated by empty space contradicted his belief in the omnipresence of God's power.
Faraday favoured the view of Roger Boscovich, who held that extended matter and force were identical and that the Newtonian concept of action at a distance between atoms in space was impossible. From that argument, Boscovich inferred that atoms could not have solid centres but must be mathematical point-centers of force.
While Newtonian physics conflicted with Faraday's scriptural metaphysics, Boscovich's physics cohered with it. Faraday therefore rejected the Newtonian world view (Newton was a conventional potestant Christian) and postulated that 'the centres of force are themselves the sole physical substance.'
The occasions upon which Faraday revealed his more speculative thoughts were rare. One such was in a lecture to the Royal Institution, later written up as an article for the London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine, in which he criticized the view of the atomic constitution of matter which considers the atom as something material, having a certain volume, upon which those powers were impressed at the creation.'
In the article, Faraday argues that if matter is viewed as particles separated by space, then space must be viewed as continuous, permeating 'all masses of matter in every direction like a net.' If that is the case however, a contradiction arises. An insulator (like shellac) cannot insulate unless the space between its atoms insulates; and a conductor (like copper) cannot conduct unless the space between its atoms conducts. Hence 'in accepting the ordinary atomic theory, space may be proved to be a non-conductor in non-conducting bodies and a conductor in conducting bodies.'
From this, Faraday infers that the Newtonian view of matter as concretions of solid atoms acting on each other at a distance through space is untenable. Instead, he adopts Boscovich's theory of atoms as 'mere centres of forces or powers, not particles of matter in which the powers reside.' On this view, the nucleus vanishes: 'Doubtless the centres of force vary in their distance one from another, but that which is truly the matter of one atom touches the matter of its neighbours. Hence matter will be continuous throughout [...] the powers around the centres give these centres the properties of the matter.' In such a view all the contradiction resulting from the consideration of electrical insulation and conduction disappears.
Faraday replaces space with a plenum of force that permeates the universe. Newton's 'solid unchangeable impenetrable atoms' are replaced by highly elastic centres of force which, when combined chemically, mutually penetrate: `matter is not merely mutually penetrable, but each atom extends, so to say, throughout the whole of the solar system, yet always retaining its centre of force.' Such a conjecture accords with Spinoza's proposition that not even the smallest part of nature can be annihilated, as to do so would be to annihilate the whole of nature.
Faraday's supposition of a field of electro-magnetic force developed out of his discovery of electrical induction, and its consequence was his abandonment of belief in the supposed existence of ether. In a further article published in the Philosophical Magazine of May 1846 entitled Thoughts on Ray Vibrations he considers `whether it was not possible that the vibrations which in a certain theory [i.e. waves in ether theory] are assumed to account for radiation and radiant phenomena may not occur in the lines of force which connect particles, and consequently masses of matter, together; a notion which as far as it is admitted, will dispense with the ether, which, in another view, is supposed to be the medium in which these vibrations take place.'
Faraday goes on to compare transmission of light through space and transmission of electricity through a copper wire. He accepts that such transmissions must be the result of vibrations of some sort and addresses the question of whether they are vibrations of particles of ether or vibrations carried by the lines of force. If, he asks, ether particles are infinitely elastic and infinitely small, ¡§what then is left in aether but force or centres of force?'
Replying to his own question, he conjectures that lines of electric and magnetic action are exerted through space, and that ¡§when there are intervening particles of matter (being themselves only centres of force), they take part in carrying on the force through the line, but that when there are none, the line proceeds through space.' From this, he infers that radiation must be 'high species of vibration in the lines of force which are known to connect particles and also masses of matter together' and 'it is the forces of the atomic centres which pervade (and make) all bodies, and also penetrate all space.'
Faraday went on to speculate that gravitational force between bodies (e.g. between the earth and the sun) must pre-exist the presence of one body near another. His conjectural inference is that 'the power is always existing around the sun and through infinite space, whether secondary bodies be there to be acted upon by gravitation or not; and not only around the sun, but around every particle of matter which has existence.' Only this view is consistent with the conservation of force, and the same conclusion seems to Faraday inevitable in the cases of light, heat and all radiant phenomena.
