Sunday, January 31, 2010

There is A God

Anthony Flew made his name as an academic philosopher - one of the leading voices of atheism in the latter decades of the twentieth century. There Is No A God the fascinating story of the reasons that Flew changed his mind and now is firmly convinced that the evidence points clearly towards existence being the result of the planning of a divine mind.

Flew is clear that he has not accepted any specific religion - and has not accepted any claim to historical or personal revelation from a divinity - rather that the force of evidence and argument makes a Theist conclusion inevitable to the open mind.

The book covers autobiography, charting both Flew's academic sucesses as well as the development of his ideas. It also maps out quite usefully, the ways in which his views have changed as a result of his acceptance of the divine - how he once saw the evidence, and how he views it now.

Flew's engagement with science is fascinating, arguing strongly for the "fine-tuning" of a universe that was "expecting us". In so doing he engages with the problems of origins, consciousness, physical laws and order, personhood and time. He is generally cordial in his tone - but is especially savage when it comes to dealing with the mathematics of evolutionary theory as a total-theory of origins. In short he argues that physics has showed that the earth is not remotely old enough to contain enough possibilities for random variation to produce unaided the life, order and complexity we now observe - and which biological theory demands. He points out that the speculations towards a "multiverse" might tilt the numbers game back into the realms of the possible, but that not one single jot or shred of a hint of any evidence for a multiverse exists and it is entirely a step of faith to accept such an idea. Furthermore, if a Multiverse were demonstrable, the question of it's origins would still be unanswerable.
The book is aimed at the general reader - not the philosopher, but I found on one or two chapters, that he strayed into some areas of technical philosophical language with which I was not familiar. The book is somewhat uneven in this regard, being neither comprehensive enough to satisfy the academic philosopher, not accessible enough for the average reader - and so maybe unsatisfactory for both! Having said that there is a wealth of accessible material here which is guaranteed to make the theist nod appreciatively, the atheist get very cross (oh - and they have!), and the undecided to think very carefully.

The surprise move comes at the end of the book when N.T. Wright is invited to submit a chapter on the possibility of divine revelation, and to this he contributes a summary of his views on the historical reliability of the orthodox Christian view of Jesus Christ. Flew stops well short of accepting Wright's view, so the book argues powerfully for a rational concept of the existence of God, but the question of His involvement in His creation is but dangled tantalizing before the reader.

A fascinating read..

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