Atheism and Science

Recently I came across the tweet  shown below and not for the first or last time it left me wondering if there is something wrong with my critical thinking skills.
Christian Guy (yes that appears to be his real name) is a new Special Adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron. He previously led the Centre for Social Justice so must know what he is talking about. However his praise for the quote shown below (taken from Prof John Lennox on faith, atheism and science, from his recent ‘Against the Flow’ lecture) left me puzzled.
As far as I can see the extract starts by attacking some ‘straw man’ arguments based on a misunderstanding of the term atheism and the process of science. It then goes on to quote a made up story that could not have taken place with real scientists and finishes with a statement that is not supported by the quoted text.

Christian Guy ‏@ChristianGuy_  Aug 3 Brilliant by @ProfJohnLennox on faith, atheism and science, from his recent 'Against the Flow' lecture.

My responses to the quoted extract:

  • Atheism is not the denial of the existence of God it is a disbelief in God. Disbelief is not the same as denial, it’s the absence of belief. It does not involve faith.  (Atheism is a faith the way that “not skiing” is a hobby.*)
  • We do not need faith to do science.  We do not need faith that the universe is accessible by the human mind.  We may work on this assumption backed up by evidence. Our mobile phones depend on relativity and quantum mechanics. The observable fact that these theories are so successful would seem to be strong evidence that our understanding is linked in some way to how the universe actually works. But we are not naive, science teaches us humility. We can’t be sure that our scientific progress is moving us closer to understanding the universe. We can’t even be sure that human minds are capable of understanding the universe or answering the fundamental questions about the universe.  We carry on – driven by curiosity, hope and evidence but not faith. Above all, a good scientist has the humility to accept that he or she may be mistaken.
  • No one believes that the “brain is the end product of a mindless unguided process” This is not a sufficient description of the process of evolution.
  • The final few concluding sentences do not seem to be supported by, or related to, any of the points in the selected passage.

I would be grateful if someone would let me know where I have made a mistake in my understanding of the text, or in my logic or reasoning.

In particular I would appreciate it if anyone could explain to me why the extract is “brilliant”.

I am not trying to be rude or offensive or a troll. I am simply puzzled that people who are clearly intelligent, well educated and have positions of power or influence can hold views that, as far as I can see, are self evidently flawed.

(* Quote attributed to Ricky Gervais)

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3 thoughts on “Atheism and Science”

  1. I entirely agree with your assessment, Colin, and I can’t answer your question. However, I note that Prof. Lennox is an Ulster Protestant evangelical mathematician, much exercised by the idea of divine justice. He seems to take the view that God exists to amend the injustices of this world in the hereafter. You may find some flaws in the logic of that.

  2. The video below was produced by the Fixed Point Foundation whose mission statement states: “The mission of Fixed Point Foundation is to seek innovative ways to defend and proclaim the Gospel and to prepare Christians to do the same”. You might detect evidence of this in their choice of audience members to interview after the discussion.

    The video appears to indicate that Prof Lennox is a believer in the literal truth of the bible and that he believes in intelligent design rather that Darwin’s theory of evolution.

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