There Is a God by Antony Flew

Antony Flew is one of the leading philosophers of the Twentieth Century. And an atheist. Or at least he used to be. In 2004 the 81-year-old scholar admitted publicly that he now believes there is a god. He still denies anything like special revelation—the actual communication of God with Man—but he “followed the evidence,” and found the arguments for intelligent design compelling.

This rather shocking about-face was reported in various news media, but a lengthy interview exploring Flew’s beliefs is available at Biola University’s Biola News & Communications.

There Is a GodThe book, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (HarperOne, 2007) by Antony Flew and Roy Abraham Varghese, released last month. Interestingly, I heard about it from Steve Laube at the ACW Conference in Anaheim the week the book came out. Little did I suspect I would be blogging about it in a matter of weeks.

Actually when Mir left her comment to yesterday’s post, I was trying to remember Flew’s name. Then, lo and behold, on the ACFW email loop, one of the writers mentioned the book! Well, I don’t believe in coincidences—I see God’s hand in bringing little details together. So I set out to learn a little about Flew.

First, I was surprised that his revelation came three years ago. I vaguely remember reading the headline of an article about his change of mind (clearly not yet a change of heart) in my local paper. Nothing more until Steve Laube told us the interesting tale of how he became Flew’s agent. Even then I didn’t realize this “news” was not new.

Of course, the book release is stirring up more conversation about the subject, and it is interesting. On one site, evidently visited predominantly by atheists, the reaction ranged from distain to relief. Distain because, surely if Antony Flew was really such an important, leading atheist, THEY would know who he was! Relief, because Flew may now believe in god, but he clearly does not believe in the Christian God!

In regards to the first point, I admit I didn’t know who Flew was either. Here’s the intro of his entry in Wikipedia:

Professor Antony Garrard Newton Flew (born February 11, 1923) is a British philosopher. Known for several decades as a prominent atheist, Flew first publicly expressed deist views in 2004

Evidently his prominence is in academia. He produced forty books or pamphlets in his field, a number specifically dealing with the subject of God’s existence.

That some other people came up with the idea that there is no god, apart from any apparent study or philosophical base is more telling of the weakness of their belief system, I would think. Their ignorance of such an influential thinker would be tantamount to my saying I’ve never heard of Charles Spurgeon or J. I. Packer or A. W. Tozer.

Regarding their “relief” that at least he doesn’t believe in the Christian God, I at first found it amusing, until I realized how that attitude reflected such a clear rejection of God Himself.

Much like Flew’s own rejection of God. The man was raised in a God-fearing home but turned to atheism because he couldn’t accept the idea of a good, wise, all powerful creator who would consign much of humanity to hell. In other words, he can’t resolve God’s goodness with His justice. My belief is, the resolution lies with His mercy.

Published in: on November 7, 2007 at 12:21 pm  Comments (21)  
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21 Comments

  1. I used to be very active on apologetics sites and am still signed up (though I rarely visit) an apologetics listserv via Apologia Report. When Flew came to our side of the God/No God fence, it was a huge thing. Everyone was chatting about it.

    I guess I assumed it was widely reported. 🙂

    At that time, I had been praying for Stephen Gould to convert, but that didn’t work out. I’m onto DAwkins and Hitchens now. I’m hounding heaven for those two to see the light!

    Mir

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  2. It’s a huge step from atheism to theism and, even though Flew may not believe in the Christian God, his assent that there IS a god should be duly noted. I believe Christians far too quickly downplay these important transitions. “The fool has said in his heart, there is no god.” Therefore, the admission of a Superior Intelligence, while it many not be salvific, is the first step toward wisdom.

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  3. When we judge God by our own feeble view we always have to change him. We think a good God wouldn’t send someone to hell so we have to either believe God is bad or God doesn’t send anyone to hell.

    This is nothing but making God over in our own image. We judge him as if he were human.

    The Bible says, for good reason, that God is the potter. It would be sinful for one pot to throw another into the furnace, but the potter has the moral right to do whatever he wants with the pots he makes.

    As you say, Becky, God’s justice does come into play, too. He’s the only who is perfectly just, therefore he’s the one who has the moral right to pass judgment on sinful creatures.

