Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2006-03-01

Mathematician and intelligent design proponent John Lennox told an audience at Samford University Monday, Feb. 27, that he actually prefers the term "intelligent origin" to refer to the beginnings of creation.

Lennox spoke to a packed Reid Chapel, which seats about 750 people, at the invitation of Fixed Point Foundation, a Birmingham-based Christian ministry.

The idea of intelligent design is not new, said Lennox. "Most ancient philosophers accepted that the origin of earth is not self-explanatory," he said, noting that the early giants of science, such as Galileo and Newton, were all believers in God.

"Scientists cannot be in conflict with religion, or all scientists would be atheists," said Lennox, Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green College, University of Oxford. In the conflict between the world views of naturalism and theism, there are scientists on both sides, he said.

Discussion of intelligent design brings consideration of two arguments: one side being the "mainstream," or physics and cosmology; and another, challenging the mainstream, that of biology.

In matters of physics and cosmology, scientists have discovered evidence of fine-tuning. These arguments point to a super intelligence being involved. "There's mounting evidence from physics and cosmology that the notion of a creator is substantiated," said Lennox.

On the matter of biological evolution, mutation and selection do occur, he acknowledged. "We cannot deduce atheism from a biological theorem. We can't assume that one level of explanation is sufficient. Evolution does not necessarily entail atheism."

Lennox gave an example of a person seeing a car, thinking it was made by human when in fact it was made by robots. Given that the robots were a product of man, the assumption is not wrong.

He noted that evolution means many things: change, artificial selection, and microevolution, none of which are controversial. Macroevolution, the appearance of the dramatically new, is controversial.

"I have no trouble with what Darwin observed, but I have trouble with macro-evolution."

God is by definition more complex than the thing scientists are trying to explain, he said.

Lennox' presentation was followed by remarks from three panelists: Wilton Bunch, ethics professor at Samford's Beeson Divinity school; Kurt Kristensen, biology and ecology professor at The Altamont School; and Tim Ritchie, CEO, McWane Science Center.

Bunch applauded the idea of having a lecturer such as Lennox on a college campus, noting that the purpose of education is to teach people to think.

He said that intelligent design is a profound philosophical idea but is not really science, which calls for a hypothesis to be tested. "Intelligent design does not have a hypothesis that can be tested," he said.

"This lecture was not held in a science building, but in a chapel where we gather to worship God. That says it all," said Bunch.

Kristensen, who teaches evolutionary biology, acknowledged that the challenges of teaching science in secondary school are large. Studying the idea of intelligent design has forced him to delve into philosophy and the history of science. "Proponents of intelligent design excel in philosophy," he said.

Richie, who identified himself at the outset of his remarks as a Christian, said that many things in nature point to the existence of God, and that complexity and order are the best argument intelligent design has.

"Many things in nature point to the existence of God. The rub is, the right answer can't be proven. It is an article of faith. Scripture says we were created in God's image."

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.