Dr. John Lennox, a math professor at the University of Oxford, visited Seattle recently to respond to Stephen Hawking’s recent The Grand Design (co-written with Leonard Mlodinow). I’ll give a brief summary of the main points Lennox made with a few comments.
In his book, Hawking says:
Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.
Christian apologists like to focus on the beginning of the universe, sensing a weakness in the naturalistic model. When asked about what came before the Big Bang, Science simply says, “I don’t know.” This is neither a weakness nor a reason for embarrassment. Instead, it points to those areas in science where more work needs to be done. But this statement by Hawking gives at least one resolution to the question.
A caltrop is a small object with four sharp spikes arranged such that however it lands on the ground, three spikes are down and one is pointing up. Ninjas are said to have tossed these on the ground as they ran away to stop barefoot pursuers.
A caltrop argument is a defensive argument that attempts to avoid an argument rather than respond to it honestly.
My favorite caltrop argument goes something like this:
Atheist: There is no absolute truth beyond trivial statements like 1 + 1 = 2.
Christian: Well, that certainly sounded like an absolute truth statement! Aha—you’ve defeated yourself!
Atheist: [sigh] Fine. What I should have said was “I have never seen evidence of such absolute truth statements.”
The atheist in this exchange made a mistake. But instead of interpreting the statement charitably and finding the valid point wrapped in an imperfect presentation, the Christian tried to use the mistake to avoid the point completely.
Of course, I’m not saying that only one group is guilty of this. Atheists can toss out caltrops to avoid confronting an argument as well. But the person interested in the truth confronts an argument directly.