Prof. Richard Dawkins debates creationist Dr. John Lennox

In a post I made in June of last year, a reader, Todd and I have been debating creation myths and scientific proofs. https://howgoodisthat.wordpress.com/2008/06/29/greg-koukl-christian-workshops-on-new-atheist-fallacies/#comment-2251

In the chat thread, Todd posted a link to www.dawkinslennoxdebate.com, which is worth watching both as a primer to this topic as it is in follow-up to much of what’s been discussed here many times before.
lennox

I thought Lennox was a thoroughly entertaining person who certainly made Dawkins work for his answers—but I’m amazed to find that, yet again, he was allowed to make factual statements against unfalsifiable suppositions, such as “we know that God is..”, or “the bible tells us that..” and so on—and without any obvious embarrassment, which is curious for someone who is clearly, otherwise, very well read and well versed in the scientific method.

Lennox, while I wouldn’t put him in the same league as many creationist I’ve heard, is nevertheless very firmly in denial about compelling, though incomplete, emerging anthropological evidence which suggests, not least because of the findings within the dead sea scrolls, that the bible simply can not be considered reliable as a historical document, having had so much of the original text destroyed or ruthlessly altered, hundreds of years after the death of its original architects.

Overall, though, it was nice to finally see a creationist who understands the problem of superimposing irrational blind faith upon logical analyses—even though he hasn’t yet realised he’s on the wrong side of the fallacy. This is no-doubt thanks in large part to what he has seen in his work in communist countries, which has clouded his judgement; that atheism of one form is atheism of all kinds. The atheism I have arrived upon at my own free will, is rather different to the dogmatic evils forced upon a people by megalomaniacal despotism.

Richard Dawkins doesn’t need me to defend him. I thought his retort on the bible just so happening to get a 50 / 50 question about point zero origins right, in its opening pages, was a brilliant reminder of why he is who he is—and an observation which even Lennox seemed forced to admit was one he’d been rather cheeky in trying to get away with—although I did want to leap into the debate at this point and remind both of them of the “is was and always will be” childishly obvious contradiction of later chapters in that same “infallible” book, is a greater reason still to question it’s authenticity, much less its worth as a launch-pad into any serious scientific discovery.

32 comments on “Prof. Richard Dawkins debates creationist Dr. John Lennox

  1. Is there a point in a debate like that? What result do we expect from it?

    Who bases his views on his beliefs obviously won’t give into rationalist reasoning.

  2. Greetings, and thanks for the link to the debate info. Also, I’m curious about the “childishly obvious contradiction” you perceive in the later chapters of the Bible. Could you specify the passage(s) you might have in mind?

    Thanks! And thanks, again, for the link.

  3. I don’t think Dawkins is achieving anything with these debates. My mother, 84 years old, watched Dawkins the other night and her reaction was that he looked angry. Therefore, she didn’t take him seriously. Dawkins speaks with a soft voice but his presentation is invariably angry and disgusted. I admire him, but I can see my mother’s POV as well.

    We atheists need to present our ideas so that theists are encouraged to examine their beliefs. While Dawkins has some excellent ideas and has articulated many of the ideas we have all arrived at, he is not our best spokesman.

  4. Why couldn’t they both be right? God creates the universe, our planet, and whatever else is here, then let it evolve? Is that so hard to believe?

  5. I think that one part of your criticism of Lennox misses the point. You said:

    “I’m amazed to find that, yet again, he was allowed to make factual statements against unfalsifiable suppositions, such as “we know that God is..”, or “the bible tells us that..” and so on—and without any obvious embarrassment, which is curious for someone who is clearly, otherwise, very well read and well versed in the scientific method.”

    Now, if Lennox is quoting the Bible as an authority for _truth_ per se, then that’s obviously an illegitimate move, since the truths of religion are precisely what are being contested, so to quote a supposed, particular truth of religion as support for the truth of religion per se, is viciously circular. But, there’s a difference between quoting a religious text as evidence or support for one’s logical position that there are religious truths, and quoting a religious text to _describe_ one’s general position. For instance, if Lennox said something like “well Dr. Dawkins must be wrong in his atheism, because the Bible says that there is a God”, that’s stupid. But, if Lennox says “I am a christian and am arguing not for theism in general, but for Christian theism in particular, and _the bible says x_ so that is the position for which I am arguing, because the bible is an authority in Christianity”, then he’s not doing anything illegitimate at all, he’s merely quoting what he thinks is authoritative in order to describe the position he will defend logically. It would be the same thing as if Dawkins quoted Origin of Species in an evolution debate to explain what position he defends.

