Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Quote: Antony Flew on Design

"Although I was once sharply critical of the argument to design, I have since come to see that, when correctly formatted, this argument constitutes a persuasive case for the existence of God.”

- Antony Flew (There is a God, p. 95.)

14 comments :

Peter said...

His deism will not save him from hell.

Brian said...

The point of the quote is not to suggest deism means salvation. Rather, the point that the argument to design is strong enough to change the mind of a 50-year atheist philosopher.

I can't properly discern your tone, Peter, but I hope that caring Christians are prayerful that Flew would come to know the savior.

RkBall said...

Amen.

bossmanham said...

I agree, Brian. I heard Ravi Zacharias discuss Flew recently and he mentioned that Flew said if there was a religion that were true, Christianity would be the only one (or something like that) if that offers any encouragement.

Jeff Cheadle said...

I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Flew speak at the CS Lewis Conference in Oxford several years ago. I appreciated his intellectual honesty and courage. I also was moved by the followup discussion during which Chuck Colson and Peter Kreeft gently encouraged Dr. Flew to consider the claims of Jesus Christ. I understand they all went out to lunch afterward. I would have loved to have overheard their discussion.

Lee said...

OK, this is Flew's opinion now, so what are his objections to his own argument made 40 years ago?

This is what troubles me when Christians throw Flew around.

1. He is a deist, and so does not accept the arguments from the Christian

2. I have never read/seen/heard how Flew rebutes his own arguments

I shall quote a famous argument from Flew:

"Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, "Some gardener must tend this plot." The other disagrees, "There is no gardener." So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. "But perhaps he is an invisible gardener." So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Well's The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. "But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible, to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves." At last the Sceptic despairs, "But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?"

Any answers?

Lee

Brian said...

Seems like his response to the gardener story would be, "Actually, I think a gardener is needed after all…"

You really ought to read his book Lee.
I have an extra copy here floating around and I would happy to send it to you. Contact me and let me know if you are interested.

Lee said...

Hi Brian,

Seems like his response to the gardener story would be, "Actually, I think a gardener is needed after all…"

Then I would suggest Flew re-reads his own words again.

The point of the passage is (I think – at least it is for me) that it is all very well making an assertion or indeed a statement of belief – but if this cannot be backed up with observation/testing, then the claim becomes all rather meaningless.

To quote again ”Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?"

Feel free to change ‘gardener’ for ‘god’ if that helps :-)

You really ought to read his book Lee.

Maybe you are right, if you can tell me he responds to his own (previous) objections?

Also, since he is merely a deist, how convincing do you think his arguments are really?

I have an extra copy here floating around and I would happy to send it to you. Contact me and let me know if you are interested.

Thank you, you are too kind (something I do notice of many Christians on blogs) however I first would like to know if the book is worth both our investments.

I don’t suppose you did a book review did you?

Lee

Brian said...

Lee,

Flew's own investigation of the garden, if you will, has brought him to the conclusion that he can infer a gardener from his works in nature. To require God to be observed and tested is not necessary to come to that conclusion.

if you can tell me he responds to his own (previous) objections?
And if he doesn't respond to them you won't read it?

since he is merely a deist, how convincing do you think his arguments are really?
Convincing enough for him to turn his back on 50 years of being the most influential philosophical atheist of the 20th century. But I suppose that if he's "only" a "deist" then it must be complete rubbish, right?

I first would like to know if the book is worth both our investments.
I wouldn't recommend it unless I thought it would be worth reading. I have also reviewed it.Plus, as I mentioned, I have an extra copy. At least then you would know what you are disagreeing with rather than second-hand sources.

Lee said...

Hi Brian,

Flew's own investigation of the garden, if you will, has brought him to the conclusion that he can infer a gardener from his works in nature. To require God to be observed and tested is not necessary to come to that conclusion.

Then Flew would have just rejected his own argument without justification or explanation.

That is my main point here. If I am mistaken on Flew’s argument - then please help me out – what do you think Flew was arguing?

Flew has not (it seems) explained why his previous argument is flawed, just chooses to ignore it.

Can you understand where I am coming from?

If Flew now thinks his previous argument is logically flawed or invalid, then he should say where and why.

Just ignoring it might suggest the man is getting ‘forgetful’ in his old age. :-)

It seems Flew now believes in an invisible gardener... can you see the problem?

In Flew’s own argument – as was pointed out before – if you cannot test and falsify the claim, what is the difference between an invisible gardener that cannot be tested and measured to that of a gardener that does not exist?

