Pharyngula

Dawkins/Lennox round 2

For another example of the religious expressing absurd beliefs, you must listen to this conversation between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox — it’s astonishing. Dawkins just probes with a few pointed questions, and Lennox, a theologian, babbles on and on and on, asserting the most amazing things. All those miracles in the bible? They literally happened — he doesn’t hide behind metaphor and poetry. Water into wine, resurrections, walking on water…it all actually happened, exactly as written, and further, he claims that all of these accounts represent historically valid evidence. This is the sophisticated theology we godless atheists are always skipping over, I guess.

Oh, he does start to waffle when Genesis is brought up. Those aren’t literal, 24 hour days, but still, he claims, the account is compatible with the scientific understanding of the origin of the world and life. He also trots out the ridiculous claim that he made in a prior debate that because Genesis describes a beginning, rather than a universe of infinite existence, it actually got the physics right.

Dawkins played it right, letting Lennox just run off at the mouth and expose the inanity of the theological position.

Comments

  1. #1 Andrés Diplotti
    July 9, 2008

    Well, doesn’t it always work that way?

    Theist 1: “I believe N.”

    Atheist: “N is not a sustainable position, because of x, y and z.”

    Theist 2: “I don’t believe N! You atheists are always arguing strawmen!”

  2. #2 Jason
    July 9, 2008

    When I heard Lennox claim that while Genesis didn’t contain much science, it did at least get the things it mentioned correct, I went and looked up what God did on the first 7 days.

    From wikipedia:

    Third day: God commands the waters below to be gathered together in one place, and dry land to appear (the third command). “Earth” and “sea” are named. God commands the earth to bring forth grass, plants, and fruit-bearing trees (the fourth command).

    Fourth day: God creates lights in the firmament (the fifth command) to separate light from darkness and to mark days, seasons and years. Two great lights are made (most likely the Sun and Moon, but not named), and the stars.

    So apparently plants, the earth and the sea are all older than the sun. Well, at least Genesis didn’t endorse the steady state model of the universe. If a baseball player hit .500, he’d still be the greatest player who ever lived, so I guess it’s unfair to expect God to be hitting 1.000

  3. #3 Big City
    July 9, 2008

    This discussion is infuriating. As I’ve said on Dawkins’s site, Lennox does not substantiate any of his claims. He has no problem saying that, since the whole Christian hypothetical situation is internally consistent, he accepts that it’s true. And more than once, he acts genuinely surprised that it isn’t a convincing argument.

  4. #4 Brownian, OM
    July 9, 2008

    He also trots out the ridiculous claim that he made in a prior debate that because Genesis describes a beginning, rather than a universe of infinite existence, it actually got the physics right.

    Good thing the absolute lack of creation myths in other cultures supports his hypothesis that Genesis must have been divinely inspired.

  5. #5 Ghost of Minnesota
    July 9, 2008

    Genesis says that daylight existed before the sun. How is that getting any kind of physics right?

  6. #6 Glen Davidson
    July 9, 2008

    Water into wine, resurrections, walking on water…it all actually happened, exactly as written, and further, he claims that all of these accounts represent historically valid evidence.

    The last bit is what is so annoying.

    If he wanted to say that it all happened “in essence” (like transubstantiation is supposed to do), or some such rot, fine, he can hang onto his delusions (can anyway, only we have carte blanche to laugh at his current configuration of delusions).

    Historically “valid” (“sound” is a more appropriate term), though? I’m more inclined to believe the apparitions in Homer than the miracles of the Bible. One can’t actually deny that Odysseus saw Athena based on the evidence, we just have to go with the most parsimonious conclusion (the story was made up) to deny it.

    Even current accounts of miracles are disbelieved–including by most religious folk, provided that another sect or belief is making the claim. There are too many confounding factors.

    So we’re supposed to believe what 2000 and up year-old accounts say about “miracles”? That’s the height of arrogance.

    I don’t mind the BS about the “remarkable” fact that the Bible noted that the universe began. Not even Genesis actually says so, rather God is acting on apparently pre-existing matter. There, though, he has the “essence” nonsense going for him to accept science and to tell other fairy tale believers to do so. As poor as such “epistemology” is, it beats the alternative, and may lead some to sensibility.

    Claiming that the obviously fictional, mingled with historical, tales of the Bible are “historically valid” only undermines the good in his nonsense about taking Genesis “metaphorically”. Anyone who wanted to believe in ID instead of science could easily ask him why miracle tales are true in the NT, while not true in the OT. Dembski is stupidly more consistent than is Lennox.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  7. #7 MGrant
    July 9, 2008

    Couldn’t get past the first third or so of the discussion. The usual semantic arguments brought up by theists (“Faith in my wife is evidence-based, therefore faith in a god can be, too.”), followed by some creative, although hilariously wrong, goalpost moving (“There are two kinds of evidence.”) were too much for me.

  8. #8 Glen Davidson
    July 9, 2008

    I should have written the second to last paragraph @6 something like this:

    I don’t mind so much the BS about the “remarkable” fact that the Bible noted that the universe began. Not even Genesis actually says so, rather God is said to be acting on apparently pre-existing matter. There, though, Lennox has the “essence” nonsense going for him to accept science and to tell other fairy tale believers to do so. As poor as such “epistemology” is, it beats the alternative, and it may lead some toward sensibility.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  9. #9 Marcus Ranum
    July 9, 2008

    Water into wine? Walking on water? Wow.

    How about sawing a girl in half and restoring her whole? I saw Penn and Teller do that. And I saw Banachek bend spoons! I actually saw this stuff, I didn’t just read about it.

    WTF is the big deal about “miracles” anyhow?? All the miracles religiots tout are pretty bland. Loaves and fishes? I saw Penn pull real honest to crap money out of a nearly naked girl’s ear, and catch a bullet in his teeth! Stupid jesus couldn’t even miracle a couple of nails out of his hands. Retard.

  10. #10 arachnophilia
    July 9, 2008

    the genesis thing is one way to figure out who’s not totally off the deep end, and can at least read the bible and say “now, that can’t be right…”

    the truth of the matter is, read from an unbiased outsider’s point of view (like we’d read the mythology of any other culture), genesis is completely literal, and does describe a 6-day creation in one of its two accounts, and does describe a flat planet with a solid dome of the heavens… and all this is completely incompatible with moder…. hell, let’s be honest, even some ancient science. it’s just wrong.

    the believer who might be capable of some rationality eventually will recognize this and try to cover for it. the completely bonkers kind of believer will recognize it, admit it, and accuse science of being wrong.

  11. #11 mandydax
    July 9, 2008

    Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up: Lennox says “evidence” a lot. Dawkins says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    It’s hard to listen to this because Lennox sounds, well, a bit mad. Touched in the head, y’know? O_o

  12. #12 techskeptic
    July 9, 2008

    I saw Penn pull real honest to crap money out of a nearly naked girl’s ear, and catch a bullet in his teeth! Stupid jesus couldn’t even miracle a couple of nails out of his hands. Retard.

    holy crap that was funny.

  13. #13 Spinoza
    July 9, 2008

    He also trots out the ridiculous claim that he made in a prior debate that because Genesis describes a beginning, rather than a universe of infinite existence, it actually got the physics right.

    I hate that SO MUCH.

    No fucking beginning!!! It’s logically impossible. Period. “The Big Bang” has NO evidence for its being literally ex nihilo. And logic dictates that it wasn’t, as it begs the question from whence the Bang?

  14. #14 Jason Dick
    July 9, 2008

    He also trots out the ridiculous claim that he made in a prior debate that because Genesis describes a beginning, rather than a universe of infinite existence, it actually got the physics right.

    Not willing to stop at the absurdity of claiming that this means anything, I’d like to mention that we don’t even know that there was a beginning.

    That is to say, all that we can say for certain is that our region of the universe had a beginning. We cannot say whether or not that region got its start from some pre-existing region of space-time. For all we know, the universe has always existed. We have no evidence whatsoever to the effect that the universe as a whole is finite, though it could very well be.

    So yeah, not only is it an absurd attempt at pulling out evidence, but we don’t even yet know whether or not it’s correct.

  15. #15 Celtic_Evolution
    July 9, 2008

    mandydax @ #11… Outstanding Princess Bride reference! +1

    # 5… Nevermind physics… how does the existence of plant life before sunlight not violate the very basic principles of biology?? Or are we supposed to just ignore the whole photosynthesis thing?

  16. #16 eyerock
    July 9, 2008

    I love the part where he said my whole world view and life has been built around the fact that these assumptions are true, yeah, he’s impartial

  17. #17 Neil B.
    July 9, 2008

    This is the sophisticated theology we godless atheists are always skipping over, I guess.

    You guessed wrong. The genuine sophisticated theology has nothing to do with revelatory texts. It’s about anthropic coincidences, questions like why does this possible universe exist and not others (or do they), do laws themselves need explanation outside their own scope of action or are they a given somehow, etc.

