|October 30, 2007
by Dr. Benjamin Wiker
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." Everyone else was certainly very surprised as well, perhaps all the more so since on our end, it seemed so sudden. But in There is a God, we find that it was actually a very gradual process—a "two decade migration," as you call it. God was the conclusion of a rather long argument, then. 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? So that, in some sense, you really did "hear a Voice that says" in the evidence itself " 'Can you hear me now?'"
Anthony 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. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a "lucky chance." If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.
Wiker: You are famous for arguing for a presumption of atheism, i.e., as far as arguments for and against the existence of God, the burden of proof lies with the theist. Given that you believe that you only followed the evidence where it led, and it led to theism, it would seem that things have now gone the other way, so that the burden of proof lies with the atheist. He must prove that God doesn't exist. What are your thoughts on that?
Flew: I note in my book that some philosophers indeed have argued in the past that the burden of proof is on the atheist. I think the origins of the laws of nature and of life and the Universe point clearly to an intelligent Source. The burden of proof is on those who argue to the contrary.
Wiker: As for evidence, you cite a lot of the most recent science, yet you remark that your discovery of the Divine did not come through "experiments and equations," but rather, "through an understanding of the structures they unveil and map." Could you explain? Does that mean that the evidence that led you to God is not really, at heart, scientific?
Flew: It was empirical evidence, the evidence uncovered by the sciences. But it was a philosophical inference drawn from the evidence. Scientists as scientists cannot make these kinds of philosophical inferences. They have to speak as philosophers when they study the philosophical implications of empirical evidence.
Wiker: You are obviously aware of the spate of recent books by such atheists as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. They think that those who believe in God are behind the times. But you seem to be politely asserting that they are ones who are behind the times, insofar as the latest scientific evidence tends strongly toward—or perhaps even demonstrates—a theistic conclusion. Is that a fair assessment of your position?
Flew: Yes indeed. I would add that Dawkins is selective to the point of dishonesty when he cites the views of scientists on the philosophical implications of the scientific data.
Two noted philosophers, one an agnostic (Anthony Kenny) and the other an atheist (Nagel), recently pointed out that Dawkins has failed to address three major issues that ground the rational case for God. As it happens, these are the very same issues that had driven me to accept the existence of a God: the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization and the existence of the Universe.
Wiker: You point out that the existence of God and the existence of evil are actually two different issues, which would therefore require two distinct investigations. But in the popular literature—even in much of the philosophical literature—the two issues are regularly conflated. Especially among atheists, the presumption is that the non-existence of God simply follows upon the existence of evil. What is the danger of such conflation? How as a theist do you now respond?
Flew: I should clarify that I am a deist. I do not accept any claim of divine revelation though I would be happy to study any such claim (and continue to do so in the case of Christianity). For the deist, the existence of evil does not pose a problem because the deist God does not intervene in the affairs of the world. The religious theist, of course, can turn to the free-will defense (in fact I am the one who first coined the phrase free-will defense). Another relatively recent change in my philosophical views is my affirmation of the freedom of the will.
Wiker: According to There is a God, you are not what might be called a "thin theist," that is, the evidence led you not merely to accept that there is a "cause" of nature, but "to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being." How far away are you, then, from accepting this Being as a person rather than a set of characteristics, however accurate they may be? (I'm thinking of C. S. Lewis' remark that a big turning point for him, in accepting Christianity, was in realizing that God was not a "place"—a set of characteristics, like a landscape—but a person.)
Flew: I accept the God of Aristotle who shares all the attributes you cite. Like Lewis I believe that God is a person but not the sort of person with whom you can have a talk. It is the ultimate being, the Creator of the Universe.
Wiker: Do you plan to write a follow-up book to There is a God?
Flew: As I said in opening the book, this is my last will and testament.
|Responses to Standing Room Only:
Mr. D'Souza, I have to write you and applaud you for your work. I
usually skip right over channels about books. LOL! But
I stayed and watched and then was glued to the tv
watching this. Your opponent brought out his best
arguments and your countered them with such terrific
knowledge of history and the Bible. I was very
impressed and will be ordering your book. I too am a
Christian and love the information you shared and will
share that with others also. In fact, I run a wen site
for Christian Songwriters
www.christiansonngwriting.org and passed the
information on the debate and your site to the members
there. There is a forum and yahoo group of about 400
members. Anyhow, I rarely write anyone like this, but
just wanted to encourage you and how much I admired
your knowledge and how well you used it. I respect a
Christian who really studies and knows what they're
talking about and you were a terrific example of a
Christian making great points and thus giving our God
glory in the process.
