1 - Flew and The Parable of The Gardener

1 - Flew and The Parable of The Gardener

1 - FLEW AND THE PARABLE OF THE GARDENER Actual Extract LET us begin with a parable. It is a parable developed from a tale told by John Wisdom in his haunting and revelatory article 'Gods'. Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, 'Some gardener must tend this plot.' The other disagrees, 'There is no gardener.' So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. 'But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.' So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Wells's 'Invisible Man' could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. 'But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.' At last the Sceptic despairs, 'But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?' Summary This is Flews reworking of Wisdoms Parable of the Gardener. Two men find a garden and one believes that there is a gardener who comes to look after it whilst the other doesnt. The sceptic tries to prove to the believer that there is no gardener by staking out the garden at night, putting up electric fences etc to detect him. Each time the believer is faced with evidence that there is no gardener, he changes his claim to make it fit with the evidence rather than accept that there might not be a gardener after all. The believers original claim was there is a gardener and, in his refusal to accept any evidence to the contrary, this ends up becoming 'But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves. The sceptic then challenges the believer to consider how his new claim is different from there being no gardener at all? 2 - FLEW AND QUALIFICATION Summary Actual Extract In this parable we can see how what starts as an assertion, that something exists or that there is some analogy between certain complexes of phenomena, may be reduced step by step to an altogether different

status, to an expression perhaps of a 'picture preference'.The Sceptic says there is no gardener. The Believer says there is a gardener (but invisible etc.). One man talks about sexual behaviour. Another man prefers to talk of Aphrodite (but knows that there is not really a superhuman person additional to, and somehow responsible for, all sexual phenomena). The process of qualification may be checked at any point before the original assertion is completely withdrawn and something of that first assertion will remain (tautology). Mr. Wells's invisible man could not, admittedly, be seen, but in all other respects he was a man like the rest of us. But though the process of qualification may be, and of course usually is, checked in time, it is not always judiciously so halted. Someone may dissipate his assertion completely without noticing that he has done so. A fine brash hypothesis may thus be killed by inches, the death by a thousand qualifications. Flew explains his idea of qualification. He argues that sometimes, people are so convinced by what they consider to be the truth that they will not accept any evidence to the contrary and instead will just change or qualify their ideas so that they fit in with any evidence that they are presented with. Flew calls this death by a thousand qualifications and refers to his notion that people end up making their own claims ridiculous when they constantly adjust them to make them fit in with the evidence they are given; for example a simple claim like, There is a gardener ends up becoming something ridiculous like, 'But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves. The phrase "death by a thousand qualifications" is a reference to the "death by a thousand cuts". This was a form of execution in Ancient China (it was known as lingchi) which caused a slow, lingering death. The "death by a thousand cuts" became a phrase in English for any slow, drawn-out way of destroying something. 3 - FLEW AND INTERPRETATIONS OF RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE Actual Extract And in this, it seems to me, lies the peculiar danger, the endemic evil of theological utterance. Take such utterances as 'God has a plan', 'God created the world', 'God loves us as a father loves his children.' They look at first sight very much like assertions, vast cosmological assertions. Of course, this is no sure sign that they either are, or are intended to be, assertions. But let us confine ourselves to the cases where those who utter such sentences intend them to express assertions. (Merely remarking parenthetically that those who

intend or interpret such utterances as crypto-commands, expressions of wishes, disguised ejaculations, concealed ethics, or as anything else but assertions, are unlikely to succeed in making them either properly orthodox or practically effective.) Liberal interpretations of religion consider statements as almost being stories with a meaning. Summary Flew explains the different ways of interpreting religious language. He explains that liberal interpretations involve considering statements as representing a meaning rather than reporting a fact. For example, the statement God has a plan could be interpreted liberally as we must live our lives as if there were a purpose behind them. Traditional interpretations involve considering statements as being true. For example, the statement God has a plan has been traditionally interpreted as there is an all powerful spirit who presides over humanity and determines their lives. He does not think liberal interpretations are the proper way to view religious language and believes that it would be unpopular with believers themselves. Traditional interpretations of religion consider statements as factual truths. 4 FLEW AND ASSERTIONS Actual Extract Now to assert that such and such is the case is necessarily equivalent to denying that such and such is not the case. Suppose, then that we are in doubt as to what someone who gives vent to an utterance is asserting, or suppose that, more radically, we are sceptical as to whether he is really asserting anything at all, one way of trying to understand (or perhaps it will be to expose) his utterance is to attempt to find what he would regard as counting against, or as being incompatible with, its truth. For if the utterance is indeed an assertion, it will necessarily be equivalent to a denial of the negation of that assertion. And anything which would count against the assertion, or which would induce the speaker to withdraw it and to admit that it had been mistaken, must be part of (or the whole of) the meaning of the negation of that assertion. And to know the meaning of the negation of an assertion, is as near as makes no matter, to know the meaning of that assertion. And if there is nothing which a putative assertion denies then there is nothing which it asserts either: and so it is not really an assertion. When the Sceptic in the parable asked the Believer, 'Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener at all?' he was suggesting that the Believer's earlier statement had