    As far as resolving some conflict between goodness and justice…there is no conflict. A lack of justice is not good. Even we, sinful creatures though we be, can see that.

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  4. Mike, his move to belief in God was certainly no downplayed among apologists and ministers. I believe Christianity Today did a story shortly thereafter (given publication lags).

    To the general Christian, the one who doesn’t follow philosophical debates or apologetics doings, well, they wouldn’t have heard of Flew, so his transition would have been a non-eye-catcher. It’s not as if a celebrity had crossed that line.

    And, to another segment, there is the issue that believing in the existence of God is not salvific and doesn’t make one part of the Body, and “even demons believe and tremble.” Essentially, it’s a change in the right direction, but it’s not changing the person’s cosmic status, beyond rising them up from the base level of theological “fool.”

    Mir

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  5. I also heard about this from Steve Laube and have been fascinated ever since. When discussing it with members of my Bible study we reasoned that Mr. Flew has been the recipient of many prayers. Good for you Mir for praying for those who, like Paul, have so blatantly cursed our God. It’s prayers like these, hard as they can be at times, that ultimately bring glory to God.

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  6. Mike, I apologize if I came across as downplaying Flew’s change of mind. That I didn’t think more of it at the time it first hit the news is just as Mir said—I didn’t know anything about him and therefore didn’t realize how revolutionary his new position is.

    Actually, I was trying to be careful to portray his new belief as I understand it to be because I know the propensity in Christian circles to seize upon a “star” and make him a poster boy for our views. I’m pretty sure most people realize, Dr. Flew is not that.

    As you would expect, it seems atheists are downplaying this man’s thinking. Ironically, one accusation is that now he is in his 80s he wants to cover all his bases, just in case there actually is a god. What does that tell you about the certainty these atheists have?

    Thank you each—Julie and Sally, too—for leaving your comments. Excellent contributions to the discussion.

    Becky

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  7. Allow me to offer some contrary thoughts. If you read more about this issue, you might find that it is a lot less simple and more confusing than it seems: while Flew most certainly has developed deism over the years, the portrayal of his views and his reasons is at best problematic, and I have a hard time seeing why his beliefs are any more particularly revolutionary than anyone’s change of beliefs: if the fact that he was a famous atheist philosopher did not make you more inclined to be an atheist, then why should the fact that he became a deist make anyone more inclined to be a theist?

    Perhaps more importantly, the arguments that apparently convinced him are not particularly convincing to me, and he seems unable to defend those reasons against criticism which calls into question any particular authority or expertise anyone might claim he had on any of the matters involved (in fact, HE does not claim such expertise): given that, the fact that he was once an atheist is sort of irrelevant towards making any point about the correctness or incorrectness of any position, no different than the fact that I was once a theist should make you more inclined to be an atheist.

    And perhaps most important of all, the seeming exploitation of a very elderly man for the purposes of some rather tepid apologetics is not exactly evangelism’s brightest moment. Presenting the recent book as his own work, when he did not write any of it, is dishonest, even if it had Flew’s assent, and given that Flew does not seem to be in any state to really understand what it is being claimed that he now believes, and given that “his” thoughts in the book seem to be ignorant of things Flew himself has said and argued in other places without any hint that these things should need to be clarified, we have a situation that is, at the very least, a little ghoulish.

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  8. “Bad,” thanks for stopping by and for adding your voice to the discussion. You said if the fact that he was a famous atheist philosopher did not make you more inclined to be an atheist, then why should the fact that he became a deist make anyone more inclined to be a theist? You imply by this that people don’t influence each other. Certainly you don’t believe this or you wouldn’t be a blogger.

    The fact is, a scholarly man who lives life discussing the why and how of ideas, who embraces empiricism and rejected the existence of god in part because there was no empirical evidence to support that belief now says he has been wrong. There is empirical evidence for an intelligent designer. It only seems logical that someone else of like mind ought to investigate that claim.

    The claim that the new book just released isn’t “evangelism’s brightest moment” is confusing. No one that I know says this book is about “evangelism.” As to the claims that someone is “exploiting” a very elderly man, that’s a huge leap. Nothing the writer of the NY Times article says convinces me that the people Flew discussed science and philosophy with did more than influenced his thinking. How is this “exploiting” him? That would be like me saying you are “exploiting” the commenters on your blog who agree with you.

