Brand new book from Professor Emeritus John C. Lennox, Cosmic Chemistry

“John Lennox has a unique ability to integrate theology, philosophy, biology, physics and mathematics into one coherent unity, and a gift of explaining complicated matters in a simple and pedagogical way. [Cosmic Chemistry] is highly topical and most likely it will become an apologetic classic.” Ola Hössjer, Professor of Mathematical Statistics, Stockholm University

PART 1 Surveying the Landscape
1. Introduction
2. Matters of Evidence and Faith
3. A Historical Perspective: The Forgotten Roots of Science and Arguments from Design

PART 2 Science and Explanation
4. Science, its Presuppositions, Scope, and Methodology
5. Worldviews and Their Relation to Science: Naturalism and its Shortcoming
6. Theism and its Relationship to Science: God of Gaps, Complexity of God, and Miracles

PART 3 Understanding the Universe and Life
7. Understanding the Universe: The Beginning and Fine-Tuning
8. The Wonder of the Living World
9. The Genetic Code
10. A Matter of Information
11. Algorithmic Information Theory
12. Life’s Solution: Self-Organization?

PART 4 The Modern Synthesis
13. Life’s Solution: Evolution?
14. Evolution: Asking Hard Questions
15. The Nature and Scope of Evolution
16. Natural Selection
17. The Edge of Evolution
18. The Mathematics of Evolutio

PART 5 The Information Age
19. Systems Biology
20. The Origin of Information: A Word-Based World
21. Brain, Mind, and the Quantum World
Epilogue: Beyond Science But Not Beyond Reason

John Lennox write as follows;

The last nail in God’s coffin?

It is a widespread popular impression that each new scientific advance is another nail in God’s coffin. It is an impression fuelled by influential scientists. Chemist Peter Atkins writes: ‘Humanity should accept that science has eliminated the justification for believing in cosmic purpose, and that any survival of purpose is inspired only by sentiment.’ Now, how science, which is traditionally thought not even to deal with questions of (cosmic) purpose, could actually do any such thing is not very clear, as we shall later see. What is very clear is that Atkins reduces faith in God a stroke, not simply to sentiment but to sentiment that is inimical to science. Atkins does not stand alone. Not to be outdone, Richard Dawkins goes a step further. He regards faith in God as an evil to be eliminated:

It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, ‘mad cow’ disease and many others, but I think that a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate. Faith, being belief that isn’t based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion.’

More recently, faith, in Dawkins’ opinion, has graduated (if that is the right term) from being a vice to being a delusion. In his book The God Delusion3 he quotes Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: ‘When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called Religion.’ For Dawkins, God is not only a delusion, but a pernicious delusion.

Such views are at one extreme of a wide spectrum and it would be a mistake to think that they were typical. Many atheists are far from happy with the militant aggression, not to mention the repressive, even totalitarian, overtones of such so-called ‘New Atheist’ views, and in more recent years have largely rejected them. However, as always, it is the extreme views that receive public attention and media exposure, with the result that many people are aware of those views and have been affected by them. It would, therefore, be unwise to ignore them. We must take them seriously.

He writes in the chapter fine-tuning of the universe as follows;

For life to exist on earth an abundant supply of carbon is needed. Carbon is formed either by combining three helium nuclei, or by combining nuclei of helium and beryllium. Mathematician and astronomer, Sir Fred Hoyle FRS, found that for this to happen the nuclear ground state energy levels have to be fine-tuned with respect to each other. This phenomenon is called ‘resonance’. If the variation were more than 1 per cent either way, the universe could not sustain life. Hoyle later confessed that nothing had shaken his atheism as much as this discovery. Even this degree of finetuning was enough to persuade him that it looked as if: ‘a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics as well as with chemistry and biology’, and that ‘there are no blind forces in nature worth talking about.

However, in terms of the tolerance permitted, this example pales into insignificance when we consider the fineness of the tuning of some of the other parameters in nature. Theoretical physicis Paul Davies tells us that, if the ratio of the nuclear strong force to the electromagnetic force had been different by 1 part in 1016, no stars could have formed. Again, the ratio of the electromagnetic force-constant to the gravitational force-constant must be equally delicately balanced. Increase it by only 1 part in 1040 and only small stars can exist; decrease it by the same amount and there will only be large stars. You must have both large and small stars in the universe: the large ones produce elements in their thermonuclear furnaces; and it is only the small ones that burn long enough to sustain a planet with life.

To use Paul Davies’ illustration, that is the kind of accuracy a marksman would need to hit a coin at the far side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away.23 If we find that difficult to imagine, a further illustration suggested by astrophysicist Hugh Ross may help.24 Cover America with coins in a column reaching to the moon (380,000 km or 236,000 miles away), then do the same for a billion other continents of the same size. Paint one coin red and put it somewhere in one of the billion piles. Blindfold a friend and ask her to pick it out. The odds are about 1 in 1040 that she will.

Although we are now in realms of precision far beyond anything achievable by current human technology, the cosmos has even more stunning surprises in store. It is said that an alteration in the ratio of the expansion and contraction forces by as little as 1 part in 1055 at the Planck time (just 10-43 seconds after the origin of the universe), would have led, either to too rapid an expansion of the universe with no galaxies forming, or to too slow an expansion with consequent rapid collapse.