  6. I don’t feel debates of this sort help anyone. What are we expecting? For Dawkins to suddenly say, “Oh shoot, you’re right! Yes, of course there’s a God!” Or Lennox to say, “Yep, you got me. I have been logicked into disbelieving there’s a God.” And those who are honestly seeking to find out more about both sides are left with more of an impression of the debaters than their points of view (as Foster Foskin said above).

    Faith is faith, and can never be stripped down into A=B, B=C therefore A=C. I guess that’s why it’s called faith! I can’t prove there’s a God, any more than anyone else can disprove there’s a God. Each side has faith that they’re right, and I have faith that God exists, the bible is His book and Jesus is His son. For Jesus, there are written documentation from early historians, his historical impact, historical and archaeological evidence, and my own experience as living as a Christ-follower which no one can logic me out of.

    If you’re truly interested in finding out more, and not just taking an uninformed “They’re all morons” attitude toward believers, check out these websites: http://www.y-origins.com and http://www.y-jesus.com.

    Philippa
    http://www.mentalreflection.wordpress.com

  7. The trouble I have found with Dawkins is primarily that he aims his comments at people who think like him instead of trying to articulate his concerns in a way that people from conservative religious backgrounds can relate to. I say that having grown up in the conservative environment and being myself religious (though no longer conservative). I do not mean that he has to “dumb down” his points but rather that he is speaking of ideas so foreign to his audience that he’s forcing them to rely only on their own stereotypes of atheists. That’s the trouble faced by anyone trying to stand in between two worlds, though–you have to be able to respect that the values and beliefs of the other person need to be properly addressed or else you simply won’t be able to acknowledge each other as equals. And nobody wants to listen to someone who doesn’t respect them as an equal.

    Of course, usually the Creationists do the exact same thing. This is a critique for both sides.

  8. not least because of the findings within the dead sea scrolls, that the bible simply can not be considered reliable as a historical document, having had so much of the original text destroyed or ruthlessly altered, hundreds of years after the death of its original architects.

    Have you actually read the Dead Sea Scrolls? They actually provided the act OPPOSITE of what you state here. The Jewish Scriptures remained largely unchanged for thousands of years, showing that our previously oldest copies were very accurate.

    It’s okay to disagree with Christianity and with creationism in particular – that is the true meaning of tolerance. We debate, disagree on the issue, and tolerate each other with respect, defending our right to our respective beliefs.

    However, both sides have to do some fact-checking before making such sweeping claims like that.

    Cheers, mate,
    John

  9. I agree with Foster Foskin’s granny, Dawkins does look angry. What’s he so angry about anyway? But I would rather see Dawkins debate Francis Collins who is a real scientist.

  10. A slight case of the laying in bed all day feeling dreadful has prevented me from staying on top of replying to you all as I would like. My apologies.

    Foster Foskin: Dawkins annoys me and lots of other atheists a lot. But you don’t have to like him to know he speaks the truth or understand why he is angry.

    Wallacegsmith: You might like to join in this chat thread..
    https://howgoodisthat.wordpress.com/2008/06/29/greg-koukl-christian-workshops-on-new-atheist-fallacies/#comment-2259

    John: The Dead Sea Scrolls along with the Book of the Dead, prove that the bible is, at best, a sort of ‘Greatest Hits Compilation’ album, of popular folklore—lifted heavily from oral tradition. The difference between these books is that the bible claims to be true, whereas the Egyptian works were allegorical and predated the bible by many hundreds of years. The special pleading that the bible must be true because it says so in the bible gets you nowhere.

  11. ..also John, I totally agree with you on tolerance—but there’s a lot to be said for actually spreading the truth too, and to do that sometimes you have to not be afraid to offend people who might actually deserve it.

  12. Michael Glawson:

    I don’t think Dawkins has ever used ‘On the Origin of Species’ to grant authority to evolution by natural selection, since, as you say, that would be self-defeating and, as well as that, he doesn’t need to, thanks to the vast wealth of other data which has been gathered since Darwin published, not least being the entire field of genetics, which, as a happy coincidence, happens to verify evolution, but doesn’t set out to do so.

    What I am saying about Lennox, is that he is deliberately playing the “bible is infallible” card to goad Dawkins into a circular reasoning trap, which he knows to be flawed. Which is a genius ploy, in terms of scoring points in a debate format, but it doesn’t actually stand up to scrutiny once half the audience has left—by which time it doesn’t matter.

