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  #1  
Old 9th June 2010, 06:05 AM
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There is a God

Philosopher Antony Flew, former influential atheist who became a theist before his death, wrote about his change of mind in There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind (HarperOne 2007)

Here is a summary of some of his arguments:
Fingerprints of a designer

[Antony] Flew’s belief in God hinges on three aspects of nature: ‘The first is the fact that nature obeys laws. The second is the dimension of life … The third is the very existence of nature’ (p. 89).
The Laws of nature

Every scientist must assume that nature acts in certain predictable, measurable ways; this is what makes scientific discovery possible. Paul Davies argued that ‘science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview’ (p. 107). However, there is really no reason why nature should follow laws; the existence of such laws requires an explanation. Three questions must be answered: ‘Where do the laws of physics come from? Why is it that we have these laws instead of some other set? How is that we have a set of laws that drives featureless gases to life, consciousness, and intelligence?’ (p. 108). Flew argues along with many other classical and modern scientists that theism is the only serious answer.

When Flew was an atheist, he argued that the universe and its laws were themselves ultimate (p. 134). Every belief has some fundamental assumption; for theists, the existence of God is the fundamental assumption. Flew, however, took the universe and its most fundamental features as that assumption. The discovery that the universe was not infinite threw a wrench into this assumption; if the universe had begun to exist at some point in time, it was reasonable to assume something caused its beginning. Because it is more likely that God exists uncaused, rather than the universe, it is logical to argue for the existence of God from the existence of the universe (pp. 144–145).

The fine-tuning of the universe


Not only does our universe follow finely tuned physical laws, but laws which seem to be finely tuned to enable life to exist. The most common atheist answer is to assert that our universe is one of many others—the ‘multiverse’ speculation. It is interesting that atheists who refuse to believe in an unseen God, based supposedly on the lack of evidence for His existence, explain away the appearance of design by embracing the existence of an unknown number of other universes for which there is no evidence—or even any effect of their evidence. In any case, Flew argues that even if there were multiple universes, it would not solve the atheists’ dilemma; ‘multiverse or not, we still have to come to terms with the origin of the laws of nature. And the only viable explanation here is the divine Mind’ (p. 121).

The origin of life


Can the origins of a system of coded chemistry be explained in a way that makes no appeal whatever to the kinds of facts that we otherwise invoke to explain codes and languages, systems of communication, the impress of ordinary words on the world of matter?—Antony Flew

The existence of physical laws which allow life to survive is necessary, but not sufficient by itself, for the existence of life. The question of the origin of life became much more complex with the discovery of DNA, a molecule comprising ‘letters’ that code for the instructions to build the machinery of life. A real vicious circle is that the instructions to build decoding machinery are themselves encoded on the DNA. That life is governed by a complex code leads to the question:

‘Can the origins of a system of coded chemistry be explained in a way that makes no appeal whatever to the kinds of facts that we otherwise invoke to explain codes and languages, systems of communication, the impress of ordinary words on the world of matter?’ (p. 127).
He pointed out that natural selection can’t explain the origin of first life. Ultimately, a vast amount of information is behind life, and in every other case, information necessarily points to an intelligent source, so it is only reasonable that there be a Source behind this information as well.
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  #2  
Old 9th June 2010, 06:30 AM
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Nice post.
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  #3  
Old 9th June 2010, 07:29 AM
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Pretty cool, I agree. God is good this way.

It's funny how "super atheist" Richard Carrier (at one point, at least- I don't know if he still says this) has blamed this on his "old age", and it should not be taken seriously.
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Old 9th June 2010, 11:40 PM
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I'm pretty sure he became a deist, NOT a theist.
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Old 11th June 2010, 03:57 AM
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beforHim,

Originally Posted by beforHim View Post
Pretty cool, I agree. God is good this way.

It's funny how "super atheist" Richard Carrier (at one point, at least- I don't know if he still says this) has blamed this on his "old age", and it should not be taken seriously.
In the Preface to Antony Flew's, There is a God: How the world's most notorious atheist changed his mind (HarperOne 2007), Roy Abraham Varghese wrote:

Dawkins's "old age" argument (if it can be called that) is a strange variation of the ad hominem fallacy that has no place in civilized discourse. True thinkers evaluate arguments and weigh the evidence without regard to the proponents race, sex, or age (p. xxiii)
Varghese has nailed the logical fallacy and called it for what it is: a variation of the adhominem (personal attack) fallacy.

The first words in Flew's Introduction to the book are:

Ever since the announcement of my "conversion" to deism... (p. 1)
He became a deist and not a theist. Nevertheless, the move from atheism to deism is still a monstrous shift for "the world's most notorious atheist".