    I encourage you to take time to read the article I linked to that carried the interview in which Flew declared his change of mind: http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/. It’s apparent Flew still had his faculties, agreed only with what he had become convinced of and held to his arguments against the Christian God.

    As to your not being convinced by the arguments that convinced him … each person is responsible for his own response. Flew spends a life time studying and comes to a belief in an intelligent designer, whether a who or a which, he doesn’t know. You study and reject his conclusion. I study and conclude that the intelligent designer is not only a Who but did extraordinary things to make Himself known to Man.

    Who’s right? Atheists try to present arguments to disprove what I know to be true. It’s like a person who lives under a cloudy sky disbelieving the sun exists because he can’t see it and trying to convince the guy from the mountain country who sees the sun every day that he’s deluded.

    If a person does away with the presupposition that God does not exist, and looks at creation from the vantage point of discovering what is the most logical explanation for how the world came about and why we are here, God will answer the questions more than any uncaused, uncreated, ordering of self-sustaining matter. The latter requires a REAL leap of faith, in my opinion.

    Becky

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  9. I look forward to people now buying Flew’s book and going to atheist discussion forums, and trying out the arguments in the book.

    Those arguments will be ripped to shreds, as they are so bad.

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  10. “You imply by this that people don’t influence each other. Certainly you don’t believe this or you wouldn’t be a blogger.”

    That was not my implication. The point is that there are all sorts of intelligent people who believe all sorts of different and contrary things: Flew is being offered by some as a sort of authority example. But there’s quite a double standard in these cases: the authorities are only cited if and when they happen agree with peoples preconceptions.

    “The claim that the new book just released isn’t “evangelism’s brightest moment” is confusing. No one that I know says this book is about “evangelism.””

    The book itself is pretty much from start to finish a tool for evangelism, and it’s whole purpose is to trot Flew out as a trophy example. Denying that seems quite silly. The final chapter is an argument as to why the Resurrection is historically true for goodness sakes.

    “As to the claims that someone is “exploiting” a very elderly man, that’s a huge leap. Nothing the writer of the NY Times article says convinces me that the people Flew discussed science and philosophy with did more than influenced his thinking.”

    You didn’t really read the article then. They didn’t merely influence him: they wrote the book, every word of it, for him… because he basically was in no state to write anything. That’s a heck of a lot more than merely influencing his thinking. They conceived of, created, wrote, and are now in near complete control over the selling of, this book.

    “How is this “exploiting” him? That would be like me saying you are “exploiting” the commenters on your blog who agree with you.”

    Flew, due to his advanced age, cannot participate in lengthy intellectual argument. He can’t even remember the names, let alone the arguments, of people in his field. Due to the evidence presented by Richard Carrier and others, it seems very doubtful that Flew can even remember what he has said and argued in the past. Someone in such a state should not be treated like this: pushed into an arena they themselves have said over and over they are unable to participate in.

    It’s as if in his old age, some very nice Democrats came and befriended Ronald Reagan, worked on him for years, and as he advanced in his Alzheimer’s, got him to agree to let them write a book in his name in which he would claim that Republicans were all wrong and he had changed his mind.

    “I encourage you to take time to read the article I linked to that carried the interview in which Flew declared his change of mind: http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/. It’s apparent Flew still had his faculties, agreed only with what he had become convinced of and held to his arguments against the Christian God.”

    Yes, which is exactly what makes the book so exploitative: it over and over again implies that Flew is just inches away from being a Christian, it contains sections written supposedly by him that are in fact open Christian apologetics, and ends with a discussion of the resurrection, as I noted. Nowhere in “Flew’s” book is there any mention of the things Flew almost always has said about Christianity as a doctrine. Flew is a deist: the book barely even mentions deism, let alone defines or explains it. This entire issue is sidestepped: not by Flew, as you seem to understand, but by his evangelical ghostwriters.

    “As to your not being convinced by the arguments that convinced him … each person is responsible for his own response.”

    Very true.

