When we were given the opportunity to attend a Philosophy conference, three of us fellow students jumped at the chance. Not only did we think that the day would be philosophically interesting, we also wanted to have a ‘peek’ at the very famous Cheltenham Ladies College, where the conference was held. The building was very grand indeed. Although the conference was aimed at A-level students, it was a very intellectual discussion. In fact, we all feel that studying the ‘Philosophy, Science and Belief’ module (RPE 201) really helped us to gain a strong grounding in the discussions.
Keith Ward started the conference off by talking about the statement ‘God is a delusion’ and examined where our beliefs in God come from. He then opened the discussion to the students who asked many interesting questions. One young lady asked where our morals come from if we do not possess belief in God, Keith Ward very quickly replied that we cannot have a real morality if we do not believe in God, which of course we all disagreed very strongly with (as we feel we do possess morality!)
Anthony Flew was allotted to speak next, although he forgot that he had to be there and so he was late! (He is very old so we cannot hold him entirely responsible…) Keith Ward stepped in to talk about the Verification principle (he was a student of the very famous A. J Ayer!) and also spoke briefly on falsification. He was very impressive actually; he hadn’t prepared but managed to speak very coherently on the subject.
During this time, some students attended an exam preparation workshop, which we did not attend (mainly due to the fact that we have just finished our exams!). Then it was time for a break – tea, coffee and biscuits were supplied! Yummy! Back to the Princess Hall again for another talk from Keith Ward examining the problem of evil, and attempting to explain why there is evil in the world today. From a Christian view, he attempted to explain evil due to our freedom in the world, and God could not intervene otherwise he would jeopardise our freedom. He also attempted to explain the notions of God’s goodness and his omnipotence. Some ‘smart alec’ attempted to argue a very silly point – comparing God with Hitler – the room went incredibly silent by this remark!
Lunch time, and we went to a very cute little tea room.
When we arrived back, feeling very full, Anthony Flew had arrived! He looked very old and doddery, but also had a very warm charm to him. Flew and Ward had a debate concerning God’s existence, but it was incredibly difficult to hear Flew, everyone had to strain their ears very hard. They both hated Darwin, and Flew became very animated indeed when he was arguing his point against Darwin. What we did find frustrating was that both Ward and Flew possessed belief in God, we would have liked to have seen an atheist there to stir things up a little!
Overall, it was a really enjoyable day!
Anthony Flew apparently got the days muddled and didn’t arrive until the afternoon. So Keith Ward delivered an unrehearsed and, well, an unwritten, talk on verification and falsification, which was impressive, but I still found him irritating. (By the way, without Philosophy and Science RPE201, I would have been lost for a lot of the day). When he talked about ‘the problem with evil’ he seemed to be saying that without God, there is no criteria for morality, goodness, friendship, all the virtues, really. So a young woman challenged him on it and he answered in a kind of wet way, and what I gathered from his response was that he didn’t think morality, etc, was possible without God. Frankly, I didn’t think he answered any of the questions well. He could lecture from his own position, but he didn’t do well defending it. Also, he was always referring to striving towards the Good, as an objective reality that exists, God, Supreme Good, Ultimate Reality. And although, I couldn’t formulate a question, I wasn’t convinced by his argument (he also seemed like a dapper, chirpy-voiced, personable, cheerful, unangst-ridden little man which irritated me).
Frances, Emily and Carol asked very good questions.
Anthony Flew hates Richard Dawkins. That came over loud and clear. But it was the only thing from him that did. He became very excited about ‘time’. He was downright animated stating there hasn’t been enough time for the natural selection process to have evolved to where we are today. But the problem with using ‘time’ to refute evolution theory and thereby using the refutation to support independent design theory, is fallacious reasoning of the bifurcation flavour. It’s the same as using irreducible complexities to slam evolution theory but simultaneously and indirectly using it to support independent design (as Carol pointed out in her question to Keith Ward – which he didn’t answer properly – where’s the little symbol on the keyboard that sticks its tongue out?). What I mean is the faulty reasoning is the either/or one, ‘if it’s not this, it’s that’. The ‘time’ evidence falsifies evolution theory. But that doesn’t necessarily lead to the acceptance or truth of independent design theory.
Keith Ward hates Richard Dawkins too. I think he used the word ‘stupid’ several times to describe RD. Unfortunately, I had to strain very hard to hear Anthony Flew. The afternoon session was organised like a conversation between KW and AF. So it was a little frustrating because AF couldn’t be heard. Or Keith Ward would pontificate and Anthony Flew would nod his head and reply ‘Yes, yes’. He must be in his deep 80s and it was a great opportunity to see him, though.