Antony Flew and the Evidence for God

By Jenkins, Dan | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

Antony Flew and the Evidence for God


Jenkins, Dan, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


I thoroughly enjoyed the article "Antony Flew 1923-2020" by Kenneth Grubbs in Volume 16, number 1. This was the first issue of SKEPTIC I ever read, and I was quite pleased with its overall quality. I look forward to buying further issues in the future.

However, while Mr. Grubbs casts some convincing skepticism on the veracity of Antony Flew's conversion, I found one area of criticism to be unconvincing. Mr. Grubbs argues that Flew/Varghese's claim for God's existence lacks evidence and suggests that Flew/Varghese use the lack of knowledge as knowledge and the lack of evidence as evidence for God. This is the "God of the Gaps" argument. However, I didn't see that in the article at hand. Perhaps Flew/Varghese make this argument in their book, and use the lack of evidence as evidence, I don't know as I have not read the book. If they do, then Mr. Grubbs makes a valid point. In the article, however, it seems that Flew/Varghese embrace science and use scientific discovery and the complexity of the universe and all that is in it as evidence for God. I don't see how this can be construed as an argument without evidence. All the questions about the origins and the nature of the universe can be asked and answered by both the religious and the non-religious using science as the backbone of their case. One group may disagree with the conclusions reached by the other (in this case that there is a God) through their consideration of the evidence but it doesn't follow that the one disagreed with lacks evidence. It means you disagree with their conclusions. In this case, Flew/Varghese call upon the discoveries and observations of science as evidence for there being a God, or at least an "infinitely intelligent mind."

This leads to a larger issue: What is acceptable evidence for the existence God? Mr. Grubbs places the burden of proof for the existence of God on believers and cites the legal maxim, "The onus of proof lies on the proposition, not on the opposition" The problem with applying this maxim in the case for proving the existence of God is that there is no evidence acceptable to both believers and non-believers alike. In law, all parties can recognize "proof" when they see it. The criterion, or evidence, necessary for conviction in a criminal case is clear from the outset--a murder weapon is required, the body, a motive, a witness' testimony, etc. But when it comes to evidence for God, neither party agrees on what evidence to include. Thus, the nature of the evidence necessary to prove the existence of God is, I think, one of the main stumbling blocks between those who believe in God and those who doubt or disbelieve in God.

What evidence for the existence of God is good enough for both parties to agree to? For the believer, and in the case of the Flew/Varghese book in particular, it seems that the observations and discoveries of science are evidence enough for the authors to conclude that there is a God or an "infinitely intelligent mind." But Grubbs, and I think non-believers in general, dismiss evidence and observations of science as evidence for God. What evidence, then, do doubters require in order to accept the existence of God as a plausible explanation for the complexity and fine-tuning of the universe? As Flew wrote in 1976, "If it is to be established that there is a God, then we have to have good grounds for believing that this is indeed so.

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