Thursday, 8 November 2007

Habermas and Flew

Gary Habermas reviews Antony Flew's book 'There is a God'. There's not much more meat to any of the arguments as presented here than reported by Mark Vernon. But this perhaps gives a flavour of how bad it is:

""A Pilgrimage of Reason" (chapter 4), is the initial contribution to this section. In this essay, Flew chiefly makes the crucial point that his approach to God's existence has been philosophical, not scientific. As he notes, "My critics responded by triumphantly announcing that I had not read a particular paper in a scientific journal or followed a brand-new development relating to abiogenesis." But in so doing, "they missed the whole point." Flew's conversion was due to philosophical arguments, not scientific ones: "To think at this level is to think as a philosopher. And, at the risk of sounding immodest, I must say that this is properly the job of philosophers, not of the scientists as scientists"
Chapter 7 ("How Did Life Go Live?") continues what Flew insists is a philosophical rather than a scientific discussion of items that are relevant to God's existence. He discusses at least three chief issues: how there can be fully materialistic explanations for the emergence of life, the problem of reproduction at the very beginning, and DNA. Although science has not concluded these matters either, they are answering questions that are different from the philosophical issues that Flew is addressing (129). Flew concludes by agreeing with George Wald that, "The only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such รข€˜end-directed, self replicating' life as we see on earth is an infinitely intelligent Mind" (132)."

Now obviously we have to be careful not to fall into the trap that some have with Dawkins (saying that he cannot possibly talk about God without becoming an expert in theology), so I don't want to claim that Flew needs to have become an expert in molecular biology, but I think it is at the very least as equally a scientific as a philosophical argument to claim that the origins of self-replicating life cannot have a materialistic explanation, and I'd really like to see how you can disprove it philosophically, without recourse to science. Just what is this science-free philosophical argument that shows that life and self-replication could not have arisen by physical materialistic means? How is it not a scientific question whether, as a matter of fact, life or self-replication arose, or presumably could arise, in the environment of the primordial Earth?

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