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← Debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox

Debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox - Comments

AppliedMootist's Avatar Comment 1 by AppliedMootist

I understand that Professor Dawkins does not want to "tote up" the casualties, but when the shopworn canard equating religion with morals was trotted out for yet another pathetic lap, he exhibited too much restraint.

Since the debate venue was in Birmingham, Alabama a quick summary of the Christian values associated with the American South was appropriate. With Biblical justification for three and a half centuries the good Christians of the South owned humans. The abolitionists were led by radical Quakers and the deist Transcendentalists, not mainstream Christians. After emancipation came the Christian-based KKK. In the early 1960's the good Christians of Alabama elected the separatist George Wallace as governor to maintain the system of Southern Apartheid. Not coincidently, the last institutions of the South to integrate, and never fully, are Christian churches.

As Sam Harris remarks, it was secular modernity, not religious tradition and scripture that has eliminated the greatest single blight in history. The great emancipator Charles Darwin proved scientifically that race, as traditionally interpreted, simply does not exist.

Dr. Lennox's response to any act performed by a theist that he found morally reprehensible was to state, "that's not my God." The true enemies of Dr. Lennox are not the handful of misdirected atheists but rather heretics clad in the guise of Christianity. However, we know that it is rare that a Christian attacks the acts or statements of other Christians. To do so is to confirm the obvious truth that at best Christianity is a zero-sum game in which every good deed done in the name of Jesus is offset by an evil deed justified by the same scriptures and dogma.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 10:26:00 UTC | #72402

maton100's Avatar Comment 2 by maton100

What tripe from Lennox. My god is the correct god, blah, blah. Not one detail worth notice.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 11:56:00 UTC | #72414

obscured by clouds's Avatar Comment 3 by obscured by clouds

That was a joke! I'm impressed how Richard Dawkins handled that train wreak of a "debate", which it was not. It was a debater against a preacher, who had nothing to say except for spewing his sermon.

I am not even going to try to dissect what was wrong with Lennox. There were to many logical fallacies to keep track of.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 12:13:00 UTC | #72416

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 4 by Bonzai

I sense that Richard is somewhat frustrated by the format of the debate. Instead of having the moderator asking a prewritten list of questions and allow each speaker to address these specific questions once and then move on to the next item I think it is better for the speakers to have back and forth with each other and let the flow of the debate decide which item would be addressed next.

Lennox is a nut, I expect an Oxford mathematician to do better than espousing drivels like Jesus is truth, "my faith is not like any other faith" and howlers like "we have faith in relativity" as if to say science is just another religion (or "Biblical Christianity is like another science, which ever way you slice it the guy is out to lunch)

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 12:14:00 UTC | #72417

sane1's Avatar Comment 5 by sane1

Why is downloading the file so painfully slow...10/kb/sec?

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 12:22:00 UTC | #72418

d4m14n's Avatar Comment 6 by d4m14n

The audio invites you to comment on this exchange here:

Ugh! The number of uneducated, deluded morons that have posted is just too painful.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 12:49:00 UTC | #72421

BaronOchs's Avatar Comment 7 by BaronOchs

Near the beginning he says something like "In this book Dawkins frees us from belief in God so we can pursue lives of unadulterated pleasure-seeking"

What a stupid thing to say, as if life is a choice between evangelical christianity or some kind of "meaningless" pleasure seeking. TGD addresses well the question of gods existence, but most readers I'm sure can find worthwhile ways to live without help from Richard Dawkins, or their local church where perhaps, pretty shallow people may be pontificating on "the meaning of life".

Lennox said that science owes its existence to a religious assumption of an ordered universe. Although of course the greeks had some science and preceded the medieval christian worldview. It is wrong again on the count that an ordered world is a natural assumption of everyday common sense, not something we needed medieval philosophy to tell us. And wrong again in that even if science did proceed from medieval christian philosophy in no sense does science therefore validate that worldview. Rather it is just one example of how running with the tenets of a system can lead to its passing away into something else. In which case science working on those assumptions proceeded to a worldview without god.

He also seemed to say belief in an ordered universe requires a belief in something to "give it" order. Leaving aside Kant who (I think) said the world is ordered because we ourselves see it as having order. Who said that, because the idea it is ordered by God was already at that time becoming untenable. Science has shown how order can emerge naturally. for instance in any instance if you have replication and variation combined with finite resources (and therefore competition) evolution will occur. And the fact that it will is a matter of logical necessity, not something that could even in principle be attributed to the volition of a designer.

