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Picking Hypotheses

December 12th, 2004 · No Comments

I’ll profess a certain amount of befuddlement at the very sharp Antony Flew’s apparent reasons for backing off his well-known atheism. The gist seems to be that he’s dissatisfied with the various accounts of how complex organic molecules might have first emerged, as well as being swayed by “fine tuning” arguments to the effect that slight variations in smome basic physical constants would’ve produced a universe in which life (as we know it, and probably of any kind) would not have been able to emerge. (I’m also a bit puzzled by the conclusion from the latter consideration that we live in a “highly improbable” universe. How does one decide how probable a particular speed of light is? Are we just imagining an indefinitely fine-grained range from zero to infinity?)

What’s befuddling is why any of these considerations are supposed to provide any support whatever for the God hypothesis. To think that they do seems to rely on a kind of ignotum per ignotius: We have no satisfying account of complex phenomenon X, so we explain it in terms of, even more complex phenomenon Y, a mind capable of consciously producing X. Why is this supposed to be satisfying? Why, in the absence of a culture in which religion is pervasive, would anyone resort to this kind of explanation? Indeed, why would anyone count it as an explanation at all?

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