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'Science and Faith' Discussion - Comments

David A Robertson's Avatar Comment 1 by David A Robertson

Great. Thanks for posting this here. Very interesting. Collins as always is brilliant. But all of them make for a fascinating discussion.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 01:12:00 UTC | #320494

Primate's Avatar Comment 2 by Primate

Dawkins and Dennett destroyed them. I don't understand how anyone could carefully listen to the debate and not overwhelmingly conclude that Dawkins and Dennett won hands-down.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 01:24:00 UTC | #320501

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 3 by Richard Dawkins

I thought this was a textbook example of why such discussions don't need a chairman. Every time Carson said something dopey (he is actually a young earth creationist who operates on people's brains!), every time he said something that really cried out for a megaton of sarcastic demolition, the chairman stepped in and changed the subject. Part of the problem may have been that Carson is African-American, which can inhibit nice liberal people from going in for the kill. I hope that one side-effect of Obama's magnificent election is that we shall no longer feel this patronising and condescending inhibition.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 01:43:00 UTC | #320503

YssiBoo's Avatar Comment 4 by YssiBoo

I for one did not get anything out of that discussion. Dawkins' and Dennett's arguments I have heard a number of times before. The opposing arguments I have also heard before. What wrecked the discussion was that ( as RD notes above) none of the infantile "I can't think of a reason for X, ergo Yahweh" types of fluff were allowed to be demolished properly. Part of it was because of the moderator, part of it because there were too many people on stage for a mere 45 minutes.

Whereas RD and DD complement each other well, the two theists were only able to crowd the discussion with unsubstatiated idiocy.

Apparently it didnt help my mood to listen to this.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 01:54:00 UTC | #320509

decius's Avatar Comment 5 by decius

Good grief.

Just when you thought neurosurgeons didn't come any dumber than Michael Egnor.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 01:57:00 UTC | #320512

YssiBoo's Avatar Comment 6 by YssiBoo

Another thing:

The theists stated that the large gap in mental capabilities between us and other animals was a reason for believing in god. How much do we know about the earlier hominids in terms of brain capacity? I am thinking of Homo Erectus, Homo Habilis and so on. Presumably they were much closer to us in that respect? So I would think the gap is not so big after all. Or at least it is bridged by other (now extinct) species.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:00:00 UTC | #320515

Alovrin's Avatar Comment 7 by Alovrin

David I must disagree, yes I know, thats a surprise.

Carson should stick to medicine. He sounds like a charalatan.
Collins arguments are trite.
I like Dennett's idea that we should open up the religious impulse to scientific inquiry.
In fact I believe we should be studying all of human activity in a more anthropological manner, ala Bronowski.
And Richard was as measured as usual.
The audience, hmm well, their probably still suffering from new age hangover.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:05:00 UTC | #320516

the way's Avatar Comment 9 by the way

Oh dear. "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist" (Carlson- paraphrased)

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:10:00 UTC | #320518

xxx's Avatar Comment 8 by xxx

David Rutledge: Hello, and welcome to The Religion Report. I'm David Rutledge, and this week, another feature interview as John Cleary speaks with a leading Christian opponent of the so-called New Atheism.

His name is John Lennox, he's a Professor of Mathematics and a Fellow in the Philosophy of Science at the University of Oxford, and he was visiting Australia last year to debate the relationship between science and God. John Cleary caught up with John Lennox for a chat in our Sydney studio, and began by asking what led him, as a Professor of Mathematics, to become interested in the existence of God?

John Lennox: When I turned up at Cambridge in 1962, one of the first questions I was asked as an undergraduate was a student said to me, 'Do you believe in God?' and then he apologised, he said, 'Oh, sorry, sorry, I forgot, you're Irish, you all believe in God and you fight about it.' And although I'd heard the question before, that provided an intellectual challenge. Here on the one hand I was studying an intellectually respectable subject like mathematics, a really hard subject. On the other hand, could I be content with a faith that was simply a product of Irish heredity and environment, kind of Irish genetics?

