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Antony Flew


Mordecai

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Author of Atheistic Humanism, Antony Flew

British philosopher, the late Antony Flew, was one of the most influential minds in the philosophy of religion, earning him the title of, "World's Most Notorious Atheist." He argued against the idea of free will to deal with the problem of evil, argued against the idea of a God, an afterlife and personally knew and debated with the great C.S. Lewis.

However, his atheism began to wane a little before 2004, firstly when he accepted some arguments in favor of free will, cracking the door open to the idea of a benevolent God. But it didn't stop there. Many of Flew's proposed problems with theism, were eventually dealt with to his satisfaction, further widening the path to theism. But based on my reading of his book, what may have influenced him the most was the strong anthropic principle, which is an intelligent design argument. (Interestingly, he corrects the proponents of the movement who call it an "argument from complexity," suggesting it should be called, "argument from order to intelligence," or something to that effect).

If you're not familiar with the strong anthropic principle, it is the hypothesis that the universal constants, or "fine tuning of the universe," are such that they imply that life was the purpose of the universe. He quotes numerous scientists, demonstrates that Dawkins has been dishonest in his claims, trying to cover that many scientists believe in a God of sorts and responds to those who suggest there are infinite universes. With regard to the infinite universe proposal, he explains that the assertion still requires a prime mover and a way to explain the complexity in the rules that would hypothetically create infinite universes that conveniently diverge in such a way that such a universe as this would exist. He asks, "Why is there anything at all instead of nothing," also responding to many of today's philosophical arguments against the idea that there needs to be a prime mover or first cause.

While Flew has not converted to Christianity, still doesn't believe in an afterlife and doesn't believe in a personal God, he shows a little bit of favor toward Christianity by including, in his appendix, what he considers the best arguments for the resurrection of Christ. I'll get into that another time, and I'm quite excited to do so. They are original arguments and are, not surprisingly as they were endorsed by one of the world's greatest modern philosophers, rational and persuasive.

Anyone else read his book, There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind? If not, I can try to channel Flew as best as I understand him (and there were a couple of passages I didn't get, frankly), perhaps responding to some questions or elaborating on some of the things I mention here. It's a good read, and I recommend it, by the way. Most of it is reasonably easy reading, and the target audience is not academia. It seems written for the general public.

Lastly, let me just say his book is quite affirming for me, because his interpretation of ID is the same as mine. He sees the common sense, the same way I do and accepts the evidence for what it is. He sort of chastises scientists for pretending to have authority in the field of philosophy, when they puff their chests out suggesting that the scientific method is somehow helping them come to the philosophical conclusion that the evidence, taken as a whole, doesn't support a God of some kind.

Flew clearly stands on solid ground, having been a former atheist, touted as one of the world's great philosophers by atheists and being exactly in his area of expertise, drawing a big-picture conclusion based on scientific evidence. He manages, through all of this, to never mention Meyer nor Behe (although he does mention David Berlinski, of whom I am a fan), although he sounds to me like he just finished reading Behe's The Edge of Evolution at one point. He also strongly supports Meyer's central thesis from Signature in the Cell, using the word absurd to describe the notion that life came about by chance, having illustrated his point by using the same type of arguments ID proponents use.

This, of course, has been much to the chagrin of atheists, as Flew has apostatized from the rank and file, and we can read about their hate-filled and fanatical responses in the prologue. For my part, it feels pretty good to get validated for what I thought was common sense, in seeing the logic in ID. I mean, you shouldn't need one of the greatest philosophers in the world to help with common sense, should you? Perhaps it's just my style of communication and Flew would succeed in convincing people, where I have failed.

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Since Mormonism teaches that creation has always been going on-- and thus there was never a "designing" of lifeforms and then creating them out of nothing as non-Mormons often believe-- how does that affect the "Intelligent Design" argument?

Richard

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Since Mormonism teaches that creation has always been going on-- and thus there was never a "designing" of lifeforms and then creating them out of nothing as non-Mormons often believe-- how does that affect the "Intelligent Design" argument?

Richard

Wait, are you questioning "common sense"?

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Do we not as humans create "spiritually" before we create physically? We use blueprints,computer models ,musical scores,etc.

Were Mozart's compositions merely pale repetitions of heavenly music or were they original and unique? Just because man has been making music for millenia doesn't mean that new and original music cannot be created . The building blocks of music seem eternal.First formulated in the mind,then on paper,then with the voice or some instrument which can bring it into the "physical" realm.

