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There is a God

Discussion in 'Christian Apologetics' started by OzSpen, Jun 9, 2010.

  1. OzSpen

    OzSpen Regular Member

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    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:

    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. andreha

    andreha Senior Contributor

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  3. beforHim

    beforHim Apologetical

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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.
     
  4. Crusader88

    Crusader88 Guest

    I'm pretty sure he became a deist, NOT a theist.
     
  5. OzSpen

    OzSpen Regular Member

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    beforHim,

    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:

    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:

    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:

    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:

    In one of the words of "praise" at the beginning of the book, Francis S. Collins states that Flew's

    Regards, Spencer
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2010
  6. OzSpen

    OzSpen Regular Member

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    Why don't you read the book?

    I did give a brief summary in my first post.
     
  7. wayseer

    wayseer New Member

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    I'm wondering the same thing.
     
  8. OzSpen

    OzSpen Regular Member

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    noshoes


    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
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2010
  9. wayseer

    wayseer New Member

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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.
     
  10. OzSpen

    OzSpen Regular Member

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    wayseer,

    No, that is not my understanding of what Flew wrote. Please read these points of summary again:

    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
     
  11. wayseer

    wayseer New Member

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    Sounds like a challenge.

    OK, here we go -


    1. One can imagine a being than which none greater can be conceived.

    2. We know that existence in reality is greater than existence in the mind alone.

    3. If the being we imagine exists only in our mind, then it is not a "being than which none greater can be conceived".

    4. A being than which none greater can be conceived must also exist in reality.

    5. Failure to exist in reality would be failure to be a being than which none greater can be conceived.

    6. Thus a being than which none greater can be conceived must exist, and we call this being God. (H Scott Moore)

    As far as I understand Anselem's Proslogion, is that he is 'basically asserting that things which are the same in certain respects, are caused to be the same by something extrinsic to them' (C.J. Charlesworth). That there must be something common to both sets 'of itself' and if there is something common there must be something which imposes that quality and that something must have the qualities of those subsets.

    So, is there a being which is greater than the highest good? Anselm would answer, Yes because there must always be something greater, which we might call God - there is always another 'painting' in the mind of the painter.

    That which can exist is not constrained by our limitations of what can exist. Just as a painter can 'see', imagine, his painting before putting brush to canvas. But for the painting to be really 'real', it must have a spatio-temporal existence.

    Thus, the reality of the goodness in the world must reflect something of a 'goodness' beyond the world.

    If one were to argue against the existence of God, the 'fool' in Anselem's argument (atheist) then one would be 'compelled to acknowledge that the things of our experience are necessarily the only things' (M.J. Charlesworth) - nothing could exist beyond the here and now. In other words, architects and painters could not exist because they could never get there thoughts onto paper, or canvas.

    Which, given the times of Anselem, is not a bad argument and one which takes some topping.

    My own view is that Anselem's presentation is unnecessarily dualist and therefore does not consider other possibilities involving connectedness.
     
  12. wayseer

    wayseer New Member

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    What's up skeptic? TV on the blink? Starved for entertainment? The world going a bit stale of late?

    I have a friend who is dying of cancer. We'll pray for you tomorrow. You're done dude. It's all a matter of time. The Hound of Heaven has been released. You'll know God before you die, trust me.
     
  13. OzSpen

    OzSpen Regular Member

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    wayseer,

    I find it difficult to connect with that kind of reasoning.

    The cosmological argument makes much more sense to me.

    Regards, Spencer
     
  14. lucaspa

    lucaspa Legend

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    Before I begin, remember we are talking about Flew's arguments. Not whether God exists. Just whether Flew's arguments for God's existence are valid.

    The second and third questions allow you to posit the direct action of God (and thus of His existence) as a possible explanation. But there is nothing that compels that the answers be God.

    The laws could come from the fundamental particles of the universe. That is what String (or M) Theory says.

    The laws could just exist, just like God just exists..

    Why do we have these laws instead of some others, and why to these laws lead to life? There was a recent Scientific American article noting that this is not the only set of laws that would produce life.

    That is a non sequitor. Under No Boundary, the universe does indeed just exist. Under ekpyrotic, a 5 D 'brane just exists. There is no reason to suppose God is "more likely". Does Flew present any probability calculations? No. So his "more likely" is nothing but his emotions talking.

    Finally, events at the quantum level are uncaused. So we already have examples of uncaused events within the universe. It's very possible that the universe itself is an uncaused quantum event. That's one of the attractions of String Theory. So instead of an uncaused God causing a universe, we haev an uncaused universe.

    This is the same as questions 2 and 3 in the previous quote. It is called that Strong Anthropic Principle. It's basically a failure of logic. Flew's argument is that the universe must have these laws. But that is not required:

    "According to the Anthropic Principle, we are entitled to infer facts about the universe and its laws from the undisputed fact that we (we anthropoi, human beings) are here to do the inferring and observing. The Anthropic Principle comes in several flavors.
    In the "weak form" it is a sound, harmless, and on occasion useful application of elementary logic: if x is a necessary condition for the existence of y, and y exists, then x exists. If consciousness depends on complex physical structures, and complex physical structures depend on large molecules composed of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, then, since we are conscious, the world must contain such elements.
    "But notice that there is a loose cannon on the deck in the previous sentence: the wandering "must". I have followed the common practice in English of couching a claim of necessity in a technically incorrect way. As any student in logic class soon learns, what I really should have written is: *It must be the case that*: if consciousness depends ... then, since we are conscious, the world *contains* such elements.