And so what I decided to do, on that day, I remember very clearly, was to befriend people who didn't share my world view, and in particular, look out for atheists. And I've essentially been doing that ever since, and finding out about their world view; trying to be vulnerable about my own arguments, because if one believes in God and cannot open that up to investigation, then the belief must be very shaky.

John Cleary: What led you to a conviction about God? That is, we all are born into cultures which are religious or not religious. At some point we have to wrestle with our own understanding of God.

John Lennox: Oh, absolutely. I was born in a family in Northern Ireland. My parents were Christian, but they were very remarkable: they allowed me to think, and they were not sectarian. Let's put it this way, they hated the drums no matter who played them. And my father tried to be a fair-minded man in employing people across both sides of the community, and I'm so thankful for that, because I didn't grew up with the sectarian baggage, and the bitterness and the hatred. My father, for example, was so enlightened in that sense, that when I was 14 he handed me a copy of the Communist Manifesto, and he said, 'You ought to read that, to try to see what these other people think. So my conviction has grown really through engagement, through interaction and through discovering that my faith in God had enormous explanatory power and was also giving me an insight and satisfactory answers, as time went on, to the really deep questions of life, and I didn't find those answers in atheism.

John Cleary: Paul Tilloch famously described God as 'the ground of our being'. In another sense, he's also talking about that around which things cohere. Is coherence the best thing for you? That is, this is the way it makes best sense?

John Lennox: Well I think that's part of it. When we think of truth, and that's what interested me, is Christianity true? Not, 'Is it helpful?' and so on. I think we have two basic theories of truth from a philosophical point of view. We have the correspondence theory of truth: if a thing is true, it ought to correspond to reality. But then there's coherence, the coherence test for truth: Does it hang together? And C.S. Lewis, whom I just caught incidentally in 1962, I heard his last lectures, he makes the point that 'I believe in God just as I believe in the sun, not so much because I see it, it's actually dangerous to look at it directly, but because in its light I see everything else'. And that explanatory power, that coherence for me is a very important thing.

John Cleary: John Lennox, let's talk about the hard edge. Hitchens and others have come out in the last couple of years with a fairly aggressive assault on the whole notion of God. There seem to be two or three poor arguments, but the arguments boil down to two or three. That God is no longer necessary to explain the intricacy and design of the universe. The God hypothesis, the God of the gaps is no longer necessary. The second argument is that morality no longer needs God, that we can have a perfectly rational, atheistic morality that doesn't require God. And the third idea flows from those two, that is that Ockham's Razor says therefore God is no longer necessary.

Let's begin with the way you approach those arguments. Would you agree first of all that they're the major strands of the arguments?

John Lennox: Oh, they are. I think there's perhaps a prior thing, and Dawkins in a recent interview with Das Spiegel, a German magazine, said that 9/11 radicalised him. And I think that militant edge that you refer to has come in, because something has snapped. That is, this is unacceptable religion, it's fanatical, admit it, but fanatical religion thrives at the edge of moderate religion, so all religion's got to go. How are we going to get rid of it?

John Cleary: So there's a rhetorical argument there really because then it gets bitterly emotional.

John Lennox: Oh there's a very - but they want to use the cultural authority of science to get rid of religion, and hence your analysis I think is correct.

John Cleary: This approach has a long history. Huxley began this approach 100 years ago; Darwin's Bulldog, he was called for no unimportant reason, and yet he used science as a way of driving religion out of public education, or wanted to.

John Lennox: That's correct, yes.

John Cleary: So there's a long history to this argument. Let's talk about the merits of it. Let's talk about the merit of science now has the explanatory power to push God not only to the margins but out of the equation.

John Lennox: Well I think that's completely wrong-headed thinking actually, and where I would want to start here is just the facts of history. Science exploded in the 16th and 17th century in a Christian culture. Now people have analysed, why there, and why then. And the consensus of opinion is very interesting because it's agreed on not simply by Christian philosophers, but far more interestingly by atheist philosophers. And that is this: men became scientific because they expected Lord Nature and they expected Lord Nature because they believed in the law-giver. One of your most distinguished ancient historians here in Sydney is Professor Edwin Judge at Macquarie, and he says quite clearly in agreement with these other people like Sir Alfred North Whitehead, that it was the Christian Biblical notion of the rationality of the creator, who created rational human beings that gave rise to the deep-seated possibility that you could do science.