As an side note, do not some of the fantastic fish forms look like they were created by some wild eyed apprentice given free rein to stretch design boundaries? LOL

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Since Mormonism teaches that creation has always been going on-- and thus there was never a "designing" of lifeforms and then creating them out of nothing as non-Mormons often believe-- how does that affect the "Intelligent Design" argument?

Richard

I think we, as Mormons, accept that "light, or intelligence," are ubiquitous and underpin all of reality. Perhaps, for us, that was the prime mover or first cause. That said, the strong anthropic principle which Flew seems to consider the more persuasive argument, isn't really about life per se but about a universe that can sustain life.

In all honesty, I think that while the human form and biology are Eternal, they are only Eternal in the sense that they must be as they are in order to live. In other words, there are no new designs. All designs are based on the basic principles that are necessary to put life together, so God, in creating us, simply took an existing template (His own, really) based on necessity, and implemented that to create mankind.

As an side note, do not some of the fantastic fish forms look like they were created by some wild eyed apprentice given free rein to stretch design boundaries? LOL
I think the fossil record does indicate periods of experimentation interrupted by the infusion of huge amounts of information for new creatures. As I've pointed out before, the fossil record reminds me of a human spiritual journey. We are given revelation, and we then test it out and experience it (or perhaps do nothing with it), until we're ready for more. I see "revelation," or infusions of information in the fossil record, followed by, in some cases, total stasis, or in others, interesting variations on the original infusion.

Of course, I don't know. That is speculation. But based on the evidence and the common sense inference that comes from it, life certainly seems to be designed and intelligence is the best explanation. I'm a fan of Flew's philosophy of simply following where the evidence leads. Joseph Smith taught something similar, that we should embrace all truth, regardless of the source. If there is good evidence, and it makes sense, I tentatively accept it until better evidence comes along.

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Wait, are you questioning "common sense"?
This is the common sense inference: The only observed source of "large amounts" of specified complexity is human intelligence; therefore, wherever we observe large amounts of specified complexity, we might say that our best scientific explanation is intelligence. (Especially since no other theory is even plausible). Does that not sound like common sense?
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Sounds like an intriguing guy, this Anthony Flew. Too bad he's "late".

A still-quite-atheist that I like listening to (has a channel on YouTube), is Pat Condell. Lots of people don't like him. I understand that. But I love his rants, even when I disagree with them. I wish I could express myself verbally as well as he can.

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II think the fossil record does indicate periods of experimentation interrupted by the infusion of huge amounts of information for new creatures. As I've pointed out before, the fossil record reminds me of a human spiritual journey. We are given revelation, and we then test it out and experience it (or perhaps do nothing with it), until we're ready for more. I see "revelation," or infusions of information in the fossil record, followed by, in some cases, total stasis, or in others, interesting variations on the original infusion.

I don't think these are periods of experimentation, so much as they are steps in the process.

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In all honesty, I think that while the human form and biology are Eternal, they are only Eternal in the sense that they must be as they are in order to live. In other words, there are no new designs. All designs are based on the basic principles that are necessary to put life together, so God, in creating us, simply took an existing template (His own, really) based on necessity, and implemented that to create mankind.

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"God" would logically appear to us in anthropomorphic guise. But to assume that "God" is itself anthropomorphic is putting a deliberate limit on your imagination: Joseph Smith's God the Father can only be a manifestation by the Total God, not that "God" itself.

Besides, the assumption that mankind is somehow a special shape and life form in which sapience is housed - and in no other - is just our special brand of hubris.

Then there's this objection: "Hardwiring our 'reproductive organs' directly to the pleasure center of our brains with a high voltage cable has all the hallmarks of divine handiwork. Making some of them serve the dual purpose as waste-disposal units is all the evidence we need of divine irony." (Mike Riddell)

I don't think that our design is the only one for housing sapient thought. And certainly, immortals do not void their bowels, yet must engage in cosmic sex....