  18. #18 Brian Westley
    July 9, 2008

    I saw Penn pull real honest to crap money out of a nearly naked girl’s ear, and catch a bullet in his teeth!

    I would like photographic proof. At least of the nearly naked girl.

  19. #19 Neil B.
    July 9, 2008

    No fucking beginning!!! It’s logically impossible. Period. “The Big Bang” has NO evidence for its being literally ex nihilo. And logic dictates that it wasn’t, as it begs the question from whence the Bang?

    Posted by: Spinoza | July 9, 2008 8:55 PM

    Actually, lots of physicists think the universe in effect “came from nothing” – (Hawking-Hartle, Alex Vilenkin, etc.) they get around “logic” by saying it’s a closed bubble in space time, quantum “woo” (as many of you would call it were it not going your way) about time being vague or whatever. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you the BB had to be caused by something else, but I wanted you to know that supposedly like-minded folks did not agree with your take.

  20. #20 Neil B.
    July 9, 2008

    #1: No contradiction there at all. A “straw man” can be a weaker or more vulnerable version of an idea that some people actually propose. It isn’t defined as having to be a made up thing. Indeed, picking on people like Lennox, Ken Ham etc. is doing the straw man thing philosophically, albeit granted they are important as part of the socio-political reality and even majority belief system. In that sense they are game subjects to deal with, but intellectually it’s like beating up kids. See what you can do with Paul Davies’ material if you want real challenge.

  21. #21 Geral
    July 9, 2008

    All those miracles in the bible? They literally happened — he doesn’t hide behind metaphor and poetry. Water into wine, resurrections, walking on water…it all actually happened, exactly as written, and further, he claims that all of these accounts represent historically valid evidence.

    I don’t understand the logic behind how they can make this claim. If a scientist observes something remarkable in a lab, he not only reports what he saw but he attempts to make a reasonable explanation on how it happened based on emperical facts.

    Yet, let’s assume for a moment that these miracles did in fact occur. The layman observer should have that same obligation to explain how the miracle took place using empirical facts. God saying, “Make it so” isn’t facts or evidence.

    Therefore, they have nothing and neither do we some thousands of years later to base these claims. These miracle stories are literally strawmen set up in the wind.

    For crying out loud, let’s also assume for the sake of argument that Luke had too much to drink one night and made up his own miracle – say, Jesus flew to Bethlehem… 2000 years later, we have no way to verify this claim whatsoever, no more than all the other absurd miraculous claims. If a scientist had too much to drink and reported such an absurd tale with no evidence, he’d be out of a job.

  22. #22 KenG
    July 9, 2008

    OT- New Scientist magazine has a discussion of the Louisiana “Academic Freedom” bill at:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19926643.300

    It makes an interesting and scary read.

  23. #23 vjack
    July 9, 2008

    PZ, when are we going to see you on Atheist Nexus (http://www.atheistnexus.org/). It is like Facebook but just for nonbelievers.

  24. #24 Tex
    July 9, 2008

    Those aren’t literal, 24 hour days, but still, he claims, the account is compatible with the scientific understanding of the origin of the world and life.

    But they are literal, 24 hour, days.

    Apologists will sometimes argue the Hebrew word for day, ‘yom,’ could mean any kind of a day, such as a 24 hr. day, or a longer, but non-specific, period as in ‘back in the day’ or ‘in days of yore’. How to determine what an ambiguious word means? The best way is to look for context in the nearby words. My translation (actually several of them) of the bible states that on each day the Hebrew god created something, and then a night passed and morning came, bringing the next day.

    I am not sure how you get nights and mornings on the days before the sun is created, but it is clear that the bible is plainly referring to 24 hour days delineated by nightfall and daybreak. At least the YECers get this part right. Which makes me appreciate them much more, at least for their honesty on this point, than the dissembling OECers and IDers who have to deny both science and one of the clearest passages in their scripture.

  25. #25 Rey Fox
    July 9, 2008

    “These miracle stories are literally strawmen set up in the wind.”

    Er, what straw and what particular wind? Are there any pictures of these straw men? Are they entirely straw or did they put clothes on them like a scarecrow?

  26. #26 J Myers
    July 9, 2008

    He also trots out the ridiculous claim that he made in a prior debate that because Genesis describes a beginning, rather than a universe of infinite existence, it actually got the physics right.

    As I recall, one of Dawkins’ best retorts in his previous debate with Lennox was to this very point, and it was that the universe either had a beginning, or it did not, so it’s not terribly impressive that the author of Genesis arbitrarily went with one of the two possibilities. Considering the laughter this elicited last time ’round, why on earth would Lennox bring this up again?

    He has no problem saying that, since the whole Christian hypothetical situation is internally consistent, he accepts that it’s true.

    Oh, now that’s just pathetic. How difficult is it to understand that you don’t get any points for consistency when there’s no evidence that any part of your model is actually representative of reality. Why is the universe the way it is? Well, the invisible, all-powerful leprechaun in my sock drawer made it that way. Perfectly consistent; must be true.

  27. #27 Bacopa
    July 9, 2008

    Well, there are three possible ways for the cosmos to be. It can be linear with a beginning, it can be linear and eternal, or it can be cyclical. Genesis had a one in three chance of getting it right, and lots of other cultures got it right too. Greece and Babylon for instance.

    While the big crhuch seems to be off and thus there may not be cyclical universes, “brane” theory makes them possible. So maybe the Hindus were right

    As for Athena, we honor her every time we call someone a mentor. Athena took on the form of Telemachus’ neighbor to instruct him to go on a voyage to learn about his father and the history of the Trojan war. This neighbor was named Mentor and every time we call someone a mentor we honor wise Athena.

    I know there are some fundie preachers who encourage their followers to purge their households of items which have pagan religious signifigance. I think they need to stop saying “mentor”. They honor the Artful Goddess every time they do so.

  28. #28 mothwentbad
    July 9, 2008

    Plants before the sun – epic fail. Bible is wrong. Game over.

    Then God creates all non-human animals of the planet from scratch individually, and then creates man – not from mammals, but from raw dirt – another epic fail. That’s not a poetic metaphor for evolution. That’s a poetic metaphor for the Bible being retarded (unless you grant leniency because of the time in which it was written, but that’s the kind of generosity I reserve for dead religions).

    Personally, I’d like to see Dawkins or someone else talk to someone like John Spong, who is in some super-liberal sense Christian, but has no qualms at all about owning up to the straight-up human fallibility, superstition, and internal conflict within the Bible.

  29. #29 Patricia
    July 9, 2008

    Gawds flaming bollocks! That man is stupider than Ted Haggard. I damn near beat my head soft on my desk listening to that. Pleeze PZ no more!

  30. #30 Brian
    July 9, 2008

    Genesis says that trees existed before animals, and that aquatic and flying animals appeared at the SAME TIME. You creationists want to prove Genesis? Find a fossil bunny rabbit in the pre-cambrian. Go on, we’re waiting.

  31. #31 Blake Stacey
    July 9, 2008

    The genuine sophisticated theology has nothing to do with revelatory texts. It’s about anthropic coincidences, questions like why does this possible universe exist and not others (or do they), do laws themselves need explanation outside their own scope of action or are they a given somehow, etc.

    How in the flaming circles of Hell do these questions, which can only be asked, let alone answered, using all the knowledge of modern physics, have anything to do with theology? One can say with equal merit that they belong to the literary analysis of the Odyssey or the artistic interpretation of Mycenaean pottery — simply trading one Bronze Age myth for another as the target of our prestidigitatory masturbation.

    (I’ve never received a sensible answer to that question, and I’m not expecting one now.)

  32. #32 Blake Stacey
    July 9, 2008

    To put it another way:

    Explain, on theological or exegetical grounds, why three generations of quarks and three generations of leptons exist, why the half-life of the proton is greater than 10^32 years, and whether or not quantum computation in a de Sitter universe can solve NP-complete problems in polynomial time.

  33. #33 Taz
    July 9, 2008

    Did he really try to substantiate Luke’s credentials as a physician/scientist because he knew that people stop having babies when they get old? Does he really think you had to be a doctor trained at Alexandria to know that?

  34. #34 Wowbagger
    July 9, 2008

    Bacopa, #27, wrote:

    I know there are some fundie preachers who encourage their followers to purge their households of items which have pagan religious signifigance.

    Isn’t that pretty much all of Christianity? Just about everything was stolen borrowed from earlier civilizations – or co-opted into it to help with the indoctrination. IIRC the concept of Satan being horned and hoofed has a lot to do with the Horned One of pagan mythology.

    Fascinating how people who don’t believe in the concept of evolution follow a religion whose existence depends on the exact same principles on a memetic level.

  35. #35 amphiox
    July 9, 2008

    We can’t indict Christianity for stealing from earlier civilizations. That’s what people always do, and will always do. All of western civilization can trace its roots to Sumeria, and the Sumerians probably got much of what they had from predecessors whose names we no longer remember.