John Cleary: Indeed, there's a Jewish argument there too, isn't there? It's a whole notion of the arrow in time comes out of a Jewish understanding of the world rather than a cyclical Greco-Roman understanding.

John Lennox: Absolutely. This is the Judaeo-Christian heritage, and Genesis starts it off. And I would want to start there because it helps now clear up some of the misunderstandings. Newton, for example, believed in God. He discovered the law of gravity, but what he didn't say was 'Ah, now that I've got a mechanism, I don't need God.' He had the sense to see that mechanism and agency are not competing concepts. In fact, he did the opposite: he wrote the most brilliant book of the history of science called Principia Mathematica with the dedication at the beginning 'To persuade the thinking man that there is a God. Because Newton's attitude was not God of the gaps, 'Now I understand it, I've got gravitation, I don't need God', but what a marvellous God that did it that way.

And I think the new atheists are running up a blind alley by setting God, the agency, and science which discusses the mechanisms, as competing animates. They don't even belong to the same category. So for a philosophical perspective, they're making a very elementary category mistake.

John Cleary: And they would respond, 'Well if you're going to posit at the beginning of all this, a designer, then that is simply a way of getting around another question which can be exposed by saying Well who designed the designer? And you're in an infinite regression.

John Lennox: Yes they do say that. I used to hear that from schoolboys and Russian academics. But the very interesting thing about that is this. Who made God? That's basically the question you see. But now it's very interesting when you start to analyse it. Firstly, if you ask the question 'Who made God?' you are by definition thinking of a created God. Now Richard Dawkins recently wrote a book called The God Delusion in which he uses this as his major argument. If he'd called it The Created God's Delusion, I don't think he'd have made a lot of money, because most of us have known for centuries that created gods are a delusion.

But let me drill into it a bit more thoroughly. You see, he believes that the universe created him. So let's turn the argument back on him, and ask him, logically, if he's going to ask me the question who created God, I'm going to ask him the question who created the universe? But he won't allow that question. Why? Because he appears, although I'm not quite sure, I couldn't get him to answer it in my debate with him; he appears to believe that the universe, matter, energy, are eternal. Ah but now he's given the game away, because he now believes in something eternal.

If you ask the question who created God, it shows that you cannot conceive of anything eternal, that the Biblical revelation of God is that God is not created, he is eternal, the buck stops there. And it's very fascinating to me, in fact it's amusing, that Dawkins lives in great hope of a so-called TOE, a Theory of Everything, where the buck stops. So you see they're inconsistent. They think the buck can stop somewhere but not in God. And to sum that up I would say this: there are two world views that are diametrically conflicting here. It's not science and religion conflicting, not at all. The Human Genome Project, it's first director was an atheist, Jim Watson, its second director Francis Collins, an Evangelical Christian. Their science, brilliant. I see the conflict as not between science and religion at all, it's between two world views: atheism and theism and there are scientists on both sides.

So, in the question you asked, the buck stops somewhere. With the atheist it stops in the universe or the multi-verse; for the Christian like myself it stops in God. So we've both got to stop. The question is, what way does the evidence point?

John Cleary: That gets to another question of course, is whether there is any evidentiary way of getting to God.

John Lennox: Oh certainly. I'd be a fool to believe in God if there wasn't any evidence.

John Cleary: But the evidence is not of a scientific sort.

John Lennox: Some of it is.

John Cleary: Some of it is?

John Lennox: Yes, certainly. Of course it is.

John Cleary: Give me an example of what you would say -

John Lennox: I've just started giving you one. The very fact that we can do science for me is one of the greatest evidences. I mean think about it. Every scientist has a faith, sometimes we hear faith as a religious concept, it's not worth talking about. But in fact scientists have faith. Einstein pointed it out. He couldn't imagine a scientist without this faith. In what? The rational intelligibility of the universe. And my teacher of quantum physics at Cambridge, Professor Sir John Polkinghorne, puts it this way: physics is powerless to explain its belief in the rational intelligibility of the universe. Why? Because you've got to believe it before you do any physics at all.