Flew's own assessment of the "old age" allegation re his change of mind is:

When reports of my change of mind were spread by the media and the ubiquitous Internet, some commentators were quick to claim that my advanced age had something to do with my "conversion." It has been said that fear concentrates the mind powerfully, and these critics had concluded that expectations of an impending entrance into the afterlife had triggered a deathbed conversion. Clearly these people were familiar with neither my writings on the nonexistence of an afterlife nor my current views on the topic. For over fifty years I have nto simply denied the existence of God, but also the existence of an afterlife.... This is one area in which I have not changed my mind" (p. 2)
However, Appendix B of the book is on "the self-revelation of God in human history: A dialogue on Jesus with N. T. Wright" (p. 185f). After examining what Wright stated about Jesus, Flew stated in his Introduction:

I have to say here that Bishop Wright presents by far the best case for accepting Christian belief that I have ever seen (p. 3)
In one of the words of "praise" at the beginning of the book, Francis S. Collins states that Flew's

colleagues in the church of fundamentalist atheism will be scandalized by his story
Regards, Spencer

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Old 17th June 2010, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by noshoes View Post
I'm wondering what argument Flew used to back up this claim, or is it stated as an axiom?
Why don't you read the book?

I did give a brief summary in my first post.
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Old 17th June 2010, 06:38 PM
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I'm wondering the same thing.
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Old 18th June 2010, 05:22 PM
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noshoes

Originally Posted by noshoes View Post
Because you appear to have the book and I don't. And I got the impression you wanted to talk about it.

I know you wrote the summary. That is where I quoted from.
Originally Posted by noshoes View Post


I just find it to be an important piece of information that an uncaused God is more likely than an uncaused universe, and I wonder how he argues that point.

Science and religion writer, Roy Abraham Varghese, was influential in Antony Flew’s moving from atheism to deism. In Antony Flew’s (with Roy Abraham Varghese), There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind (2007. New York: HarperOne), Varghese writes the introduction and his article is included as Appendix A, “The ‘New Atheism’: A critical appraisal of Dawkins, Dennett, Wolpert, Harris and Stenger” (p. 161f). For an extensive, popular, newspaper article on Varghese’s defence of the existence of God, see, “God in the details”.

To give an overview of Antony Flew’s argument for the existence of the uncaused God rather than the uncaused universe, I must take steps not to violate copyright. Therefore, this will be in my own words (with some quotes) but it will be a brief overview of his reasoning with lots of details missed. In being brief, I must leave out some significant details. I highly recommend picking up a copy of the paperback edition of this book as it has some very tight reasoning. This is not a book for those who don’t want to think through cosmological implications.

These are some of the points from chapter 8 of Flew’s book, “Did something come from nothing?” (2007:133-145).

1. Can something come from nothing? In his atheistic writings (e.g. The Presumption of Atheism), Flew defended the universe and its laws as ultimate. But systems of explanation involve “some fundamentals that are not themselves explained” (134).

2. In debating theists, he tried to show that they faced the same problem: There were ultimates beyond explanation (135).

3. His two main anti-theological books were written prior to the development of big-bang cosmology and since the early 1980s he had been reconsidering and “confessed” that “atheists have to be embarrassed by the contemporary cosmological consensus” which was providing a scientific version of what St. Thomas Aquinas had defended philosophically – the universe had a beginning (135). As long as he maintained the universe had no beginning, he was content with the universe as ultimate, brute fact.
4. But the big-bang theory changed all of that (136).

5. Modern cosmologists who promoted the escape route of “the idea of the multiverse, numerous universes” or “Stephen Hawking’s notion of a self-contained universe” (137), could not avoid “potential theological implications”. He found the “multiverse alternative” unhelpful as the existence of one universe requires on explanation, but multiple universes requires bigger explanations (137).

6. Physics must “remain radically agnostic” about what caused the big bang (138). The universe in flux rather than being statically, eternally inert, “made a difference to the discussion” (138), but all of this brought him back to the cosmological argument.

7. The main philosophical critic of the cosmological argument was David Hume. Previously, Flew had supported Hume’s arguments but he came to realise that there were “certain presuppositions in Hume’s thinking [that] resulted in crucial errors”, especially Hume’s view that “causes” only relate to the association of ideas or the absence of such associations. The origin or validation of a “mind-dependent world” lies in our experience of that world. He thus concluded that Hume’s theory (story) could not explain the meaning of “cause” and “the law of nature” (139).