    Learning from others and adapting their achievements to suit our own unique purposes is how humanity survives.

  36. #36 Wowbagger
    July 9, 2008

    Amphiox,

    Oh, I’m not criticising Christianity for borrowing – I’m just pointing out that it’s more than a little ridiculous to claim that god told them to hold those beliefs or perform those rituals when history shows they’re simply carrying on what was done before.

  37. #37 amphiox
    July 9, 2008

    Re: Penn and Teller
    Just you wait, one day there will be a Church of the Sacred P and T. And they will launch holy wars on the followers of the Fundamentalist Sect of Superman, who will lobby their state governments of license plates emblazoned with golden S’s. And there will be philosophers insisting on the historical existence of Jor-El of Krypton, walking and flying the earth in the early 21st Century. And there might be Lutherists who secretly worship upside down S’s, and some people will see Lois Lane in burnt toast.

    Human brains are just hardwired this way. We’d have to clone a being with a different cerebral architecture, and replace ourselves with the clones to avoid some version of this future.

  38. #38 amphiox
    July 9, 2008

    Plants before the sun doesn’t violate any laws. Photosynthesis works with any light of the right wavelengths, regardless of sourse, and “let there be light” is number one.

    Still factually dead wrong, of course.

  39. #39 Dutch Delight
    July 9, 2008

    When I was in school and was forced to do math, it was no good to just give the answer, even if it was right, you had to actually show how you derived the answer.

    I guess it’s presumptuous to hold bronze age writers to the same standards as 10 year olds when considering if they had a valid scientific view on the origins of our universe.

  40. #40 rimpal
    July 9, 2008

    Turning water into wine, and feeding a few 10s of people, fish and loaves? That’s kid stuff, by Hindu standards! The early missionaries in India felt terribly shabby with their skinny rib “miracles”, as they found the heathens talking about deities with trillion year life cycles, playing football with entire planets, and swallowing up the sun. So they soon and quickly, to this day, dub them “unscientific” or fanciful, or simply plain corrupted fable! Look who’s complaining?

  41. #41 Celtic_Evolution
    July 9, 2008

    amphiox @ #38

    Plants before the sun doesn’t violate any laws. Photosynthesis works with any light of the right wavelengths, regardless of sourse, and “let there be light” is number one.

    Reaching. Let’s try this another way. Is there any way that plant life on this planet survives via photosynthesis from any source of light other than the sun? Sun created after plants still fails AFAIC.

  42. #42 Celtic_Evolution
    July 9, 2008

    And I know you’re not really defending it, amphiox… I just wanted to disagree on that point.

  43. #43 Sir Jebbington
    July 9, 2008

    Speaking of Dawkins, I’d like to point out this survey. Would somebody smack those “atheists”?

  44. #44 Paper Hand
    July 9, 2008

    #3 – The Bible isn’t even internally consistent. There are often two, contradictory, versions of the same story. Not to mention the logical inconsistency of the whole Jesus story. Why should Jesus have to die just so that God can decide to repeal his own irrational punishment for Adam’s sin? If God wants to do something, He could do it! And if he wanted everyone to follow him, why talk only to one tiny Middle-Eastern tribe?

  45. #45 mothwentbad
    July 9, 2008

    If we go with day-age theory bullshit, there’s the plants-before-sun problem, and that doesn’t square with the scientific account.

    If we go with 24-hour days, then those plants just have to go 24 hours without freezing to death somehow, and we’re in the “Satan with a shovel burying fossils” situation, anyway.

  46. #46 andrew
    July 9, 2008

    Brain Damage.

  47. #47 mothwentbad
    July 9, 2008

    You know, I’ve heard of people trying to create general relativity theories of how the day-age thing is both literal 24 hours AND billions of years. The upshot, obviously, is that we should be able to infer WHERE GOD LIVES. THINK ABOUT THAT! Don’t just pray, you lazy ass. Send a message by spaceship! We have his home address! IT’S IN THE BIBLE!

  48. #48 DingoDave
    July 9, 2008

    Amphiox wrote:
    -“Plants before the sun doesn’t violate any laws. Photosynthesis works with any light of the right wavelengths, regardless of sourse, and “let there be light” is number one.”

    Here is an exerpt from an article which I posted over at the ‘Debunking Christianity’ blog, in response to some of Dinesh D’Souza’s blatherings about the Genesis account of creation, and Yahweh’s command “Let there be light”;

    -“Three millennia later and the universe had reached its 3000-year birthday. Before this, the universe was dominated by radiation. However, while the density of matter drops as an inverse-cube law (volume), radiation density drops as an inverse-quartic (volume plus a red-shift effect). At this ripe-old age, matter took over as the dominant expansion material and the matter era began; the universe was on the order of 105 K at this point.

    The universe continued to expand and cool, but if we were to have existed back then (baring the fact that our atoms would not have yet been formed), we would not have been able to “see” anything. The universe was opaque to light and radiation.

    This is because all of the electrons were still too energetic – too hot – to be bound to nuclei, and therefore were able to roam freely about. This means that photons – particles of light – could not move about freely, for they kept being absorbed and re-emitted by the electrons.

    When the universe had aged to 380,000 years, it had cooled to approximately 3000 K (5000 °F). Electrons no longer had enough energy to overcome the attractive force of atomic nuclei, and became bound to atoms. Light could now stream forth unimpeded. This process is called “recombination,” and this “first light” is what we now see as Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation.”
    http://burro.astr.cwru.edu/stu/advanced/cosmos_history.html

    If Yahweh ever really said “let there be light”, then according to modern cosmologists, it took about 380 000 years for the universe to respond to his command. : D

    This Lennox guy doesn’t appear to be any better than D’Souza in his interpretation of Genesis.

  49. #49 Arthur
    July 9, 2008

    Genesis actually doesn’t try to describe a beginning, despite the bad translation of Genesis 1:1 that most of us are familiar with. It’s not “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Rather, it says something like this: “When God began to create heaven and earth … God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” According to the author of Genesis 1, any number of things could have happened before this point. But this doesn’t interest him. He is only describing what God supposedly did when he decided it was time to create the heavens and the earth.

    The Gen 2 creation account begins with a similar statement: “When the LORD God made earth and heaven … the LORD God formed man from the dust of the earth.” Again, it’s not described as an ultimate beginning, just a starting point for the story being told.

    There is absolutely no justification for the belief that Genesis describes a creation ex nihilo and that the Big Bang theory is in harmony with Genesis. Genesis simply does not describe, does not attempt to describe, the ultimate beginning of all things.

  50. #50 bastion
    July 10, 2008

    You creationists want to prove Genesis? Find a fossil bunny rabbit in the pre-cambrian. Go on, we’re waiting.

    Sigh. You really think this is any kind of real challenge?

    Surely you realize that God tests our faith by burying all those fossils so it looks as though the plants and animals from whence the fossils came lived and died over millions of years, instead of the actual Biblically verified 6,000.

    It’s simply another one of God’s many many many tests of our faith. He’s tricky. And he gives a lot of tricky tests.

  51. #51 Kevin
    July 10, 2008

    I liked the way Dawkins played this, as well. It reminded me of letting creationist Matthew Harrison Brady stammer and bluster himself into embarrassment at the end of “Inherit the Wind.”

  52. #52 j
    July 10, 2008

    Arthur:
    ” Genesis simply does not describe, does not attempt to describe, the ultimate beginning of all things.”

    I know several theologians from Dallas Baptist Seminary and Perkins School of Theology (SMU) that woud disagree with you, in fact, they would say you’re completely wrong. I’m sure I could check with more than a few from TCU, Baylor, Harden Simmons, etc that would contradict you too. In fact, I would wager it’s safe to say that 90% of the Southern Baptist Conference members would say you’re wrong. I’m sure the majority of Church o’ Christers concur, along with an overwhelming majority of Weslyans (Methodism, safe and bland). I can’t speak for the Presbyterians or Lutherans but since the number above represents the largest number of Protestants, I’d say your opinion was in the minority. Can you support your assertions?

    Anyway you slice it, it’s still baloney.

  53. #53 Dale
    July 10, 2008

    Ghost of Minnesota wrote at #5…

    Genesis says that daylight existed before the sun. How is that getting any kind of physics right?

    I believe God has his back turned to the Earth, and was bending over at the time…

  54. #54 Kseniya
    July 10, 2008

    It’s Creo-to-English Translation Time.

    Creo: “Got the physics right.”

    English: “Won a coin toss.”

  55. #55 J
    July 10, 2008

    Arthur,
    According to Genesis, God literally spoke the universe into existance, blessing his work each day (And God saw that it was good…)
    There is a specific order of work cited (they’re contary to any known laws of physics, but hey, whatcha gonna do?)
    Adam and Eve are specifically named as actual creations, as are their progeny and the generations following (Tons of very specific begotting).
    Trying to reconcile or spin the text of Genesis as not describing the beginning of all things is disingenuous at best; at worst….well, I’ve insulted enough people today.

