Interview with Former Famous Atheist Antony Flew on Publishing His Book; “There is A God”

Benjamin Wiker: You say in There is a God, that “it may well be that no one is as surprised as I am that my exploration of the Divine has after all these years turned from denial…to discovery.”

Everyone else was certainly very surprised as well, perhaps all the more so since on our end, it seemed so sudden. But in There is a God, we find that it was actually a very gradual process—a “two decade migration,” as you call it. God was the conclusion of a rather long argument, then.

But wasn’t there a point in the “argument” where you found yourself suddenly surprised by the realization that “There is a God” after all? So that, in some sense, you really did “hear a Voice that says” in the evidence itself ” ‘Can you hear me now?'”

Ontological Argument

An ontological argument for the existence of God is one that attempts the method of a priori proof, which utilizes intuition and reason alone.

In the context of the Abrahamic religions, it was first proposed by the medieval philosopher Anselm of Canterbury in his Proslogion, and important variations have been developed by philosophers such as René Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, Norman Malcolm, Charles Hartshorne, Alvin Plantinga, and Kurt Gödel.

A modal logic version of the argument was devised by mathematician Kurt Gödel. The ontological argument has been a controversial topic in philosophy. Many philosophers, including David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Gottlob Frege, and Gaunilo of Marmoutiers, have openly criticized the argument.

The argument works by examining the concept of God, and arguing that it implies the actual existence of God; that is, if we can conceive of God, then God exists. However, this type of argument is often criticized as committing a bare assertion fallacy, meaning that it offers no outside premise to support its argument other than qualities inherent to the unproven statement.

The argument’s different versions arise mainly from using different concepts of God as the starting point. For example, Anselm starts with the notion of God as a being than which no greater can be conceived, while Descartes starts with the notion of God as being maximally perfect (as having all perfections) Wikipedia

Teleological Argument for God (Romans 1)

A teleological argument, or argument from design, is an argument for the existence of God or a creator based on perceived evidence of order, purpose, design, or direction—or some combination of these—in nature.

The word “teleological” is derived from the Greek word telos, meaning end or purpose. Teleology is the supposition that there is purpose or directive principle in the works and processes of nature….Wikipedia

Anthony Flew: There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe.

The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself – which is far more complex than the physical Universe – can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source.

I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical.

The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins’ comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a “lucky chance.” If that’s the best argument you have, then the game is over.

No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.

Benjamin Wiker: You are famous for arguing for a presumption of atheism, i.e., as far as arguments for and against the existence of God, the burden of proof lies with the theist. Given that you believe that you only followed the evidence where it led, and it led to theism, it would seem that things have now gone the other way, so that the burden of proof lies with the atheist. He must prove that God doesn’t exist. What are your thoughts on that?

Anthony Flew: I note in my book that some philosophers indeed have argued in the past that the burden of proof is on the atheist.

I think the origins of the laws of nature and of life and the Universe point clearly to an intelligent Source. The burden of proof is on those who argue to the contrary.


Benjamin Wiker: As for evidence, you cite a lot of the most recent science, yet you remark that your discovery of the Divine did not come through “experiments and equations,” but rather, “through an understanding of the structures they unveil and map.” Could you explain? Does that mean that the evidence that led you to God is not really, at heart, scientific?

Anthony Flew: It was empirical evidence, the evidence uncovered by the sciences. But it was a philosophical inference drawn from the evidence. Scientists as scientists cannot make these kinds of philosophical inferences. They have to speak as philosophers when they study the philosophical implications of empirical evidence.

Benjamin Wiker: You are obviously aware of the spate of recent books by such atheists as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. They think that those who believe in God are behind the times. But you seem to be politely asserting that they are ones who are behind the times, insofar as the latest scientific evidence tends strongly toward—or perhaps even demonstrates—a theistic conclusion. Is that a fair assessment of your position?

Anthony Flew: Yes indeed. I would add that Dawkins is selective to the point of dishonesty when he cites the views of scientists on the philosophical implications of the scientific data.

Two noted philosophers, one an agnostic (Anthony Kenny) and the other an atheist (Nagel), recently pointed out that Dawkins has failed to address three major issues that ground the rational case for God.

As it happens, these are the very same issues that had driven me to accept the existence of a God: the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization and the existence of the Universe.

Benjamin Wiker: You point out that the existence of God and the existence of evil are actually two different issues, which would therefore require two distinct investigations. But in the popular literature—even in much of the philosophical literature—the two issues are regularly conflated. Especially among atheists, the presumption is that the non-existence of God simply follows upon the existence of evil. What is the danger of such conflation? How as a theist do you now respond?

Anthony Flew: I should clarify that I am a deist. I do not accept any claim of divine revelation though I would be happy to study any such claim (and continue to do so in the case of Christianity). For the deist, the existence of evil does not pose a problem because the deist God does not intervene in the affairs of the world. The religious theist, of course, can turn to the free-will defense (in fact I am the one who first coined the phrase free-will defense). Another relatively recent change in my philosophical views is my affirmation of the freedom of the will.

Benjamin Wiker: According to There is a God, you are not what might be called a “thin theist,” that is, the evidence led you not merely to accept that there is a “cause” of nature, but “to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being.” How far away are you, then, from accepting this Being as a person rather than a set of characteristics, however accurate they may be? (I’m thinking of C. S. Lewis’ remark that a big turning point for him, in accepting Christianity, was in realizing that God was not a “place”—a set of characteristics, like a landscape—but a person.)

Anthony Flew: I accept the God of Aristotle who shares all the attributes you cite. Like Lewis I believe that God is a person but not the sort of person with whom you can have a talk. It is the ultimate being, the Creator of the Universe.

Benjamin Wiker: Do you plan to write a follow-up book to There is a God?

Anthony Flew: Flew: As I said in opening the book, this is my last will and testament.

Source: tothe

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