If you were to claim there is a gardener (as you say Flew is now inferring) it is for you to prove it to others – not for me to falsify it first. That is the whole point of Flew’s argument I think

And if he doesn't respond to them you won't read it?

If Flew does not respond to his most famous argument against god claims in his book which is suppose to speak of his journey from atheist to believer... it does make me wonder why I should invest time in the book.

So, since you have read the book – does Flew respond?

I would be very interested in knowing.

If he does not, what does this say about Flew’s new found beliefs?

They are faith based and not reasoned based perhaps? That isn’t a good argument to want to read - I have little to learn from that.

Convincing enough for him to turn his back on 50 years of being the most influential philosophical atheist of the 20th century.

At the moment it just sounds like he forgot (or ignores) his own arguments.

That isn’t very convincing at all.

Pay me $1 million to write a book (with a promise of a nice book tour to follow) about my new found belief in God and I would do it also.
(I am an atheist without a bias for my morals remember – and it pays the bills)

One person turning from position A to position B does not convince me of much.

Their reason and evidence for doing this is what would make it interesting.

After all, I could point to many a Christian who turned their back on their faith – would that in of itself convince you that you might be wrong?.

But I suppose that if he's "only" a "deist" then it must be complete rubbish, right?

No, of course not... he could provide many good reasons why we should not be a theist :-).

However these have not convinced you... why is that?

So it isn’t me who say the arguments are ‘complete rubbish’ – I’ve not even read them, but you have, and I think you reject them.

All I have asked for is Flew’s own response to his most fashion atheist argument.

I wouldn't recommend it unless I thought it would be worth reading.

Very true.

I have also reviewed it.

I must look for that review... I guess it has a label of “Flew”

Plus, as I mentioned, I have an extra copy. At least then you would know what you are disagreeing with rather than second-hand sources.

And I thank you for this.

I think I want to read the book now, based on what you have said – if for no other reason than to check if he rebuts his own arguments of old.

However, I cannot ask you to send a book to Australia... it just would not feel right.

Thanks

Lee

Brian said...

Then Flew would have just rejected his own argument without justification or explanation.

Flew has not (it seems) explained why his previous argument is flawed, just chooses to ignore it.


Why does Flew have to do this for you in order for you to read his book? There are numerous critiques of Flew's use of John Wisdom's parable. They should suffice if you are looking for an answer to it. Have you read any responses? Or is it just a hoop for me to jump through?

In essence, his book is a presentation of the reasons why he believes there is a gardener. But you seem to require him to go back and re-hash all his old atheist arguments.

Do I really need to respond point by point here? It seems you are just multiplying reasons why you don't want to read the book. Maybe I am wrong here, but I get the impression that if I spent an hour or two answering everything sufficiently here it would make no difference because you refuse to hear his case.

However, I cannot ask you to send a book to Australia... it just would not feel right.
Well it was my offer and I knew where you lived when I offered. But if you think that your reasons for not reading it are compelling, then that's up to you.

Lee said...

You misunderstood me...

I want to read the book, but I could not ask you to post it to me.

That must sound strange to you?

I just cannot take money from you.

Lee

jfxa said...

Lee I cannot find a small quote where Flew refutes the argument he previously made. However, it seems to me that he is referring back to Paleys argument so the idea is rather simple. If you found a watch, you would not need to show that you can detect the maker or gardner by fences, patrols or other physical means. All you need to show, is that there is no natural law or process that can account for something that is intricately put together.

It seems to clear to Flew and to me, that the evidence for design in the universe, and in the origin of the first living cell for example are not capable of being made through natural, random processes. Therefore, you need no physical detection to be convinced of the designer.

This conclusion could not have been so clearly made when Flew wrote his original argument. The atheist had hope that as unlikely as it might seem, we would find natural processes to accomplish what looked designed.
Instead the more we look into life and the universe, it is far more unlikely natural processes can accomplish this. The black box has been opened and it does not support the naturalist viewpoint. So it is very reasonable to conclude that there is a gardner who is behind all of what we see.

Richard Woerner said...

Maybe we should thank God for at least opening his eyes this far. No telling, not even one hear can say what he said in his final hours before the Lord. Sometimes we judge too harshly too quickly. If you were not at his bed side and did not hear his final words, all we can do is thank the Lord that the once poster boy for atheism was touched by God, even if it was through a scientific argument.

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