I think he says towards the end that goodness is "incomprehensible" without the idea of a god. Lennox even quotes Hume that "You can't get an ought from an is". Which defeats his own position, from the is statement that god exists you can't get the ought statement that "we should be moral".

"If you're not good (or don't follow a particular, inadequate as it happens, guideline for goodness contained in a certain sacred text) you'll go to hell." is an is statement, but it still doesn't logically lead to being good.

god is not of any use to morality. I'd suggest rather life, and the common value people find in it is instead a good basis for goodness.

Also Somewhere also he says Science doesn't address the simple questions children ask like who am I, but later he dismisses the question of who made god as a "schoolboy question". ^£%*!

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:00:00 UTC | #72423

ccrenshaw's Avatar Comment 8 by ccrenshaw

This debate was incredibly frustrating to listen to. The format was incredibly biased...A passage is read from TGD, Richard comments on the topic, Lennox gives a ridiculous retort, repeat. I find it difficult to qualify this as a proper "debate" when Dawkins literally had to demand the right to respond to Lennox's comments. I did find it amusing that at a debate structurally biased against Dawkins and sponsored by a Christian organization, that there seemed to be as much (if not more) applause of Dawkin's points as Lennox. It's good to see that even in Alabama, the rational atheists are gaining in numbers and not afraid to show it.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:07:00 UTC | #72425

Zakie Chan's Avatar Comment 9 by Zakie Chan

When listening to Lennox (or any apologist) repeat the same nonsense over and over again, I am reminded of a quote by Upton Sinclair, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Its seriously like these people are not even listening, or thinking about what is being said to them or what they are saying.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:11:00 UTC | #72427

BaronOchs's Avatar Comment 10 by BaronOchs

Also Lennox used the bible passages about treating well aliens in your midst.

I think that came up in the Hitchens/Sharpton debate where Hitchens points out that alien in the bible refers to Jews from other tribes, and Samaritans are still Jews in an absolute sense.

The whole thing is probably worth listening to for RD's response at the end, when Lennox suddenly starts gushing about Jesus.

. . .

The guys at the beginning and end sounded like football pundits with slightly bizarre effect . . .

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:20:00 UTC | #72429

Dog Boots's Avatar Comment 11 by Dog Boots

So, my dear theists, does Lennox constitute the kind of sophisticated representative for religion that Richard is always accused of not confronting? Or was he just another walkover?

For me, at least, this debate made it a little clearer still that we're not gonna see any new arguments for religion - they most likely don't exist...much like the big man himself.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:25:00 UTC | #72431


RD.Net, you guys are so good at getting us this information all the time, much appreciated.



Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:38:00 UTC | #72434

ergaster's Avatar Comment 13 by ergaster

Here is a brief overview of the Lennox guy. It could be useful to know before you listen to the debate:

Dr. John Lennox has been exploring the place where religion and science meet for decades. Raised in Ireland where religion is "in the DNA", Lennox never gave a second thought to his belief in God. It wasn't until he went off to Cambridge University that he would dive into the debate over religion, science and evolution after a student asked him if he believed in God.

Since then Lennox has gone on to become a vocal proponent of intelligent design. The Oxford University reader in mathematics is also a fellow in mathematics and the philosophy of science at the school. He travels all over the world talking about the nexus of religion and science, as well as intelligent design ... although he doesn't like that label. Lennox says it's been hijacked by people who don't understand it.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:39:00 UTC | #72435

Duff's Avatar Comment 14 by Duff

Why is everyone surprised that these debates all end the same way. Why, why would we expect something better from the religionists? I'm beginning to believe the best we can do is to just shout at them, "you're stupid, you're idiots, you're morons!!" It is probably as effective as using reason and logic. Reason and logic are anathema to these people. I'm going to yell at them.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:49:00 UTC | #72439

tribals's Avatar Comment 15 by tribals

I am still trying to download the audio but I will hopefully have a little more patience than I did with 'The God Delusion' which seemed to say it wanted to give evidence and yet most of what I could find was inaccuracies of so called facts - 5 on page 118 (Arguments from God's existence) alone. I will wait and listen before I comment.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:58:00 UTC | #72440

MikeV's Avatar Comment 16 by MikeV

What a shameful "debate". No wonder, it was organized by a Christian group after all.

I was so pissed off by the fact that Lennox always had the last word in. All Richard could do was simply explain some statement in his book and then Lennox would attack it, without letting Richard rebut his silly arguments.