  56. #56 j
    July 10, 2008

    “I believe God has his back turned to the Earth, and was bending over at the time…”

    Um, Dale? That would be the MOON…

  57. #57 tim Rowledge
    July 10, 2008

    I like to precis the beginning of the universe whilst at the same time taking the mickey out of genesis with
    “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was
    KABOOM!

  58. #58 ReallyMadScientist
    July 10, 2008

    If the act of observation changes the observed… does the quality of who is observing have any effect on the observed? And if everyone has started paying attention to metareality like reality tv, does this mean reality may have been changing because the wrong people are watching it?

    I’m trying to find some hypothesis to explain my country. Help would be appreciated.

  59. #59 JayB
    July 10, 2008

    Here’s the thing I’ve been noticing more and more lately.

    The cyclical assumptions they make are just absolutely astounding. Each point they make must be made off of the assumption that another point they make is true. “water into wine makes sense if the resurrection makes sense.” “The resurrection makes sense if the virgin birth was true.”

  60. #60 Kagato
    July 10, 2008

    I think I’ve got it figured out! God was using a BSP level editor.

    You start with an empty map — no terrain, just the water plane.

    1. The default map is unlit, so Let There Be
    # fullbright

    2. Add a skybox.

    3. Generate some terrain, and add some scenery objects. (trees, grass etc)

    4. Throw in an omnilight to properly illuminate the scene.

    5. Drop in some monsters creatures to wander about.

    6. Add a couple of player starts.

    7. And on the seventh day, He playtested.

  61. #61 Adam
    July 10, 2008

    Kagato, as a mapper for HL2, you just made my day.

  62. #62 BetentacledBrad
    July 10, 2008

    Ghost @5:

    Genesis says that daylight existed before the sun. How is that getting any kind of physics right?

    I assume that light getting here before its source was even switched on is intended to be further proof of god’s mad causality-violating skillz. Alternatively, of course, one could argue that it demonstrates the backwards thinking common among this set.

  63. #63 info_dump
    July 10, 2008

    Kagato,

    Wow, I must congratulate you on the nerdiest comment I’ve read on Pharyngula. And that’s saying a lot!

    :)

  64. #64 Jason
    July 10, 2008

    #63
    Aww, come on, he didn’t even mention triffids

  65. #65 386sx
    July 10, 2008

    He says that Adam’s naming of all the animals is a mandate for science. If Adam naming all the animals is a mandate for science, then I wonder what the destruction of Jericho would be a mandate for! That poor man has lost all ability to think straight about his religion. He even brought up the ol’ liar lunitic lord stuff.

  66. #66 Feynmaniac
    July 10, 2008

    Kagato,

    Wow, I must congratulate you on the nerdiest comment I’ve read on Pharyngula. And that’s saying a lot!

    That’s like being the fattest guy at fat camp or the whitest guy in the Gap.

    As for Lennox, his arguments are better than the usual religious ones, but there are still very weak. The abililty to rationalize is strong in this one.

    Finally, is it just me or are British people much more polite in debates. I’m used the debates being shouting matches between two very angry people.

  67. #67 God
    July 10, 2008

    The views expressed by John Lennox are his own and do not necessarily represent those of his maker.

  68. #68 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    July 10, 2008

    Kagato, it works the other way around in the Unreal BSP editor. There, you carve out space from a universe of matter. The sort of thing that might make a theologian’s head explode.

  69. #69 aleph1=c
    July 10, 2008

    This Genesis stuff is nothing. If you really want inconsistency: How can ace be both one and eleven? What kind of God would allow that?

  70. #70 Jay
    July 10, 2008

    Jesus, Lennox! How can a man spout so many words and say so little? The sophistry is nearly unbearable.

  71. #71 JM Inc.
    July 10, 2008

    Wow, I listened to this last night, and I was absolutely gobsmacked. By the end of the recording I just wanted to say to him:

    Actually, you haven’t described any scientific evidence whatsoever, all you’ve done is told me that you take at face value the profoundly incredible, non-reproducible claims of a two thousand year old document, the early publishing history of which is so ambiguous that we can’t even take the document’s own claims about its authorship seriously. Imagine you read of a paper by an unpublished author claiming to have squared the circle, except that the nobody has the paper, only copies of copies of copies of it, and none of the copies agree with one another on the details of the process, and, incidentally, the author claims exclusivity in the feat by virtue of unique circumstances surrounding his or her self.

    I loved the bit where Lennox said that scientific evidence has nothing to do with preference, as though… what? I don’t even know how this person is a mathematician, that really was scientific suicide. It was actually akin to scientific seppuku before a live audience. Or, even better then, the part where Lennox very earnestly asked Richard what sort of factor caused him fail to see that the Christian side has evidence. Wow. Smoking pieces of scrap irony indeed.

  72. #72 Dr Strangelove
    July 10, 2008

    It doesn’t matter what Genesis got right. It’s still not based on evidence gathered from observations of reality. Proper science trumps anything else.

  73. #73 JM Inc.
    July 10, 2008

    Frak, sorry all; accidentally hit the button twice.

  74. #74 SEF
    July 10, 2008

    @ Jason #2

    So apparently plants, the earth and the sea are all older than the sun.

    It’s worse than that. Just about every bit of explicit ordering in there is wrong – including putting plants before animals (which is exactly the sort of mistake you’d expect an ignorant primitive to make merely on superficial observation of food chains).

    @ Neil B. #17

    You guessed wrong.

    No, I think you missed PZ’s actual point behind the remark – which was that real believers and even many of those in leadership or academic theological positions, ie nearly every believer anyone is going to encounter(!), aren’t the “sophisticated” theologians that some apologists would like to pretend they are when claiming the real arguments aren’t being addressed. The pathetic arguments of the overwhelming majority of religious nutters are the true (coal-)face of the religion. The evaporating (and also bad) apologetics of the vanishingly tiny minority are not the reality of the situation.

  75. #75 Christophe Thill
    July 10, 2008

    Has the man never heard about serious Biblical historians ? The kind of guys who can explain to you the real, metaphorical meaning of each element in the text ?

    For instance, I had one recently explain me that mentions of animals actually mean peoples. For instance, the lions (as in Daniel in the lions’ pit) actually represent the Babylonians. I told the guy about the famous story of the prophet calling two bears to maim and eat the children mocking him. He said that the bears must represent the Medes, and that the story should not be interpreted as a narrative, but rather as some sort of prophetic threat.

    I guess the conclusion is that anybody who considers anything told in the Bible as having literally happened is terribly, terribly naive. Even if he considers himself sophisticated.

  76. #76 Paul Young
    July 10, 2008

    On the basis that the likes of Lennox and SquarePants McGrath are so badly infected but can’t be taken down behind the barn and shot – then I suggest we should not engage with them whatsoever and just let them die out naturally. There are not the young ones coming thru to replace them.

  77. #78 Nick Gotts
    July 10, 2008

    Christopher Thill@76

    Are you being serious? True, the literal meanings are generally absurd, but once you go to allegory and metaphor, who’s to say what any of it means?

    “He said that the bears must represent the Medes”
    On what evidence?

  78. #79 MPG
    July 10, 2008

    This Genesis stuff is nothing. If you really want inconsistency: How can ace be both one and eleven? What kind of God would allow that?

    Posted by: aleph1=c | July 10, 2008 3:18 AM

    It must be quantum. Schrodinger’s black(cat)jack – where you can’t tell if you’ve won or lost until you go to cash in your chips!

  79. #80 DiscoveredJoys
    July 10, 2008

    Talking of miracles, you never hear of a (Christian) miracle where someone grows back an amputated limb. Strange that.

    Bringing people back to life, yes. Casting out demons, yes. Feeding 5,000 people from the contents of a small lunchpack, yes. Growing a limb? Nope.

  80. #81 geru
    July 10, 2008

    I especially enjoyed the part where Dawkins points out that any god could be just as imaginary as the next one, Jesus could be just as fictional as Thor, and Lennox replies something like “Prove it!”.

    At times I almost felt sorry for Lennox, he really seemed like a confused dementia patient who was forced to answer to questions he didn’t understand, with the gasping and stuttering.

    If I remember correctly he really started to babble around the “Disciples vs 9/11 attackers” argument, saying something like “Christianity can’t be a fraud, because if it is then there could be all kinds of frauds in the world!”.

    That’ll surely shut any atheist up…

    It’s just sad that every time I hear a priest talk, they’re either quoting the Bible or making up complete gibberish themselves. At one point I was under the impression that ‘qualified’ priests had some sort of philosophical education and general understanding of the world, but seeing them talk just makes me even more certain that their speeches are not only gibberish to the listeners, but also to themselves.

