Photo: Dag Erlandsen

John Lennox: Why believe in God in a scientific world?

I had the priviledge of introducing professor John Lennox' lecture earlier this month. He is a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford and he gave a lecture at the Science Library 17 October 2018. He specialized in group theory, but is better known as a philosopher of science, having written several books on the topic of science and God. He is also renowned from debates with prominent opponents, such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Peter Singer, Michael Shermer, Lawrence Krauss, and Victor Stenger.

Lennox attracted a full audience as the image shows. The lecture was also streamed live to the lecture hall next door in order to accomodate more people, and even then some had to be stopped at the entrance due to local fire regulations.

I introduced him by talking about one of my favorite subjects: the large number of believers among scientists. The four most prominent physicists in Britain in the last part of the 19th century all answered "yes" to the question posed by Lennox. Lord Kelvin is known for his thermodynamics, George G Stokes worked in fluid dynamics, and Lord Rayleigh was active in my field, acoustics. He was also awarded the Nobel prize for the discovery of Argon. All three of them publicly declared their belief in a creator and that this also inspired their work.

Lennox quoting Plantinga
Lennox quoting Plantinga, from YouTube video by Realfagsbiblioteket

The last of the four, probably the greatest physicist between Newton and Einstein, is James Clerk Maxwell who unified the electric and magnetic fields as well as optics. He had this inscription carved over the entrance to the Cavendish lab in Cambridge: "Magna opera Domini, exquisita in omnes voluntates ejus” or “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein”, a quote from Psalm 111:2 in the Bible. John Lennox follows in their footsteps.

In his lecture, Lennox turned the question of the title 180 degrees around by quoting philosopher Alvin Plantinga as shown in the image: It is atheism in the form of naturalism which has a real conflict with science.

Lennox' lecture was streamed live and can be found in the YouTube stream of the Science Library:

A good report from the lecture (in Norwegian) was written by Ingvild Hellenes. I will also recommend what Daniel Joachim Kleiven wrote in the daily newspaper "Vårt Land" about the importance of visible Christian scientists, like Lennox (also in Norwegian). Two of Lennox' books have also recently been translated into Norwegian.