Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Night Frozen Dinner And An Intellectual: "There Is A God: How The World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind" by Antony Flew. Part II

Last Friday my brother and I went ate at a Mexican restaurant and engaged in a political discussion. After that, I went to a coffee house and ordered coffee and two small dark chocolate squares. I am not supposed to consume sugar, but dark chocolate is good for the blood pressure. Since they were only 50 cents each and very small, I felt neither fear nor guilt. After all, after any discussion of politics with my brother, I need something good for the blood pressure. As I consumed my coffee and medicinal chocolate, and listened to who knows what on the loud speaker, I read Part II of Antony Flew's "There Is A God: How The World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind". I will give a brief summary of most of the chapters.

Pilgrimage Of Reason: Here Flew outlines what he believes concerning creation by an Intelligence. Flew believes that a Divine Intelligence created the universe based on three reasons. One, nature obeys laws. Two, the dimension of life, the rise of intellectually organized and purpose driven beings from matter. Three, the very existence of nature. Flew does not attribute his shift in thinking to any new phenomenon or argument. He switched from atheism to theism because of his constant assessment of already existing evidence. (Flew, There Is A God, p. 89) Science was not his only guide; as a philosopher, philosophy played a significant role in the formation of his views on life's origins. How does Flew justify bringing philosophy into the quest for the origin of life? Flew's answer is that when one is researching something such as the chemical interaction of two particles, one is engaged in science. But when one speculates as to why these two particles, or anything physical exists, then one is engaging in philosophy. "When you draw philosophical conclusions from scientific data, then you are thinking as a philosopher." (Flew, p. 89) Remember that Flew has not embraced the Triune God, but his God is the God of Aristotle, and according to Flew, his journey to theism has been one of reason and not faith. (Flew, p. 92-93)

Who Wrote The Laws Of Nature?: Flew examines what modern scientists have believed about the study of the universe and its origins. Einstein believed in a God apart from nature; Einstein stated that "he who knows nature knows God, but not because nature is God, but because the pursuit of science in studying nature leads to religion." (Flew, p. 101) Flew spends most of the chapter demonstrating that many of the 20th century's most important scientists have believed in God, though not necessarily claimed to be Christians. He also tackles briefly the atheist belief that the laws of nature exist unreasonably therefore making the universe absurd. This is an argument that collides head-on with the assumption of order in the universe that made modern science possible. Flew concludes this chapter by claiming that "Those scientists who point to the Mind of God...propound a vision of reality that emerges from the conceptual heart of modern science and imposes itself on the rational mind. It is a vision that I personally find compelling and irrefutable." (Flew, p. 112)

Did The Universe Know We Were Coming?: This is my favorite chapter in the book because it asks a question I have never heard asked before: If there was no divine intelligence responsible for the creation of the earth and the universe, then why does it seem that the laws of nature seem to have been crafted so as to render the universe capable of the creation and reproduction of life? Why was this the case before the emergence of living creatures? (Flew, p. 114) Flew also challenges proponents of the "multi-verse." Those who propound this theory believe that not just one universe was created, but several were created and ours just happens to contain the conditions that support life. Flew quotes Richard Swinburne in debunking this theory: "It is crazy to postulate a trillion (causally unconnected) universes to explain the features of one universe, when postulating one entity (God) will do the job." (Flew, p. 119)

How Did Life Go Live?: Flew points out this problem: most scientists seeking to explain the origin of life rarely explore the philosophical implications of their work, philosophers on the other hand rarely address issues concerning the nature and origin of life. Flew quotes philosopher Richard Cameron as stating that Aristotle did not consider the existence of life and teleology (the philosophical study of purpose and ends) to exist together by chance. "Aristotle", Cameron says, "...defined life in teleological terms, holding that teleology is essential to the life of living things." (Flew, p. 124-125) Flew quotes another philosopher, David Conway, challenging the contention of some such as David Hume that life was not originated by any form of intelligence. To prove Hume's contention, according to Cameron, two things must be explained: how did living matter with teleological organizations emerge from non-teleological, non-living matter, and how did life forms that can reproduce themselves come into being without the guidance of an intelligence? (Flew, p. 125-126) And what about the existence of DNA? Where did an environment that can interpret the meaning in the genetic code in living creatures originate? (Flew, p. 129)

Open To Omnipotence: Science alone cannot furnish evidence for God's existence, according to Flew. But three items of evidence can only be explained in terms of the work of a Divine Intelligence: the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization, and the existense of the universe. "Such a discovery of the Divine does not come through experiments and equations, but through an understanding of the structures they unveil and unmap." (Flew, p. 155) When Flew was growing up, the question of why evil was allowed to exist by a loving God led him to become an atheist. Now Flew believes that the existence of evil is not evidence for there being no God at all. "Certainly the existence of evil and suffering must be faced. However, philosophically speaking, that is a separate issue from the question of God's existence. Nature may have its imperfections, but this says nothing as to whether it had an ultimate Source. Thus, the existence of God does not depend on the existence of warranted or unwarranted evil." (Flew,p. 156)

Tonight I finish reading "There Is A God." I will reread the introduction and the appendices plus some of Flew's statements on Richard Dawkins and his atheistic views. The second appendix is a conversation between Flew and N.T. Wright, whom Flew states gives the best apologetic for the Christian faith. As for Flews views on Christianity versus the world's other religions, Flew states that ' other religion enjoys anything like the combination of a charismatic figure like Jesus and a first-class intellectual like St. Paul. If you're wanting omnipotence to set up a religion, it seems to me that this is the one to beat!" (Flew, p.157)

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