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"God" would logically appear to us in anthropomorphic guise. But to assume that "God" is itself anthropomorphic is putting a deliberate limit on your imagination: Joseph Smith's God the Father can only be a manifestation by the Total God, not that "God" itself.
I don't assume God is anthropomorphic. I believe He is, because that's how He looks. That, and the scriptures specifically say that we are the offspring (genos) of God, so we should not compare God to an inanimate object. The implication is that our species informs our concept of God. (Acts 17:29) Might I add I believe in personal revelation. Just because some people think something makes sense due to philosophical arguments, doesn't mean you can ignore the evidence of revelation. I can't.
Besides, the assumption that mankind is somehow a special shape and life form in which sapience is housed - and in no other - is just our special brand of hubris.
First of all, I don't think ours is the only shape and form that can house intelligence. That said, aren't we the most intelligent beings on earth? It seems to me, our form is special for this earth. If special on this earth, why not special period? Seems rational to me.
And certainly, immortals do not void their bowels, yet must engage in cosmic sex....
I think God can do what He wants. That said, if Jesus is the Son of God, and I say He is, it's only logical to believe they look the same. The scriptures specifically say they do.
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See Simon Conway Morris, "Evolution and the Inevitability of Intelligent Life" in The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion, ed. Peter Harrison (Cambridge University Press, 2010) as well as his 2005 Boyle Lecture entitled "Darwin's Compass: How Evolution Discovers the Song of Creation."
As soon as they have a good way to refute Behe's Edge, I'll be happy to look at Darwinism again. Regardless, even with (hypothetically) Darwinism doing most of the work of creating variations in species, it certainly did not produce the first life.

The problem with invoking Darwinism as an explanation for the origin of species, is that the dramatic speciation seen in the fossil record takes place 100'sof times too fast for Darwinism to make sense. That's being absurdly generous, just for the sake of debate. It's much, much worse than that. Further complicating matters, there is zero evidence that Darwinism is progressive and ample evidence that it is merely breaking things down, like burning bridges to keep the enemy out. It gets much, much worse, when we see new phyla being produced.

If the evidence in those books is good, I think you should present it, by the way. I don't think it'll speed up, for example, how long it took malaria to develop chloroquine resistance (the equivalent of 200 million years for a mammal). That's for a simple, 2-point coordinated mutation. That kind of empirical evidence should be devastating to people's belief in Darwinism's creative power. Sure, intelligent life may be "inevitable" given infinite time, but even that is unlikely. The conditions of early earth were such that the dice rolling that was necessary (and you needed to roll a thousand 6's in a row) couldn't occur due to naturally occurring deterioration of amino acids. Meyer compares it to trying to get all those 6's in a row, but your dice are made of melting chocolate. No amount of time will fix it, because every time, the dice will melt.

The problem is, the fossil record only spans very limited time, when it would take many times the age of the universe via Darwinian processes, to create the changes that are known to have occurred in extremely short periods of time, e.g. 30 million years for a brand new species. That's with speciation as opposed to "abiogenesis." Abiogenesis may literally be impossible, even given infinite universes like ours, due to the limited lifespan of the amino acids forming.

Our universe couldn't even produce a single Shakespearean sonnet on a keyboard via random changes, much less would we see the first life. It's not even close. There isn't even close to enough time for something that simple (simple relative to the first life). Try multiplying that level of complexity by a factor of say... 60 or 70. 1/10^100 power or something insane like that. A number unimaginably larger than the number of atoms in the universe. That's why Flew suggests attributing the first life to random changes is absurd.

As the noted Italian biologist Giusseppi Sermonti points out, 90% of the work is done with the first life. Ninety-percent. If that much work can be done without Darwinian processes, who needs Darwinian processes for speciation anyway? Why not just invoke the same explanation for speciation as you do for abiogenesis, which is what? Luck?

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Good reasoning there Mordecai. Obviously you've got education. The formal kind I presume.

I inculcate by osmosis: eventually I start to make sense out of the constant bombardment / exposure to knowledgeable people talking.

As I understand this Darwinism explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, it is all dependent on how much time everything takes. Your comments seem to indicate a real problem with the time allotted that I was not aware of clearly before. Are you saying that there is simply no way for the diversity to be explained by Darwinism? If so then why do so many scientists adhere to the theory to explain the diversity of life forms? Are they as a consensus of deniers? Are they exhibiting their own brand of cognitive dissonance?

I especially like your concluding sentence....