    It’s a bit like slowly waving your cue from side to side, within the line of sight of your opponent in a game of pool. The subtle movement distracts their eye just enough to interrupt the geometry that they’ll, 9 times out of 10, miss the shot. That’s why it’s considered ungentlemanly conduct in the official rules of snooker.

    Similarly, Lennox is using a trick shot which he knows will score a hit, in terms of semantics, but all he’s really doing is dressing up what we already know he believes with the reasons he believes it. He’s not bringing any new evidence into the argument in his favour, whereas science brings new evidence into the argument every day, that supports the physics of everything which took place 36 billionths of a second after the big bang.

    If you want to say that, pre big bang, the God of the bible pulled the levers and twiddled the knobs (like so many priests at an alter boy convention) it’s not just the problem of infinite regress which should trouble you. I’m far more concerned with why something so capable of creating an entire universe, by sheer force of will, should be just as concerned with what I do in bed, who’s children I drop bombs on, or if I use condoms, within wedlock, having the moral equivalency of abortion on demand—as per Catholic doctrine underlined in the Pope’s last encyclical—given incidentally while he sat upon a chair made of gold and precious stones which would pay for enough antiretroviral drugs in sub-Saharan Africa to save a million children from being born HIV positive every week, while he literally pontificates on the evils of corruption and greed.

    The bible as a moral authority? Give me a fucking break.

  13. “I don’t think Dawkins has ever used ‘On the Origin of Species’ to grant authority to evolution by natural selection, since, as you say, that would be self-defeating and, as well as that, he doesn’t need to, thanks to the vast wealth of other data which has been gathered since Darwin published, not least being the entire field of genetics, which, as a happy coincidence, happens to verify evolution, but doesn’t set out to do so.”

    I think you need to re-read what the man said.

    “The bible as a moral authority? Give me a fucking break.”

    Wow, you aren’t angry at all. You are a much better spokesperson than Dawkins, aren’t you? Go back to bed. Then, get up on the right side of the bed. I always find that helps me to make sure that I’m reading other people properly and not lashing out unreasonably.

  14. Jim, you’re obviously an intelligent guy, but I’m really astounded at how dismissive, uncharitable, and blithe you are with your criticisms, especially while in the same breath criticizing Lennox for using similar a-logical tactics! You certainly must be aware that your criticisms aren’t of Christianity in particular, but of certain extrapolations from and elaborations upon the religion (the Bible of course says nothing about condoms, HIV, or what the Pope’s chair should look like). Sophomoric comments like the ones you’re making puzzle and annoy me not least because of the reaction it incites from my fellow believers who themselves respond with mere emotions and straw men. It’s your blog and all, so I wouldn’t say don’t go about things the way you are, but I hope you can at least admit that you’re not making an argument anywhere in there. You’re just…well…pontificating yourself, and, sadly, I don’t happen to have the time or stomach for such catharsis, so I won’t be back. Best of luck with your blog though. Cheers.

  15. Michael Glawson:
    You’ll never change anyone’s mind by being too nice to them. The most basic of human rights are those which allow us to annoy, irritate, puzzle and insult the opinions of those who are lining up to be insulted. Anyone who would take offence at my suggesting the pope might spend a fraction of the one true faith’s vast wealth on giving the least of His children the care they deserve, is taking offence at the wrong person.

    If I’m a little barking or preachy, I apologise. It’s just the way it scans in text. I’m actually saying it in my head in a very matter of fact voice—but I do appreciate all the comments I get and I would hope you might reconsider coming back some time. It’s all about airing views and I do value yours.

  16. Sntjohnny:
    Between 1950 and 2000 the Catholic church actively instructed bishops on how to cover-up the repeated activity of pedophiles in the priesthood.

    For the last few weeks our TV screens have been filled with images of dead babies, set on fire by weapons made in Christian America and dropped by Jewish Israel on Muslim prisoners of war.

    Three of the front runners in the US Republican party nominations for president and the vice presidential candidate believe, in the 21st century, that a literal interpretation of a book written well over two thousand years ago, by nomadic goat herders, contains infallible truths on human and cosmological origins, more profound than the combined works of Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein.

    The world is being run by people who don’t get angry enough. If you want me and the billions of people on this rock who feel the same as me about these things to be calm, do something to calm us down other than sit there and wish that it were so.

  17. Pingback: links for 2009-01-20 | Nerdcore

  18. Thanks, Mr. Gardner, for the link. I am already familiar with those arguments, but I appreciate your pointing them out. If the supposed “childishly obvious contradiction” is something given in one of those links, then it’s something I have seen before.