  81. #82 Kevin Anthoney
    July 10, 2008

    Explain, on theological or exegetical grounds, why three generations of quarks and three generations of leptons exist, why the half-life of the proton is greater than 10^32 years, and whether or not quantum computation in a de Sitter universe can solve NP-complete problems in polynomial time.

    1) Because pi = 3;

    2) Because God made it that way;

    3) Jesus is the answer to all problems.

    Easy!

  82. #83 Shane
    July 10, 2008

    I quite like Lennox – like Alister McGrath (and me) he comes from Northern Ireland. Unlike McGrath, he hasn’t shoved a load of marbles into his bake (Northern Irish for “mouth”) in order to disguise his accent. He doesn’t have delusions that he’s the reincarnation of CS Lewis (shudder). He has also written a much better book than McGrath’s (“God’s Undertaker”). GU gives a much better account of the actual Christian position; it is much more cogently (and concisely) argued than McGrath’s drivel, and is just generally better-constructed.

    HOWEVER, his argument remains totally bogus; his analogies are disastrously inapplicable; he shifts the meaning of words in mid-sentence (e.g. “faith” – watch out for this one – a lot of them do it), and he is the king of special pleading, double-dipping, false analogy, and downright nuttiness.

    The crazy thing is that this is the *best* that theists can do, yet it is just so totally lame. I used to be an evangelical Christian (brought up that way, you understand), so to get where I am today (atheist, of course), I had to work my way through a heck of a lot of that stuff. It takes time – otherwise I’d have been an atheist long before. I was particularly tickled by the reference to “Doctor Luke” who “probably trained in Alexandria”. This is utter cobblers. Luke, if he was a doctor at all (and the evidence is very slim) was a rubbish one – even the gospel of Mark provides more medical information, and given that plagiarism is considered a major medical offence, he seems to have got off rather lightly. Lennox just piles supposition on top of myth on top of hyperbole on top of ignorance.

    The great thing about RD is that he is utterly unfazed by rampant verbage. He cuts straight to the heart of the issue. Of course, the sources of the verbage then accuse him of being “strident” or “crude” when he strikes them down, because he does it clearly, without recourse to waffle. But if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. He hardly got a word in edgeways, but he kicked Lennox’s butt.

  83. #84 Peter
    July 10, 2008

    Could Jeezus walk on custard?

  84. #85 King Aardvark
    July 10, 2008

    “I saw Penn pull real honest to crap money out of a nearly naked girl’s ear….”

    At first, I thought it said “nearly naked girl’s REAR…” That would have been much more interesting.

  85. #86 martin
    July 10, 2008

    [quote]Actually, lots of physicists think the universe in effect “came from nothing” – (Hawking-Hartle, Alex Vilenkin, etc.) they get around “logic” by saying it’s a closed bubble in space time, quantum “woo” (as many of you would call it were it not going your way) about time being vague or whatever. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you the BB had to be caused by something else, but I wanted you to know that supposedly like-minded folks did not agree with your take.
    [/quote]

    Well…. you don’t even need any woo to abandon the idea, that the universe couldn’t have come from nothing.

    If there was absolutely nothing, then there weren’t any logical or physical rules either. These kinda thing only tend to make sense, if there’s something to which they may apply. Including the “rule” that Universes can’t pop into existence spontaneously.

    And if there were physical and/or logical rules, which would have applied to prevent the universe from popping into existence, well, then it didn’t pop into existence from nothing because there had to be something ;)

    So, the whole “Universes can’t pop into existence” rule is quite pointless. There’s no logical reason at all why they shouldn’t.

  86. #87 Lofcaudio
    July 10, 2008

    Geral:

    Therefore, they have nothing and neither do we some thousands of years later to base these claims. These miracle stories are literally strawmen set up in the wind.

    Actually, there is quite a bit of evidence of the historical veracity of the Bible, though most of it is circumstantial. For example, there is little debate that the early Christian church was quite robust by 100 A.D. and even as early as 60 A.D. Much of the early church growth was as a result of the very people who supposedly personally witnessed the life of Jesus Christ. If the miracle stories were not true, then you would have thought this religion would have had no basis to grow and would have died out like so many of the other religions of that time. Yet, these very people who witnessed the life of Christ were also willing to die for their beliefs (as so many of them did).

    One other bit of circumstantial evidence is that the Bible is not written as a fictional account. Though fiction existed at that time, those that were captured in writing were stories that told simple plots with no accompanying details. Yet the Bible contains lots of details just as would be expected by a historical (factual) writing. The inclusion of descriptive details did not enter written fiction for another 1500 years.

    I’m not suggesting that this is proof of the Bible’s veracity, but there is some evidence that Jesus did exist and did some pretty amazing things.

  87. #88 Nick Gotts
    July 10, 2008

    If the miracle stories were not true, then you would have thought this religion would have had no basis to grow and would have died out like so many of the other religions of that time. Yet, these very people who witnessed the life of Christ were also willing to die for their beliefs (as so many of them did).

    This is complete nonsense. All religions generate miracle stories, often borrowing them from earlier religions or contemporary rivals. The gospels contradict each other, and contain absurdities such as the elaborate story to justify the claim Jesus was born in Bethlehem (the idea that the Roman Empire would order everyone to return to the birthplace of a remote ancestor for a census is ludicrous, and the dates don’t even fit – Quirinius was not governor of Syria while Herod was alive).

  88. #89 Dutch Delight
    July 10, 2008

    @Lofcaudio

    “Though fiction existed at that time, those that were captured in writing were stories that told simple plots with no accompanying details.”

    Are you being serious here or what?

  89. #90 Nick Gotts
    July 10, 2008

    Lofcaudio,

    You might also be interested in learning how quickly extraordinary beliefs can take hold when a largely illiterate culture is conquered by a much stronger and more technically advanced one, which it both resents and envies. Google “John Frum”.

  90. #91 Nick Gotts
    July 10, 2008

    martin@87.
    That’s a good point, which I haven’t seen made before!

  91. #92 Shane
    July 10, 2008

    Lofcaudio, that is what I used to be told over and over again before I realised it was nonsense. The bible is chock full of mistakes and contraditions; its historical veracity is no better than any other ragtag collection of texts from the various periods in which it was cobbled together. The fact that Christianity took hold (after a faltering start) and grew is evidence for the credulity of humans and the propagability of a meme in a hugely superstitious melting pot world, NOT evidence for the good character (much less the resurrection) of a dead man called Jesus the Nazarene.

    If you read “Jesus the Jew” by Geza Vermes, you will find that Jesus the Nazarene fits very well into a pretty common Galilean holy bloke mould that was plentiful at the time. He was nothing special; indeed, several of his stories may well have been pinched from *other* holy blokes of the period. He’s a composite character. The “Christ” malarkey is an accretion that took place several decades after his death.

    There is no great mystery here. This sort of nonsense happens all the time.

  92. #93 Citizen Z
    July 10, 2008

    If the miracle stories were not true, then you would have thought this religion would have had no basis to grow and would have died out like so many of the other religions of that time.

    You’re not serious, are you? Buddhism hasn’t died out, Islam hasn’t died out. (And IIRC they both have better first-hand sources.) What makes Christianity so different from those two?

  93. #94 Zapowiedzi
    July 10, 2008

    What a fantastic analysis, thanks very much.

  94. #95 Andrés Diplotti
    July 10, 2008

    If the miracle stories were not true, then you would have thought this religion would have had no basis to grow and would have died out like so many of the other religions of that time. Yet, these very people who witnessed the life of Christ were also willing to die for their beliefs (as so many of them did).

    I find this kind of “it has to be true or else people wouldn’t believe it” argument funny, mostly because those who posit it pretend that it applies only to their beliefs, not to the beliefs of other people. A position consistent with it would be to believe in every religion which has followers, which is clearly not the case for those who bring the argument forward.

  95. #96 JoJo
    July 10, 2008

    One other bit of circumstantial evidence is that the Bible is not written as a fictional account. Though fiction existed at that time, those that were captured in writing were stories that told simple plots with no accompanying details. Yet the Bible contains lots of details just as would be expected by a historical (factual) writing. The inclusion of descriptive details did not enter written fiction for another 1500 years.

    There are a couple of problems with this argument:

    1. Homer, particularly the Odyssey, is considered to be fiction and is chock full of descriptive details. Homer, if he existed, lived much earlier than when the Old Testament was put into more or less final form. Herodotus said that Homer lived 400 years before his own time, which would place him at about 850 BC.

    2. Both the Book of Job and Book of Ruth are considered by Biblical scholars as being fiction. Job and Ruth were part of the Ketuvim, fixed in final form during the 6th Century BC. Both of these fictional books are quite descriptive.

    Fictional description was extant long before the supposed time of Jesus.

  96. #97 Jeph
    July 10, 2008

    What genuine miracles or mighty deeds did Joseph Smith or L. Ron Hubbard perform that caused their religions to grow? Looking inside a hat? Writing Battlefield Earth?

  97. #98 Kseniya
    July 10, 2008

    The inclusion of descriptive details did not enter written fiction for another 1500 years

    Really? Awesome! I knew it!

    Beowulf is true!!!!1!!!!1!11!!

  98. #99 Dutch Delight
    July 10, 2008

    @JoJo
    Exactly what I was thinking with point 1 :)

  99. #100 Snitzels
    July 10, 2008

    Geez, I couldn’t get through that whole recording. Lennox is maddening to listen to. Time and again he’s asked “what is the evidence?” and over and over and over we hear statements that start with “I believe…”

    Honestly, you have to be insane or a liar to think that makes some kind of sense and actually believe your own words.

  100. #101 Andrés Diplotti
    July 10, 2008

    If I may paraphrase/rip off G. B. Shaw, I think it all boils down to:

    “Religion is your conviction that your myth is special because you believe in it.”

    All religious apologetics, from the simplest excuses to the most sophisticated theologies, are built upon this assumption. That’s why they are so unconvincing: it just won’t occur to apologists that outsiders won’t see their religion as any different from others.

  101. #102 Aquaria
    July 10, 2008

    He has no problem saying that, since the whole Christian hypothetical situation is internally consistent, he accepts that it’s true.

    Yeah, well, Pride and Prejudice is internally consistent, and it’s still not true, never mind the mmm yummy reality of Colin Firth.

  102. #103 Marcus Ranum
    July 10, 2008

    Lofcaudio writes:
    Actually, there is quite a bit of evidence of the historical veracity of the Bible, though most of it is circumstantial.

    Absolutely. There was a Rome. Ditto Egypt. There was a Caesar, etc. Etc.

    But that’s like saying “Spider man was a real person” because there actually was a New York City, and there have been any number of girls whose initials work out to MJ, and there used to be newspapers, etc.

    The beauty of fiction is that you don’t have to make up an entire alternate reality. You slip the fictional bits into selected places within historical reality and it’s pretty hard to find the seams.

  103. #104 Lofcaudio
    July 10, 2008

    You’re not serious, are you? Buddhism hasn’t died out, Islam hasn’t died out. (And IIRC they both have better first-hand sources.) What makes Christianity so different from those two?

    You mention three religions of thousands which appear to have had some staying power. What distinguishes Christianity is how quickly this religion flourished despite a very strong cultural opposition (the only other religious phenomenon like it is present-day China with…Christianity, interestingly enough). The very people who were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus were also willing to lose their lives over these beliefs. Like I said, this is not proof of anything, but I find it to be something other than “no evidence whatsoever.”

  104. #105 Logicel
    July 10, 2008

    Lennox is just another common variety jesus junkie; they are a dime a dozen.

  105. #106 co
    July 10, 2008

    I saw Penn pull real honest to crap money out of a nearly naked girl’s ear, and catch a bullet in his teeth! Stupid jesus couldn’t even miracle a couple of nails out of his hands. Retard.

    holy crap that was funny.

    Indeed. In fact, the etymology of “miracle”, if you go back far enough, is simply “something which causes a smile.”

  106. #107 Matt Penfold
    July 10, 2008

    “Like I said, this is not proof of anything, but I find it to be something other than “no evidence whatsoever.””

    It would seem to be evidence that the early Christian leaders were highly persuasive men.

  107. #108 Nick Gotts
    July 10, 2008

    What distinguishes Christianity is how quickly this religion flourished despite a very strong cultural opposition (the only other religious phenomenon like it is present-day China with…Christianity, interestingly enough).

    Um, why do you think Muhammed fled from Mecca to Medina?

  108. #109 qbsmd
    July 10, 2008

    This discussion is infuriating. As I’ve said on Dawkins’s site, Lennox does not substantiate any of his claims. He has no problem saying that, since the whole Christian hypothetical situation is internally consistent, he accepts that it’s true. And more than once, he acts genuinely surprised that it isn’t a convincing argument.

    Posted by: Big City

    He’s a mathematician. That is their standard for truth. Applied mathematicians require something that is internally consistent to also be useful.

  109. #110 Nick Gotts
    July 10, 2008

    Come to that, why did the Mormons flee to Utah? Why were so many Bahais who had known Bahuallah willing to be martyred for their religion? Ditto for Sikhs who had known Guru Nanak? Why did L. Ron Hubbard launch the Sea Org? you’ll really have to learn a bit about the history of religions other than your own if you want to be taken seriously when you make these sorts of claims.

  110. #111 tceisele
    July 10, 2008

    Lofcaudio [#105]:

    Your argument that the willingness of adherents to die for a faith is evidence that the faith is worth something, is flawed. Joseph Smith and several of his followers were, by any reasonable definition of the term, martyred for their faith, would you agree that Mormonism is therefore something other than a fraud? I wouldn’t. It is no trick at all to find examples of people who believed in outrageously ludicrous doctrines, both the founders of religions and their immediate followers, who nevertheless were willing to die for their faith. This isn’t evidence of truth, this is evidence of mental illness.

  111. #112 qbsmd
    July 10, 2008

    Well, there are three possible ways for the cosmos to be. It can be linear with a beginning, it can be linear and eternal, or it can be cyclical. Genesis had a one in three chance of getting it right, and lots of other cultures got it right too. Greece and Babylon for instance.

    Posted by: Bacopa

    Which one does Hawking’s No Boundary Proposal count as? I don’t think any of the ideas about the nature of the universe from the bronze age qualify as “right”.

  112. #113 MartinM
    July 10, 2008

    The very people who were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus were also willing to lose their lives over these beliefs.

    I’ve heard this many times, but I’ve yet to see any evidence that it’s actually true. It seems to be more Church tradition than historical fact.

  113. #114 Bacopa
    July 10, 2008

    Actually the whole census thing in Luke makes me think the Jesus legends are mostly based on the actions of one person, or at least not entirely fictional. The author had to insert this false detail to make the birth of a real person from Nazareth fit with earlier writings that picked Bethlehem as the birthplace.

    As for there being a lack of detail in ancient writings there is great detail in the Iliad, even to the point of describing how the optic nerve can be seen dangling from a spear point.

    As for Luke being a doctor, all I can say is that Luke is written in a style of Greek that retains many features from the classical era rather than fully stripped down Kione Greek. But this only means that Luke was either ethnically Greek or recieved a formal education in Greek.

  114. #115 qbsmd
    July 10, 2008

    When I was in school and was forced to do math, it was no good to just give the answer, even if it was right, you had to actually show how you derived the answer.

    I guess it’s presumptuous to hold bronze age writers to the same standards as 10 year olds when considering if they had a valid scientific view on the origins of our universe.

    Posted by: Dutch Delight

    To be fair, I think the whole point is that they’re claiming that the existence of knowledge that shouldn’t have existed proves divine intervention. Your analogy is good: one reason for showing work is to prevent cheaters from copying answers. Divine intervention is a civilization obtaining information by cheating, and they are trying to detect it the same way.

  115. #116 Marcus Ranum
    July 10, 2008

    Lofcaudio writes:
    The very people who were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus were also willing to lose their lives over these beliefs.

    You could say exactly the same about Osama Bin Laden or virtually any other revolutionary figurehead.

    Looking at Jesus in his real historical context, he was merely one of dozens of messiahs that were operating in Palestine at that time. They were, to put it in modern terms, jewish ultra-nationalists – some of whom embraced political violence (i.e.: they were “terrorists”) like the Sicarii. They fought among themselves and periodically with the Romans – but primarily among themselves because fighting with Rome was a quick and pointless death. Some of Jesus’ followers were not particularly savory characters and bear the hallmarks of professional revolutionaries or con-men (e.g.: Paul of Tarsus)

    Here’s a sincere and helpful suggestion: study the near-term history of individuals like Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard. By looking at better-documented religions we can learn a great deal about how religions start, the kind of people they initially attract, and how and why they schism. While you’re reading about Smith and his nutbag magic hat, and the poor deluded saps who fed and clothed him while he started his con, ask yourself whether there are similarities to christianity. While you’re reading about how the professional priesthood (Brigham Young) forms around the cooling corpse of a messiah, remember Paul of Tarsus. Then read the stories of Mohammed and Hubbard and Koresh and ask yourself “what’s different?” If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize pretty quickly that Jesus was, like all these other conmen and charlatans, nothing special.

  116. #117 negentropyeater
    July 10, 2008

    Dawkins played it right, letting Lennox just run off at the mouth and expose the inanity of the theological position.

    Of course, from the point of view of someone who already knows that all of this purported evidence is bullshit, that’s quite evident.

    But what about someone who is still unconvinced by either, who doesn’t know really, is still searching for an answer, or has a problem with religions but still can’t let go of God ? What about them, do we think about them, all these waiting to be convinced, because when we analyse such a debate if we always systematically do it from the point of view of someone who has already done all the work and is already convinced, then, there’s not going to be much to improve.

    Can we try to analyse such a debate from the point of view of those who can be convinced but need some convincing ?

    With this in mind, I don’t see how letting Lennox make all sorts of arguments which were left unanswered was such a good job. Dawkins seemed bored. Where was the Dawkins who I’ve seen so many times answering with brilliance in tic tac rapidity to all sorts of very dodgy arguments ?

  117. #118 Aquaria
    July 10, 2008

    One other bit of circumstantial evidence is that the Bible is not written as a fictional account. Though fiction existed at that time, those that were captured in writing were stories that told simple plots with no accompanying details. Yet the Bible contains lots of details just as would be expected by a historical (factual) writing. The inclusion of descriptive details did not enter written fiction for another 1500 years.

    Jumpin Jeebus on a pogo stick…

    Descriptive details are abundant LONG before the Bible. Like in Gilgamesh, the Ramayana, the Mah?bh?rata, and, as mentioned upthread, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

    So since they contain a lot of details, that makes them factual works, too, and they’re lots older than the Hebrew fairy tale, besides. The Noah’s Ark story is even a very clear ripoff of Gilgamesh! If the existence of descriptive details in a literary work involving deities is sufficient reason to believe in their respective big Kahunas, then I guess everyone must now worship Utu, Vishnu, and/or Zeus.

    If the Jeebus tale is true based on the existence of descriptive details from contemporary sources because fiction doesn’t exist for another 1500 years, then Ovid and Virgil are definitely true. Let the worship of Apollo and Jupiter commence.

  118. #119 Marcus Ranum
    July 10, 2008

    (Forgot to mention)
    There were, literally, messiahs on street corners all over the place in Palestine under Roman occupation – each of them trying to make it to the big tent. One of the most accurate portrayals to date of the political/religious landscape of that time is in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” All except the part about Biggus Dickus. ;)

  119. #120 chgo_liz
    July 10, 2008

    @105 Lofcaudio:

    .. The very people who were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus were also willing to lose their lives over these beliefs. Like I said, this is not proof of anything, but I find it to be something other than “no evidence whatsoever.”>

    In addition to everyone else’s points, how about a very simple one: show me the (unaltered) video. Yes, there are stories that were written down many years later talking about all the martyrs who died to get the religion started. How do you know that they are factual accounts rather than a creation myth (creation of the religion in this case rather than of the Earth)?

  120. #121 BAllanJ
    July 10, 2008

    I love the history according to Monty Python bit…

    So willing to die for your leader indicates something?

    Koolaid anyone?

  121. #122 Aquaria
    July 10, 2008

    Too bad we don’t have any texts from the Aztecs. I think they were very obviously willing to die for their beliefs.

    Jews were dying for their beliefs long before Christianity. Plus, it’s still around. Not in huge numbers, but still holding on.

    Buddhists have been willing to die for faith, too. Buddhism’s growth is nothing to sneeze at, either. While its explosion through the Far East is clear, less known is that there were Greek Buddhist monks by the mid 200s BCE, and Buddhism had even reached Britain in numbers high enough for Origen to write about its followers there in the 2nd Century CE. And it’s still around too.

    Of course, Hinduism is even older, and it’s hung on. Plus Hindus were long willing to die for their faith. Unless one doesn’t count those women throwing themselves on pyres.

    And I don’t think anyone is in doubt these days that Muslims will die for their faith. And it is growing. Big.

    So in terms of willingness to die for the faith, or the rate of growth, Christianity is hardly exceptional.

  122. #123 BAllanJ
    July 10, 2008

    Oh, and who let God into this thread (#67)? I thought He would have been banned for sockpuppetry alone!

  123. #124 qbsmd
    July 10, 2008

    God shows up every once in a while, but it’s always short and in context. Sockpuppetry is one person pretending that a group of people agree with an idea. I think using a different username is acceptable if it’s necessary to make a joke.

  124. #125 BAllanJ
    July 10, 2008

    OK…. I thought sock puppetry was using a different name but saying the same damned (?!) thing. I got God’s joke, just tried to make my own (lame) one :-)

  125. #126 Stephen Couchman
    July 10, 2008

    A minor observation, but one gets the impression from the presenter/host, during his closing comments, that he was surprised Dawkins wasn’t eating with his feet, so to speak.

  126. #127 Richard Bond
    July 10, 2008

    I agree with negentropyeater (#118): Lennox was spouting utter rubbish, unfounded assertions about evidence being particularly annoying, and RD let him get away with much of it. Greatly as I admire RD, he does not live up to his opponents’ description as a militant atheist in this instance. I wish that he had been much more aggressive.

    Richard.

  127. #128 Steve Jeffers
    July 10, 2008

    ‘I wish that he had been much more aggressive.’

    Dawkins is great. All hail him. But … I know what he says, I’ve read his books. It’s really interesting to see him prod and poke a theologian. He gives the guy plenty of rope.

    Once again, it’s a theologian who is billed as being smart, a teacher, someone who’s thought all this through. Lennox just sounds so … befuddled.

    The thing I find so extraordinary: they are clearly discussing the same ‘magisterium’. They’re talking about the same things, in the same way, using the same language. And Dawkins is clearly *right* and Lennox is clearly failing to fit his religion to the universe.

  128. #129 R Hampton
    July 10, 2008

    For literal reading, my favorite passage is this (from Genesis 3, King James Version):

    9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

    10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

    Adam hid from God!

    Well, either that or God was pretending to be less than all-knowing — that’s deceitful. On a related question, does the Bible ever actually claim that God is omniscient?

  129. #130 Shane
    July 10, 2008

    In the “spirit” of true objective measurement, I used a Chess clock to time how long Lennox spoke, as compared to Dawkins.

    Lennox burned all 35 minutes I had preset on his clock.

    Dawkins’ side of the Chess clock was still showing 24 at the recording’s end; he’d spoken for LESS than 11 minutes, in total.

    Dawkins deserves credit for being being so polite and courteous… and for doing all of the other wonderful things he does for the cause of reason and humanism.

    I’m still shaking my head in “disbelief” at the things said by this “regiculous” Lennox chap.

    Down with Childhood Indoctrination of arbitrary belief systems! Up with Science and rational thinking!

  130. #131 John Marley
    July 10, 2008

    Lofcaudio:

    For example, there is little debate that the early Christian church was quite robust by 100 A.D. and even as early as 60 A.D. Much of the early church growth was as a result of the very people who supposedly personally witnessed the life of Jesus Christ.

    I’m a bit late to this, and maybe it has already been mentioned, but by that argument, Scientology is every bit as valid as Xianity. (Which it is: Not at all)

  131. #132 arachnophilia
    July 11, 2008

    @tex: (#24)

    Apologists will sometimes argue the Hebrew word for day, ‘yom,’ could mean any kind of a day, such as a 24 hr. day, or a longer, but non-specific, period as in ‘back in the day’ or ‘in days of yore’. How to determine what an ambiguious word means? The best way is to look for context in the nearby words. My translation (actually several of them) of the bible states that on each day the Hebrew god created something, and then a night passed and morning came, bringing the next day.

    yeah, this is a big pet peeve of mine. people only do it to justify the bible against a more modern scientific understanding of the world, wanting the bible to be right in some manner of speaking. there’s no literary or translation reason for it.

    doing so, they play fast and loose with language (completely ignoring any rules of grammar or usage), and sometimes completely bastardize jewish interpretative works that talk about symbolism.

    the context, actually, goes much further than just “evening and morning.” you have to read the whole passage, going from genesis 1:1 to 2:4a. as it turns out, there’s a very good social reason for everything in this chapter. it describes the origin of the hebrew work week, and shabbat. shabbat being, perhaps, the single most important cultural phenomenon in judaism, save god himself. it is, afterall, the commandment that comes right after all the bits about honoring god in the ten commandments. and breaking it was apparently punishable by death. so it’s about the week — a literal week.

    further proof? five out seven of the days that are named in the text are the actual hebrew words for that day of the week. “day two” is the literal translation for “monday.” the only days that are different are sunday, “first day” instead of the biblical “one day” and saturday, shabbat, which is derived from the biblical “day seven.” it’s about the structure of the week, and it’s used to define the structure of the week.

    to talk about it as loose periods of time is to completely lose the point of the text, because you’re more interested in it being right than understanding what it’s trying to say. and it’s wrong, too: “in the day” is an idiomatic phrase, and most modern translations render it “when.” “days of his life numbered…” is also an idiomatic phrase. you can’t use the looser meaning outside of that idiom — context matters.

    I am not sure how you get nights and mornings on the days before the sun is created,

    one is forced to wonder that, yes. but apparently, there was light that defined the daytime. genesis 1 tends portray god was working from chaos towards order. the most probable explanation i can think of is that they though of the sun not so much as a source of light, but the organized container of light — what’d you get if you collected light into one place. they describe the creation of the seas in a similar manner…

    it’s hard to try to read these texts without modern preconceptions. we understand today that the sun is a giant ball of burning gas undergoing nuclear fusion millions of miles away. the people who wrote the bible didn’t know that — they thought it was a light, affixed to the solid dome of the heavens that covered the flat earth.