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Good reasoning there Mordecai. Obviously you've got education. The formal kind I presume.
I'm glad somebody appreciates me ;).
As I understand this Darwinism explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, it is all dependent on how much time everything takes. Your comments seem to indicate a real problem with the time allotted that I was not aware of clearly before. Are you saying that there is simply no way for the diversity to be explained by Darwinism?
Yup. It's impossible. Most of the work of creating diversity, apparently, was done by something other than Darwinism. Even things that really appear to be Darwinian in nature aren't. Observed adaptive mutations, for example, often are built in, which is to say they aren't representations of new code. They are merely expressions of code that was dormant. That discovery was a major shock to a lot of scientists.
If so then why do so many scientists adhere to the theory to explain the diversity of life forms? Are they as a consensus of deniers? Are they exhibiting their own brand of cognitive dissonance?
Hard to say, but I think it has to do with a combination of group think, overblown egos and protecting their careers. I mean, scientists, for a good decade after the evidence proved them wrong, thought there had been a prehistoric land bridge between Africa and South America. They rejected plate tectonics well after it was proven. Furthermore, many scientists promoted eugenics, including major scientific organizations.

Darwinism has been lauded and applauded as the greatest breakthrough in human history. Some scientists felt it was liberating to not have to answer to God, so they can do what they want (by their own admission). I mean, something like that is hard to let go of for anyone, I imagine, after it has been fully embraced. Richard Dawkins himself said that Darwinism allows one to be an "intellectually fulfilled atheist."

Lastly, as Flew says, quoting Einstein, "The man of science, a bad philosopher makes." The strong anthropic principle and other points Flew makes are philosophical assessment of scientific evidence. It's not like we should expect scientists to be experts at something that is quite different from the field in which they specialize.

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1. Behe has been answered to the satisfaction of most biological scientists and philosophers.

2. Intelligent design addresses the ultimate origins of natural functional complexity (specifically biological complexity).

It does not address the existence of any particular instance of such complexity but rather the very existence of biological design or apparent design.

For this reason, Mormonism should not and cannot consistently embrace intelligent design. For example, the human body plan in general is not designed at all in Mormon theology. It is an eternal form and neccessarily predates any possible act of intelligent design. It has no origin.

3. Flew and a substantial number of modern day scientists believe in a God of sorts. The number seems to be inversrly proportional to the stature of the scientist. However, the operative words here are "of sorts".

There is essentially zero thought among theist scientists and philosophers that the supereme being could possibly be a sort of super-mammal as in Mormonism.

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1. Behe has been answered to the satisfaction of most biological scientists and philosophers.
CFR I've already read their responses. In fact, you can use their responses to prove Behe correct. (See Sternberg's whale evolution presentation, based on the numbers used by critics. Best. Evidence. Ever. Against Darwinism). Durett and Schmidt's attempt to counter Behe failed miserably and worked in ID's favor, in the end.

Furthermore, even your responses (from a previous thread/debate) illustrate the difficulty of responding to Behe. Self-organization? How does that refute the empirical evidence in the slightest? It's an abstract concept that doesn't even apply to evolution in any way.

Give this movement a few more years. Flew is a big indicator of where this is going. It's not going to go well for Neo-Darwinists, that's for sure. At least, if they wish to remain scientists instead of mere dreamers and speculators.

The number seems to be inversrly proportional to the stature of the scientist.
I wish I was an atheist, so I could have more stature. ::sniff::
It is an eternal form and neccessarily predates any possible act of intelligent design. It has no origin.
Tithing is Eternal, too. Furthermore, something that is Eternal can have an origin, which is different from a beginning.
There is essentially zero thought among theist scientists and philosophers that the supereme being could possibly be a sort of super-mammal as in Mormonism.
We are, in a way, already super mammals. The level of intelligence in humans suggests we are designed to comprehend the universe and the "mind of God," which to me suggests a divine destiny. Nothing absurd about the idea, since we are already, in a sense, super mammals.

If there is one thing we learn from evolution (as opposed to Darwinism), it's that things progress. If that progression is designed, why assume the progression has ended? It's been going on a pretty long time. Why stop now?

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The problem with invoking Darwinism as an explanation for the origin of species, is that the dramatic speciation seen in the fossil record takes place 100'sof times too fast for Darwinism to make sense. That's being absurdly generous, just for the sake of debate. It's much, much worse than that. Further complicating matters, there is zero evidence that Darwinism is progressive and ample evidence that it is merely breaking things down, like burning bridges to keep the enemy out. It gets much, much worse, when we see new phyla being produced.

When you say "origin of species" do you mean the first replicator?

If so, then you are not talking about evolution at all. You are committing the same mistake Ben Stein did: hopefully you haven't wasted as much money as he has.

