The intellectual dignitaries of the world were shocked! What they heard could not be true! On December 9, 2004, Associated Press broke the news that British philosopher Antony Flew, who had been leading the cause of atheism for half a century, had changed his mind and decided that there must be a God. Flew’s move was precisely in the opposite direction from the secular philosophy that dominates most scholarly circles today.
To be sure, Flew’s dramatic turn-around was not a conversion to any traditional religion. He believes in a God that had to originate what we are finding, not a God that has produced a supernatural revelation of Himself such as the Bible (though he says he is open to the possibility that God could, or might, have revealed Himself.)
Flew is famous. He’s written some two dozen books on philosophy and has been called the world’s most influential philosophical atheist. So why did such a well-known and prominent thinker reverse himself and declare that there has to be a God? The answer is simple. He did it because of the scientific data. Science, which now rejects God as an explanation for nature, is providing rather overwhelming data that God exists. In an interview, Flew stated: “I think that the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries.”1
Flew refers especially to the “reproductive power” of living things, for which evolutionists have not given an account. “It now seems to me,” he says, “that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided material for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”2 Flew was willing to overthrow the dominant but restrictive naturalistic (mechanistic) philosophy of science that excludes God because he allowed the data of nature to speak for itself—and that data points to the necessity for a God. In Flew’s own words, he “had to go where the evidence leads.”3
The most baffling problem that evolutionary science faces is the origin of life. After a century of searching and proposing various kinds of scenarios, no plausible model has emerged. The problem is much more acute now than it was decades ago, because we are discovering more and more intricate systems in living things that are complex and that will not work unless several other parts are present. This is sometimes called irreducible complexity,4 and it represents a major stumbling block to the gradual evolutionary process, because there is no evolutionary survival value until all the necessary parts are present. It turns out that most of the systems in any living organism are of this kind, making God essential for the origin of any kind of life.
The simplest form of independent life is a tiny microbe called mycoplasma, and it is incredibly complex. Its DNA contains more than half a million bits of information, which, through the genetic code, dictate the formula for nearly five hundred protein molecules that perform a multitude of essential, specific chemical functions in the microbe.
Just one protein molecule is incredibly complex. Often several hundred amino acids tied to one another are involved, and not much variation can occur if the protein is to function properly.
Molecular biologist Herbert Yockey, of the University of California at Berkeley, has estimated that it would have taken 1023 years (10 followed by 22 zeros!) to produce one specific protein, even if the oceans were already well supplied with amino acids! To put it in another way, the nearly five billion years that geologists commonly assign to the age of the earth is ten thousand billion times too short a time to produce one specific kind of protein molecule! Yet many kinds of protein molecules must be present all at the same time and place in order for life to originate. Protein molecules are delicate, so by the time a second specific protein molecule appeared, chances are the first one would have disintegrated, thus making the spontaneous origin of life essentially impossible.
Then there’s DNA!
And proteins are just the beginning of the problems for the evolution of life all by itself. DNA is much more complex than proteins, but cells have to have DNA to produce proteins—and proteins are needed to produce DNA! Life requires both. Thus, it would be impossible for life to evolve without the two. In addition to proteins, life requires fats and carbohydrates and many other highly specialized structures that we find in living cells. Furthermore, life requires a genetic code in order to function at all. But how can random evolutionary processes produce a complex genetic code? The code is useless until the DNA that dictates it and the special molecules that read it all adopt and “understand” the same language.
Reproduction is one of the cardinal characteristics of living organisms— and it is incredibly complex. Reproduction requires duplicating all the necessary parts of a cell, or the new organism will not survive. Sometimes the process can be quite sophisticated. For instance, when DNA is copied for a new cell or organism, errors in copying the information can occur. These errors are common enough that life would not be possible if it weren’t for a proofreading and editing system. Each cell contains a set of proteins that checks the new DNA that has been produced, and if an error in copying has occurred, it is removed and replaced with a corrected version. Evolution cannot explain the origin of this necessary process.
Complexity is even more abundant in advanced organisms. Organs like the eye, which has complex accommodating systems, or the brain, with its billions of connections, also need to be accounted for. Through the entire evolutionary process, many thousands of new kinds of proteins are needed, some of them very different from others. But at present, on an average, the billions of years proposed for evolution are way too short a time to produce even one specific original kind of protein molecule. God seems absolutely essential!
A strange combination!
As it is presently practiced, science is an honest search for truth about nature combined with a secular philosophy that excludes God. Today’s scientific community has such a strong mechanistic, naturalistic commitment that to include God as an explanatory factor is considered to be unscientific. God is now not allowed as a possible scientific explanation. This belies the usual picture we have of science as an open search for truth that follows the data of nature wherever it may lead. This strong secularism in science exists in spite of the fact that 40 percent of the scientists in the United States believe in a God who answers their prayers, 45 percent do not, and 15 percent are not sure.5 It appears that what some scientists believe in and what they publish when they take science’s secular stance can be very different.
In past centuries, science was not a secular philosophy. Some of the greatest scientists of all time, such as Sir Isaac Newton, included God in their explanations about nature. Other leading scientists who helped establish the foundations of modern science, such as Kepler, Linnaeus, Boyle, Galileo, and Pascal, all believed in a God who was active in nature, and they occasionally referred to God in their scientific writings. They saw no conflict between God and their discoveries, because they believed that God is the One who established the laws of nature that make scientific studies possible. They demonstrated how good science and God can work together. Now the rule is that you must try to explain everything materialistically without God.
In summary: All of the complexity evidenced in living things indicates that a Creator God is necessary. This is what convinced Antony Flew that there must be a God. God seems essential to explain what science has found. The observations on proteins and DNA are all repeatable, and this provides high quality scientific evidence for God. Unfortunately, the secular idealism in science is so strong that the idea of a designer God is now generally rejected by the scientific community. It’s important to understand that this rejection is based on sociological and theological factors, not scientific data.