By the time of Faraday's death in 1867, electromagnetism and the relation between force and matter had become the central topics of physical science. However, Faraday's conjecture that atoms were centers of force within a field or force was by no means the general view, and at first there was little interest in it. The reason for the lack of interest was that while Newton had been able to support his laws of motion by mathematical argument, Faraday, who lacked all but the most basic knowledge of mathematics, could only express his view in conjectural terms. His view lacked mathematical respectability and was more of a hunch than a theory.
6. Einstein's follows Spinoza and Faraday: (Read The Evolution of Physics):
The problem that confronted Einstein was one of dualism, and is comparable to the problems which result in treating mind and body as separate substances. Einstein was particularly skeptical about the supposition that 'aether' was a distinct substance that carried electromagnetic force, as this was incompatible with Faraday's closely argued case for a field of force acting as its own bearer.
Einstein realized that Lorentz's solution to the Michelson-Morley experiment was important because in it matter rather than space appeared as the bearer of the field in contrast to Maxwell's theory, which held that `kinetic energy and field energy appear as essentially different things.' Einstein commented: 'This appears all the more unsatisfactory as [...] the magnetic field of a moving electric charge represents inertia. Why not then the whole of inertia? Then only field energy would be left, and the particle would be merely a domain containing an especially high density of field energy. In that case one could hope to deduce the concept of a mass point together with the equations of motion of the particles from the field equations¡Xthe disturbing dualism would have been removed.'
What Einstein is doing here is to reinstate Faraday's view of the universe as a single field of force composed of particles which are themselves centers or domains of force.
At the age of sixteen Einstein asked himself what it would be like to travel at nearly the speed of light, and his well-known thought experiment of the train and the embankment led him to conclude that two flashes of light seen simultaneously on the embankment would not be seen simultaneously on the very-high-speed train, and that a clock on the embankment would appear to run slow to an observer on the train, and vice-versa. This thought experiment was the first crucial step. It led him to reject the conceptual possibility of ether, together with that of absolute time, space and simultaneity of events, so opening the way to his development of the Special Theory of Relativity.
If we recall Frege's essay On Sense and Reference we shall be able to see that Frege's example of `Hesperus = Phosphorus¡' as an equality statement bears a striking formal similarity to Einstein's equality statement, E = mc-squared. In each case, the equals sign expresses identity. It means 'is the self-same thing as'. So when Einstein says that E = mc-squared he is saying that all energy and all matter-in-motion are different aspects of the self-same thing.
In the same way, Spinoza's identification of Natura Naturans with Natura Naturata identifies thought and matter as two aspects of the self-same thing, whether we call it Nature, God or the Infinite Substance. The only difference between Einstein's equation and Spinoza's is that Spinoza labels the two aspects of which humans can conceive as thought and matter, while Einstein labels them as energy and matter-in-motion; but in each case, the expressions on either side of the equals sign are aspects of a single reference.
Einstein's equation between energy and matter-in-motion bears striking resemblance to Spinoza's proposition that 'Bodies are distinguished from one another by reason of motion and rest, speed and slowness, and not by reason of substance.'
Einstein made no secret of his admiration for both Spinoza and Faraday and kept portraits of them in his study to the end of his life. During an interview with George Sylvester Viereck in 1929, he said, 'I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but admire even more his contributions to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, not two separate things.'
I hope the above justifies my negative review of Lennox's work. I should be interested to read his or anyone else's comments.
A Good Boy Tomorrow: Memoirs of A Fundamentalist Upbringing Basic Flying Instruction: A Comprehensive Introduction to Western Philosophy
CHARLES GIDLEY WHEELER
A persuasive book Nov 30, 2007
The books critical toward religion have been very popular. There is, of course, much to be critical, but a big problem in those books is the worldview which is totally materialistic. This materialism is a priori starting point and any critique is based on stupidity and irrationality. It is interesting to see, how mathematicians think about evolution. Even the atheists among them question the basic premises of evolution. There are, of course, data which supports the traditional evolutionary interpretation, but there are clear holes in it which John Lennox extremely well points out. The saddest thing is that the lines are so tightly drawn that anything that does not support one's worldview is treated as a folly. For me the world and just being alive and thinking is a great mystery. There is room for many kinds of ideas.