Meanings of Christmas: If the Universe Was Designed, Who Was the Designer? ; One Atheist Philosopher Has Made a Tentative Step towards Belief. but Does It Make Sense to Have a Minimalist God?

Article excerpt

I'VE ALWAYS loved reading Anthony Flew. As a philosophy student in the 1960s and myself a recent convert to Christianity, I was intrigued by the dogmatism of his atheism. Given that he has been a leading atheist for half a century, his conversion to a kind of theism, now at the age of 81, is even more intriguing. Flew justifies it by saying simply that he "has to go where the evidence leads". And in an interview with Gary Habermas he makes it clear that the evidence leads him towards recognising God as First Cause of the universe; towards an "Aristotelian God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence".

Flew attributes his change of mind to theistic arguments supported by scientific discoveries: like Big Bang cosmology, fine tuning and Intelligent Design reasoning. This is not so surprising. There is a concern in Big Bang cosmology that all the basic parameters of the universe, both at a cosmic level and at the level of elementary particles, had to be sorted within the first few seconds of the universe. And it is difficult to understand how that might happen randomly in any way without a Designer. Linked to these cosmological questions are the issues of the basic structures of the universe, which tax the intelligence of the greatest scientists. The overwhelming sense from much of contemporary science is that research is a process of design detection, searching out orders, codes, matrices and systems of conveying information. Again, it becomes difficult to dismiss the idea that such intricate systems may be the outcome of intelligent design or to simply exclude the notion of Designer.

The fine tuning argument is also significant. It points out that many other possible configurations of the physical universe than those that provide the necessary conditions of life could conceivably exist, and they leave us with the problem of why these do exist. Evolutionary theory posits complex molecules without addressing the question of their generation. Flew points out that Darwin's argument began with a being which already possessed reproductive powers, yet Darwin realised that he was unable to account for why this should be the case, a fact, Flew says, constantly overlooked by Richard Dawkins. For Flew, there is now a more obvious conclusion, since findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have added great weight to "an enormously powerful argument to design". The evidence points to a purposive creation of life, rather than an accidental one. …