26 December 2013

A God's Undertaker, by John Lennox: a very brief review

I bought this book a few years ago, after the debate between John Lennox and Christopher Hitchens on the subject with the (rather silly) title "can atheism save Europe?", organized as part of the 2008 Edinburgh festival. I bought it because I found Lennox's arguments profoundly stupid, especially for someone who is professor of mathematics.

The most fundamental problem with the book is that Lennox cannot avoid "using" mathematics to "prove" that (his particular version of) god exists. Indeed, for most mathematicians, it will be clear, after scanning the book, that Lennox proves nothing. Rather, he takes the standpoint of a learned academic who tells the layman: "look, I'm a mathematician and know how to multiply numbers; therefore, when I tell you that the probability that the Universe appeared without design is 10-40 then I know what I mean because I'm a professor of mathematics!"

This is the kind of arguments that Lennox uses. Although they can be dismissed immediately, they appear to be sophisticated to the layman, This is the only reason that Lennox appears eloquent. He disguises the same old tiresome arguments (e.g., god-of-the gaps) in "mathematics" and "science".

I pointed this out to Lennox twice, in person, but, of course, he can't reply. One of my questions was: "How come you chose to defend, support, and propagate the particular religion you speak about, i.e. your Northern Irish version of Christianity, and can't see that this is an event which is highly correlated with the fact that you grew up in Northern Ireland and that your parents had the same religion?" His reply was: "My parents were so liberal that gave me all sorts of books to read when I was little. They even gave me the Communist Manifesto. And I chose Christianity after studying lots of references."

Problem with this reply: Yes, you, say, were so enlightened and lucky, but can you say the same for everyone who adopts a religion? Can't you see the correlation between one's upbringing and one's religion? (Hint: examine the probabilities...)


  1. You have named two persons in your post, John Lennox and Christopher Hitchens. You have experienced a feeling about John Lennox; almost the same kind of feeling I had when I read a book by Christopher Hitches, the book is said to be one time best seller in America; I had the same feeling about him and the book he wrote. An atheist friend had suggested me reading that book in a sort of deal.
    The man wrote the book and impressed upon the people as if he was an authority on religion; while his study of religion was very shallow.
    He might have read Bible to discuss about Judaism and Christianity but for the rest and especially about Islam/Quran/Muhammad he hardly had any in depth knowledge to discuss the things.

  2. Huh? A feeling? It's not a matter of feeling, it's a matter of rationality and intellectual honesty. I have asked questions to Lennox, in person, twice. Both times, he was unable to answer.

    Lennox is intellectually dishonest for the reasons I explain in my posting.

    I know nothing about your feelings, but please don't compare what happens to you to what my thoughts and conclusions are. Mine are not based on feelings.



What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant