Book Review: Can Science Explain Everything? by John Lennox
John C. Lennox is the Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford; Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College; and Associate Fellow of the Said Business School. He holds a PhD in mathematics from Cambridge, a DPhil by incorporation in mathematics from Oxford, and a DSc in mathematics from the University of Wales. Outside of his many articles and writings within the field of mathematics, he has written most extensively on the relationship between science, religion, and ethics. His debates with Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens and many other scientists and authors are well worth watching. He speaks Russian, French, English and German and speaks extensively around the world in his area of expertise.
Any potential reader who begins by reading a short biographical sketch of Professor Lennox (such as the one above), might be initially tempted to write off any book by such an author as likely being too academic and boring to wade through. Yet, here is where a resume can be deceiving. Anyone who views one of Dr. Lennox’s debates or meets him in person will quickly find a kind, genial and friendly individual who can communicate some of the most difficult theological, philosophical and scientific truths in simple and picturesque language. God has given him that wonderful gift of knowing his subject matter extensively, from decades of immersion in the subject, and also the experience of having discerned how to helpfully and attractively communicate to many diverse audiences.
This book can be seen as a culmination or distillation of several other works by the author:
- God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God
- God and Stephen Hawking
- Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target
While these three books are well-worth reading on their own, he has now helpfully given the reader a starting point that encapsulates some of the best and most succinct writing the author has ever produced on the subject. It may also be of help for the reader to understand that this book’s subject is one that the author has lectured on at Oxford for decades. It is clear that Dr. Lennox has honed these considerations into a compact and soul-searching morsel for all those interested in the interaction between science and religion – particularly Christianity.
He begins by asking the question whether or not a scientist can believe in God? Particularly he considers whether it is legitimate to do so in modern times, but in order to answer this question, he spends some energy considering the history of the great men and women of science. As he does so, he seeks to destroy two myths. The first is that religion depends on faith but science doesn’t (chapter 3). The second is that science depends on reason but Christianity doesn’t (chapter 4).
Dr. Lennox then considers whether the Bible can be taken seriously in a scientific age such as the present (chapter 5) before considering the seeming contradiction between science and miracles (chapter 6). The book then turns a corner in which Christianity is subjected to a proof text and clearly passes the test before the personal elements of Christianity are considered. The reader is then left with some insightful considerations regarding the truthfulness of Christianity as well as an appropriate plea to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Throughout this journey, the reader will be struck by some excellent arguments, illustrations and one-liners by Dr. Lennox. They will also, doubtless, be struck by his own personal life story and journey of faith and science. Here are a few of the thought-provoking quotes gleaned throughout the books:
- “Far from hindering the rise of modern science, faith in God was one of the motors that drove it.” (p. 20)
- Regarding Stephen Hawking’s book: “I thought it rather unwise to say philosophy is dead at the beginning of a book whose main topic is the philosophy of science!” (p. 26)
- “Science does not compete with God as an explanation. Science gives a different kind of explanation.” (p. 33)
- “What this shows is simply that a nonsense statement remains a nonsense statement even when written by a world-famous scientist.” (p. 40)
- “The Big Bang is not an explanation at all. It is simply a label saying there was a beginning.” (p. 71)
This book by Professor Lennox is a most excellent resource and, in the opinion of this author, the new go-to resource considering the interactions between science and Christianity. Far from being a stuffy academic book, this short volume will give the reader a much better appreciation for science and Christianity as well as a much firmer understanding of the parameters of each. The brevity of this volume also allows it to be easily gifted and read by many. Whether the potential reader is just being introduced to the topic, or they are already well-into the debate between science and Christianity, both groups will find this book to be accessible and eye-opening.
John C. Lennox, Can Science Explain Everything? Denmark: The Good Book Company, 2019. 127pp.