Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dawkins Lennox Debate 2

A fascinating article on Dawkins:

This is a writer's (Mellanie Phillips) response to seeing a second debate between Dawkins and Lennox. To see the first you can find the debate in "Debates" under the "Labels" side of my blog. I highly recommend watching it!

Interesting...Dawkins seems to have changed?


Is Richard Dawkins still evolving?

Thursday, 23rd October 2008

On Tuesday evening I attended the debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox at Oxford’s Natural History Museum. This was the second public encounter between the two men, but it turned out to be very different from the first. Lennox is the Oxford mathematics professor whose book, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? is to my mind an excoriating demolition of Dawkins’s overreach from biology into religion as expressed in his book The God Delusion -- all the more devastating because Lennox attacks him on the basis of science itself. In the first debate, which can be seen on video on this website, Dawkins was badly caught off-balance by Lennox’s argument precisely because, possibly for the first time, he was being challenged on his own chosen scientific ground.

This week’s debate, however, was different because from the off Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:

A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

This was surely remarkable. Here was the arch-apostle of atheism, whose whole case is based on the assertion that believing in a creator of the universe is no different from believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, saying that a serious case can be made for the idea that the universe was brought into being by some kind of purposeful force. A creator. True, he was not saying he was now a deist; on the contrary, he still didn't believe in such a purposeful founding intelligence, and he was certainly still saying that belief in the personal God of the Bible was just like believing in fairies. Nevertheless, to acknowledge that ‘a serious case could be made for a deistic god’ is to undermine his previous categorical assertion that

...all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection...Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.

In Oxford on Tuesday night, however, virtually the first thing he said was that a serious case could be made for believing that it could.

Anthony Flew, the celebrated philosopher and former high priest of atheism, spectacularly changed his mind and concluded -- as set out in his book There Is A God -- that life had indeed been created by a governing and purposeful intelligence, a change of mind that occurred because he followed where the scientific evidence led him. The conversion of Flew, whose book contains a cutting critique of Dawkins’s thinking, has been dismissed with unbridled scorn by Dawkins – who now says there is a serious case for the position that Flew now adopts!

Unfortunately, so stunning was this declaration it was not pursued on Tuesday evening. Instead, Dawkins was able to move the debate onto a specific attack on Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus, which is a very different argument and obscured the central point of contention – the claim that science had buried God. The fact that Dawkins now appears to be so reluctant publicly to defend his own position on his own territory of scientific rationalism – and indeed, even to have shifted his ground – is a tribute above all to the man he was debating once again on Tuesday evening.

Afterwards, I asked Dawkins whether he had indeed changed his position and become more open to ideas which lay outside the scientific paradigm. He vehemently denied this and expressed horror that he might have given this impression. But he also said other things which suggested to me that some of his own views simply don't meet the criteria of empirical evidence that he insists must govern all our thinking.

For example, I put to him that, since he is prepared to believe that the origin of all matter was an entirely spontaneous event, he therefore believes that something can be created out of nothing -- and that since such a belief runs counter to the very scientific principles of verifiable evidence which he tells us should govern all our thinking, this is itself precisely the kind of irrationality, or ‘magic’, which he scorns. In reply he said that, although he agreed this was a problematic position, he did indeed believe that the first particle arose spontaneously from nothing, because the alternative explanation – God -- was more incredible. Later, he amplified this by saying that physics was coming up with theories to show how matter could spontaneously be created from nothing. But as far as I can see – and as Anthony Flew elaborates – these theories cannot answer the crucial question of how the purpose-carrying codes which gave rise to self–reproduction in life-forms arose out of matter from which any sense of purpose was totally absent. So such a belief, whether adduced by physicists or anyone else, does not rest upon rational foundations.

Even more jaw-droppingly, Dawkins told me that, rather than believing in God, he was more receptive to the theory that life on earth had indeed been created by a governing intelligence – but one which had resided on another planet. Leave aside the question of where that extra-terrestrial intelligence had itself come from, is it not remarkable that the arch-apostle of reason finds the concept of God more unlikely as an explanation of the universe than the existence and plenipotentiary power of extra-terrestrial little green men?

The other thing that jumped out at me from this debate was that, although Dawkins insisted over and over again that all he was concerned with was whether or not something was true, he himself seems to be pretty careless with historical evidence. Anthony Flew, for example, points out in his own book that Dawkins’s claim in The God Delusion that Einstein was an atheist is manifestly false, since Einstein had specifically denied that he was either a pantheist or an atheist. In the debate, under pressure from Lennox Dawkins was actually forced to retract his previous claim that Jesus had probably ‘never existed’. And in a revealing aside, when Lennox remarked that the Natural History Museum in which they were debating – in front of dinosaur skeletons -- had been founded for the glory of God, Dawkins scoffed that of course this was absolutely untrue.

