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On skepticism about skeptics: Oxford mathematician John Lennox weighs in

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Thumbnail for version as of 22:49, 27 February 2011 Further to new science org Skeptical About Skeptics (here), a friend writes to say,

This weekend John Lennox was here in Miami speaking at UM on Saturday and at a Christ Journey Church yesterday. Both days he repeated a story about some debate-talk with Michael Shermer. Lennox told him that he was also an agnostic… an agnostic of Shermer’s atheism, because such a position was too much certainty for a self-proclaimed agnostic.

Lennox is a good head, worth checking out.

Is Shermer’s sell-by date long past, like Dawkins’? It does have that feel.

You know, fronting the idea that Neanderthals were different from and clearly dumber than “us” (How so? We know very little about them, and what we have discovered recently doesn’t show that.) Or that peer review is the way to determine where the evidence leads in science (It is increasingly obvious to many sources that it functions principally as a way to get at the consensus, not the evidence.)

It all worked to market naturalist atheism to legacy mainstream media airheads, but if those businesses are declining in value, what about the narratives and spin that support them?

Some good stuff from/re Lennox:

Mathematician John Lennox asks, Is information evidence of something beyond nature?

Banned ID content at Ball State U features Oxford math prof John Lennox

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10 Replies to “On skepticism about skeptics: Oxford mathematician John Lennox weighs in

  1. 1
    [email protected] says:

    If you have not heard John Lennox or Ravi Zacharis (sp?) you are missing out big time. YouTube lectures that will fill you with life affirming stuff – a really good one is when Ravi and John get together to discus the latest Hawking book and its 3 level logical fallacies….very incredible men..I thank God for such as these in this culture of death of the modern atheist..

  2. 2
    Heartlander says:

    Sell-By Date – Richard Dawkins: Children need to be “protected” from religion – His latest interview with The Irish Times…

  3. 3
    Axel says:

    It seems to me, in all seriousness, that one of the greatest of all religious miracles is the miracle of that very special grace of superabundant charity, which enables John Lennox and so many of you Christian apologists to have the patience to try to penetrate the cognitive carapace of atheist-science apologists, which pass for a cerebral cortex in their bizarre anatomy.

    We know God ‘scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts’, but in my own pathetic human defectibility, I still struggle to resist the conviction that maybe God has engaged in a little overkill, that he has overdone it in spades.

  4. 4
    Box says:

    Obnoxious debating style by Krauss.

  5. 5
    rvb8 says:

    Dear emailprotected,

    when you say i am, ‘missing out big time’ would that mean that these people possess something worth listening to? I only ask because News has just declared Shermer and Dawkins dead, so I was wondering what, if anything, these people say that is not along the lines of, “it looks complex, therefore…”

    I admire Lennox, probably not for the reasons you do; I don’t admire his blind faith and tedious repetitive arguments, I admire his loquacity and debating skills, but then the Irish are justly famous for this, as they are for their Catholicism.

    Could the location of his birth have anything to do with his faith, or is it happy coincidence?

  6. 6
    Blue_Savannah says:

    Professor Lennox is true treasure! God bless him!.

  7. 7
    jw777 says:

    Ah, Michael Shermer. I was somewhat a fan of his, especially after reading his book, Why People Believe Weird Things, though his biographical intro showed how his personal failings in life and athletics drove his “skepticism” (i.e. – rejecting many previous beliefs because he felt angry at them during his failings).

    Then, one day, I had enough. He had written an op-ed for Nature or Science which talked about how we KNOW evolution is true because of the many many inductively reasoned evidences. Yes, he admitted, there’s no smoking gun, because there doesn’t need to be, because there are so many things that just seems to point that direction.

    The same week, in Skeptic Magazine or the website, Shermer argued that theism was untenable becuase no matter how numerous the evidences brought forth pointing to God, there was no single undoubtable smoking gun.

    That was the moment I realized there is no debating someone who has set himself in enmity against recognizing a First Mover. It has nothing to do with logic or evidence. It is purely a motive of want. We know that the prefrontal cortex does not drive belief. The language and logic portion of the brain is an ad hoc or post hoc justification. Resistance against humility cannot be debated. They’ll just change the axioms and move the goalpost of argument requirements in the same way that Michael Shermer used the same exact principle he said was insufficient for belief in God to be an obligatory criterion for mandatory belief in evolution.

  8. 8
    rvb8 says:

    jw77,

    A ‘first mover’, your physical evidence for this Christian(?) being. Evidence for evolutionary biology abounds and continues to grow, evidence for a miracle, any miracle, anything that defies the laws of nature, ever, at any time, any where, at all, does not; sorry. (You’re friends half cousin who saw a tomato in the shape of Jesus’ face doesn’t count. If his arm grew back you might have something, but it would need to be materially verifiable, and we would like the phenomenon to be repeatable, you know, like science does?)

