> > > Kopiec Tuesday 21 March 2023

Foto Kopiec Maksym Adam , Recensione: C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker. Has Science Buried God?., in Antonianum, 86/1 (2011) p. 141-144 .

John C. Lennox is Reader in Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green College. Generally speaking, his short book is a scientific detective story about the relationship between science and faith; at the same time, it offers a critical analysis of some scientific data that require a meta-empirical explanation. The crucial topic of his research is, as the title itself suggests, a question: does science really work in favour of atheism and against the existence of God? The Author begins his research with a distinction between the knowledge given by sciences and the knowledge offered by a particular worldview. He focuses, first of all, on the two different positions: theism and atheism. Lennox’s presumption is to stress that every worldview is a metaphysical position not derivable and not provable by science. However, a worldview – with its specific cognition processes, enables us to grasp at a deeper level the true significance of the universe and of human existence. The difference between science and worldviews, however, does not entail the absence of any connection between some concrete, specific worldviews and the efforts of science; on the contrary, the Author endeavours to display their profound correlation. Finally, his exploration concerns the problem: which worldview sits most comfortably with science – theism or atheism? Which of them is better able to integrate scientific results into a coherent and harmonic vision and to give them a better and more acceptable explanation? (7-29). In the first, methodological part (chapters I-III) of his book Lennox expounds on natural science, recognizing its competence, its investigative capacity to empirically learn more and more about reality, to discover new aspects of the micro- and macro-universe, and to bring about useful changes in the world for the sake of human civilization and development. At the same time, Lennox points out its limits in fully exploring reality and its necessary dependence on other cognitive forms of research. Natural sciences use the inductive method, which consists in repeated observations and experimentations. But we cannot repeat the Big Bang, or the history of the universe, or the origin of life, or the history of life. Indeed what about any historical event? It is not repeatable. Does that mean that we can say nothing about such things? There is, however, another methodology, well known to historians, which could be applied to such situations. It is the method of abduction, or interference to the best explanation. An argument that does explain a given effect is always better than one that does not (30-45. 83. 108-109). The shortcomings of science are even more apparent with regard to issues such as meaning, sense, cause, purpose, value, ethics, where an empirical and inductive research method is not only insufficient, but inadequate (see the metaphor of “Aunt Matilda’s cake”, 40-43). Therefore, empirical science would need to be completed by some other kind of human knowledge that could lead one to the truth in other domains of life. Nevertheless, the limits of science do not entail the famous and wrongly understood idea of a “God of the gaps”, whose sense would be: “since science cannot explain it, God did it”. On the contrary, the postulate of God relies on the constant progress of science, and the arguments for His existence are not based on ignorance but on knowledge (169). Lennox, quoting R. Swinburne, does not postulate a “God of the gaps”, a god needed only to explain what science has not yet explained, but he does postulate a God to explain why science explains. He does not deny that science explains, but postulates God to explain why science explains (46-47). Just before that, he had elucidated why it is reasonably wrong to consider the “supernatural”, “transcendent” or “fideistic” view as “non-rational” or contradictory to science (33). Science can never be identified or confused with the opinions of scientists. If some of them maintain a materialistic worldview, that does not imply that science itself is materialistic. Indeed, the Author enters into debate with those writers who use science in order to promote atheism and materialism. He reveals the flaws and imperfection of their threefold – methodological, ontological and epistemological – reductionism. Following the example of Godel’s incompleteness theorems, Lennox underlines the intrinsic bond between science and belief-based principles (51-56, 60). Thus natural science will be able to keep its own nature and to expand its inner dynamic only to the extent that it will define itself as open, complementary and interdisciplinary, free from all sorts of reductionism. In the second, factual part (chapters IV-XI), the Author answers the initial question. To sum it up we may say that, if in the atheistic view the matter precedes the mind, in the theistic one the mind precedes the matter. Lennox, a professed believer, purports to show the corresponding link between theism and science. In order to prove the legitimacy of that option, he refers to the Intelligent Design theory (ID) as a better explanation, philosophically speaking, of natural data as compared with atheism. Without any misapprehended fusion between science and faith, the Author points out the true value of the