    Thanks, again.

  19. Pingback: The Price of Atheism

  20. Pingback: Richard Dawkins Reads His Hate Mail

  21. The scientist atheist knows there is a God but can not admit this to himself because of his arrogance. He wants to believe(faith) that science can explain it all and this he proclaims through his books. The layman atheist has faith that the scientist atheists are right and in this way justifies his atheistic religion. Science does not how the universe, earth and life originated and it will never know because no one was there to record observations. Atheism is a religion because it give that same attributes to time and matter that theistic religions give to an omnipotent God. And for the Big Bangers: Ladies and Gentlemen we all know that nothing can not produce one little thing, now can it? I swear to matter that I’m telling the truth.

  22. He wants to believe(faith) that science can explain it all and this he proclaims through his books.

    This is exactly the opposite of what “he wants”. Dawkins doesn’t need me to defend him and, on some issues, I wouldn’t seek to do that in any case. But you’re misrepresenting what he is saying. He doesn’t “believe in” science, he accepts the evidence garnered through it’s application. This is a very important difference and you undermine your own argument by seeking to misrepresent him in this way.

    Science does not how the universe, earth and life originated and it will never know because no one was there to record observations

    Again, that is not true. We know perfectly well how the universe and all the matter it contains was started, how it evolved and how it will likely end. You just don’t want to understand any of the science which explains it, because you know what it says about how wrong you are. There can be no comfort in believing things which are not true.

    we all know that nothing can not produce one little thing, now can it?

    Read more non-fiction. We have an absolutely staggering amount of evidence to suggest that the quantum fluctuations, which are occurring inside every atom in your body and inside every atom in the universe, were not only responsible for the big bang which created our universe, but—as the work of Professor Roger Penrose suggests—possibly produced other universes in the multiverse. You’ll note, no-one needed to commit blood sacrifice or believe in any miracles for this data to be collected. We just built a rocket, launched the WMAP satellite into space, and opened our minds.

  23. (We have an absolutely staggering amount of evidence to suggest that the quantum fluctuations…….as the work of Professor Roger Penrose suggests—possibly produced…….)

    Our science is good when it is applied for the benefit of mankind and when the results of an experiment can be verified. Origins of universes and of life can not be repeated in any way shape or form. By using words like ‘suggest’ and ‘possibly produced’, origin scientists are only speculating. Why can we be honest and just say, ‘we don’t really know but we believe it is this way or that way’. Origin science has an agenda and turns into a religion when it tries to prove that there is no God. Origin science is a faith system just like any religion.

    Your statement: ‘We know perfectly well how the universe and all the matter it contains was started……’. My comment: I have my faith and it is obvious that you have yours. It is very hard to get people to change their religion and I don’t expect that I will change yours because you don’t even have a clue that you are religious. Again I swear to Matter that I’m telling the truth.

  24. If you want to see it that way, you’re welcome to your delusions. But pretty please with a cherry on top, don’t tell me what I think and why I think it. If you find the open ended flexibility of the scientific method upsetting, that is unfortunate for you. But what you see as a weakness, is in fact the very strength of scientific enquiry.

    If science was about making definitive statements which never shift and never adapt to new information, it wouldn’t be science it would be religion. So, while I’m sure you find great comfort in playing your part to propagate the many myths surrounding astrophysics and biology, I assure you, it can’t be anywhere near as comforting to you as it is to me, to know you are provably wrong.

    You assume everyone is looking for something to believe in, because that is how you view the world. But you make my point for me when you make Barnum statements about science being faith based. It shows you do not know what you are talking about—and I don’t mean that in a small way. I mean you literally have all your work ahead of you, if you intend to prove that your subjective bias, constitutes a reason for others to commit to the same beliefs.

  25. Pingback: how to levitate like david blaine

  26. Pingback: wealth management firms

  27. Pingback: portal drogowy

  28. Lennox was the clear winner BY FAR. It seemed Dawkins had trouble grasping Lennox’s infinite dominance over him like other witless Troglodytes that hate God.

  29. The debate is not pointless ..This is to inform us of various point of views and make up our own mind ..To be honest Dawkins is better than Lennox but lennox got billions of theist on his side .So Dawkins is luckily to get frustrated compare to Lennox ..Lennox argue against logical thinking and most of the world agree
    with him because of the fear of God and more importantly the fear of Hell ..Have a nice day my fellow humans..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s