Intelligent Design

Antony Flew interview

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ToTheSource.org Exclusive Flew Interview

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.” . . . 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? . . .
Anthony (sic.) 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. . . .” See full interview

(Corrected Anthony to Antony Nov. 2, 2007)

24 Replies to “Antony Flew interview

  1. 1
    DLH says:

    With apologies to O’Leary who provided links to Antony Flew that I just found. {Corrected Nov. 3, 2007)

  2. 2
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    It seems to me ironic that this ex-atheist has been led by scientific thought and findings to a belief in God – and feels comfortable with the use of that term – while proponents of Intelligent Design seem so compelled to avoid that name (which everyone knows we have in mind anyway). God is not something to be ashamed of, and we’ll get further giving Him the glory He’s due rather than pretending we don’t know who He is.

  3. 3
    Jason1083 says:

    I think Flew is misreading Einstein when he says: “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.”

    This website gives a complete listing of Einstein’s quotes on religion:

    http://www.einsteinandreligion.com/

    Among them are:

    “I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of ‘humility.’ This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.”

  4. 4
    skwayred says:

    Jason1083: But Einstein also said this:

    “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive With our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible Universe, forms my idea of God.”

    Now look at the part where Flew referred to Einstein:

    “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.”

    I think what he is merely pointing out is that even Einstein (among other intellectual giants) recognized an Intelligence (or using Einstein’s own words, ‘superior reasoning power’) behind the existence of the universe. He never said that he thought that Einstein believed in God, only that he now shares the astonishment of Einstein (and other scientists) regarding the beauty of cosmic order. Such evidence of beauty and order lead him then to conclude that perhaps, indeed, there is a God:

    “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.”

  5. 5
    skwayred says:

    ^Or perhaps, the conjunction of cosmic order and the complexity of life (which during Einstein’s time had not yet been brought to light). 😉

    Well, we have to read the book to know the full details.

  6. 6
    Charlie says:

    Poor Einstein. Everybody wants him on their side.

    Flew actually makes quite a point in his book about Einstein and religion – particularly to refute Dawkins’ claim (and Flew’s old one) that Einstein was an atheist.
    He doesn’t rely just on the quotes we have available on the net but refers to Jammer’s book Einstein And Religion.
    Einstein surely believed in God, but Flew points out that he wasn’t fully aware of Spinoza’s views when he claimed to believe in Spinoza’s God. To Spinoza “God” was synonymous with “nature”, in Flew’s opinion. Unlike Spinoza, Einstein directly rejected the term “pantheism” for his belief ,and angrily rejected “atheism”.
    Flew:
    “Einstein renounced atheism because he never considered his denial of a personal God as denial of God”.
    “Einstein clearly believed in a transcendent source of the rationality of the world that he variously called “superior mind”, “illimitable superior spirit”, “superior reasoning force”, and “mysterious force that moves the constellations”.

    In Jammer’s book, professor of theology Dean Fowler, said that Einstein’s cosmic religion is “afflicted with a basic ambiguity”.
    He finds both theism and pantheism in Einstein’s ideas. But he found Einstein’s other philosophies contradictory as well.

    In that book Einstein is also quoted:
    “I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil. My God created laws that take care of that. His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable laws.”
    and
    “I want to know how God created this world. I’m not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to now His thoughts, the rest are details”.
    The author, Jammer, points to this as more contradiction, as this thinking God must be personal to have thoughts.

    Whatever kind of God Einstein actually believed in, you will find that those terms equate perfectly with the way deists describe their own views. And they tend to claim Einstein as one of their own, citing his quotes as being equivalent to their ideas.

    Anyway…

    One other thing, among many, that I found very interesting was the fact that Flew became an atheist (familiar story) at age fifteen. He later remarked that this decision was made too hastily and on “clearly inadequate” grounds. They were based upon “juvenile insistencies”.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    In regards to Einstein’s personal beliefs:

    This following Quote from Einstein, from a Reader’s Digest article, makes it seem that Einstein, knew a little more about the implications of his theory than he let on.

