Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of His Servant?

Amazing Turnarounds

I read an interesting article by Stanley Fish about two famous scholars (see the link below).  One was raised in an evangelical background, but lost his faith because of the problem of evil and suffering (Bart  Ehrman).  The other case is that of a most famous atheist (Antony Flew- a noted professor of philosophy) who announced in 2004 that after decades of writing essays and books from the vantage point of atheism, he now believes in God. “Changed his mind” is not a casual formulation. Flew wouldn’t call what has happened to him a conversion, for that would suggest something unavailable to analysis. His journey, he tells us, is best viewed as “a pilgrimage of reason,” an extension of his life-long habit of “following the argument no matter where it leads.  They both wrote books about their change of mind.  I understand the anguish and sincere struggle of Ehrman (though I disagree with his conclusions).  And I find Flew’s trip from an atheist to a theist very logical.  Note the following relevant questions by Flew:

“How, he asks, do merely physical and mechanical forces – forces without mind, without consciousness – give rise to the world of purposes, thoughts and moral projects? “How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends [and] self-replication capabilities?””

“In an appendix to the book, Abraham Varghese makes Flew’s point with the aid of an everyday example: “To suggest that the computer ‘understands’ what it is doing is like saying that a power line can meditate on the question of free will and determinism or that the chemicals in a test tube can apply the principle of non-contradiction in solving a problem, or that a DVD player understands and enjoys the music it plays.”

How did purposive behavior of the kind we engage in all the time – understanding, meditating, enjoying -ever emerge from electrons and chemical elements?”

Of course some of these same questions were already asked by F.  Schaffer about 50 years ago.  I still do not see how a materialistic explanation can give reasonable answers to these questions…much less PROVE their answers…

The article with more info and argumentation is found here:

http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/suffering-evil-and-the-existence-of-god/

6 responses

  1. Steven Carr

    ‘DVD player understands and enjoys the music it plays.’

    God cannot make a DVD player understand and enjoy the music it plays.

    November 9, 2007 at 8:52 pm

  2. evedyahu

    I don’t get it Steve. What are you trying to say?

    November 10, 2007 at 11:03 am

  3. The DVD question assumes that mind etc are apart from the physical universe. It’s begging the question.

    And, BTW; Flew’s “conversion” was to deism, not theism, as a result of the teleological argument, which he later rejected.

    November 11, 2007 at 2:03 am

  4. evedyahu

    I understand that Flew did not “convert” to the Christian God. However – he clearly believes in some god/mind behind it all.

    Can you explain how will and purpose can come out of matter? And – can you PROVE it?
    (Since I assume that you do not accept things by faith as Christians and others do).
    You are an intelligent person with will and matter, and YOU CANNOT create something (even given developed matter) that has will and thinks (as a human does). Then – how can I believe/understand that matter (without will, purpose, and intelligence) can create/develop human beings with will and intelligence???

    November 11, 2007 at 9:19 am

  5. “I understand that Flew did not “convert” to the Christian God. However – he clearly believes in some god/mind behind it all.”
    Sure; from a bad argument. His reason for belief is the teleological argument, which he ought to know is simply the argumentum ad ignorantiam in a different hat.

    “Can you explain how will and purpose can come out of matter? ”
    You’ve fallen into the common trap – the god of the gaps. Not yet having a solid explanation does not mean the answer defaults to “God did it!”

    “And – can you PROVE it?”
    Not on me to prove anything. You’re making an assertion here – that life requires a god. You’re the one who should pony up the evidence.

    “You are an intelligent person with will and matter, and YOU CANNOT create something (even given developed matter) that has will and thinks (as a human does). Then – how can I believe/understand that matter (without will, purpose, and intelligence) can create/develop human beings with will and intelligence???”
    Nobody could fly before the Wright Brothers. Therefore, flying is impossible. Again, just because something has not yet been accomplished does not mean that “god” is a credible or meaningful answer.

    November 12, 2007 at 6:30 pm

  6. evedyahu

    Sorry Mek for the delay. I have been rather busy. I must say that IT IS NOT on me to prove anything either. The Bible NEVER tries to prove that there is a God – and I have no intention to do that either. Personally I DO NOT believe in a God of the gaps…I do not think that you CANNOT prove a few things here and there in a materialistic creation – I believe you cannot prove most of it from beginning to end. People like you are usually looking down on religious people as being unscientific etc…we don’t have the proofs etc. That is why I asked you (the intelligent/scientific atheist) to explain (with some proofs) how intelligence/will etc can come out of matter. Perhaps we don’t have proof for many things. Frankly – I do not need all the proofs. The Bible refers to people who do not believe in God as fools (I do not want to insult you). In my opinion Dawkins is in a lose-lose situation. If God EXISTS – He is a fool, a great one. If God does NOT exist (and he is like the flying spagheti monster ?) – he is perhaps a bigger fool to spend so much of his time to prove that he did not exist. PROBLEM with his analogy: ANYONE writing a book trying to disprove the existence of Zeus, flying teapot etc (some analogies he uses) would be considered a fool and would NOT be read by most (it WOULD NOT be a bestseller).

    Concerning Flew – apparently this is that path that he took, and it seems very very logical to me: (from an interview) 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.

    P.S. The teleological argument is a good one in my opinion. However, we all get to a point where we need faith, whether faith in matter or faith in God. I am a simple person and to me: The heavens declare the glory of God…(Psalm 19:1)!!!

    December 3, 2007 at 6:13 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s