But now, let's look at that fundamental belief that's essential to all scientists whether they're atheists or not. In the light of these two world views, what does atheism tell me? It tells me there's no transcendence, there's no top-down causation. There is no God. There is just matter and energy, and the human mind is simply the human brain. The human brain is a product of an unguided, mindless, natural process, and as philosophers are beginning to see, notably one of the world's top philosophers, Alvin Plantinga , that then means that the cognitive apparatus, how can we trust it? Where does the validity of thinking come from?

Haldane years ago, a chemist, who was not a Christian, I think an atheist, he said 'If the thoughts in my mind are simply the random motions of atoms in my brain, why should I believe any theories they develop, including the one that my mind's composed of atoms?' Now just to finish that, therefore to my mind the atheistic world view undermines the rationality for science. But going back to why science exploded in the 16th and 17th century, the Christian world view makes perfect sense. The reason we can do science is that the same God who's responsible for the universe is ultimately responsible for the human mind. That's one of the most powerful evidences to me. Pointers from science that there is a God.

John Cleary: Which brings us back to coherence.

John Lennox: Yes, it does, absolutely. It's not a proof in the mathematical sense but you only get that in mathematics, you don't even get it in natural science. You get evidences, inferences.

David Rutledge: On ABC Radio National you're listening to The Religion Report, and an interview with John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University. John Lennox visited Australia last year and he spoke with John Cleary who raised the 'problem of evil' and asked how a supposedly all-powerful and good God could allow birth defects and disasters on the earth. Why not just fix them if he exists?

John Lennox: Now right up front, I will admit to you that the hardest question I face as a Christian is the question of suffering, of deformed babies and all of that. Let me admit that. That's the hardest question. I've been in Auschwitz many times and I've always wept. So that's a real question to me, a real hard question.

John Cleary: And let's make the distinction here too, one can easily (and it's been dealt with theologically for centuries) develop an argument about the human agency in cause and evil as an extension of the argument about free will. We're not talking about that, we're talking about evil which seems to be inherent in the structure of the universe, that is when an earthquake kills thousands, or when a child is born deformed. It's that uncaused evil.

John Lennox: It's usually called the problem of pain, as distinct from the problem of evil. My approach to it is this, and I would say I have no simplistic answers. I don't think there are simplistic answers. But let's suppose that it is a powerful argument for getting rid of God, so there is no God. So that's it. That's just how the universe is. So we solved the intellectual problem. But we haven't removed the suffering. And we have removed all hope. So I want to re-phrase the question. I do believe in God so I have the problem. Are there any grounds for seeing a glimmer of hope in all of this? And I do believe that there are. You see, central to the Christian faith and I've thought about this a lot, because I've had to sit with people who have faced these things, both human evil and pain. Central to the Christian faith is the fact that the claim that God came into this world in the person of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross. Now many people think this is all mythology but just let's try to think our way into it. Just suppose for a moment that this is true. That that's God on a cross. The question is, what's God doing there? Well it shows me at least this, that God has not remained distant from the problem of human suffering but has become part of it. That's No.1.

No.2 is this: why I have hope and why I actually believe the story I've just told, is that death is not the end. If death is the end, as the atheists believe, it's even worse than you say, because for example, no victim of terrorism will ever get justice. Hitler can gas 6-million Jews and all kinds of other people as well, then blow his brains out, and by definition he's got away with it. He's died a little bit earlier. You see, I can see the outrage of the New Atheists, but they have no borrow basis for it. Let's listen to Richard Dawkins on the foundations of morality for a moment. 'The universe', he says, 'is just like we'd expect it to be if at bottom there's no good, there's no evil, there's no justice. DNA just is a wee dance to its music.' Well if that's true there's an end of all morality. It seems to me that a Christian like myself is presented with major problems, but they're nothing like the problems of the atheist.

