Critical Podium Dewanand Religion
Atheist become theist. Flew's Flawed Science
Sacrificer Vic Stenger
Sacrifice code wfor0397
Sacrifice date 25 march 2009
Atheist become theist.
Flew's Flawed Science
The late-in-life "conversion" of philosopher Antony Flew from
atheism to belief in God has been widely reported in the press. In
a recent interview with Gary Habermas, misleadingly titled "My Pilgrimage
from Atheism to Theism," Flew explains his new position, which is
based more on science than philosophy. Although that interview contains
a discussion of other topics-such as the moral argument for God, which
Flew does not buy, I will only comment on the science.
Flew identifies his new position as Deism, but does not completely reject
theistic revelation. As he tells Habermas, " I am open to it, but
not enthusiastic about potential revelation from God. On the positive
side, for example, I am very much impressed with physicist Gerald SchroederÕs
comments on Genesis 1. That this biblical account might be scientifically
accurate raises the possibility that it is revelation."
Flew is also impressed by contemporary design arguments: " I think
that the most impressive arguments for GodÕs existence are those
that are supported by recent scientific discoveries. IÕve never
been much impressed by the kalm cosmological argument, and I
donÕt think it has gotten any stronger recently. However, I think
the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was
when I first met it.
In his 1998 book The Science of God, Schroeder attempts to reconcile
the creation story in Genesis with modern cosmology. He explains that
the six days of creation in the Bible really span 15.75 billion years
"cosmic time," which is a mere 2 billion years above the current
best estimate of the age of the universe. The cosmic time for creation
is obtained by multiplying the six days of biblical time by the red shift
of light at a moment in the early universe called "quark confinement,"
which is about a factor of a trillion. The red shift tells us how much
the wavelength of a particular atomic spectral line in increased because
of the expansion of the universe.
According to Schroeder, the first day of creation is eight billion years
long. Each succeeding biblical day is half as long as long as the previous
one in cosmic time so, by the magic of the exponential function, we arrive
at the time of Adam and Eve, at which moment conventional human time takes
over. The 6,000 or so years from then to now, in human time, is insignificant
on this scale, the last day of creation being 250 million years long.
Schroeder gets the answer he wants by using the red shift at quark confinement.
But the universe did not begin at quark confinement. It actually began
about a millionth of a second earlier, at the so-called Planck time, when
the red shift was twenty orders of magnitude higher. That calculation
would have the six days of creation lasting 16x1020 billion years!
Actually, a more sensible red shift would be that at the time when radiation
decouples from matter, that is, when "light is separated from darkness."
But in the case the six days would only be expanded to fifteen years.
When I first read The Science of God I thought it was a clever spoof
on religious apologetics. Come on, Gerald, admit you are pulling our legs!
In fact the creation story in Genesis looks nothing like big bang cosmology,
no mater how you try to spin it. In the Bible, the universe is a firmament
and Earth is fixed and immovable. In fact, the universe is expanding and
Earth rotates about the sun. In the Bible, Earth is created in the first
"day," before the sun, moon, and stars. In fact, Earth did not
form until nine billions years after the big bang, after the sun and other
stars. If Genesis reveals anything, it is that God has a great sense of
Fine-Tuning and Intelligent Design:
The mathematically and scientifically illiterate are also easily impressed
by other two recent variations on the ancient argument from design, which
can be simply stated:
I cannot understand how the universe and the enormous complexity of living
things we see around us can have come about naturally. Therefore, they
must have been created supernaturally.
In 1802, William Paley could not understand how the human eye, so fine-tuned
for the collection of light and formation of images, could have developed
naturally. So, he concluded, it had to be designed by God. Now we understand
how eyes evolved several times by natural selection.
Today, Antony Flew cannot understand how the universe, so fine-tuned
for the manufacture of the materials needed for living organisms, could
have happened naturally. So, he apparently concludes, it had to be designed
by at some kind of minimal deity.
Apparently Flew is not aware that physicists and cosmologists are not
as totally stumped by fine-tuning as he seems to be. While slight changes
in the constants of physics could make life as we know it impossible,
what about life as we donÕt know it? We have no reason to believe
that our kind of carbon-based life is all that is possible. Furthermore,
modern cosmology indicates that multiple universes may exist with different
constants and laws of physics. So, it is not surprising that we live in
the one suited for us. The universe is not fine-tuned to life; life is
fine-tuned to the universe.
I am surprised that philosopher Flew does not see the flaws in the design
argument, as exemplified by Michael Behe's "Irreducible complexity"
and William Dembski's "Design Inference." They assume that a
complex system can only arise out of something with high intelligence.
Surely such intelligence is highly complex, and so can only have arisen
out of something even more intelligent and complex, in infinite regress.
It's intelligent designers all the way down, not Aristotle's first cause
as Flew seems to think.
Fortunately, as we know from everyday experience and scientific observations,
complex systems develop from simpler systems all the time in nature, with
no high intelligence needed. A drop of water can freeze into an ice crystal.
Winds can carve out great cathedrals in rock.
And, our relatively complex universe can have arisen out of the simplest
object of all-the void.
Vic Stenger is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy
at the University of Hawaii and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the
University of Colorado; Member of Mukto-Mona
 Associated Press, December 9, 2004.
 Flew, Antony and Gary Habernas, "My Pilgrimage from Atheism to
Theism," Philosophia Christi (Winter, 2004), to be published. On
the Web at http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/index.cfm (accessed December
 See Stenger, Victor J., Has Science Found God? The Latest Results
in the Search for Purpose in the Unviverse (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books,
 Craig, William Lane, The Kalm Cosmological Argument. Library
of Philosophy and Religion (London: Macmillan, 1979).
 Schroeder, Gerald L., The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific
and Biblical Wisdom (New York: Broadway Books, 1998).
 I have reviewed this in Skeptical Inquirer 23(4): 67 (1999). See also
Has Science Found God?, pp. 165-170.
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