    Afterward he attended a reception at the National Academy of Sciences, where he listened to long, boring speeches. As the evening droned on, he turned to a Dutch diplomat and said, “I’ve just developed a new theory of eternity.

    From: Best Brainiac

    How a childlike curiosity helped Einstein become the greatest thinker of our time.
    By Walter Isaacson, from Einstein: His Life and Universe
    From Reader’s Digest
    May 2007

    http://www.rd.com/content/best-brainac/2/

    As well,

    Materialism did not predict the fact that time, as we know it, comes to a complete stop at the speed speed of light. Yet, Theism has always said that God exists in a timeless eternity.

  8. 8
    allanius says:

    Einstein was hostile to the “anthropomorphic” God—as he denoted him—of Christianity and Judaism. He was not an enemy of God per se, unlike the Darwins and the Cricks, or our “new atheists”; he was not a nihilist because he was in love with the transcendent resonance science provides when equations and theories appear to obtain cosmological significance. Unfortunately he did not realize that his own concept of transcendent being was also anthropomorphic. Einstein conceived of that being as pure Intellect—a great Scientist—in other words, someone rather like himself. The irony of his “religious spirit” (his words) is that this resonance is an illusion. “Thought experiments” cannot obtain transcendent significance because of the difference between theory and quantitation, which cannot be overcome. Thus the very purity that appears to give Einstein’s most famous formula transcendent significance—the purity afforded by intellect—also indicates its limitations, since the sense realm is complex.

  9. 9

    Gerry Rzeppa,

    Flew is a philosopher. He is engaging in philosophy. He is taking scientific findings and putting them to use in philosophy, the queen of the sciences. That is different than ID proponents saying that natural science cannot speak to the identity of the designer. It can’t. But philosophy and theology are disciplines which can work scientific findings into a meta-narrative.

    In other words, it isn’t ironic. It is what ID has said all along.

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    Off Topic:
    This would probably make an excellent thread:

    Microscopic Radio Sets Miniaturization Record

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/livesc.....tionrecord

    Researchers led by Alex Zetttl at the University of California, Berkeley have crafted a fully working radio from a single carbon nanotube 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. Carbon nanotubes are man-made microscopic mesh rods composed entirely of carbon atoms.

    Fixed between two electrodes, the nanotube vibrates and performs the four critical roles required to receive radio waves: antenna, tunable filter, amplifier and demodulator. Power is supplied by streaming electrons from an attached battery.

    These guys who invented this will be real quick to tell us that this was definitely no of evolution that they happened to discover. It was definitely intelligently designed!

    Which brings up an interesting point:

    Since this system is definitely simpler, in complexity, than many molecular systems we see (eyes, ears etc..etc..), should not evolution have produced radio/transmitter systems of their own accord many times over by now. I mean wouldn’t communicating over long distances be a fantastic evolutionary advantage to naturally select for?

    Then again maybe the Designer used something analogous to the transmitter/radio and it already exists somewhere in genomes and scientists just have not found it yet because they have not been looking for such a method of communication?!?

  11. 11
    Borne says:

    bornagain77:
    Interesting questions at the end there.

    I’ve wondered a lot about how cells ‘know’ there ‘address’ in the body.

    What if they are guided to their destinations by some such mechanism!?

    Now that would be très cool and yet another astounding and highly unlikely feat of RM + NS for the Darweenies to explain. 😉

    Hmmm… impact on SETI could be serious! :-O

  12. 12

    I, too, have wondered about cells knowing what type of cell they should be. Here’s my hypothesis: whatever the mechanism, it will be IC.

  13. 13
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    Geoff Robinson,

    I understand the reasons and motivations for separating ID (and “science” in general) from larger pursuits, really. I disagree with them.

    If, as you say, philosophy is the queen of sciences, then theology – the study of God and His works – is the king, the all-encompassing umbrella under which every lesser study finds repose. We must take care not to confuse the means with the end; we must never forget that God gives us a universe to study (and minds that can study it) not so we can come to understand it, but that we might come to a better understanding of Him.