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When you say "origin of species" do you mean the first replicator? If so, then you are not talking about evolution at all. You are committing the same mistake Ben Stein did: hopefully you haven't wasted as much money as he has.
I mean it in the same sense that Darwin meant it, not meaning the first "replicator." By the way, there is no evidence that such a "replicator" can even exist. There are no truly self-replicating molecules whose origins are not from life. Preons, for example, can "self-replicate" only in that they mutate pre-existing proteins. But no protein exists outside of life, because just a single protein is unlikely to exist in the entire universe, given all the time in the universe, without a genetic code and the molecular machinery needed to read that code.

The idea that there is a simple molecule that can truly self-replicate is about as credible as the idea that unicorns or fountains of youth are real. By the way, what error did Ben Stein make? Just out of curiosity. It's not like he's a scientist from whom I've been learning about ID.

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I mean it in the same sense that Darwin meant it, not meaning the first "replicator." By the way, there is no evidence that such a "replicator" can even exist. There are no truly self-replicating molecules whose origins are not from life. Preons, for example, can "self-replicate" only in that they mutate pre-existing proteins. But no protein exists outside of life, because just a single protein is unlikely to exist in the entire universe, given all the time in the universe, without a genetic code and the molecular machinery needed to read that code.

The idea that there is a simple molecule that can truly self-replicate is about as credible as the idea that unicorns or fountains of youth are real. By the way, what error did Ben Stein make? Just out of curiosity. It's not like he's a scientist from whom I've been learning about ID.

He equated evolution with the existence of the first replicator. Speaking of first replicators- absence of evidence is not evidence of absence :D

You are right, the first self replicator was definitely NOT a protein. You are wrong that no self-replicating organisms exists that are not organic. Crystals self-replicate, passing on their structures. Do crystals originate from life?

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He equated evolution with the existence of the first replicator. Speaking of first replicators- absence of evidence is not evidence of absence :D
I can see why that would be a happy thought for secularists. ;)
You are right, the first self replicator was definitely NOT a protein. You are wrong that no self-replicating organisms exists that are not organic. Crystals self-replicate, passing on their structures. Do crystals originate from life?
I wouldn't consider that remotely relevant, since what they replicate is based on extremely simple rules. No functional complexity comes from crystals nor can it. But that's exactly what is needed for the first "self-replicator" to have started evolving. See David Berlinski's discussion on this matter: http://www.discovery.org/a/3209 This is a nice primer at least; I would recommend Meyer's Signature in the Cell even more.
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I wouldn't consider that remotely relevant, since what they replicate is based on extremely simple rules. No functional complexity comes from crystals nor can it. But that's exactly what is needed for the first "self-replicator" to have started evolving. There's a reason crystals don't evolve.

You made a bold statement- I showed you how it was wrong. Notice that I never said that mud crystals were the original replicator. Neither of us were around billions of years ago. But perhaps you should read Cairns-Smith's hypothesis again. It clearly demonstrates how functional complexity could arise from crystals. Then again, maybe we disagree on what functional complexity means.

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You made a bold statement- I showed you how it was wrong. Notice that I never said that mud crystals were the original replicator. Neither of us were around billions of years ago. But perhaps you should read Cairns-Smith's hypothesis again. It clearly demonstrates how functional complexity could arise from crystals. Then again, maybe we disagree on what functional complexity means.
You would need multiple miracles for abiogenesis to occur, a little bit like the miracles you'd need for a fountain of youth to exist. See my above post for the link to Berlinski's discussion on the matter. He's an agnostic and mathematician. As Flew points out, the idea is absurd. Utterly absurd.
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You would need multiple miracles for abiogenesis to occur, a little bit like the miracles you'd need for a fountain of youth to exist. See my above post for the link to Berlinski's discussion on the matter. He's an agnostic and mathematician.

I thought we were talking about evolution?

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I thought we were talking about evolution?
We can talk about that, instead, if you like. In fact, you'd have a better case for that than for abiogenesis occurring. That's not saying much.
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We can talk about that, instead, if you like. In fact, you'd have a better case for that than for abiogenesis occurring. That's not saying much.

Well where do you think the first replicator came from?

The truth is, even with all of our theories and lab experiments showing organic materials coming from inorganic material (similar to the Miller-Urey hypothesis) we will never know what actually happened. Evolution doesn't really matter. It could have came from space- it could have come from god.

Evolution merely describes a consequence of replicators. Whether those replicators are genes or memes, or even universes, does not matter.

P.S. Do you have a degree in biology? Not that it matters, but it is always nice to know where the other person is coming from.

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