John Cleary: Yes but there's no ought entailed in what Dawkins is saying. He is not saying that because this is the way it is, that's the way it ought to be. And he's not making an inference from science to morality, he's simply saying out of that reality, that bleak reality we have to construct a morality.

John Lennox: Oh but just wait a moment. He's saying there is a bottom, no justice. The human heart cries for justice. For Dawkins, like Michael Root and E.O. Wilson, morality is 'an illusion fobbed off on us by our selfish genes to get us to co-operate.' It's much more serious than you're suggesting. He has undermined the whole of humanity -

John Cleary: You've explained that in a negative sense; one could equally point that into a positive though, you could say, 'Look, the power of evolution is that it has begun to help us evolve a moral sense.'

John Lennox: I'd simply see no evidence of that. I think that's falling into the mistake that David Hume pointed out long ago, that you cannot get an ought from an is, and Dawkins has admitted, and I admire him for this, that you can't find morality, particularly the notion of absolute morality, on the basis of science. Einstein said it long ago.

John Cleary: You can base it on human community though. On the existence of human community in recognising that we have to get on together.

John Lennox: Ah but there's the whole point; we have to get on together.

John Cleary: To survive.

John Lennox: That works very well, this utilitarian philosophy which is all around the world really, it works marvellously until I get enough power that I don't care what you do to me, which is exactly where Hitler got.

John Cleary: And at that point, community struck back. It took a lot of effort, but community struck back and ultimately community struck back against Stalin. I mean you were there when the Berlin Wall fell.

John Lennox: Yes I was. But look, Stalin had 60-million victims. None of them have had any justice. The notion of justice for them is a complete illusion. I want to dig down much deeper. I don't believe justice is an illusion, and therefore my Christian teaching tells me that there's going to be a judgment, there's going to be a final accountability.

John Cleary: How much of your explanatory understanding of religion is tied in fact to the Christian explanation?

John Lennox: Oh, a great deal.

John Cleary: It's not just about God, it's about a particular understanding of God.

John Lennox: Absolutely. Because the God that's produced by an analysis of the universe, as the New Testament itself admits, you can deduce certain things about God. But you see if God is a person, it raises the question is it possible to get to know God? How am I related? That's the crucial question.

John Cleary: John Lennox we've spoken about the explanatory power of science, we've spoken about morality and its link with the universe. We're now speaking about the nature of God. That is, you are prepared to say not only is it reasonable to assume that God exists, but it's reasonable to assume there is a particular type to God. That is, it's not The God of the Hindu, it's not The God of the Muslim, this God I worship is distinctly and uniquely embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. Now that's a step beyond which many involved in this debate simply wouldn't go.

John Lennox: That's correct. And I think we need to distinguish two things. And that is, what I'm not saying is that there are no true insights elsewhere. When you consider the great philosophies and religions of the world as was pointed out long ago, you'll discover that at the moral level, there are a lot of commonalities, and from where I sit as a Christian, that makes perfect sense, because every one of us, whether we believe in God or not, whether we're atheists, whether we're Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, we are moral beings, and in fact that's a very good basis for our being able to live together in society.

You see I can't speak for other religions John. There is blind faith around in the world and it's very dangerous. I would agree with the New Atheists especially when it's coupled to authoritarianism. But as far as Christianity is concerned, faith is not blind in that sense. It is a response to evidence. I mean after all, take the book of the New Testament that talks most about it. You've got to look at the documents and what they claim before we discuss it. The Gospel of John, the fourth biography of Jesus at its end says, 'Many other things Jesus did in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book, but these are written in order that you might believe.' Here's the evidence on which faith can be based. When Paul addressed the philosophers Epicureans, Stoics and others at Athens, he said, 'There's going to be a judgment, God has already appointed the judge.' Well what's the evidence of that? Well it's the resurrection. For all men, not just for believers. So Dawkins gets it completely the wrong way round, which is a very clever ploy. Because if you teach people that faith is believing where there's no evidence, then you don't have to consider any evidence because by definition it doesn't exist, but belief in God and faith in God is not simply faith in a theory about God. It's trust in a person. I would almost abolish the word 'faith' and replace it by what it means, that is, trust.