    “If a person does away with the presupposition that God does not exist, and looks at creation from the vantage point of discovering what is the most logical explanation for how the world came about and why we are here, God will answer the questions more than any uncaused, uncreated, ordering of self-sustaining matter. The latter requires a REAL leap of faith, in my opinion.”

    I don’t mind you having that opinion: I don’t agree with it or find the appeals or analogies its based on fair or convincing, but I’m not here trying to argue you out of it. My point is just about Flew and the way he’s being used and held up being wrong.

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  11. Does anybody in his right mind that that Flew wrote a book calling himself ‘The Worlds Most Notorious Atheist’?

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  12. “Bad,” I appreciate you continuing the dialogue. I wasn’t aware of the NYT article until you linked to it. I had read the suggestions that Flew wasn’t mental all there and/or that he was “under the influence,” ( 😉 ) but I didn’t know the origin of those ideas.

    I haven’t read the book, so much of what you say I can’t comment on. However, you concluded by saying, I don’t mind you having that opinion: I don’t agree with it or find the appeals or analogies its based on fair or convincing, but I’m not here trying to argue you out of it. My point is just about Flew and the way he’s being used and held up being wrong. We agree on the issue of not trying to argue each other out of our positions. I don’t think coming to a belief in the one true God is something a person is argued into. I think believing in God is eminently logical and rational and scientific (not scientific as in “scientifically provable.” Creation was a one-time proposition, so NO theory can be proved by the scientific method. To suggest that evolution is more scientific than God is not accurate), but not something empirical evidence will convince someone with a presupposition disallowing God will reverse.

    As to how Flew is being used, I wonder if you could give me some names of people using him to “evangelize.” That he is a deist, and does not believe in a God who communicates with the beings He created, separates him from the Christian worldview by a wide margin.

    Sure, I’ll admit I’m glad he finds evidence for intelligent design. I think that’s something true, but as I see it, he’s far from Truth, so I don’t see what “advantage” Christians can be accused of gaining by talking about his change of mind.

    One other issue. The book is co-authored. Perhaps Oppenheimer, author of the NYT article, has affected other people’s thinking by calling Varghese a ghost writer, but clearly he is one of the authors. Why wouldn’t some of what he believes be in the book?

    I wish I could recall where I read it—some blog—where Varghese was credited for the entire chapter on the resurrection of Jesus. I was under the impression from that post that the book made this clear. If not, it should have, in my opinion.

    Becky

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  13. Steven, generally the authors don’t have control over the cover—design, title, none of it. You can be sure the line about notorious atheist came from HarperOne.

    Becky

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  14. Rebecca:

    My evidence for how the book is written and how it is being used are just that: the book and its promotion, as well as how it is presented by people in the media (like Bill O’Reilly), people on the internet (like the National Review), its own authors in nearly every venue I’ve heard them speak, and indeed even here on wordpress and even, frankly, the tone of your own post.

    As to the book being misrepresentative, the interview you linked to is a good example of Flew talking about his actual thoughts, and that’s sort of the point: even from just the brief research you describe, you seem to know far more about Flew and Flew’s views than does the book claiming to have been written by Flew (but, in fact, was not written by him at all). His deism, the fact that he remains adamantly against many Christian doctrines and even finds them to be evil, is simply left out, over and over. That’s why I find it exploitative and dishonest.

    “One other issue. The book is co-authored. Perhaps Oppenheimer, author of the NYT article, has affected other people’s thinking by calling Varghese a ghost writer, but clearly he is one of the authors.”

    It CLAIMS to be co-authored, but outside of the book’s cover and promotion even Varghese has admitted that Flew basically just read some drafts and said they were okay. In fact, the actual co-author of the book, with Varghese (neglecting the parts that are written by NT Wright, who wrote the resurrection part) is Bob Hostetler, a common co-author with Josh McDowell. Again, you seem to know that Flew is not a Christian: do you really think that this long list of Christian apologists are really the best people to represent and describe Flew’s deism? It’s like C.S. Lewis allowing Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris to write “his” final book.