    The conclusion that can be validly drawn is only that the world *does* contain such elements, not that it *had* to contain such elements. It *has* to contain such elements *for us to exist*, we may grant, but it might not have contained such elements, and if that had been the case, we wouldn't be here to be dismayed. It's as simple as that.
    Take a simpler example. Suppose John is a bachelor. Then he *must* be single, right? (That's a truth of logic.) Poor John -- he can never get married! The fallacy is obvious in this example, and it is worth keeping it in the back of your mind as a template to compare other arguments with."
    Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Ideas, pp. 165-166.

    If the universe did not have the "finely tuned laws" (and I noted that other laws would also give life), then we simply would not be around to wonder about it. So it could be by chance

    Flew mischaracterizes multiverse as "atheistic". It's not. It might be useful to atheists, but that has nothing to do with whether it is correct.

    Multiverse is a way to give the laws (and constants) more of a chance. Yes, the odds of winning a lottery ticket could be high for you with a single lottery ticket, but if there are a large number of tickets sold then it becomes very likely that someone will win. So, if there are a large number of universes each with different laws and constants, the odds are that one of them will be capable of producing life as we know it. And guess what? We are in that one!

    Absolutely. Here Flew simply does not understand either chemistry or Christian theology. Flew wants a "gap" that he can put God into. That is unChristian. Both non-codes and codes are regularly occuring parts of the universe. If God created a complete universe, there should be no "gap" between them.

    And there's not.

    It's not supposed to. Natural selection comes into play after you have a replicating cell or molecule. The origin of life is chemistry.

    And chemistry generates vast amounts of information initially. Natural selection increases the information.

    Not when the data contradict you. The one way we know to create living cells from non-living chemicals is by heating amino acids. This produces proteins. BUT, the amino acid sequence is not random. There is internal ordering due to the chemistry of the amino acids. Not every amino acid can be next to every other amino acid. When you have selection, you have the genesis of information. (See the IDer William Dembski at http://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/philosophy/faculty/koons/ntse/papers/Dembski.html )

    So the chemistry generates the initial information. The proteins will spontaneously form living cells. The proteins also have the capability of making DNA/RNA. Once again chemistry comes into play because there are affinities between some base sequences the DNA and some amino acid sequences in proteins. That is also information but this time the initial information needed to make a genetic code. The current genetic code and directed protein synthesis can then evolve by natural selection.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2010
  15. lucaspa

    lucaspa Legend

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    :confused: I'm not sure what you are trying to say here. Anselm put his Ontological Argument thus:

    "And certainly that than which a greater cannot be imagined cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater. Therefore if that than which a greater cannot be imagined is in the understanding alone, that very thing than which a greater cannot be imagined is something than which a greater can be imagined. But certainly this cannot be. There exists, therefore, beyond doubt something than which a greater cannot be imagined, both in the understanding and in reality."

    As a scientist, I disagree with that logical leap from imagined to "exists". Scientists imagine lots of things that, upon testing, turn out not to exist. It's what we do: imagine things and then test to see whether they exist.

    Most of the things we imagine turn out not to exist; hypotheses get falsified. Why would a "greater cannot be imagined" be exempt from not really existing?
     
  16. wayseer

    wayseer New Member

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    I image things and see if I can bring them about.

    We are talking different epistemologies.
     
  17. lucaspa

    lucaspa Legend

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    NO! I imagine things and then test to see if they exist. For instance, Copernicus imagined a solar system where the sun was at the center and the planets orbited the sun. Galileo, Kepler, and others tested to see whether such a solar system existed.

    Physicists today imagine very tiny strings and 'branes that make up matter and spacetime. They then test to see whether those strings and 'branes exist.

    Scientists discover the universe, we don't create -- "bring about". I understand how you made the statement you did. In areas that look at applications, it can look like we see if we "can bring them about". For instance, I am currently testing to see whether adult stem cells will heal a bone defect. I do manipulate the number of stem cells, the matrix, etc. to see if healing occurs. That manipulation looks like I am "seeing if I can bring about" bone repair. But that isn't what is happening. I imagine an adult stem cell with the ability to heal a bone defect. I am then testing to see whether such a stem cell exists. I am putting that stem cell in various conditions, but that means I am imagining "an adult stem cell in a polyglycolic acid matrix at a concentration of 50 million stem cells per cubic centimeter". Everything between the " " is what I am imagining. That is a pretty complex 'thing', but it is still a thing.

    Anselm's epistemology was pure logic. It has a non-sequitor. However, science has a different rule:
    "1. All our theory, ideas, preconceptions, instincts, and prejudices about how things logically ought to be, how they in all fairness ought to be, or how we would prefer them to be, must be tested against external reality --what they *really* are. How do we determine what they really are? Through direct experience of the universe itself. "

    Anselm says: we imagine it and therefore it exists. What we have found thru science is: we imagine it but that does not make it exist. We have to test to see if it exists.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2010
  18. wayseer

    wayseer New Member

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    As I said, different epistemologies. Is a movie real?
     
  19. lucaspa

    lucaspa Legend

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    Depends on what you are talking about. If you mean the reels or computer file, then yes, the movie is real. It exists in the physical universe independent of any idea about the movie of a person.

    This is the sense whether God exists. God is proposed to exist independent of us or what Anselm thinks. Anselm can imagine all sorts of creatures/beings that don't exist. This is what we are facing in the AV's threads about crytozoology. AV is claiming unicorns, behemoth, leviathan, etc. challenge evolution. But they don't exist independently outside the heads of the people who imagined them.

    So we are not dealing with different epistemologies. We are dealing with the same epistemology. Anselm is just mistaken about the relationship between imagination and existence.
     
  20. wayseer

    wayseer New Member

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    People do not spend money to go and look at reels or computer files - they go to watch the movie. So, is the movie real or not? Are we delusional in watching a movie, TV? Is Dawkins right?
     
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