Full Disclosure

Before beginning to look at God’s Undertaker I should make my positions clear. First, I’m an atheist. By that I mean that I have a disbelief in a supreme being or beings. It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that a god or gods can’t or don’t exist, it means that I find the evidence for the theist position to be so weak that it is a fruitless one to hold. Second, I find Lennox’s book to be very unconvincing in getting me to alter that position. These blogs will outline my reasons why.

In the book’s Acknowledgments Lennox (4) states “[This book] represents an attempt to evaluate the evidence of modern science in relation to the debate between the atheistic and theistic interpretations of the universe and to provide a basis for discussion.” Even though we’re unlikely to agree on much else, at least we both hope that the book provides discussion.

All quotes are taken from the 2009 Kindle Edition of God’s Undertaker. If it helps I bought it here. AFAIK cut and paste aren’t available on the Kindle, so I’ve handwritten the quotes and then typed them into vex cathedra. Undoubtably errors will occur, so apologies for those. Also apologies for the rambling nature of the blogs. They aren’t meant to be a coherent whole arguing against the book; they have in fact been written as I’ve been reading the book. So more often than not they will appear pointless unless you read the chapter, preferably while you read the blog. Welcome to vex cathedra – pointless in more ways than one.

9 thoughts on “Full Disclosure

  1. Marco

    Hi Winston,

    There is a couple of ways to “cut and paste” that I have read about. My way was to get a screenshot and insert the picture onto the blog. The other is to get a printscreen screenshot and input it into a google tool in google docs I think, which can convert it to text which can then be cut and pasted. Fiddly, but better than retyping, especially with the longer quotes and for general context.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      And the winner for the first comment ever on vex cathedra goes to… [insert drumroll here] Marco.
      Thanks for coming over Marco. I hope we’ll have some good discussions.
      I’m moving away from FB for discussions and just keeping it for contact with friends’ lives. It’s really not good at keeping track of what’s been said, and Nathanael gets antsy when I say things he’s unhappy about. At least with my own space I don’t have to worry about being threatened with comments being deleted!
      Thanks for the tips about cut and paste. Today I realized that when I had to write the quote longhand I thought more about what was written than if I just cut and pasted. So for now I’m going to continue with that method.

      Reply
  2. Marco

    I think Chris is also bound to drop by. He had a particularly detailed review of the book on his blog. I had copied bits and pieces back and forth from FB and I think I can get the bulk of threads back to here if I hunt around a little bit. There was a thread on abiogenesis that emanated from some of the discussion on the book that took a severe tangent. Part of that is my constant theme of looking for where the scientific views of opposing arguments might both be partly right – eg. the possibility that life as we know it on Earth was designed by life in a different form, that evolved in a completely separate environment and style, without magic.

    Reply
  3. Nathanael

    Apologies for not realising with this WordPress format that the first two post you wrote were giving your context.
    Given all our previous discussions, I had thought that your reasons would focus on claims, not the style of Lennox’s approach.
    Rhetorical questions might annoy you, citing almost exclusively from Christian Theism might annoy you, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s his style that offends you most and the high school English teacher has his red pen at the ready to mark down on that basis.
    Give him 14/20 or less if you like for style but if your reasons why don’t engage with the the substance of his claims substantially then you’re doing atheism a dis-service.
    Finally (and perhaps most interestingly) I’m wondering if I’ve missed a shift in the word atheist.
    I thought it meant a disbelief in supreme being or beings. Full Stop. Do not pass go. Go directly to jail as a convicted atheist. Do not collect any other descriptive words.
    My understanding was that it wasn’t posssible to be called an atheist if the term “didn’t mean that an atheist doesn’t believe that a god or gods can’t or doesn’t exist.”
    I’d always classed that person as an agnostic.
    Perhaps the qualifier of “the evidence for a theist position to be so weak that it is a fruitless one to hold”, is viewed as the “Get out of Jail Free” card.
    I’m not convinced that this is a legitimate interpretation of the rules of what separates an atheist from an agnostic.
    But perhaps there’s subtlety that my moral black & white universe mind isn’t able to wrap itself around…can someone clarify?

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      Disbelieving something is true now doesn’t mean one can’t change one’s mind later if more compelling evidence were to arrive. You’re thinking of zealot or fanatic; something of a more religious bent.

      Reply
  4. Nathanael

    Or perhaps your very clever title definitions make your real purpose clear
    Vex:
    1. To annoy, as with petty importunities; bother. See Synonyms at annoy.
    2. To cause perplexity in; puzzle.
    3. To bring distress or suffering to; plague or afflict.
    4. To debate or discuss (a question, for example) at length.
    5. To toss about or shake up.

    Cathedra:
    1. A bishop’s official chair or throne.
    2. The office or see of a bishop.
    3. The official chair of an office or a position, as of a professor.

    Critiquing claims will ensure that good discussions will ensure.
    Doing anything else most of the time will guarantee 1-5 but not necessarily 4 as our FB experience has borne out.

    Reply
  5. Marco

    My understanding was that it wasn’t posssible to be called an atheist if the term “didn’t mean that an atheist doesn’t believe that a god or gods can’t or doesn’t exist.”
    I’d always classed that person as an agnostic.

    The new atheist acknowledges that it is impossible to prove something doesn’t exist by observation alone. Thus, rather than be 100% sure God doesn’t exist, they have just shifted the burden of proof to theists to prove God does exist with something observable – a miracle would do nicely. An agnostic states that seeking probabilties about God is nonsensical, and neither position should be excluded from the burden of proof.

    Reply
  6. Nathanael

    Thanks guys – appreciated. Dr.Clam? Anything?
    I think many would call the approach of some of the New Atheists close to zealotry, even Dawkins with the odds he cited.

    Reply
    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      Since you ask 🙂
      All I’ve got is the point I made elsewhere, that it would be good if Lennox had somewhere defined his terms. Everyone has a strong idea of what they mean by ‘God’ and it is easy to have an interminable argument before realising that the person you are arguing with is professing justified disbelief in some straw-man cartoon God that only a few zealots in a fortified compound in Paraguay (f’rexample) actually believe in.

      (Have you read Prof Dawkins’ book, by the way, Nathanael? I will avoid any more self-citation in this commenting binge, but both Marco and I have long critiques of it in cyberspace)

      Reply

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