    And I disagree with you on science of course: inasmuch as science means using evidence to confirm or disconfirm a theory, evolution is solid science, and creationism is either not science, or simply contradicted by the evidence. I don’t think there is a good rational case to be made to the alternative. I of course don’t discount the possibility that all the evidence could have been deliberately faked, or begrudge you from believing that, but that idea is not scientific, per se, because it does not use empirical evidence to support its conclusion, and is in fact intrinsically immune to ANY evidence (i.e., it is something that could be claimed no matter what the evidence was, period). Personally, I wouldn’t have much problem with creationism or creationists beliefs if they would just stop trying to claim to be good science.

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  15. Amazing article.
    I think you will link to our diary..
    Sayonara

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  16. It CLAIMS to be co-authored, but outside of the book’s cover and promotion even Varghese has admitted that Flew basically just read some drafts and said they were okay. In fact, the actual co-author of the book, with Varghese (neglecting the parts that are written by NT Wright, who wrote the resurrection part) is Bob Hostetler, a common co-author with Josh McDowell. “Bad,” your comments make me wonder how closely you read the New York Times article. I had more time before one of my posts and went back over it. Oppenheimer explains how the book was written. Essentially Varghese compiled the book from 4 sources—“There was stuff he had written before, and some of that was adapted to this,” Varghese said. “There is stuff he’d written to me in correspondence, and I organized a lot of it. And I had interviews with him. So those three elements went into it. Oh, and I exposed him to certain authors and got his views on them. Flew’s previous writings, correspondence, interviews, “critiques.”

    Is it exhaustive? Obviously not. But it is disingenuous to suggest that Flew had no part in this book.

    As to the “third author,” I suggest you read what the HarperOne editor told Oppenheimer. She describes what I know to be true about publishing.

    “Bad,” of course you are free to believe what you choose about evolution. My point in my previous comment is that evolution cannot be studied by the scientific method. It simply cannot. That’s not me making something up. The scientific method requires replication, and because of the purported time periods, no one is ever going to prove evolution by the scientific method.

    That evolutionists take observable data and draw conclusions about their hypothesis is no different than what a scientist who believes in intelligent design does.

    I claim, for example, that anyone believing in evolution completely disregards the second law of thermodynamics. Yes, there are scientists who have tried to explain away how the principles of evolution are diametrically opposed to it, but their answers are not scientifically satisfying as far as I’m concerned.

    As to Bill Reilly using Flew for evangelism—couldn’t say. Don’t listen to him, don’t know that he’s even a Christian. I can’t imagine why he would use him. No genuine Christian would. Salvation comes from the conviction of God’s Holy Spirit—clearly “Special Revelation”—something Flew doesn’t believe. As to my tone … well, that’s not a particularly empirical piece of evidence, is it. 😉

    Sorry my time is short for this discussion. I really enjoy the give and take.

    Becky

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  17. “My point in my previous comment is that evolution cannot be studied by the scientific method. It simply cannot.”

    Doesn’t the fact that virtually all scientists disagree with this claim at least suggest that maybe you are misunderstanding something?

    “That’s not me making something up. The scientific method requires replication, and because of the purported time periods, no one is ever going to prove evolution by the scientific method.”

    Well, this is a misunderstanding then: replication refers to the experiments and tests done on evidence, not the things they are studying or trying to learn about. Scientifically studying the sun does not require replicating the sun. Studying the past does not require replicating the past. The meaning of “replication” is that anyone can look at your evidence, follow your procedures, perform the same tests, and confirm the same results. This is done in studying evolution all the time.

    The view you are stating is a common creationist misrepresentation of the scientific method (another common one is claiming that the “observation” step is a final or confirming step, when in fact it refers to the observation of the initial thing to be explained).

    “That evolutionists take observable data and draw conclusions about their hypothesis is no different than what a scientist who believes in intelligent design does.”

    What biologists do is take physical evidence, build a hypothesis based on it and THEN use more physical evidence to test those hypotheses (creationists always ignore or mischaracterize the latter activities, which in fact are the bulk of what scientists do). Doing so is what leads to well validated theories like evolution.

    What Intelligent Design does is simply start with it’s conclusion, assume that anything complex must have been designed, and then sit back and smoke a pipe and nod sagely. There’s no science done: no testing of anything against evidence. It’s not only all conceptual, but it’s as untestable as claiming that we are all brains in jars hooked up to a VR simulation. Any possible state of the universe could be ascribed to the actions of a designer that can do anything for any reason. It’s an unverifiable story that’s the antithesis of empirical science.

