Thursday, May 14, 2015

There is a God by Anthony Flew

There is a God by Anthony Flew: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind, was the perfect book to read poolside in Hawaii. It’s told in the manner of a story, so although the topic is deep and important, it’s an easy and relatively light read. 

He begins with a lengthy preface introducing himself and his book. He ends this portion with the big questions: “So does God exist? What about the arguments of the atheists old and new? And what bearing does modern science have on the matter?” And so follows the rest of the book.

Anthony Flew, although raised in a Christian home became an atheist initially because of the age-old problem of evil. And even though he felt he arrived at his belief, or lack thereof, too quickly and too easily, in seventy years he never found reason to change that initial conclusion. 

Yet as a scientist, and being relatively open-minded, he felt the compulsion to “follow the evidence where it leads.” He shocked audience at a debate between himself and a believer by announcing, “I now [accept] the existence of a God.” It was the complexity of DNA that impacted his atheism. 

He writes, “What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together.” He says science has revealed the Mind of God. What a fantastic thought!

He further explains his current thinking by “laying the cards on the table.” “This is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science. Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God. The first is the fact that nature obeys laws. The second is the dimension of life, of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings, which arose from matter. The third is the very existence of nature.”

The preciseness of nature and its laws astounds him. He calls the constants that govern creation “reason incarnate.” He approvingly quotes Freeman Dyson, “The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense knew we were coming.”

The discovery of the Big Bang gave him pause as an atheist. Suddenly science was saying what believers had been saying all along, “In the beginning...” Although scientist have yet to come up with an explanation for the beginning, believers could reasonably and consistently point to God. Even current theories, like a multiverse, he finds wanting as they simply push the explanation further way. “If the existence of one universe requires an explanation, multiple universes require a much bigger explanation.”

Therefore, he also found delight in the philosophical underpinnings of God’s existence which presented “a philosophically compelling vision of a rational universe that sprang from a divine Mind.” 

I love one particular philosophical argument he encounters. Richard Swinburne says, “There is quite a chance that, if there is a God, he will make something of the finitude and complexity of a universe. It is very unlikely that a universe would exist uncaused, but rather more likely that God would exist uncaused.” Basically, either God or the universe is uncaused. Which is the more likely scenario? (Take that Richard Dawkins who in his smug and childish way asks, “Who created God?”)

Flew sums up his beliefs, “God created the world so as to bring into being a race of rational creatures...It is possible to learn of the existence and nature of this Aristotelian God by the exercise of unaided human reason.” He stresses that his belief in God stems from the natural level without any reference to any supernatural phenomena. “In short, my discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith.”

That’s fine with me. We’ll take him!

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