    I’m pretty sure Frank Lloyd Wright would be insulted if you spent your life studying his buildings but gave no thought to – or worse, thought you had to go out of your way to avoid mentioning – him. Likewise, those who separate any lesser science from theology give an equivalent insult to God (whatever temporal or political gains they might imagine) and therefore should not expect God to fully sanction their efforts. God has no affinity with compromise.

    Besides, limiting ourselves to empirically validated facts (as our enemies do) takes away our God-given, “home team” advantage. No man lives by scientific principles alone: intuitions, insights, hunches, emotions, and most of all, faith – the belief in things not yet proven and the ensuing pursuit after them that faith engenders – are all essential parts of life and are all valid considerations when “whole men” reason together. There’s no good reason for us to lower ourselves to the animal-like level of our opponents.

  14. 14
    interested says:

    gerry, while i don’t disagree with you totally, i also think it is ok to consider the audience. at this point in the history of science, the deck is stacked so ridiculously against the very mention of God that ID is a very reasonable response. i don’t see this as being seeker sensitive as much as being wise to the audience.

    paul used a similar approach in acts 17 on mars hill. i think it is reasonable to see that if ID gets its due and is recognized in time as a legitimate endeavor, people will know all too well that God is being implied strongly. but it is also ok to see that at this point we only can say with confidence that there is a mind behind.

  15. 15
    LeeBowman says:

    Gerry:

    Opponents yes; enemies no. The scientists who look to rational thought are merely upholding the narrow, prevailing requisite for assessing scientific data. They rule out observed beauty, inferred purpose, obvious complexity, synergy and other non-empirically testable factors as inherently invalid. While narrow in their thinking, they have a tough row to hoe regarding a theistic or deistic purview.

    So what are some of the ways to lessen their baggage? As opponents of ID, they need to be challenged with regard to the prevailing NDE hypothesis where it fails, and then presented with other ways of assessing the data. For one, empirical tests to establish IC can be developed, I feel.

    Regarding the data: They claim that all of the accumulated evolutionary data (phyletic progressions, morphologic similarities in organisms, chromosomal similarities in organisms, how proteins form, etc) supports their hypotheses only. Just because most of the research has been done under NDE precepts does not mean that the same data, interpreted differently, can not legitimately support teleology, and by extension ID. I feel that it does. So when the claim is made that ID has no data to support it, mention that much of the accumulated data does, in fact, support teleology.

    True, ID has implications beyond what science can address, but to be incorporated into the scientific realm, and accepted as science by the science community, some limits must be observed. If God the creator (or overseeing surrogates) is/are overseeing, it seems likely that a limited ID perspective would not be taken as demeaning, even though Frank Lloyd Wright might feel insulted, since the purpose of the ID hypothesis is to establish teleology as valid.

    The resulting implication would then be supportive of a designer, or surrogate designers over time, but not necessarily an intervening or custodial God. These limits are necessary for ID/ teleology to by accepted by science, but would have the effect of lowering the bar for establishing faith, and could act as a ‘clearing’ operation for a religious belief.

    Like it or not, first things first. Since IC and the ‘design inference’ are provable (those proofs are still evolving, however), that should be the primary focus at this time, I feel.

  16. 16
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    Interested,

    Paul on Mars’ Hill was merely taking his audience from the known to the unknown – he clearly had every intention of “going all the way” right there and then. In fact, he did – “Whom therefore you ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein…”, Acts 17:23-24.

    “Preach the word, in season and out of season… for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…”, 2 Timothy 4:2.

    The Devil loves compromise. See Exodus 8:28 for a good example.

  17. 17
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    Lee Bowman,

    You say, “Like it or not, first things first. Since IC and the ‘design inference’ are provable (those proofs are still evolving, however), that should be the primary focus at this time, I feel.”

    I agree with you that we should take “first things first”. But that’s as far as I can go. I assert that nothing is ultimately provable in the current “scientific” sense – there is always some underlying axiom – usually philosophical or theological in nature – that begins the chain of inference. And the decision one makes at the end of that chain is always conditioned by things other than the data. No one has ever been “argued into” belief in anything.