    “I claim, for example, that anyone believing in evolution completely disregards the second law of thermodynamics.”

    This one I’ve never understood. But then, the actual explanation usually turns out to be that the person in question doesn’t even know what the 2nd law states. Most times I’ve heard creationists try to make this argument, their characterization of the second law would make everything from the formation of ice to nearly half the chemical reactions found in the universe impossible, not to mention virtually all normal biological processes (do you think, for instance, that a bone healing violates the laws of thermodynamics? If not, then how can you possibly believe that evolution does?)

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  18. Bad, I’m disappointed. You have taken this discussion into a divergent path that leaves us no common ground. You make categorical statements such as this: What Intelligent Design does is simply start with it’s conclusion, assume that anything complex must have been designed, and then sit back and smoke a pipe and nod sagely. There’s no science done: no testing of anything against evidence. Where is your evidence? How do you know what Intelligent Design scientists do? What articles have you read? Scientists you have interviewed?

    Here’s the crux of the issue. You believe what you wish apart from empirical data when it suits your world view to do so. On the other hand, when it clashes with your belief system, you demand physical evidence.

    It is a convenient method that allows you to avoid the issues.

    You continue this tact when I bring up the second law of thermodynamics. Rather than explaining how a big bang does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, you make statements about what you’ve heard “most times” from creationists making this argument. How empty to bring up making ice and healing bones since there obviously are forces of heat and energy at work in this world.

    But assuming that matter could exist without a cause, what would bring it together with other matter to create a big bang? Such an uncaused event violates the second law of thermodynamics.

    When you say evolutionary scientists examine the data and make a hypothesis, then test the evidence, you are speaking about a system that cannot apply to the big bang. No one observed a big bang. That a big bang happened is your hypothesis to explain the beginning of the evolutionary process.

    Why is is such a leap to say that an intelligent creator originated that process instead of a happy accident?

    Becky

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  19. Where is your evidence? How do you know what Intelligent Design scientists do? What articles have you read? Scientists you have interviewed?

    I’m pretty well read when it comes to ID stuff: I’ve read most of the major books, and followed their movement for years. I think my statements are quite accurate. There is little to ID other than a public relations machine. The few published works by their leading lights are not scientific studies in an ID paradigm or even attempts at such: they are books pitched directly to the public.

    If you disagree, then at least cite some research. Explain how “a being that can do anything did it in a way we can’t understand” lends itself to any sort of testable inquiry or better understanding of anything.

    You believe what you wish apart from empirical data when it suits your world view to do so. On the other hand, when it clashes with your belief system, you demand physical evidence.

    I don’t agree. While I am not perfect, I don’t simply go around believing things I cannot justify as a practice. The few principles I generally use that I cannot justify are the unavoidable axioms like the fact that we all exist and so on: things that we all assume but cannot prove (since the only evidence we have would simply beg the question). And since I’m open about the weaknesses of these things and do not have to claim they are true other than provisionally, even those I do not really “believe” in the sense you mean.

    It is a convenient method that allows you to avoid the issues. You continue this tact when I bring up the second law of thermodynamics.

    I don’t think I’m avoiding the issues here: the second law really doesn’t say that “things cannot become complex” as most people that bring it up seem to believe. All the second law really says is that there is no breaking even when it comes to energy: no process can be perfectly thermodynamically efficient. And, in fact, evolution makes no claim at all to be thermodynamically efficient.

    How empty to bring up making ice and healing bones since there obviously are forces of heat and energy at work in this world.

    Of course there are: and that is precisely why the claim that evolution is thermodynamically impossible is bogus.

    But assuming that matter could exist without a cause, what would bring it together with other matter to create a big bang? Such an uncaused event violates the second law of thermodynamics.

    I don’t recall claiming I could explain the universe. But I’m not sure I understand your question. We have no idea what the universe was like past a certain point in our ability to observe its past (and I do, in a sense, really mean observe: because of the way time and space work, we actually can see the early universe. The Cosmic Background Radiation IS, in some sense, basically seeing the Big Bang). We have no idea whether the universe spontaneously inflated from a point or what. The very laws of physics are contingent on things (like spatial dimensions) that the early universe might not have even had. Even stranger, in the situation of the early universe, it’s quite possible for matter and energy to expand rapidly without violating the laws of thermodynamics as long as an equal amount of anti-particles balance things out. And indeed, one of the strangest facts about our universe is that it’s total energy may be around 0, once you balance out positive and negative.