    ‘Resistance against humility cannot be debated.’Really? Humility is fine if you’re wrong, it helps no one when you are right. ‘Humility’ is not a virtue, if it were Thomas Jefferson would have bowed before George.

  9. 9
    Timaeus says:

    rvb8:

    Actually, if you were in the habit of reading history, you would know that over the course of the ages and even in the present day many educated and known-to-be-honest people have reported miracles. I have never seen a miracle myself, and I tend to be skeptical of miracle reports, but as a historian of thought I cannot explain away all the reports merely by imposing a metaphysical bias (miracles can’t occur) on the data. I would guess that you have never read Hume’s famous essay on miracles, or, if you have read it, have read only the edited version which leaves out the very long footnote in which we can see Hume’s obvious willingness to set aside testimonial evidence (despite his claim in the main text that in principle such evidence was relevant) rather than admit the real possibility of a miracle. His alleged empirical openmindedness thus masks a deeper closemindedness. Hume, like almost all the moderns, starts from the premise that miracles don’t happen, and then concocts the intellectual justification for the assertion after the fact. But the conviction precedes the reasoning; the reasoning is pure apologetics to defend the conviction.

    (Another laughable claim about Hume is that he destroyed natural theology. Anyone who has actually read Hume’s arguments on the subject, and then read some actual works of natural theology, knows that this is far from the truth. But modern people, especially those with university degrees, take big general statements on faith, without checking them.)

    Regarding the First Mover, your apparent lack of recognition of the term is not surprising, but I’ll let you in on the secret: the idea comes to us from Aristotle, not Christian theology. Of course Christians have made use of the idea, but the idea itself is not theology-based, but reason-based. Take some time to read some Aristotle — he’s quite interesting. And you would learn more from him than from the sub-philosophical modern authors that you do read.

    Your statement that humility is not a virtue is revealing. The idea of humility repels you. Your example of Thomas Jefferson is silly; humility does not entail automatically accepting any political relationship that the world imposes on you. Humility does not mean political submission; it is a personal virtue. It helps greatly in basic social relations, and it also makes one more receptive to learning. The proud man is much harder to teach than the humble man. The proud man is sure he knows it all — or that he can easily teach himself anything he needs to know without instructors.

    If you had more intellectual humility, you would say to yourself, “Behe has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and has published nearly 40 peer-reviewed papers, and I don’t know much science at all; maybe, even if I don’t agree with Behe on *everything*, I could still learn something from Behe if I actually read his books.” Upon reading his books — provided you read them with an open mind and not with arms folded and a sneer — you would find your mind greatly expanded and your understanding of some difficult aspects of evolutionary theory much improved. But because you have no intellectual humility, you are confident that you can’t learn anything from anyone who disagrees with you. So you just argue reflexively, saying black whenever your opponent says white, rather than giving and taking points and modifying your views, as all truly educated people were traditionally trained to do.

    You could start practicing humility right now. You could say, for example, “Well, to be honest I’ve hardly read anything more than isolated snippets of Suzan Mazur, and I don’t know anything about her personal life or religious views, so I shouldn’t really have offered any firm opinion on her work or accused her of lying for Jesus.” If you could bring yourself to say that, I would start to believe there was some hope for you. But I’m not holding my breath.

  10. 10
    Timaeus says:

    rvb8:

    Just to disabuse you of any possible misunderstanding, I am not arguing here to persuade you (or anyone else) to become a Christian. I couldn’t care less what your religion is. I just dislike intellectual dishonesty in argument, and intellectual laziness in research, and politically correct left-wing ideology as a substitute for genuine social and political thought. I also dislike people who bluff, arguing about authors, books, and articles that they have not read. I think it is far more important to oppose bluffing, exaggerating, arrogance, prejudice, sloppy research, bad argument, etc. than it is to defend either Christianity or ID. If we can make modern people more rational, more fair, less politicized, more open-minded to minority ideas, etc., then Christianity and ID as well can easily hold their own in the public arena. The difficulty is that modern culture-war partisans display very bad intellectual habits, very vile debating habits, a very narrow, biased and historically uninformed notion of the nature of modern science, and a caricature of what religious traditions actually teach. We can’t argue profitably about creation, evolution, and design, or about anthropogenic global warming, or about a whole host of other things, until modern people become more rigorous thinkers, more careful writers and speakers, and more intellectually honest human beings. As long as there are people in these debates who will condemn authors without reading them, speak about the plight of atheists in the USA without living there, etc., there is no use in having the debates at all.

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