Evidence, Love and Faith

Pat, Don & Mulligan 4 - Copy

The 2010 debate between Richard Dawkins, and John Lennox, both professors at Oxford University in England, is interesting to consider if you have the time and inclination. Dawkins is famous for his books supporting atheism and opposing religion. Lennox is a mathematician and philosopher of science who is an outspoken Christian.

The debate uses The God Delusion, a book by Richard Dawkins, as the backdrop. The outline consists of six points (theses) from the book to frame the debate whether science and faith are compatible. Richard Dawkins famously maintains that science and faith are not compatible, and Lennox takes the opposite position.

At one point in the debate, Dawkins attempts to define faith to exclude evidence or reason. Faith is commonly defined as “strong belief or trust in someone or something”. The dictionary definition does not make any reference to evidence. Faith could mean strong belief or trust, with or without evidence. The definition of faith does not necessarily include or exclude evidence or reason.

Dawkins’ definition of faith is loaded – his definition of faith is belief without evidence, or “belief in the teeth of the evidence”. Lennox defines faith as belief supported by strong evidence, and robust faith supported by robust evidence.

In this context, Lennox asked Dawkins a question: he asked, “I assume you have faith in your wife. Is there any evidence for that?” Grinning nervously at the personal nature of the question, Dawkins responded that he had “plenty of evidence” regarding his wife,  and proceeded to give evidence for how he knows his wife loves him.

Dawkins clearly misunderstood what Lennox meant. Lennox was only asking about faith that Dawkins’ wife existed. Dawkins assumed,  however, that Lennox meant whether Dawkins’ wife loved him. This assumption made for an interesting twist to the debate. Continue reading “Evidence, Love and Faith”