Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Are gods a delusion?

John Lennox is a mathematician from Oxford (UK). He likes to attack the so-called "new atheists" and defend the idea that Christianity is rational. He is just finishing up a tour of North America. This video is a recording of a talk he gave at a church in the Toronto suburbs on March 14, 2015.

It's quite similar to the presentation he gave a few days later at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada). Jeffrey Shallit went to that talk (bless his heart) and reports on the major fallacies and distortions [John Lennox - Talk #1: "Do Science and God Mix?"]. As you watch the video you'll see that John Lennox is a very good speaker. He sounds very, very, convincing in the tradition of many other religious Oxford professors and even atheist ones like Richard Dawkins.

As you listen and watch, you gradually come to the realization that the lecture is all about Irish charm and humor. Most of his arguments don't make any sense as we know from listening to them many times over the past few decades. How many times have we heard the argument that so-and-so Nobel Laureates were Christians so science and religion must be compatible?



26 comments :

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    1. Sorry. Fixed.

      I get so confused by those universities over there that keep changing their names.

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    2. Are there any other universities that are named after big battles that the British won? :-)

      Trafalger? Blenheim? Crecy? Agincourt? Washington?

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    3. It seems to be a North American thing. Oxford University is the same as the University of Oxford (just less formal), and Sydney University = the University of Sydney. Ditto for most other university towns: Cambridge, Edinburgh, Durham, York, Glasgow, Belfast, Cape Town, etc. But the University of Washington (Seattle) is different from the George Washington University (Washington, D.C.), and from Washington University (St. Louis), and from Washington State University (Pullman, WA). Princeton University, New York University, but the University of Pennsylvannia.

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    4. Yeah, we young whippersnappers like to do that to confuse the elderly...

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    5. Ditto for most other university towns...

      I mean, in the non-North American part of the Anglosphere.

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    6. @Shallit

      I remember a time when you could legitimately claim to be a young whippersnapper. It was about twenty years ago. :-)

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    7. Are there any other universities that are named after big battles that the British won? :-)

      Maybe the University of New Orleans? Oh wait ...

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    8. Indeed, the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University are two very different institutions.

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    9. Maybe the University of New Orleans? Oh wait ...

      Good point. Jeanne d'Arc lifted the siege of Orléans and the English were on the losing side.

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    10. Sing along: "In 1814 we took a little trip..."

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    11. Re Larry Moran

      I think that Felsenstein and Harshman are referring to the defeat of a British Army under the command of the Duke of Wellington's brother in law by a force led by future president Andrew Jackson. This was fought several weeks after that end of the War of 1812.

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    12. Larry knows. Pretty sure Canadians are familiar with that particular war, and in fact he has already alluded to the Battle of Bladensburg, though not by name.

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    13. Joe F: "Maybe the University of New Orleans? Oh wait ..."

      Ah Joe. I'd kiss you through your beard.

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  2. I had the misfortune of reading his chapters on evolution/the origins of life in his book "God's Undertaker" recently. The entire thing consists of "can we explain this by assuming a series of independent probabilities multiplied together? No? Must be magic!". He entirely ignores the niche, specialist topic known as 'chemistry' to make his argument, which is at best confusingly written, at worst an incoherent ramble.

    Here's a representative sample:
    "Physicist Paul Davies points out that there are immense thermodynamic problems in producing the peptide chains of amino acids. The second law of thermodynamics describes the natural tendency of closed systems to degenerate, to lose information, order and complexity; that is, to increase their entropy... Davies says 'It has been estimated that, left to its own devices, a concentrated solution of amino acids would need a volume of fluid the size of the observable universe to go against the thermodynamic tide, and create a single small polypeptide spontaneously. Clearly, random molecular shuffling is of little use when the arrow of directionality points the wrong way'".

    It saddens me that an academic at such a prestigious institution can get away with publishing such waffle, or indeed can sit and write it without spending five minutes on google.

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    1. It should be noted that Prof. Moran has a well justified low opinion of Prof. Davies for statements such as these. Closed system indeed!

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    2. I'm not familiar with Prof Davies, and hoped against hope this quote was out of context. (You could imagine following it up with: "Thankfully we have 200 years of chemical research showing what happens when you open the system to the input of energy/other reagents, stuff happens!")

      The entire chapter relies on either selectively quoting respectable scientists or ID proponents, throwing in some pseudo-probabalistic 'reasoning', and declaring the whole thing an intractable mess that cannot possibly yield to scientific study.

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  3. Lennox is such a poor debater, even Dawkins could beat him. Lennox wins if the fight is over who has the best accent.

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    1. It does not seem like Dawkins thinks he won. Since the last Lennox debate he has refused to debate creationists. I think the reason is clearly that Lennox beat him hands down whether they debated natural science, religion or philosophy.
      Anyway, we can agree that Lennox has the better accent and that Dawkins is a terrible debater.

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    2. Andy,

      That must be among the most stupid things you've said. Lennox could never beat anybody on natural science, religion or philosophy. Also, I saw that debate. If it was as clear as you say, surely I would have noticed. Lennox was utterly boring. I normally think of Dawkins as boring, well Lennox "won" on that account hands down. Besides that boring, nothing but rhetoric from Lennox. Not one iota of substance. Anyway, the main point is that I doubt that anybody could claim that any of those debaters won, let alone "clearly." So to claim that Lennox "clearly" "won" "hands down" is just stupidly delusional.

      Dawkins does not want to debate creationists because he has come to understand that such thing is futile. For one, debates are not a way to establish anything but how well you were prepared for it. They are not ways for getting to understanding. For another, creationists could not care less about substance, and concentrate mostly on "smart" come backs. On putting forth as many stupid assertions as possible to make sure that the other person will not be able to answer most of those "points."

      Don't delude yourself. Dawkins refuses debating creationists for better reasons than "being afraid." Grow up already. Try and look at things a bit more objectively. If that's possible for a Christian like yourself.

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    3. Diogenes,

      The best accent thing is debatable. :)

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    4. Especially if it's between two Oxonians. But Dawkins was a Balliol man in his youth, is a New College emeritus now, and sounds it, while Lennox works at Green Templeton (not yet a real college, but ask again in 200 years) and speaks with an Ulster accent. ;)

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    5. That must be among the most stupid things you've said.

      It's like standing beside a sewage outfall and trying to identify the most noxious bit of flotsam, finally you realize that it's all just shit.

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    6. Photosynthesis wrote: "That must be among the most stupid things you've said"
      Sounds like someone is still holding a grudge since our last exchange...What was it about? Trinity? Theodicy? I take it that you feel you didn't get the last word.

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    7. You're that delusional Andy? I didn't quit the discussion, you did after you noticed that your rhetoric wasn't working.

      Are you really that self-unaware?

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  4. The only debate I ever went to was between John Lennox and Michael Shermer. It really stood out just how bad the arguments Lennox brought forward - including appealing to a Nobel Prize winning scientist who was also a believer. Not a great debate as far as learning the arguments was concerned...

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