The new atheists, like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, are ever in the public spotlight these days, or so it seems. The idea that brilliant physicists and scientists can make sense of this world without a God appeals to many. Certainly the conclusions reached in books such as Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design — that there is no God and no ultimate point to the universe — are conclusions many atheists and secularists are all too eager to affirm. Since everything does fit so nicely together, however, should we wonder if the case made is really as air tight as claimed? If the conclusions are made to order, we might have warrant to carefully scrutinize the claims of these New Atheist authors.
John Lennox, author of God’s Undertaker, and a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford in his own right, takes on Stephen Hawking’s arguments in a forthcoming book published by Lion Books and distributed in the US by Kregel Publications (available July 15). In God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway?, Lennox exposes the circular reasoning and non sequitors that abound in Hawking’s The Grand Design. Lennox begins by framing the scope of what science can really address as it attempts to examine metaphysical questions. He then points out both Hawking’s dismissal of philosophy and his misunderstanding of Christian theism. God is not merely a “god of the gaps”, an explanation for the world as we know it. The Christian understanding of God has Him outside the boundaries of creation as Lord over all of it, not some explanation for unknown phenomena. As for philosophy, after rejecting it as “dead”, Hawking jumps in and tries his own hand at several metaphysical questions that philosophy has long addressed. Hawking’s attempt at doing philosophy is all the poorer for his outright rejection of it.
Lennox then takes Hawking to task for claiming that the theory of gravity, or scientific laws in general, can operate as a “creator” in a sense, and be the ultimate cause for our universe. He clarifies what a law or rule of nature really “is”, and illustrates how Hawking makes more of such laws than can really be claimed. He then goes on to show how Hawking’s “M” theory of the “Multiverse” conveniently sidesteps objections by positing the existence of infinite universes. Still the question remains, why are there any universes instead of no universe? Lennox reveals that other major physicists have their own doubts as to the ability that M theory really has for being an explanation of everything.
Lennox also addresses head on the claim that miracles cannot happen because the laws of science would be invalidated. He pries open the layers from this question and shows the irrationality of claiming that science strictly forbids the existence of exceptions or miracles.
By the end of this short book (it’s only 100 pages long), Lennox has made a convincing case for theism and demonstrated that reasonable scientists continue to affirm the divine. Lennox’s book is accessible and clear, even as it interacts with quite complicated elements from Hawking’s writing. The book doesn’t own the six-day, young earth Creationist view, but it doesn’t rule it out either. Lennox argues that often the new atheists assume that to believe in God is to believe in a young earth view, and he shows this is not true. Lennox marshals arguments from science (the very idea of the big bang supports the Bible’s claim that the world has a beginning – something science has only admitted in the last hundred years), philosophy, history and the realm of human experience. The resulting case is convincing and should serve to bolster the faith of any troubled by the new atheism. At the least, it offers avenues of further exploration available in grappling with these issues.
Before closing my review, I should excerpt a small section from this book which captures some of Lennox’s craft in action. This excerpt will illustrate his style and the way he can cut to the heart of an issue with incisive logic.
Suppose, to make matters clearer, we replace the universe by a jet engine and then are asked to explain it. Shall we account for it by mentioning the personal agency of its inventor, Sir Frank Whittle? Or shall we follow Hawking: dismiss personal agency, and explain the jet engine by saying that it arose naturally from physical law…. It is not a question of either/or. It is self-evident that we need both levels of explanation in order to give a complete description. It is also obvious that the scientific explanation neither conflicts nor competes with the agent explanation: they complement one another. It is the same with explanations of the universe: god does not conflict or compete with the laws of physics as an explanation. God is actually the ground of all explanation, in the sense that he is the cause in the first place of there being a world for the laws of physics to describe.
To this I add my “amen”. I encourage you to pick up this little book as it offers an excellent primer on how to deal with the claims of the new atheism. Even if you differ with Lennox on a point or two, his clear style and succinct arguments will equip you in thinking through these issues on your own.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Kregel Publications via Litfuse Publicity Group. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.