But it was true. Construction of the museum was instigated between 1855 and 1860 by the Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Henry Acland. According to Keith Thomson of the Sigma XI Scientific Research Society, the funds for the project came from the surplus in the University Press’s Bible account as this was deemed only appropriate for a building dedicated to science as a glorification of God’s works. Giving his reasons for building the museum, Acland himself said that it would provide the opportunity to obtain the

knowledge of the great material design of which the Supreme Master-Worker has made us a constituent part...The student of life, bearing in mind the more general laws which in the several departments above named he will have sought to appreciate, will find in the collections of Zoology, combined with the Geological specimens and the dissections of the Anatomist, a boundless field of interest and of inquiry, to which almost every other science lends its aid : from each Science he borrows a special light to guide him through the ranges of extinct and existing animal forms, from the lowest up to the highest type, which; last and most perfect, but pre-shadowed in previous ages, is seen in Man. By the aid of physiological illustrations he begins to understand how hard to unravel are the complex mechanisms and prescient intentions of the Maker of all; and he slowly learns to appreciate what exquisite care is needed for discovering the real action of even an apparently comprehended machine.

Truth is indeed the crux of the matter – but Dawkins seems to understand the word rather differently from the rest of us.The great question, however, is whether his own theory is now in the process of further evolution -- and whether it might even jump the species barrier into what is vulgarly known by lesser mortals as faith.

by Melanie Phillips

Retrieved from:


  1. I didn't read this whole thing cause I'm not all that interested in the man but my eye caught this and I thought it was pretty funny

    arch-apostle of reason


    I also wanted to tell you I thought your comment on the guy who was talking about marriage being expensive and you said "how much is she worth?" was funny ;)

    I know you meant that marrying someone you love is priceless (which is oh so true!) but the way you said it left you wide open for people to say wanted to buy her LOL

    So how much is she worth? A goat or a couple of camels? LOL, I just had to tease ya but I didn't want to encourage anyone to follow suit over there ;)

    There really isn't much excuse to not get married money wise, you can always get married without the huge ceremony and save money.

    Good luck with you and your future wife! I think you're a pretty good guy and I'm sure you're marrying a great woman :)

  2. Hey KL,

    Thanks for letting me know your thoughts.
    I haven't yet checked the responses to my post at Ray's :)

    "I know you meant that marrying someone you love is priceless (which is oh so true!) but the way you said it left you wide open for people to say wanted to buy her LOL"

    Yeah I obviously meant the former which you got right! LOL

    'arch-apostle of atheism' I think you meant, I don't think he is very 'reasonable'. You can see him debate Lennox on a earlier post of mine. Lennox I think, had the upper hand.

    "Good luck with you and your future wife! I think you're a pretty good guy and I'm sure you're marrying a great woman :)"

    Many thanks, God has been so good to me by bringing us together. A wonderful girl about whom I feel like I don't deserve her!



  3. You boys never do but you're cute so we let it slide LOL

    I do understand the feeling, took me awhile but I finally found the man I was meant to be with. Feels like everything we went through was meant to be, otherwise we wouldn't have found each other.

    I wonder how marriage was done in the early days. Adam and Eve had God himself marry them but what were the other marriage ceremonies like? It's to bad they don't talk about it in Genesis.

    Here's a biblical question for you. Where is the first marriage ceremony described? If you give me the passages if such a description exists, I'll read it :)

    As for Dawkins, I'm sure he's an intelligent man. Being intelligent however, doesn't equal being smart though ;) I'll have to read a bit more before I determine that but he didn't seem all that smart in the clip from Expelled

  4. Hey, Matt here. A preview of the debate can be found here in video: And an audio version can be viewed or downloaded at:,3911,Richard-Dawkins-and-John-Lennox-at-the-Oxford-University-Museum,Richard-Dawkins-John-Lennox?detectqt=false&. Enjoy! Grace & peace

  5. Thanks Matty!

    You managed to get an account :)

    I'll check those will be very interesting.

    God Bless!


  6. Hey KL,

    I have just had my 21st this went really great.

    "Feels like everything we went through was meant to be, otherwise we wouldn't have found each other."

    Thats cool, and I am happy for you!

    I'll get back to you on that marriage cerimony question...


  7. Congrads on your 21st :) My birthday is on the 21st so I had my 21st on the 21st but that was a decade and a bit ago ;) I was also in the USA at the time so that made it even more funny to me. I've never been much of a drinker but I was able to go see music at the local bars so that was cool.