    First things first, then. The rational part of us is only one part, and not the part that makes us love, hate, devote our lives to the pursuit of empirical evidence, bake cookies, or jump on grenades to save our buddies. We must begin by refusing to deny who and what we are, by refusing to “reason away” most of the evidence (which is not of the empirical variety). First things first.

  18. 18
    LeeBowman says:

    “First things first, then. The rational part of us is only one part … “

    We need not compromise on our beliefs, just not let reason get in the way. Man’s often flawed reasoning ability, rather than increasing knowledge, often has the opposite effect. Maybe that’s why there’s such a high percentage of atheists and agnostics at the Mensa newsgroup.

    Not having empirically based answers should not close doors of understanding. I think it was Richard Dawkins who said, “If the flagellum is too complex to have evolved, then God is too complex to exist (or some such). He applies Occam’s Razor rather haphazardly.

  19. 19
    allanius says:

    ID is not only provable but indisputable. “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” Darwinism has ravaged Western culture, but pure Darwinism is becoming self-evidently foolish, as Flew now acknowledges, and will be overturned by ID as well as by the type of science seen, for instance, in basic medical research. Observation will blunt the fatal allure of modern theoretical science as it becomes evident that the varieties of sense are far more interesting—and far more diverting—than the totalitarian theories propounded by Darwin et al. Nature is becoming lovable again, a source of awe and wonder as well as aesthetic delight. Does anyone sense a recurring theme? The tide will turn from the modern love of theory to enthusiasm for synthetic methods of judging value, just as it has repeatedly in the past. But this change, welcome as it may be, will not lead to knowledge of God. Anthony Flew now knows there is a God, but there is no evidence in his words of knowledge of God. This knowledge cannot be obtained through intellect, as Spinoza attempted to do, because of the difference between intellect and sense. Or perhaps because of the pride of men, which will not allow God to be God—that is, different from them and their methods of thinking.

  20. 20
    SeekAndFind says:

    Not to quibble with minor things, but I think the honorable Philosopher’s name is spelled — Antony Flew ( without the “h” in Antony).

  21. 21
    bornagain77 says:

    More off topic stuff in relation to post #10:

    A cool site for nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy:
    http://publications.nigms.nih......pter3.html

    The machine gets pictures of actual protein molecules! Cool stuff

    And this site:

    How do cells communicate?

    http://www.hhmi.org/cgi-bin/as.....s_048.html

    and I learned:

    Cells communicate in four primary ways.

    1.Cells can respond to direct cell-cell or extracellular-matrix–cell contact.

    2.The second way cells communicate is through secreted short-range signals, usually proteins.

    3.The third way is through long-range signals, usually hormones.

    4.Finally, electrical and chemical signals communicate very complex messages between cells, usually between neurons or between neurons and muscle cells.

    It seems that the only major (known) electrical communication in our body, at the present time, is to allow the consciousness to communicate with the body,, electrical signals transduced to chemical signals and vis versa,,,which is really kinda way cool, when you think about it,,,Energy being proven to be timeless and all.

    I could not find anything (in my brief search) on molecules emitting any type of electromagnetic radiation (radio or any other type of waves) But I can’t help but feel that there may actually be this extra level, or even extra levels, of communication going on somewhere in that molecular jungle of a genome that we have barely begun to understand!

    Shoot, the genome is proven to code for up to 12 codes of information on a some stretches already, so nothing (including radio signals) would surprise as far as the complexity we will find in the genome goes!

  22. 22
    DLH says:

    Thanks SeekAndFind for the correction to Antony.

  23. 23
    Bob O'H says:

    I could not find anything (in my brief search) on molecules emitting any type of electromagnetic radiation (radio or any other type of waves)

    Search for “luciferase”.

  24. 24
    Joseff Farrah says:

    All may be interested in the interview that Gary Habermas did with Antony Flew from Philosophia Christi , a peer-review publication in philosophy of religion. Its the journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (www.epsociety.org), but its production is housed at Biola University.

    See here for the interview: http://epsociety.org/library/articles.asp?pid=33

    And here for Habermas’ review essay of There is a God: http://epsociety.org/library/default.asp

    Best regards,

    Joseff Farrah

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