It's like they were two against one.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 14:08:00 UTC | #72442

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 17 by Bonzai

Lennox spews nonsense but is very good at coming up soundbites and muddling the water with sophistry which a careless listener may find compelling, his ludicrous claim that God explains the existence of universe but its own existence doesn't require explanation because God is by definition self created is a case in point. He has an air of confidence which is not really backed up by his weak arguments.

In contrast, Richard is a a careful thinker and sometimes appears to be on the defensive because he needs the time to formulate his thoughts precisely and as it is often the case, it is more complicated to dissect and respond to a falsehood such as those made by Lennox,--usually a simple assertion that sounds reasonable but turns out to be wrong on many levels,-- than to utter one. Also, as many have pointed out, the format is also biased against him.

I think Richard's style is better with a more sophisticated audience but he may come across as too hesitant and unsure of himself for an audience which is used to evangelical huxterism.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 14:15:00 UTC | #72445

maton100's Avatar Comment 18 by maton100

Ha, listen closely to the dialogue of the broadcasters after the debate. The moron brigade is in the house. Part 3.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 14:19:00 UTC | #72446

Quine's Avatar Comment 19 by Quine

Duff: I'm going to yell at them.

If you do that, it will help them continue the stereotype of Atheists as servants of Satan. You should not judge the value of standing up and giving rational argument by the perceived disagreement you get back. The fact that an Atheist does get up and provide rational thinking in a polite posture cuts against what they have been taught. This causes unconscious problems for them that help start the process of change of long held prejudice. Yes, the "debate" part of the debate was silly, but thousands of Christians listened to an Atheist on their radios for the very first time in their entire lives. I will bet in many cases, he was not what they expected. Not yelling at them is one of Prof. Dawkins greatest weapons.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 14:22:00 UTC | #72447

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 20 by 82abhilash

I got a beautiful quote that explains this phenomenon very well.

"It is very easy to wake someone who is asleep, but very difficult to wake someone who is pretending to sleep."

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 14:24:00 UTC | #72448

BaronOchs's Avatar Comment 21 by BaronOchs

I think this is the thing Lennox mentions about Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Everything:

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 15:09:00 UTC | #72455

mdowe's Avatar Comment 22 by mdowe

Does any know if there is an ogg or mp3 version of this 'debate' available somewhere?

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 15:14:00 UTC | #72457

Monosilabbiq's Avatar Comment 23 by Monosilabbiq

This was not a debate - it was an ambush. And having walked into it the Prof got a bit of a kicking. After a while I recognised the style and tactics of Dr Lennox - it was remarkably similar to some training in dealing with the media that I had undergone. Don't bother with answering the question - say what it is that you want to say! And Dr Lennox certainly didn't listen to anything said by the Prof, and even put words in his mouth so that he could demonise him as the classic bogeyman atheist.

Shouting at this level of stubborn-ness might provide some satisfaction, but probably will not be effective. The suggestion in previous discussions has been to use ridicule. That appeals to me. Certainly the atheist protagonists have no shortage of material.

I would recommend a slightly different form of "debate". A Balloon debate would be entertaining with each of the major religions allowed an entrant. The "None of the above" candidate would have to be the Prof, seconded by Mr Hitchins in his role as attack dog.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 15:18:00 UTC | #72460

Annatar's Avatar Comment 24 by Annatar

Wow, some of those comments at round table are revealing.


""It's interesting how much of his life Richard Dawkins devotes to refuting creation. Why? If it really is a myth, why waste your time on people who are stupid enough to have been duped by the biggest lie of all time?"

"Throughout the debate, Mr. Dawkins kept referring to Darwinism as a given, a proven theory, not debatable. Excuse me? Where is the fossil evidence?"

"I truly believe that the discovery of DNA was the death nail into the heart of Darwinism and that God Himself is revealing His existance through the very avenue that Prof. Dawkins excels in."

"Thank you-I listened intently on Christian radio to every word. I felt, probably along with my favorite Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, that Darwinism was dealt yet another huge blow."

"This was the most amazing one hour and 1/2 that I have ever heard on a radio broadcast... Thank you for standing up to the biggest falsehood ever sold to mankind! Our country has been damaged by its' doctrine (Darwinism) and you exposed it to the core."

Apparently, many of the fundies who listened to the debate are under the impression that Dr. Lennox rejects the truth of Darwinism and that he was trying to refute it. Their faith in creationism has been strengthened by the "huge blow" that Lennox supposedly delivered to Charles Darwin's theory... which Mr. Lennox, in fact, accepts.