    I'm not a fan of alcohol so that's one sin I steer clear of with very little temptation. Up here the drinking age is 19 but I live on the border of Quebec where it's 18... a lot of my friends would just get totally insanly drunk and I was always the one trying to keep a clear head so no one would kill themselves. Terrible stuff IMO but I will have the occasional sip of my hubbies red wine, any more then a sip and my tummy gets sore.

    I do thank God for my stomach problems in that regard, I've literally saved a few lives over the years because of my clear head in the presence of stupid drunk friends. Those are some of the reasons I've never been an atheist, I've been way lucky in my life for me to not believe in something more then just luck.

    If you ever feel you might be missing out on that kind of "fun"... don't. ;)

  8. Hi Dan,

    Just a comment RE: Dawkins' quote in there: "design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe."

    There's two clauses in that statement
    1st premise: design cannot precede evolution
    2nd clause: therefore design cannot underlie the universe (what he doesn't say and is assumed is that the universe is evolving).

    Now the important thing is to examine the first premise, because you should never automatically accept a premise.

    "design cannot precede evolution"

    Why not? Is it truly impossible? Let me provide an example, that many people who have done school science or biology will be familiar with. As an experiment in observing bacterial growth, you get a petri dish containing agar jelly. Then you place some yeast/bacteria onto the agar. Step 3: you watch the bacteria flourish (this is, in a sense, an evolution).

    So we have A) designed an experiment and B) observed the natural process of the bacteria evolving as a result. This seems quite clearly to me of a case where design precedes evolution. It also seems like a neat little analogy for the Bible & God. He designed/created Earth & gave the first spark of life, but then allowed man & beast free-will to evolve in a way that is a direct result of their choices. God designed evolution.

    We can break Dawkins' argument into a syllogism:

    1. The universe is evolving
    2. Design cannot precede evolution
    3. Ergo design cannot underlie the universe

    I believe 2. is a false premise. Many scientists design experiments that then evolve of their own accord, so design in fact can precede evolution, thus negating/refuting his conclusion. If design can precede evolution (and I certainly think it can as scientists do it every day), then surely it remains possible that design does underlie the universe.


  9. KL,

    "I wonder how marriage was done in the early days. Adam and Eve had God himself marry them but what were the other marriage ceremonies like? It's to bad they don't talk about it in Genesis.

    Here's a biblical question for you. Where is the first marriage ceremony described? If you give me the passages if such a description exists, I'll read it :)"

    I have not looked exhaustively, but I think The foundation of marriage which is confirmed later on in the Bible is done in the beginning. Jesus Himself looked back to the beginning as an example of marriage.

    Matthew 19:
    And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’
    5 "and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
    6 "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."]

    I don't know what the marriage cerimonies were like back then. But as far as God is concerned, right from the beginning when one man and one woman come together to be one flesh, God means for them to stay together (God is the matchmaker LOL). Thus marriage cerimonies today are an affirmation of this.

    I found a C.S. Lewis quote that I have at the top of my page that testifies of my view and I believe the Bible's view on love.



  10. Hey Michael!

    Thanks for your comment,

    Regarding your problems with Dawkin's statement...I can't agree more with you,
    "design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe."

    It is interesting how people like Dawkins accuse theists etc with the "God of the gaps" fallacy when they make the assumption that there must be a "naturalistic" explanation which is a presupposition.

    We can then turn on them and accuse them of a "Material of the gaps" fallacy :) which from my understanding naturalism is a highly improbable explanation for our universe than the belief in a Designer.

    Naturalism to me is also more narrow minded because it will only accept a natural explanation but a theist accepts more than that :)

    I can see that you believe God used evolution. I am un-sure whether He did or not, I think the Bible possibly leaves room for it. Many questions are still to be asked for me whether it is true or not. So at this stage I am an unbeliever in evolution. If I did believe in it I could only see that Someone possibly guided it and was involved. That would be the way Genesis shows it...that God made everything or molded it.

    I think C.S. Lewis believed in evolution.

    NE way,

    Good to have you here. I am going to try out those links Matty gave above.
    (That is the Matthew Pyle from my 21st in case you may know him, he went to Israel with me)


  11. Hey KL,

    "I'm not a fan of alcohol so that's one sin I steer clear of with very little temptation."

    I am not a drinker as you are a non-drinker also, my 21st was a dry one. But I don't think the Bible portrays alcohol as a sin, only getting drunk.

    "If you ever feel you might be missing out on that kind of "fun"... don't. ;)"

    Na I don't feel like I am missing out on fun, LOL With God in our lives, that is all we need to make us happy and fulfilled. Though being a christian is tough at times and many others have experienced more than me regarding difficulties. God grows us, but it is exciting. I am happy to be free of alcohol, the life that God has given me has many more exciting aspects about it!



  12. Rats!
    That really was just a preview :(
    Finished on a potent question from Lennox though LOL.

    Thanks Matty!