Dear Dinesh, I found your Kings College debate with Christopher Hitchens very
engaging. During some of the give and take over faith and rationality
I wondered about the horror of being trapped in an atheist world where
only logic and rationality existed. Could any human being actually
stand to live in such a world? Would it not be incompatible with so
much that we value as humans-- love, humility, sacrifice, etc? Perhaps
you could use your high-octane intellect to fully explore the frightful
ramifications of a purely logical existence (not that faith is
illogical, but it is certainly so much more) and use it as a point of
debate in the future. Intuitively, I sense that a world of pure
atheistic rationality would be a horror to live in (sort of like a
forced nudist colony where one longed for a stitch of clothing). If in
the end, if God were to give atheists the existence that they now seek
to create, I think it would be a hell worse than any now awaiting.
Another issue. It seems to me that atheists cannot live up to their
own standards for a life based on pure logic, science, and
rationality. They "fall" into irrational behaviors all the time -
especially where love is involved (which is, after all, only
neurochemical activity). Does not the atheist's inability to fully
live up to his own ideals point toward the existence of a
larger-than-mind human nature? I believe C.S. Lewis delved into this
area when he wrote about the thief's sense of being wronged when his
own goods were stolen. Keep up the good work.
Dear Dinesh: Truly, truly and truly--you beat Christopher at The King's College debate, and he showed it on his face, in his faltering and graduly diminishing confidence, and ultimately in his overt misconduct of spewing out; "Oh, gag me with a spoon !" We know to what depths a debater is brought when his feelings overwhelm his brain. You may recall that I e-mailed you a week before this debate with encouraging remarks. Then I missed the debate before I saw your TownHall column referenced-above. Frankly the column paled before your penetrating destruction of Hitchens on Oct. 22nd. Next, I read David Limbaugh's short TownHall review of your "What's So Great About Christianity" (clearly without a question mark), and suddenly I realized I had missed something wonderful. I e-mailed my gratitude back to David, and David replied that he wished he could have praised the meat and substance of your Book with 5,000 words ! So, I conclude by telling you that I went out at once this very afternoon to my Barnes & Noble and I now own not just the Book itself but also a CD set of "What's So Great About Christianity" Also----you more than parried every Hitchens' thrust and mastered every question and reply with solid, valid and inspired Exposition based on Faith with Reason. I learned that truth is common property owned by no-one but available to all alike, while lies are private property--greedily hoarded, sheltered and fiercely guarded by the human creator of those lies. God Truly Is Blessing Your Inspired Work In Christ
Dear Mr. D'Souza,
I was watching the rerun of your debate with Christopher Hitchens
at King's College on C-Span.
Congratulations! I was very impressed by your answers, and I have to
admit I was watching in joy Mr. Hitchens' discomfort. You acted as a real
Christian, and I was very proud by how you defended our faith! You were
given this talent by our Creator, and you are using it to bring people closer
Wish you continued success, and congratulations!
Sir: You destroyed Hitchens at Kings College, and I
am on his side. Congratulations.
I watched your debate with Christopher Hitchens at King's College on Cspan2. tonight.
I want to tell you how much I admire you for standing up for Christianity.
You were brilliant. The best debater ever up against him.
I was enthralled and have never been much of a believer - until now !
I stumbled upon your debate with Christopher Hitchens this weekend on C-span and have to say I was totally engrossed in the conversation between the two of you. By far I feel you proved your case for Christianity and religion vs the emptyness of atheism. God bless you for this.
Dear Dinesh, Very articulate and well prepared for this exchange. Matter of fact I have forwarded a link to a friend of mine that is perhaps a carbon copy of Hitchens in hopes that he will view this debate. He is very anti-religion/God and blames much of the worlds suffering due to religion. I've been searching for a way to engage him on this subject and I think you do it beautifully in your debate with Hitchens.
I am writing to say that I very much enjoyed your recent debate with Christopher Hitchens at The King’s College. As an atheist, I have read the recent spate of books by Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and recently, Christopher Hitchens. These individuals, along with their books, make me ashamed and embarrassed to be an atheist. As you pointed out to the very obtuse and obnoxious Mr. Hitchens, the atheism that he (along with Harris, Dennett, and Dawkins) is espousing is a form of scientism. To say that God does not exist or that there is no afterlife or that such things are “very, very improbable” (to quote Dawkins) is just silly and nonsensical. (How can one possibly prove or even “estimate” a universal negative that is, by definition, transcendent and outside the realm of scientific observation?) Professor Dawkins, when asked by Professor Alister McGrath in an interview a few years ago, was forced to acknowledge that his (Dawkins’) existence was also “very, very improbable”! When pressed further, Professor Dawkins was unable to give any specific “number,” range, or calculation for his “very, very improbable” estimate of God’s existence.