    But again, I’m not sure how any of that relates to evolution, or demonstrates much of anything about God. There are lots and lots of things we don’t understand yet and cannot claim to know. Why does this mean that it makes sense to claim that you know how it all happened?

    When you say evolutionary scientists examine the data and make a hypothesis, then test the evidence, you are speaking about a system that cannot apply to the big bang. No one observed a big bang. That a big bang happened is your hypothesis to explain the beginning of the evolutionary process.

    Not at all. This is another common myth. Evolution does not rely on whether or not the big bang is true… or vice-versa (in fact, evolution was developed long before the Big Bang), and the reasons these theories were developed had to do with sincerely trying to explain startling patterns in the evidence, not one to justify the other. That’s simply a false portrayal of how the fields developed: casting virtually every scientist, including countless religious scientists, as part of some vast conspiracy.

    Here’s the super-simplified summary of how it really happened: for most of human history, we thought that the “universe” was actually very tiny and stationary. There was the earth, the dome of the sky, and tiny planets and lights circling around in this dome. That’s it. But as telescopes were invented scientists (all of whom at the time believed in god!) saw that this picture didn’t fit the evidence: the sun when measured was vastly larger than the earth, the planets seemingly impossibly far away. As telescopes improved we discovered that there was more and more to the universe: that the stars were EXTREMELY far away, and some superstructure (the Milky Way, our galaxy) existed. But the biggest surprise came when scientists realized two things: that many of the “stars” we could see were in fact entire other galaxies full of stars and that these galaxies were actually moving at great speeds over time. That itself would have been startling enough, but then we realized that they were all moving overall away from each other: not just in any one particular direction, but as if space itself were expanding and everything was moving away from everything else on a large scale. When you reverse this effect, i.e. think about what things would have been like backwards in time, you would get the opposite effect: contraction. And if you took this to its logical conclusion, you would eventually get back to a point… quite literally: a point at which all existence would be so close together that gravity would dominate over and crush everything down to a dimensionless point.

    Hence the Big Bang. This had nothing to do with evolution and everything to do with the evidence. Countless different methods were developed to verify that the universe was old, all independent of the otherwise irrelevant question of life on earth. And since that time, spectacular verifications of the Big Bang concept have been discovered, such as the particular structure of the Cosmic Background Radiation.

    Your belief that science requires observing things with eyeballs, or replicating history in order to study history, is also a common misunderstanding of science.

    Why is is such a leap to say that an intelligent creator originated that process instead of a happy accident?

    You can say it all you want, you just can’t claim there is good empirical evidence for it. No one knows how or why the universe began, or even IF it began (other than in the sense of “the universe as we know it.” You are welcome to tell a story, but anyone else can tell a different story, and we have no basis by which to choose any one story as better than the others. Why not just admit that we don’t know?

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  20. Bad, thanks again for your thorough, thought-out response. I really appreciate you taking the time and hanging in with me on this. I always find thinking through issues with someone else instructive in one way or another. I appreciate your time and effort.

    You made a couple statements I thought were key. One was this: But again, I’m not sure how any of that relates to evolution, or demonstrates much of anything about God. There are lots and lots of things we don’t understand yet and cannot claim to know. The other was earlier: Explain how “a being that can do anything did it in a way we can’t understand” lends itself to any sort of testable inquiry or better understanding of anything.

    As I see it, we both acknowledge there are things that we cannot know about the universe or its origins. Where we differ, it seems to me, is in the fact that you rule God out as a possible first cause, presumably because you find no empirical data for His existence. And yet you have no empirical data to disprove His existence either.

    Would you say your position is more agnostic than atheistic? Or have you decided that we don’t know how the universe started but it just wasn’t God?

    Becky

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  21. […] he said as late as 2007, when his book There Is a God (you can read my posts related to the book here and here) was published, he had no hope for eternity: Mr. Flew, in a statement issued through his […]

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