8. He found David Conway’s, The rediscovery of wisdom (London: Macmillan 2000) and Richard Swinburne’s, The existence of God (Oxford: Clarendon 2004) were effective in refuting Hume’s and Kant’s opposition to the cosmological argument. These are some of the points of refutation:
  • Causal explanations of parts of the whole can’t add up to “causal explanations of the whole” (Conway) [140]. He saw Swinburne’s argument to reject Hume’s view as persuasive: “The existence of a complex physical universe over finite or infinite time is something ‘too big’ for science to explain” (Swinburne in Flew 141).
  • Once David Hume’s framework is rejected, it is possible to apply the cosmological argument in light of evidence from modern cosmology. Laws by themselves cannot explain things. Further explanations are needed. If we don’t have such laws, how can we explain the beginning of the universe? Even if one hypothesises “empty space” as necessary to give rise to matter, empty space is still something that is already there. We have to rely on laws even to get the universe started with empty space (141).
  • Thus, following philosopher of science, John Leslie (Infinite minds. Oxford: Clarendon, 2001), there is no reason to pursue cosmological speculations of the universe coming from nothing. “If you had an equation detailing the probability of something emerging from a vacuum, you would still have to ask why that equation applies. Hawking had, in fact, noted the need for a creative factor to breathe fire into the equations” (143).
9. The old argument to explain the universe through “an infinite series of causes” is now in the new language of modern cosmology. Again, he refers to John Leslie’s argument that finds this infinite series unsatisfactory. Why? Leslie explains: “The existence even of an infinite series of past events couldn’t be made self-explaining through each event being explained by an earlier one” (Leslie in Flew 144). The entire series still needs an explanation. Which explanation best fits the facts and reason?

10. He affirms Richard Swinburne’s summary exposition of the cosmological argument: “There is quite a chance that, if there is a God, he will make something of the finitude and complexity of the universe. It is very unlikely that a universe would exist uncaused, but more likely that God would exist uncaused. Hence the argument from the existence of the universe to the existence of God is a good C-inductive argument” (Swinburne in Flew 145). Before the publication of Flew’s book, he had discussions with Swinburne in which Flew “noted that his [Swinburne’s] version of the cosmological argument seems to be right in a fundamental way. Some features of it may need to be amended, but the universe is something that begs an explanation. Richard Swinburne’s cosmological argument provides a very promising explanation, probably the finally right one” (145, my emphasis).

Dr. William Lane Craig has outlined the Kalam Cosmological Argument in, “The existence of God & the beginning of the universe”.

Sincerely, Spencer

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Old 18th June 2010, 07:28 PM
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From what I understand of your summary is that instead of God 'causing' existence, or a single cause, a series of 'causes' were responsible - which hardly explains anything.

But my questions remains, what has this to do with the idea of God?

I prefer Anslem's Ontological Argument - namely, no one can prove that which does not exists.

But it may be the case I'm missing the point of your OP.
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Old 18th June 2010, 07:51 PM
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wayseer,

Originally Posted by wayseer View Post
From what I understand of your summary is that instead of God 'causing' existence, or a single cause, a series of 'causes' were responsible - which hardly explains anything.

But my questions remains, what has this to do with the idea of God?

I prefer Anslem's Ontological Argument - namely, no one can prove that which does not exists.

But it may be the case I'm missing the point of your OP.
No, that is not my understanding of what Flew wrote. Please read these points of summary again:

9. The old argument to explain the universe through “an infinite series of causes” is now in the new language of modern cosmology. Again, he refers to John Leslie’s argument that finds this infinite series unsatisfactory. Why? Leslie explains: “The existence even of an infinite series of past events couldn’t be made self-explaining through each event being explained by an earlier one” (Leslie in Flew 144). The entire series still needs an explanation. Which explanation best fits the facts and reason?

10. He affirms Richard Swinburne’s summary exposition of the cosmological argument: “There is quite a chance that, if there is a God, he will make something of the finitude and complexity of the universe. It is very unlikely that a universe would exist uncaused, but more likely that God would exist uncaused. Hence the argument from the existence of the universe to the existence of God is a good C-inductive argument” (Swinburne in Flew 145). Before the publication of Flew’s book, he had discussions with Swinburne in which Flew “noted that his [Swinburne’s] version of the cosmological argument seems to be right in a fundamental way. Some features of it may need to be amended, but the universe is something that begs an explanation. Richard Swinburne’s cosmological argument provides a very promising explanation, probably the finally right one” (145, my emphasis).
My understanding of Flew's argument in this one chapter was that, even if one were to have an infinite series of causes, the series still couldn't explain itself. The series needs an ultimate explanation.

That ultimate explanation is, as Swinburne has stated, the cosmological argument with the uncaused God creating the universe, rather than the uncaused and ultimate universe.

I was presenting Antony Flew's support for the cosmological argument.

Since you prefer the ontological argument, why don't you provide the steps for it in your defense of the existence of God so that we can discuss?

Regards, Spencer
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