John Lennox puts it well (and similarly to what I gave earlier) when submitting the example that his wife bakes a pie, which he submits for scientific study. We can conclude the pie is 12″ in diameter and 3″ deep. It’s made of apples and crust which consist of their own elements. It’s one day old, and weights 2 pounds. In a way, that’s a complete representation of the pie. But what it doesn’t tell us, is that the pie was baked for their granddaughters birthday. That is the meaning and implications of the pie itself.
I first heard of this argument years ago and find it just as amusing today. What’s more worrying to me is that Lennox is considered an old-school intellectual apologist. He is also a philosopher of science. I’m not sure how respected he is in the field but the fact that he’s making this type of argument does not reflect well on apologetics or philosophy of science.
The problem is so obvious that it pains me to spell it out. The reason that an object exists need not reside in the object. Usually it doesn’t. I could bake a pie to eat. Someone else could bake an identical pie to copy my pie. A third person could bake the pie in the hope that I would choke on it. The 3 pies might be identical to the level of precision that we can’t tell them apart. So, where does the difference reside? In the brains of the people who baked the pies! (Embarrassing as it is to have to say it.) Or in any other matter that was causally influenced by our motivations for baking the pie.
This relates to my previous post on scientism. I find it astounding that so many arguments that state that science must “humble itself” are forced to use a ludicrously-narrow definition of science, and possibly exclude some sciences all together. Of course we can’t [yet] scan brains to read off motivations. But Lennox must pretend that even psychology, sociology or the possibility of talking to his wife doesn’t exist. He’s trying to focus on just the pie because it’s only by framing it so narrowly that he can hope to argue that science can’t answer why-questions (and make the unjustified leap that apparently therefore religion can).
The counterarguments I’ve sometimes seen would be that physical science should have nothing to say about human experience because (supposedly) a world made of atoms should not have any beings at all, only machines. This tries to shift the question into philosophy of mind, which I’ll have more to say about later. But still, it’s a distraction from the fact that organised empirical enquiry does include the study of humans, motivations, why-questions, meaning and intentionality. The idea that science “doesn’t explain why” seems to be a blatant attempt to ignore the real whys that we can answer and smuggle in the unjustified whys that assume that the universe itself needs to have a purpose.
The other alternative is that Lennox simply assumes (contrary to pretty much everything we know from various sciences) that the thoughts of his wife do not arise as the result of the atoms that make up her brain and therefore that we can’t read them off on principle. If this were true, there really would be reasons that are inaccessible to science. But Lennox’s argument already requires that dualism be true, it’s pretty much pointless — he just needs to show dualism and his job would be done.