Do they seriously believe that they heard anything like that?
There is something strange and terrifying in this.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 15:36:00 UTC | #72463

Teratornis's Avatar Comment 25 by Teratornis

In reply to comment #76061 by Duff:

Why is everyone surprised that these debates all end the same way. Why, why would we expect something better from the religionists? I'm beginning to believe the best we can do is to just shout at them, "you're stupid, you're idiots, you're morons!!" It is probably as effective as using reason and logic. Reason and logic are anathema to these people. I'm going to yell at them.

Organized religion has spent thousands of years evolving into an ever-more-potent force for crippling the human mind's innate capacity for logical thought. I have firsthand experience at having been so crippled, and of working my way back to some facility with critical thinking. The latter process required several key ingredients:

1. Lots of time, spread over a period of years.
2. Considerable effort on my part (I had to read lots of books, and they were all heavy going).
3. A dissatisfaction with what I was getting from religion, in terms of emotional benefits (since there aren't any obviously supernatural benefits).

A rational person won't easily make much headway with a person indoctrinated to be comprehensively irrational unless the irrational person agrees to help. (It's like the way an alcoholic has to hit bottom and realize he needs help. Someone who still perceives a net benefit from an addiction isn't likely to seek change.) Any decent religion will have waterproofed itself against logical argument well enough that logic alone isn't likely to get through to someone who wants to keep logic at bay.

But not everyone who identifies as religious is equally immune to logic. There are always some people in every church having a "crisis of faith" (i.e., an episode of rationality) at a given time. Think how tragic it was that Mother Teresa did not have a chat with Richard Dawkins at the right moment! Instead, she only received input from priests, which is like asking the prison wardens for help with an escape plan.

The lack of clear evidence for any supernatural phenomenon, the never-ending parade of leading religious figures caught up in scandal and exposed as lying frauds, the problem of evil, and any number of other troubling things defying all pat answers continuously crop up and affect almost all religious believers at one time or another.

Variation is the raw material of natural selection, and reality is the raw material of doubt. But just as variation alone does not drive a species to become a new species, neither does the disorganized undercurrent of doubt undermine the religious enterprise, unless rational voices help the bewildered get purchase on it.

Thus I would strongly disagree that the seeming "failure" of Prof. Dawkins and the other "new atheists" to "get through" during debates with the professional theist mouthpieces suggests the whole exercise is a waste of time. I can assure you that churches contain people at all levels of agreement with the nonsense they are being fed, ranging from highly convinced all the way down to just going through the motions.

Just because a professional theist presents a particular nonsense argument does not mean every churchgoer happens to buy that particular argument completely. Even if the professional theist gets the last word, odds are a few of the nonprofessional theists in the audience heard the points that Prof. Dawkins made, and find them more compelling than the theistic rebuttal.

It's like the difference between Adolf Hitler and the rank-and-file Nazis. After the fall of the Third Reich, Germany had little difficulty becoming a modern, democratic nation, suggesting that most ordinary Germans weren't all that committed to Nazism in the first place. The fact that a majority had voted for Hitler in the early 1930's did not necessarily mean they shared Hitler's fanaticism in every detail to the same degree. The vast majority of people tend to be fairly apathetic; they just bend whichever way the wind blows, and a few men of action have always known how to direct some wind.

We see something similar today, in the way that most North American Catholics flatly reject the Pope's nonsensical teachings on contraceptives. If the religious base can exercise common sense in one area, maybe it can accept a little more common sense.

When I was "under the spell," I never heard anyone like Prof. Dawkins. If I had, I might have escaped years sooner. Even though the professional theists have heard all the arguments and have their rationalizations at the ready, many of the millions of less-committed churchgoers who pay the professional theists' salaries may be barely aware of these arguments. Many have never heard them at all. So even if Prof. Dawkins has to present his ideas in an unfavorable setting, at least he is presenting them, and that is a remarkable step forward for many of the rank-and-file who have thus far only been exposed to one set of ideas.

Despite all that, yelling might be appropriate in some cases. Religions throughout history have used various types of coercion, shaming, group pressure, and ridicule to sell their ideas. Blunt methods can certainly work; if nothing else, research into the mechanisms of memory formation has shown that people are far more likely to remember what they heard in a heated argument than in a casual exchange. The next time they hear the same ideas, their brains may be that much farther along in the process of understanding them.