Now I went to Cambridge many years ago and on my first Sunday there I saw a beautiful girl. So I took in evidence about her through my eyes, then through my ears, it built up. And then there came a point where I had to decide was I going to commit myself to that person? I didn't know everything about her. I didn't know how life would work out, but there was enough evidence there, all kinds, emotional, intellectual, and so on, that I felt you can take that step, not into the dark, but into a relationship that would develop, and I see faith as precisely that. The idea that it's an existential leap is to my mind nonsense, although of course when I trusted God first, I didn't know everything; I still don't.

John Cleary: I must ask you one question that hangs upon this, and in some ways it's a side channel in other ways it's not. This question of faith and evidence bedevils religion in another sense, in that you have those within religion, who are so obsessed with proving their religion or proving the Bible that they take science on. That is, they regard themselves as warriors against the conspiracy of science, the conspiracy of Darwinism. And I'm talking about Creationism. To what extent is this whole debate about Creationism that you get out of the United States, and it's been in the newspapers from time to time, a dangerous diversion for those involved in serious religion?

John Lennox: I think it certainly is a diversion. The problem as I see it is some people are convinced not simply of Creationism in the old sense, that is, there is a Creator. They feel that the Bible is unequivocal in stating that the age of the earth is very young and so on and so forth, and so the big things get lumped together with the lesser things. And the age of the earth is for example virtually made a touchstone of doctrine, when there's so much evidence out there in science against it. Now I myself feel it would lead us into a very long discussion, but the Book of Genesis is a bit more sophisticated that some people think. For example, this whole debate runs around the so-called literal meaning of the word 'day' in Genesis I. But if you look at Genesis I, you find the word 'day' has four meanings in that text. And they're all different. And when I see a very short text like that with a word that's used frequently that is different nuanced meanings, I say 'Hold on a bit, this could be a very sophisticated business.' and just an elementary thing. I might point out just one thing here. It says 'In the beginning God created the heaven and earth'. The text doesn't even say that that was on Day 1. So that you know, that beginning is, to my mind, uncertain in the past. I have no difficulty with the scientific view. I think the real problem is, as you say, that it focuses attention away from the main issue, and gets into an unnecessary collision with science.

John Cleary: It's a debate in a sense, about how much you understand about the Bible, rather than how much you understand about science. That is, what is the nature of the text.

John Lennox: Oh, that's absolutely right. I sometimes say if Genesis didn't talk about those days, what would you believe? You know? And I think that's completely right. I tend to start by thinking about the very fact that scripture claims there was a beginning. That is a stunning thing, because it took science up to the 1960s to get that far you see. And that gets obscured in this debate. It's skewing it. I respect people who, like myself, believe in the inspiration of scripture, it's the word of God. But when you find equally godly, equally intelligent, this is now from a Christian perspective, people who disagree on certain things, they don't disagree on the resurrection of Jesus, they don't disagree on the fact that there was a creation. But when you see them disagreeing on things like the interpretation of the days, I think that is a warning that we need to be less dogmatic, and approach it much more humbly, and learn to distinguish what are the things about which we can be more certain, and what are the things about which we can be less certain?

David Rutledge: John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University speaking there with John Cleary.

And that's the program for this week. Thanks to Noel Debien and Charley McKune. I'm David Rutledge, thanks for your company this week.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:10:00 UTC | #320517

AllanW's Avatar Comment 11 by AllanW


I'm sorry but for me, cutting and pasting is not comment. Very interesting stuff but please do not spam it on new article threads. Find another place for it; just delete this post and put it somewhere else. If not, you may find that some people won't give you this friendly advice and just flag your post so it gets relegated to the alternate comment thread.


