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. World's most notorious atheist changes his mind


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How Did Life Go Live?

One of the reasons consistently cited by Flew for changing his mind about the existence of God has to do with the almost insuperable difficulties facing the various naturalistic theories of the origin of life. In particular, Flew observes, there is a fundamental philosophical question that has not been answered, namely, "How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends, self-replication capabilities, and ‘coded chemistry'?"{17}

When considering the origin of life from non-living matter, it's crucially important to note a fundamental difference between the two. "Living matter possesses an inherent . . . end-centered organization that is nowhere present in the matter that preceded it."{18} For example, lifeless rocks do not give evidence of goal-directed behavior, but living creatures do. Among the various goals one might list, living beings seek to preserve and reproduce themselves.

This leads naturally to the second difficulty, namely, providing a purely naturalistic account of the origin of organisms that are able to reproduce themselves. As philosopher David Conway points out, without this ability "it would not have been possible for different species to emerge through random mutation and natural selection." Since different species can't emerge from organisms that can't reproduce themselves, one can't claim that self-reproduction emerged through the evolutionary process. Conway concludes that such difficulties "provide us with reason for doubting that it is possible to account for existent life-forms . . . without recourse to design."{19}

The final difficulty Flew raises concerns a purely naturalistic origin of "coded chemistry." Scientists have discovered that the genetic code functions exactly like a language. But as the mathematician David Berlinski asks, "Can the origins of a system of coded chemistry be explained in a way that makes no appeal whatever to the kinds of facts that we otherwise invoke to explain codes and languages?"{20} In other words, if every other code and language we're aware of results from intelligence, then why think the genetic code is any different? As physicist Paul Davies muses, "The problem of how meaningful . . . information can emerge spontaneously from a collection of mindless molecules subject to blind and purposeless forces presents a deep conceptual challenge."{21}

Ultimately, such challenges became too much for Flew. He concludes his discussion of these difficulties by noting, "The only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such ‘end-directed, self-replicating' life as we see on earth is an infinitely intelligent Mind."{22}