Same ground rules as before: "..." represents my best rendering of an actual quote by Prof. Lennox. '...' (single quotes) is a paraphrase. * denotes a claim that is particularly misleading or egregiously wrong; the more stars, the worse the claim. Comments in brackets [like this] are my rejoinders.
*** "mockery is not an argument and doesn't do credit to the person doing the mocking." [Really? I need a new irony meter here, because the one I have just went SPROING. In Lennox talk #1, mockery was one of his main rhetorical tools! And it was dealt out by Prof. Lennox with relish. Somebody needs to check out the mote in their own eye. Oh, and for the record, I have nothing against mockery, just hypocrisy: "a horselaugh is worth a thousand syllogisms" is one of my favorite quotes.]
"creation of the universe is not an exception to known laws." [Wait a second, I thought it was the theists who were always saying things like "it's impossible that the universe could come from nothing". But what is creation "ex nihilo" then? And how about the Christian god supposedly "speaking" the Universe into being? That's not an exception to known laws?]
"Nature is largely but not absolutely uniform." [Actually, nature is not uniform in many ways. For example, conditions on the Earth today are not at all like the way they were 4.4 billion years ago, shortly after it formed. Vague prattle like "Nature is largely uniform" is basically content-free because it is so imprecise; anything you like could be an exception. If you want to assert uniformity, do it in a specific way: say, for example, "The speed of light in a vaccuum is a constant." Then at least you get something potentially testable and falsifiable. Of course, none of this supports Lennox's claims about miracles.]
"Hume denies the cause and effect relationships behind science." [Who cares? "Cause" and "effect" are just vague philosophical prattle. Open up a physics textbook and you won't find these words in the index. Instead you find things like "force", "mass", "acceleration", etc.]
"On both sides of the fence there are professors who accept miracles and those who reject them." [Yes, but that is true about almost any issue you can name. I'd bet if you surveyed members of the National Academy of Science, the vast majority reject miracles.]
** "Antony Flew was the world's leading interpreter of David Hume. He came to believe in a deistic god on the basis of the semiotic nature of DNA." [Yes, in his dotage, philosopher Flew became a deist. He had no training in biology or mathematics and accepted the claims of intelligent design advocates, apparently without seriously investigating their accuracy. There have also been serious questions about his possible mental deterioriation during this time. More telling is the fact that the overwhelming majority of evolutionary and molecular biologists, and biochemists, find nothing supernatural in the "semiotic nature of DNA". Who the heck thinks what Flew thought is an important consideration? Oh, and did you catch the credential inflation there for Flew? Check it out yourself: this article on Hume doesn't mention Flew even once.]
Lennox discusses Hume in relationship to miracles. [But Lennox apparently misses the single strongest argument by Hume, which is that miracles must be extremely improbable, but the fallibility of human testimony is extremely probable.]
* "Joseph knew where babies came from .. it took powerful pressure from God to change Joseph's mind." [By far the most rational explanation for Mary's alleged pregnancy is that she slept with a man. If it was not Joseph, and she claimed to be a virgin, as the story supposedly goes, then it seems likely she lied and slept with someone else. Attributing her infidelity to "God raped me" is an ingenious excuse, but not one any 21st century spouse is likely to accept. Christians need to rule out this obvious possibility before believing in a miracle. How can they do that? The evidence (if the events even took place) is 2000 years gone. But even if we accept the Christian account, we are led to accept two extremely unattractive things: first, that Mary was, for all intents and purposes, raped by the Christian god. Second, that this god has the ability to force people to believe anything he wants by exercising his will. So how can the Christian claim that any knowledge is reliable, when one's beliefs can be warped by their god's pressure?]
"If I put $100 yesterday in a drawer in my hotel, and another $100 this morning, and I come back in the evening and find $50, I don't say the laws of arithmetic have been violated; I say the laws of Canada have been violated. The drawer is not a closed system. The laws of arithmetic can't prevent someone putting their hand in a drawer." [This joke, and variations on it, is repeated in nearly every talk I've seen by Lennox. I still don't understand the point. The "laws" of arithmetic have little in common with the "laws" of nature, as Lennox understands well. "Laws" of arithmetic are consequences of axioms. "Laws" of nature are simply descriptions of our current understanding of nature and are subject to revision, particularly at very large or very small scales. It's up to Lennox to provide evidence that an incorporeal being exists, that it has the power to influence events, and so forth. Jokes like this make people laugh, but they have nothing to do with the evidentiary burden Lennox has.]
"C. S. Lewis said, `If God creates a miraculous spermatozoon in the body of a virgin, it does not proceed to break any laws. The laws at once take it over. Nature is ready. Pregnancy follows, according to all the normal laws, and nine months later a child is born.'" [Can the "spermatozoon" spontaneously appear on its own without violating conservation of mass?]
At this point, the talk ended and there were some questions. They were not very good.
Q: "Why are there more theists among physicists than among biologists". A: 'the big bang and fine tuning. Creationists are not taken seriously. Biology hasn't experienced the same revolution that physics has.' [Hasn't experienced the same revolution? Where has Lennox been for the last 60 years? DNA? Sequencing of genomes? Evolutionary development? The neutral theory? Hox genes? Horizontal transfer?]
"Christianity is an evidence-based faith." [No comment necessary.]
After the talk, I tried to ask a question. Despite the fact that the room was not terribly large, the organizers did not allow people to stand up and ask questions. I feel confident that this was to weed out inconvenient questions. Instead, you had to text a question or hand it in on a piece of paper. My question was the following: "Joseph of Cupertino was a 17th century priest who could levitate and fly, according to attestations by numerous witnesses. Do you accept that he could actually fly and levitate? Why or why not? Why do we not see flying priests today?"
The organizers asked my question but changed the wording to omit "Joseph of Cupertino" (which I don't appreciate at all). In response, Prof. Lennox said that he accepted the miracles of the Bible because they had a semiotic content or symbolism or subtext of meaning that fits with the message of the Bible, but flying priests would be a miracle that lacks this subtext, so he doesn't believe in them. But this is silly. I can easily make up a story, say, "The flying priest reminds witnesses of He who ascended to Heaven after the Resurrection." Who is to say whether that is a sufficient symbolism or explanation?
"Of course miracles are still happening today." Lennox tells the story of meeting a Russian on a train and giving him a Russian bible, for which the man was very grateful. He seemed to think this was a miraculous event. But given that (a) Lennox is a professional evangelist (b) Lennox speaks several languages, including Russian and (c) Lennox travels a lot, isn't the probability that he would have a Bible in the language of someone he would meet rather high? Lennox evidently has an extremely low standard for miracles.
All in all, this was a pretty poor performance. Only someone with a pre-existing faith in miracles could be swayed by the weakness of Lennox's arguments.
For another take on this talk by Lennox, see Jeff Orchard's blog