When a student makes a mistake in school, and the whole class laughs, the burning shame felt by the target of ridicule does not necessarily turn him or her off to the truth. In most cases, it reinforces the lesson. Thus it seems very likely that humans have this talent for learning under duress because it had survival value in the ancestral environment.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 15:42:00 UTC | #72465

Teratornis's Avatar Comment 26 by Teratornis

In reply to comment #76086 by Annatar:

Apparently, many of the fundies who listened to the debate are under the impression that Dr. Lennox rejects the truth of Darwinism and that he was trying to refute it. Their faith in creationism has been strengthened by the "huge blow" that Lennox supposedly delivered to Charles Darwin's theory... which Mr. Lennox, in fact, accepts.

Do they seriously believe that they heard anything like that?
There is something strange and terrifying in this.

Sure, but this is nothing new to anyone who has worked in technical support. Even when people haven't been specifically indoctrinated to misinterpret simple instructions, they demonstrate an amazing capacity to do just that. Talk to anyone who works in technical support and hear the horror stories. Like the customer who tried to use her computer's mouse as a foot pedal (because it seemed similar to the one on her sewing machine). Or the caller who reported a broken "cup-holder" on his computer and wanted it replaced (turns out that was the CD player, in the open position).

Bottom line: people can be incredibly stupid. It's so normal that it hardly rates a comment.

Whenever a large crowd hears a particular message, some percentage will misinterpret it any which way, and they require oversight and corrective feedback to steer them back onto the proper path.

In some ways, scientists are to blame for their failure to sell their discoveries. The whole machinery of science is about doing research, and convincing other scientists. There isn't, as such, a scientific enterprise for making sure everybody else understands the evidence well enough to come to the same conclusion. There is too much of stating the conclusions without the evidence for them, such as scientists pronouncing the world to be 4.5 billion years old as if we should all just take that on faith. Instead, such evidence as does get presented to hoi polloi is largely left up to the Discovery Channel etc.

How many people have even a casual understanding of the basic evidences for biological evolution? (E.g., homology, biogeography, diversity, the DNA "clock," etc.) Or the basic evidences for an old Earth? Science needs people to present the basic evidences, in enough detail to be convincing, but with enough simplicity to be accessible to people with less than a full-time interest.

We do, of course, have to trust experts all the time. Nobody can be an expert in everything. But experts have to find some way to demonstrate their credibility. In some disciplines, the proof is obviously in the pudding - it's pretty clear whether airline pilots know what they are doing. But evolutionists have a problem in that their material is rather arcane, and even the successful applications of evolutionary theory which have practical impact are themselves rather arcane.

It doesn't register with the average person that evolution helps professional biologists make splendid sense of biology. The average person wants to know how to get the roaches out of the basement and so on. Is a creationist exterminator at any sort of practical disadvantage compared to an evolutionist exterminator? No. The creationist exterminator does not have to know why the bug spray works to use it.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 16:03:00 UTC | #72466

MAS2007's Avatar Comment 27 by MAS2007

How anyone using 3% of their brain power can make irrational statements that Lennox made anything close to a valid point is disheartening.
I had to stop reading the xian bollocks, was starting to sense brain cells rebelling against apologetics. That web site appears to be a wasted use of molcules.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 16:13:00 UTC | #72469

onagol's Avatar Comment 28 by onagol

tribal, if you wish to rebut RD's "facts", please do so. For my part I read TGD more as an illustrative essay demonstrating the complete absense of facts supporting the god hypothesis.

Having had a quick glance at p118 of TGD, it is primarily concerned with the authorship of the bible/gospels and the inherent contradictions therein. Now, if you have any fresh insight into this particular chestnut, please feel at liberty to explain.
However (and this is my point), do so in the spirit with which contributors (for the most part) try to conduct themselves on this forum. In the sense that, if you must make sweeping statements, at least attempt to describe whatever rational is behind your belief/opinion/position etc. at the same time.

P.S. Not withstanding your complete absense of any supporting statements, it is a crime one can easily commit. What seems obvious and apparent to oneself almost always needs clarification to those not of ones own mind set (and not infrequently to those who are). I digress but in the general sense it might be described as not so common sense..., me thinks.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 16:33:00 UTC | #72473

Stephen Maxwell's Avatar Comment 29 by Stephen Maxwell

Judging by the discussion between the two hosts at the end, they have absolutely no idea about evolution.

Looks like they're equating evolution to the origin of the universe. Laughable.

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 16:39:00 UTC | #72474

stevieb's Avatar Comment 30 by stevieb

any audio-only versions available for us who like to listen at work?



Thu, 04 Oct 2007 16:41:00 UTC | #72476