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Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:14:00 UTC | #320521

decius's Avatar Comment 10 by decius

Comment #336131 by xxx

Marked as spam.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:14:00 UTC | #320519

Thomas Byrne's Avatar Comment 12 by Thomas Byrne

Even though I don't agree with Francis Collins' views on God's existence, a view which I find very Christocentric (is that a word?), he doesn't seem to take into consideration all of the other thousands of religion which, to me, is evidence that these things are just made up, I do agree with his view on gaining a middle ground between science and religion. Religion will always be there and I feel a reasonable and scientifically minded theologist is the lesser of 2 evils. For now.
Benjamin Carson seems to be thinking backwards. He asks why do we have these great big frontal lobes and says it's because we have the ability to extract information. Shouldn't it be that we have the ability to extract information because we have these great big frontal lobes (which evolved)?

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:20:00 UTC | #320522

joeb1's Avatar Comment 13 by joeb1

Iam not formaly educated in any of this and was once considered slightly retarded but found out I was dyslexic. having said that I have seen programs where they study apes and monkeys using tools and interactions between them that are kind of like humans. From that I think one could see a possible conection to our evolved brian in terms of thought and planning. I dont see how Collins or Carson wouldnt put something like that together. Just listening to Richard or Daniel .should be enough

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:28:00 UTC | #320524

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 14 by Carl Sai Baba

This was pathetic, but it's a perfect example of the quality of religious argument.

Collins and Carson can do no better than to repeat the same moronic arguments we have heard from people like McGrath.

Nice response from Dawkins regarding personal experiences.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:29:00 UTC | #320525

Quine's Avatar Comment 16 by Quine

Once again, I find myself wanting to rip C.S. Lewis a new one.

And yes, Animavore, for as great a scientist as Collins is, he has the philosophical depth of a child's wading pool.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:30:00 UTC | #320527

gommo's Avatar Comment 15 by gommo

These are the types of 'debates' that leave you just frustrated as hell. You just want to be able to respond to each one of their ridiculous 'explanations'. It's quite sad that this is coming from 'intellectuals'.

Some things I thought significant.
#1. The mental gymnastics that Collins deploys. Especially when referring to 'natural selection' and evolution. I mean, how can you think you are so special and at the same time believe in Evolution if the guy upstairs is fiddling with things.
#2. As already mentioned, both Collins and Carson having some problem with the atheistic outlook because of 'improbability' (as Dawkins mentions) and just leaping to a belief in the Christian god. I would have loved to see that pointed out to them.
#3. Carson has a problem with our ability to think and reason and says this is proof for something outside of the natural world, but then points out that we have great big frontal lobes! WTF! If our ability to think is god given and not natural why do we have any obvious physical differences at all! Leaves me speechless.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:30:00 UTC | #320526

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 17 by Bonzai

Richard wrote

Part of the problem may have been that Carson is African-American, which can inhibit nice liberal people from going in for the kill

Really? Who are these 'nice liberal people'? I find that hyper-sensitivity and not so subtly racist 'inhibition' rather odd, even for "the nice liberal people'. Maybe it is a U.K thing.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:36:00 UTC | #320529

Thomas Byrne's Avatar Comment 18 by Thomas Byrne

It's always such a shame that there is never enough time to fully explain the evolution of morals in these things with say for example, evidence of reciprocal altruism and punishing of defectors in vampire bats in which a bat with abundant feeding for one night may regurgitate some for one less fortunate but, if that same bat after being sorted out on seperate nights by different bats decides not to reciprocate when his time comes may find himself being blanked in future like a stingy college student who has no trouble smoking someone elses shit but, won't share none. Or the fairness that seems to be exhibited by macabee monkeys who protest when some of them get their favorite cashews while others are unfiarly given raisins.And so on...

EDIT: For clarity

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:42:00 UTC | #320532

Quine's Avatar Comment 19 by Quine

<!-- -->There is some consolation in the fact that these scientific observations of the development of reciprocal altruism continue to mount, whereas, the arguments of the other side are stuck back with Paley.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 02:55:00 UTC | #320540

watso's Avatar Comment 20 by watso

This is getting ridiculous... these debates are completely one sided.

The bottom line is, you have to have evidence to support statements. It is this way for a very simple reason: You can make anything up that you would like without evidence. This one point is so important to me. I want to repeat it. You can make ANYTHING up.

