The Spectator of Britain has a terrific article by Melanie Phillips about a recent debate between the “arch-apostle of atheism,” Richard Dawkins, and Christian mathematician John Lennox of Oxford. They’ve debated before, but this one began with a surprsing admission from Dawkins:

This week’s debate, however, was different because from the off Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:

“A serious case could be made for a deistic God.”

This is an astounding admission. In essence. he grants that a “serious case could  be made” for Intelligent Design, the advocates of which have been the subject of his unceasing vitriol for several years. Though it is almost always distorted by its opponents, ID is not meant as an argument for Christianity, or for a “young Earth” reading of scientific evidence meant to defend a literal version of Genesis. Advocates of ID are simply contending that the design of the universe points to an intelligence of some kind that would have worked with a purpose in mind. Dawkins has apparently finally recognized that such an argument is not ridiculous, and indeed should be taken seriously by scientists, even though he does not for a minute agree with it. Phillips goes on:

Afterwards, I asked Dawkins whether he had indeed changed his position and become more open to ideas which lay outside the scientific paradigm.  He vehemently denied this and expressed horror that he might have given this impression. But he also said other things which suggested to me that some of his own views simply don’t meet the criteria of empirical evidence that he insists must govern all our thinking.

For example, I put to him that, since he is prepared to believe that the origin of all matter was an entirely spontaneous event, he therefore believes that something can be created out of nothing — and that since such a belief runs counter to the very scientific principles of verifiable evidence which he tells us should govern all our thinking, this is itself precisely the kind of irrationality, or ‘magic’, which he scorns. In reply he said that, although he agreed this was a problematic position, he did indeed believe that the first particle arose spontaneously from nothing, because the alternative explanation – God — was more incredible.

That’s one man’s opinion, of course, and he’s welcome to it. But to believe in the spontaneous origin of matter is as much a matter of faith as is belief in God. Why exactly the latter proposition is “more incredible” than the former is something I’d like to hear, though Phillips doesn’t say.

Even more jaw-droppingly, Dawkins told me that, rather than believing in God, he was more receptive to the theory that life on earth had indeed been created by a governing intelligence – but one which had resided on another planet. Leave aside the question of where that extra-terrestrial intelligence had itself come from, is it not remarkable that the arch-apostle of reason finds the concept of God more unlikely as an explanation of the universe than the existence and plenipotentiary power of extra-terrestrial little green men?

It has been contended in some places that Dawkins never actually said that he could buy the idea of ET seeding Earth with life. So much for that line of defense against exuberant irrationality.

Read it all.

(Via Stand Firm.)