As an atheist, I would place the “odds” of God’s existence and of an afterlife as being 50/50. This seems to me to be the most honest estimate. For me, atheism is simply the absence of belief and not a positive denial of the existence of God, an afterlife, miracles, etc. It is my impression that this is how most atheists feel about the subject. The views of Dawkins & Friends are, I think, a minority position among atheists.
Dear Dinesh, Fantastic book. I have been a Christian for a few years now, but have never known how to answer questions about evolution, the big bang, and previous Christian "crimes" like the crusades, etc. You have opened my eyes to many things, and I am much more confident in my faith, and science in general, thanks to your work. Your are a bright man, if you are ever in the Seattle area, please allow me to buy you a fine cigar.
You were OUTSTANDING in the debate against Hitchens. I've watched it twice and sent a link to the debate to several friends. Way to go!!!
I just watched your debate with Christopher — always the most dogmatic in the room — Hitchens.
I confess I never imagined your rhetorical skills were so developed.
You did us all proud.
God Bless you and thank you for taking on the atheist.
I just finished watching your debate with Christopher Hitchens at King's College
on YouTube. I wanted to say thank you for your eloquent arguments in support of
Christianity. I am 32 years old and, personally, I've been struggling with my
faith for the last year or so, mainly due to the books and arguments of Mr.
Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris. As I have mulled over many of their
claims about Atheism and Christianity, I've found it difficult to continue to
logically accept my faith in the same way that I had in the past. This has led
to some personal turmoil. I've spent many hours in discussions with fellow
believers trying to reconcile the logic of my faith only to receive answers and
assertions regarding dogma.
However, watching the debate has given me hope that I may find some answers to
assuage my doubts. I'm looking forward to reading your book. Thank you for the
work you've done and the time you've spent to deliver such a powerful message
and retort to "The God Delusion" under which I have been made to feel.
Dinesh, my friend, though I love what you do, your wit, your
articulation, and moral certitude, I'm just confounded by the idea
that no one else in the theist camp has the power that you have.
Maybe there needs to be a kind of Dinesh D'Souza boot camp for
status quo theists, or as Dinesh would say, 'crayon Christians,' so
as to whip these believers into shape, and sharpen their resolve.
D'Souza cuts like a knife where other theists cut like a slightly
sharpened spoon. You're an amazing asset and we need more like you.
Dinesh: I heard you this morning on 700 WLW in Cincinnati and watched your debate with Hitchens on CSPAN. I teach Philosophy, Christian Worldview and Ethics at a Christian College in Cincinnati, OH and really enjoy what you are saying especially about natural law and the problems that the Big Bang poses for atheists. I truly thought that with the emergence of the anti-foundationalist, irrationalist philosophies of the 60s, existentialism and deconstructionism these issues (atheism vs. theism) would subside. But they have not.
What shocks me is that Hitchens and Dawkins continue to invoke the verification principle of logical positivism which has been refuted and was discarded by most philosophers of science 40 years ago. But I don’t see the difference in much of what Dawkins promotes and what Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore and A.J. Ayer taught at the turn of the 20th century. Nothing new under the sun I guess. But I appreciate you cause and God bless you.
I have just watched with delight your debate with Christopher Hitchin at TKC. Thank you for such a witty and spirited defence of truth.
Dear Mr. D'Souza,
I found your Kings College debate with Christopher Hitchens very engaging. During some of the give and take over faith and rationality I wondered about the horror of being trapped in an atheist world where only logic and rationality existed. Could any human being actually stand to live in such a world? Would it not be incompatible with so much that we value as humans-- love, humility, sacrifice, etc? Perhaps you could use your high-octane intellect to fully explore the frightful ramifications of a purely logical existence (not that faith is illogical, but it is certainly so much more) and use it as a point of debate in the future. Intuitively, I sense that a world of pure atheistic rationality would be a horror to live in (sort of like a forced nudist colony where one longed for a stitch of clothing). If in the end, if God were to give atheists the existence that they now seek to create, I think it would be a hell worse than any now awaiting.
Another issue. It seems to me that atheists cannot live up to their own standards for a life based on pure logic, science, and rationality. They "fall" into irrational behaviors all the time - especially where love is involved (which is, after all, only neurochemical activity). Does not the atheist's inability to fully live up to his own ideals point toward the existence of a larger-than-mind human nature? I believe C.S. Lewis delved into this area when he wrote about the thief's sense of being wronged when his own goods were stolen.
Keep up the good work.
I saw in its entirety your debate with Hitchens last night on C-Span. It was one of the best events I've ever seen on TV. I think you blew him away!
I'm going to watch it again on your website, but one thing I would like to say is that Hitchens was making a lot your points for you in his responses. I don't remember specificially, which is why I'm going to watch it again (and email you again) - but I just remember sitting there saying to myself - "your making his points" as Hitchens spoke.