very current concept of ID: its methodological ability to set both in a mutual relation of harmony and compatibility, on the one side, and to uphold their respective autonomy, on the other one. So what is the thesis of ID? Avoiding any reference to religion and starting from what is purely rational, from a scientific vision of reality, it maintains that the universe is not self-explanatory, but that it would require some explanation beyond itself, in a transcendent reality, to which it owes its origin and existence (57). Consequently in the world it would be possible to highlight several features perceived by science that reflect the mind and design laying as a condition of the existence of the universe. Besides, what reason-based argumentation does, in Lennox’s opinion, emerge in favour of the ID theory as the best explanation of the universe, including scientific data? The first one has a cosmological character and emphasizes the rational intelligibility of the universe (58-59), on which relies the scientific method that, without throwing up any empirical proof for it, considers it apparent and unquestionable. The ordered nature of the universe, its mathematical intelligibility and fine-tuning would imply a mind or an intelligent origin (169). The Author cites Einstein’s comment: “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible”. Indeed, for many thinkers and philosophers such a rational intelligibility of the universe finds better explanation in theism than in atheism/materialism. This problem is strictly connected with the question concerning the very existence of the universe: why is there a universe at all, why is there something rather than nothing? Is it possible for atheists to provide a rationally more satisfying answer to this question? In fact, some scientists think that we should not even ask this question. According to them we can find no reason for the existence of the universe because, quite simply, there is no one. But is that escape rationally justifiable? Is it completely honest to assert that there is a reason for everything, except for the most important issue of all – that is, the existence of everything, the universe itself? (62). Others maintain that the cause of the emergence of life is random/chance. However, mathematically speaking, the probability that life is born this way is so absolutely minimal as to be negligible (147). Another group of scientists believe in the so-called “many worlds” or “multiverse” hypothesis, which postulates the simultaneous existence of many, possibly infinitely many, parallel universes. However, the Author wonders, is it really more rational to postulate an infinite number of other universes and eternal matter, rather than one God, the Creator? Anyaway, supposing the existence of an infinite number of universes does not provide an answer to the question “why do they all exist?”. Conversely, the theistic view of the universe, its rationality, laws, functions and targets, presupposes an intelligent agent who designs and creates the world as “fine-tuned”. The fine-tuning signifies the innumerable and yet unknown amount of incredibly complex elements and forces that are amazingly, intricately, and delicately balanced or “fine-tuned” in order for the universe to be able to sustain life. Even a slight change in any of these constants would lead the universe to become hostile to life and incapable of supporting it. For example, if the ratio of the nuclear strong force to the electromagnetic force had been different by 1 part 10 (x16), no stars could have formed (68-71. 147). Following this way of reasoning we get to the “anthropic principle”, meaning: the universe has to be very precisely structured in order to support human life. It connotes that the observable universe has a structure which permits the existence of observers. Afterwards Lennox assumes a clear-cut position on evolutionism, which nowadays appears as an atheistic philosophy, especially if contrasted with evolution as a scientific, biological theorem. The error of evolutionism is that it has employed biological data as the evidence of a metaphysical and antireligious view (95). Thus the Author infers a complete non-contradiction between the (biological) theory of evolution and the(philosophical) ID theory. He also takes into account the problem of macro- and micro-evolution, the extraordinary complexity of the genetic code (127-138) and its information/ language-based structure (143-153. 164), in his attempt to highlight the mind-based and designed nature of the universe and of life in particular. In the realm of faith, because of its very nature, it is not possible to find merely rational and experimental evidence of its arguments. But that does not exclude the other kind of rationality involved, which is necessary to faith and to the commitment to a search for the truth and an ever greater knowledge. That is why faith is incessantly assuming the task of being always ready to make defense to anyone who demands from it an accounting for the hope that is in Christian belief (1Pt 3,14). Lennox appears as a modern apologist in the best sense of the term. His arguments are not absolutely convincing and self-evident, yet we may not deny them a logical and rationally common quality that can enrich the faith of believers and provoke the reader who does not agree with him to assume a particular position and to justify it with the same persuading might.


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