Socrates in the City: Science and God (with John Lennox, Oxford)

A tidbit from Dr. Lennox to whet your appetite:

Lennox: One night at dinner at Oxford I found myself sitting beside a very eminent biochemist and unfortunately he asked me what I did. I said “I’m a pure mathematician” and he said “How dreadfully boring.” I saw this was going to be a bit of a social disaster. So I said, “Don’t worry about that. I know my subject is quite unsociable and complicated so I try to make up for that by being interested in the big questions.”

“What big questions?”

“Well, like the status of the universe. Is it created or not?”

He said, “Stop. Listen, I’m an atheist, I’m a reductionist and we have nothing to talk about and we’re going to have a miserable dinner.”

Well, that was a challenge for an Irishman. So I looked at him with a great grin–because I grin, you know, when I’m panicking. I said, “No, we’re going to have a marvelously interesting evening. I’m fascinated by reductionism. I know of at least three kinds. Which kind are you? … You are an ontological reductionist. You believe everything can be reduced to physics and chemistry.”

“Exactly. And that’s why we have nothing to talk about.”

“Why don’t we do an experiment?” I picked up the menu. He said, “What’s the problem  with the menu? ‘Roast chicken.'”

“That’s the problem. For you, not for me. R-O-A-S-T.  Those are marks on paper.”

“Yes, they are. But they say ‘roast chicken.'”

“How do you know?”

“I’ve learned English.”

“You’ve learned English and you’ve given those marks a meaning–and you’re a reductionist. Everything is physics and chemistry.  Explain to me how those marks convey the idea of ‘roast chicken’ and just use the material of the paper and the ink.”

Dead silence.

After a minute or so he said, “It cannot be done.  John–” now he’s getting friendly, but it was devastating for a man of his eminence, “I have been going to my laboratory for forty years thinking that could be done!” He saw through it like that, like a flash. “You must have a mind.”

He got it.

  • John Lennox (born 1945): Oxford mathematician, philosopher of science and pastoral adviser. His works include the mathematical The Theory of Infinite Soluble Groups and the religion-oriented God’s Undertaker – Has Science buried God? He has also debated religion with Richard Dawkins.
  • Interviewed by Eric Metaxas (born 1963) American author, speaker, and radio host. He is known for three biographies, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery about William Wilberforce [2013] and Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy about Dietrich Bonhoeffer [2011]. “Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World” about Martin Luther [2017].  Metaxas is the founder and host of the NYC-based event series, “Socrates in the City: Conversations on the Examined Life” and the host of the nationally syndicated radio program, The Eric Metaxas Show [1]



About Jessica Renshaw
This entry was posted in faith, fun, God, Great quotes fromfamous people, human interest anecdotes, Humor, Intelligent design, interesting people, science, video and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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