Humans can get mind-jacked very easily. Through out the world right now, in this moment, millions if not billions of people have an incorrect view of the world according to the evidence that we have.

So, the naturalists bring to me mounds of evidence and the creationists make the same tiresome arguments that explain nothing. It almost physically enrages me. Every question and remark in this debate by the creationists have been rationally explained by so many people.

Dawkins your next book should just have nothing but ad hominem fallacies with excessive swearing because apparently this whole rational argument approach is just too weak.

I would honestly be afraid of this country ( America ) if I were you. Religious whack jobs with h-bombs... Now that is a realistic and scary thought.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 03:06:00 UTC | #320543

Thomas Byrne's Avatar Comment 21 by Thomas Byrne

The problem with paleys watche maker argument is that if humans are designed then so is everything else in nature. So by his reasoning you could come across a mud slide or a thawing water puddle with little bits of fractured ice floating on top of it and say it was designed.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 03:09:00 UTC | #320545

Quine's Avatar Comment 22 by Quine

So by his reasoning you could come across a mud slide or a thawing water puddle with little bits of fractured ice floating on top of it and say it was designed.
Or the "Universe in a grain of sand", quite so.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 03:14:00 UTC | #320547

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 23 by Bonzai


The problem with paleys watche maker argument is that if humans are designed then so is everything else in nature. So by his reasoning you could come across a mud slide or a thawing water puddle with little bits of fractured ice floating on top of it and say it was designed.

Not really though. The watch is designed, but the little fractures, scratches and rust on it are not.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 03:19:00 UTC | #320550

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 24 by bendigeidfran

The frozen waterfall is designed.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 03:31:00 UTC | #320558

HenryFord's Avatar Comment 25 by HenryFord

"Really? Who are these 'nice liberal people'? I find that hyper-sensitivity and not so subtly racist 'inhibition' rather odd, even for "the nice liberal people'. Maybe it is a U.K thing."

I'm not sure if it is solely a British thing, but there is a lot of this cowardly, patronising slime floating around, and has been for some time. Whether it's the "I'm an atheist but-ters" or the "I'll be offended on behalf of someone else" group, there's a very sinister undertone of a lot of people who would like to think they aren't prjudiced, but by their actions reveal their inner bigotry.

The best example I can think of is when any twerp says the infamous "...actualy some of my best friends are black/gay/disabled."

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 03:36:00 UTC | #320562

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 26 by Bonzai


Yes, I know about PC-ness as a group thing. But it is odd to even think that one would go soft on an debate opponent because he is black or a minority.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 03:39:00 UTC | #320567

HenryFord's Avatar Comment 27 by HenryFord

It's the wondeful world of inadvertant racism. The same is true of sexism. Those poor little women surely couldn't cope with a real debate, so let's not be too hard on them.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 03:51:00 UTC | #320575

Quine's Avatar Comment 28 by Quine

One thing that was not brought out was the disproportion of the representation of the two sides. Here we had four "men of science" but half of them hold opinions that are representative of only a small fraction of scientists. Numbers of opinion holders is not a direct indicator of truth, as one would find by administering Calculus tests to the general public, but among a group of experts in the subject, is a strong indicator. This is received unconsciously, if not consciously, by grouping. I am not saying that they should have put together seven unbelieving scientists to stare down the lone Collins, but it would have been good to mention the disproportion.

P.S. I would be interested to see what has changed (if anything) in Collin's position after the feedback from his book. I read it, and it was going along well until it hit the frozen waterfall, and then, as per the figure, went over the edge and flowed straight down hill, thereafter.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 04:21:00 UTC | #320595

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 29 by Rawhard Dickins

Complexity at the start of the universe goes against evidence and logic.

If that should ever change I would take a little more interest in creationists.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 06:24:00 UTC | #320654

Sue G's Avatar Comment 30 by Sue G

Egads. I hadn't read the comments before listening, and I couldn't believe my ears when the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery said he didn't believe in evolution. I had to do a double take. How is it possible? Presumably the man must have had studied biology fairly extensively.

Sat, 07 Feb 2009 06:54:00 UTC | #320664