Can Science Explain Everything? Book Review
Whenever John Lennox writes a new book, I pay attention. After all, he is not only brilliant (Emeritus Professor of Math at Oxford), but also remarkably gracious in his interaction with critics. This is not easy to do when writing on such divisive issues as the intersection of faith and science!
Thus, I eagerly picked up a copy of his new book Can Science Explain Everything?
As Lennox notes, we live in an increasingly secular age that embraces scientism, the idea that science is the primary (and sometimes only) means of knowing reality. This “science side,” as Lennox dubs it, claims to be the voice of reason working hard to roll back the tide of ignorance and superstition.
In contrast, the “God side,” holds to the existence of a divine intelligence behind the beauty and complexity of the world. Believers often seem surprised that others don’t see the world as they do.
Given their radically different belief systems, and the disdain that often characterizes interaction between the two camps, many conclude that God and science do not mix.
Enter John Lennox. He suggests that this claim is not only false, but that it is easy to establish. That’s right, he thinks it’s easy. This is a bold claim to make, but one Lennox adequately defends. Let’s briefly consider four questions he addresses.
Four Key Challenges
First, is it true that science and God do not mix? Lennox responds, “If science and God do not mix, there would be no Christian Nobel Prize winners. In fact, between 1901 and 2000 over 60% of Nobel Laureates were Christians” (p. 17). While there is conflict between theism and atheism, there is no inherent conflict between a scientist having faith in God. Faith in God actually motivated some of the greatest scientists in history.
Second, is science the only way to truth? If this were true, notes Lennox, then universities would have to get rid of half their faculties from departments such as history, literature, philosophy, and language. But this is crazy. We all know these disciplines can be avenues to truth. People tend to associate “scientific” with rational. But as Lennox argues, reason has a much larger scope than science.
Third, does science show that religion brings harm? Many atheists have argued that religion is a dangerous delusion. In reality, religious involvement correlates with individual wellbeing, satisfaction in life, hope and optimism, greater self-esteem, better response to personal loss, deeper social support, and lower rates of depression. In fact, as Lennox notes, the positive side of religious belief is one of the best kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine.
Fourth, is belief in God equivalent to believing in the tooth fairy? Lennox met this accusation while speaking publicly at a large university. To settle the issue, he asked members of the audience to raise their hands if they came to believe in the tooth fairy as an adult. No one did, but hundreds did when he asked who came to believe in God as an adult. Some of the finest minds have come to believe in God, but none have with Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.
Quite obviously, Lennox addresses much more than these four questions. What I enjoyed most about the book is his abundant use of personal stories and practical illustrations to illustrate his arguments. He is not writing for fellow academics, but for laypeople who want tools for thinking about the intersection of science and faith. Thus, Can Science Explain Everything? is ideal for small groups, a Christian high school classroom, or for personal study.
I highly recommend it.