    At least the YECers get this part right. Which makes me appreciate them much more, at least for their honesty on this point, than the dissembling OECers and IDers who have to deny both science and one of the clearest passages in their scripture.

    yeah, i’m with you on this one. they’re crazy, but at least they’re honest.

    @mothwentbad: (#28)

    Then God creates all non-human animals of the planet from scratch individually, and then creates man – not from mammals, but from raw dirt – another epic fail. That’s not a poetic metaphor for evolution. That’s a poetic metaphor for the Bible being retarded (unless you grant leniency because of the time in which it was written, but that’s the kind of generosity I reserve for dead religions)

    not when BOTH creation passages go out of their way to portray man as god’s special and greatest creation, albeit in different manners. the first account has god create indirectly by command, except for a few key things, such as man, and making everything he would need in advance. the second has god creating man first, and then figuring out what he needs as he needs it. in the first account, the earth brings forth the animals (you can read this as evolution at god’s command, but that’s reaching). but god creates man personally. reading the text carefully, there can be no apology.

    @celtic evolution: (#41)

    Let’s try this another way. Is there any way that plant life on this planet survives via photosynthesis from any source of light other than the sun? Sun created after plants still fails AFAIC.

    well, yes. but you’re really overthinking it. in genesis, the sun is put in the sky to mark time, not to provide light. the light was already there. as i said above, the idea that light comes from the sun and not the other way around seems to have been somewhat foreign to them. and i sincerely doubt they understood photosynthesis. i’m not trying to knock the authors of the bible — they just weren’t educated in modern science.

    @paper hand: (#44)

    The Bible isn’t even internally consistent.

    neither is your local library, which also often contains two versions of the same story. heck, i have at least one other book on my shelf next to my copy of the bible that isn’t internally consistent either: a 3 volume norton anthology of ancient literature.

    collections of texts will never be completely internally consistent. even if they’re written by the same author, at close to the same time. just look at “star wars.” but with a library of texts like the bible, written by 40+ different authors, in two different countries and one occupied state, in three different languages, over the course of at least 500 years, and in many different styles… we shouldn’t expect it to agree.

    hell, if we want to be completely honest about it, some books in the bible were specifically written to argue against other books. job is essentially a long diatribe against the wisdom movement, which was responsible for books like jeremiah. the two are fundamentally opposed ideologically.

    the people who expect the bible to be internally consist, really, are opperating from the very same misconception as the nutters who insist that it is.

    If God wants to do something, He could do it!

    well, in some books of the bible. in others, he’s a lot less than omnipotent. the bible is a human book, written by and for humans, and expresses many different ideas about who or what god is. some books, he’s big and powerful and does everything. in others, he’s weaker, and kind of petty. in still others, he’s not even there.

    @arthur: (#49)

    Genesis actually doesn’t try to describe a beginning, despite the bad translation of Genesis 1:1 that most of us are familiar with. It’s not “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Rather, it says something like this: “When God began to create heaven and earth … God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” According to the author of Genesis 1, any number of things could have happened before this point. But this doesn’t interest him. He is only describing what God supposedly did when he decided it was time to create the heavens and the earth.

    yes and no. that translation is more correct (thanks to rashi and orlinsky), yes. i prefer “when god began creating…” because it more technically fits the grammar. there’s no infinitive. but that’s pretty minor.

    but no, there is nothing before. “heaven and earth” is a merism, meaning “everything.” the whole intent of the passage is that it marks out time (see above). there is no time before time is laid out. there is, however, water.

    The Gen 2 creation account begins with a similar statement: “When the LORD God made earth and heaven … the LORD God formed man from the dust of the earth.” Again, it’s not described as an ultimate beginning, just a starting point for the story being told.

    yes, but that starting point, essentially, is the beginning. the question needs to be asked, “when did god make earth and heaven?” and “what was there before?” if god did this multiple times, in hebrew mythology, they would need to indicate which time, wouldn’t they?

    There is absolutely no justification for the belief that Genesis describes a creation ex nihilo

    on the contrary, everything is organized out of the primordial element: water. you have to understand it in the context of ancient alchemy.

    and that the Big Bang theory is in harmony with Genesis. Genesis simply does not describe, does not attempt to describe, the ultimate beginning of all things.

    well, it does. but it’s still not in harmony with modern science, including the big bang.

    @kagato: (#60) that’s the greatest thing i’ve read all year.

    @christophe thill: (#76)

    I guess the conclusion is that anybody who considers anything told in the Bible as having literally happened is terribly, terribly naive. Even if he considers himself sophisticated.

    let’s not confuse symbolism with metaphor. and let’s try to remember that these texts are multilayered, and meant to be read both ways simultaneously. sounds silly, but ask your biblical historian friend about “pardes.”

    and, well, some texts are more metaphorical than others. you simply CANNOT understand a text like ezekiel without working out the metaphors. but books like genesis… you sort of have to force the metaphors onto. not every book is written in the same style.

    @jojo: (#97)

    2. Both the Book of Job and Book of Ruth are considered by Biblical scholars as being fiction. Job and Ruth were part of the Ketuvim, fixed in final form during the 6th Century BC. Both of these fictional books are quite descriptive.

    i’m not sure i’d call job “descriptive.” overly poetic and belabored, perhaps. job is actually two different texts — one that is a philosophical argument contained in poetry, and one that is a more traditional narrative (and not very descriptive by modern standards).

    actually, one would expect the histories to be less descriptive. fiction is descriptive and flowery and full of narrative. history is a little colder and more academic. compare genesis to the closest thing the bible has to history, kings.

    @marcus ranum: (#120)

    There were, literally, messiahs on street corners all over the place in Palestine under Roman occupation – each of them trying to make it to the big tent.

    yes and no. from what i know about first century judea/palestine, there were many supposed messiahs, but it wasn’t like they were on every street corner. looking at the history and saying that is a bit like looking at a picture of that “repent! the end is near!” guy or the “god hates fags” crowd, and assuming they’re on every street corner now.

    that said, those that claimed to be the messiah were more common under roman occupation than your average christian would expect. one even lead an assualt on jerusalem. and i wouldn’t be terribly surprised if someone claiming to be the messiah was responsible for the revolt ~70 ad, that prompted rome to demolish the second temple and rename the area “palestine.” the occupation, of course, led to many of them. the literal jewish sense of the messiah is the one who will rule over a united israel, and bring the jews back from various exiles (and expell foreign occupiers).

    jesus seems to be different, and that’s almost certainly why he’s still remembered today. he doesn’t fit that context of the messiah who would expell the outsiders at all. actually, he doesn’t really fit any jewish notion of the messiah… but that’s another post.

  132. #133 Numbers
    July 11, 2008

    Um… Lennox is a mathematician, not a theologian. At least not professionally. He’s a reader at Green College.

  133. #134 dean carter
    July 17, 2008

    John Lennox is just another deluded BUFFOON!!!
    How can that man consider himself a scientist, he is just another bible-thumping nutcase.

  134. #135 Edamus
    July 23, 2008

    Ugh, when I listened to this I was working, but I was still able to come to the conclusion Lennox is a hot-aired theist.

    Person1: “My aunt can fly to Mars.”
    Person2: “Do you really believe that?”
    Person1: “Well, of course. Because if she is lying then she’d be crazy.”

    I can’t help but think that she’s crazy… Moreso, when Lennox substantiates everything the Bible purports by saying, “if the writers lied, they’d be crazy”, then, well, they were crazy.

  135. #136 Greg Esres
    July 23, 2008

    Lennox just sounds so … befuddled.

    Yes, he does….to us. However, when I listen to these things, I try to imagine how a believer might interpret what he hears. I agree with others who said that Dawkins wasn’t aggressive enough. Lennox really didn’t answer most of Dawkin’s questions, one of which is why is personal testimony for the truth of the Bible is any more significant than than personal testimony for miracles in other religions. Lennox made some vague reference to the reliability of the witnesses and then changed the subject. Dawkins let it pass.

    And yes, the bit about Luke invoking science by remarking on the nine months from conception to birth was so laughable that Dawkins should have torn him up over that. He didn’t.

    If you don’t keep these people to one point and make them answer the question or admit they don’t have an answer, a believer is likely to draw different conclusions from ours. Lennox talked a great deal and constantly interrupted Dawkins, possibly giving the believer a false impression of the strength of his arguments.

  136. #137 Alan Flood
    October 6, 2008

    John Lennox is a mathematician and philosopher of science, not a theologian.

  137. #138 Kel
    October 6, 2008

    I saw this guy debate with Dr Shermer. He was pretty terrible, going on about the “new atheists”, kept name-dropping Dawkins, and asserted that Christians were the ones with the evidence.

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