Argument by Incredulity

A British philosopher was quoted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today saying, “A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature.” This philosopher, Antony Flew, has been a devout atheist (if that is not an oxymoron) for a good while now. Check out his wikipedia entry for more information.

Deeper in the article comes what makes me wonder what the heck this guy is doing? If he is as respectable and educated as he apparently is, why is he making this “Argument from Incredulity” as quoted here? “‘It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism.”

The Argument from Incredulity is defined is several locations: Talk Origins, EvoWiki, and others. The one I like the best is from Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker, which I will briefly paraphrase.

The example of the polar bear being white has been used as an argument against natural selection. The argument goes, “Polar bears have no need to be white because they don’t need to hide from anything. I find it hard to believe they evolved that way therefore they must have been designed.” Whereas what they really mean is, “I, sitting here in my chair, with no experience concerning polar bears or the arctic, can think of no reason off the top of my head for polar bears to be white.” Mr. Dawkins uses one example of a selective pressure on polar bears to indicate there are perfectly good reasons for polar bears to be able to blend into the arctic landscape: the prey they hunt will run if they see a big ravenous bear coming, so it makes good sense for polar bears to be white.

I won’t get deeper into the quote, particularly concerning “…evolution of that first reproducing organism,” because I’m not qualified to discuss it, but a renowned philospher who says he has “scientific” reasons for acknowledging the existence of a divine designer should know better than to use this argument.

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