Internationally renowned mathematician, speaker, author and retired professor John Lennox spoke in Haifa recently on a topic rarely discussed by prestigious guests visiting the university: God.
Lennox has debated famous atheists including Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Peter Singer. He was also Stephen Hawking’s contemporary at the University of Cambridge.
The event, held Feb. 27 at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, opened with a welcome from a representative of FCSI, the Fellowship of Christian Students in Israel. Prof. Tony Futerman of one of Israel’s institutes of higher education introduced his colleague and friend, Prof. Lennox.
The auditorium was packed with 400 students and guests – many sitting in the aisles – while another 100 people watched livestream broadcasts in other parts of northern Israel. The audience was a mix of those who believe in God and others who were seeking, curious or skeptical.
In his lecture entitled “Has Science Buried God?” Lennox asserted that the conflict between faith and science is superficial and that the friction is in fact between two competing philosophical worldviews: theism and atheism.
Lennox began his talk by pointing out that the pioneers of modern science – Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Euler and Maxwell – were all theists who believed in truths beyond the natural sciences. He noted that in the modern age the opposite is significantly more common and any intellectual inquiry outside of science tends to be frowned upon.
He said that at a dinner when he was a 19-year-old undergraduate student at Cambridge, he asked a Nobel Laureate his opinion on the existence of God. He didn’t get a reply then, but afterwards several professors sat him down and demanded that he stop believing in God because it would destroy his chances of a career in science.
The late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking declared in his book “The Grand Design”that philosophy is dead and that God is an unnecessary artifact of days gone by. Lennox countered that the statement “philosophy is dead” is itself a philosophical claim and that Hawking’s book is, in fact, about the philosophy of science. Lennox explained that Hawking’s statement is a manifestation of a philosophical worldview called scientism, which states that the only valid path to knowledge is by way of the scientific method. However, this worldview cannot be verified by science, thus failing its own criterion.
Lennox noted that scientism is often based on an assumption in atheistic naturalism, a form of atheism that claims that the natural world is all that was, is or ever will be. He argued that naturalism, other than being philosophically problematic, also inhibits science from being truly objective because to be truly objective, one must follow the evidence where it leads. The best explanation of the scientific data is an all-powerful, intelligent creator – God.
Among the scientific evidence that Lennox presented in favor of God was the intelligibility of the universe. We can understand our universe through mathematics and language and we can also make meaningful predictions about it as well. This would be highly unlikely with naturalism, but makes good sense given theism. Lennox said that one of the major reasons he believes in God is because he is a scientist who follows the evidence to its logical conclusion, something most scientists are not allowed to or don’t want to do due to the modern belief that the two can’t mix. If more scientists did this, science would bury atheism, he contends.
Lennox concluded his talk with a question and answer session where he responded to general objections to the existence of God and responded to the problem of evil.