been so eroded by qualification that it was no longer an assertion at all. Summary This is the key crux of Flews argument and what he is basically saying is that if a person will not allow their ideas to be falsified (ie, proved wrong) then these ideas are not based on facts and are therefore meaningless. He believes that religious assertions are not really assertions at all because believers will not accept any evidence that they may be incorrect, they simply change their claim so that it still fits with the evidence; for example a simple claim like, There is a gardener ends up becoming something ridiculous like, 'But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves. 5 FLEW AND THE EXAMPLE OF THE DYING CHILD Actual Extract Now it often seems to people who are not religious as if there was no conceivable event or series of events the occurrence of which would be admitted by sophisticated religious people to be a sufficient reason for conceding 'There wasn't a God after all' or 'God does not really love us then.' Someone tells us that God loves us as a father loves his children. We are reassured. But then we see a child dying of inoperable cancer of the throat. His earthly father is driven frantic in his efforts to help, but his Heavenly Father reveals no obvious sign of concern. Some qualification is made God's love is 'not a merely human love' or it is 'an inscrutable love', perhaps and we realize that such sufferings are quite compatible with the truth of the assertion that 'God loves us as a father (but, of course,...).' We are reassured again. But then perhaps we ask: what is this assurance of God's (appropriately qualified) love worth, what is this apparent guarantee really a guarantee against? Just what would have to happen not merely (morally and wrongly) to tempt but also (logically and rightly) to entitle us to say 'God does not love us' or even 'God does not exist'? I therefore put to the succeeding symposiasts the simple central questions, 'What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or of the existence of, God?' Summary Flew gives an example of a child dying from throat cancer, whose father frantically searches for a cure. God, however, "reveals no obvious sign of concern". Yet religious believers say God

loves his children just like a father loves his child. Normally, if a father was unconcerned about his child's fatal illness, that would disprove his claim to love his child. He questions why doesn't God's (apparent) lack of concern disprove the belief that he is a loving Heavenly Father? There's a link here to the Problem of Evil & Suffering. He then considers two probable responses from religious believers; Gods love is not like human love and Gods love is inscrutable. He concludes by raising the question of how much horror is too much to be compatible with a belief that God loves us? When does the word love lose all meaning? Flew doesn't say it explicitly, but his conclusion is that, if a believer maintains a belief in a loving God REGARDLESS of what happens, then that belief is a meaningless belief. 6 HARE AND THE PARABLE OF THE PARANOID STUDENT Actual Extract I wish to make it clear that I shall not try to defend Christianity in particular, but religion in general not because I do not believe in Christianity, but because you cannot understand what Christianity is, until you have understood what religion is. I must begin by confessing that, on the ground marked out by Flew, he seems to me to be completely victorious. I therefore shift my ground by relating another parable. A certain lunatic is convinced that all dons want to murder him. His friends introduce him to all the mildest and most respectable dons that they can find, and after each of them has retired, they say, 'You see, he doesn't really want to murder you; he spoke to you in a most cordial manner; surely you are convinced now? But the lunatic replies, 'Yes, but that was only his diabolical cunning; he's really plotting against me the whole time, like the rest of them; I know it I tell you.' However many kindly dons are produced, the reaction is still the same. Summary This is Hares Parable of the Paranoid Student. Hare tells the story of a student who is convinced that all of his professors are trying to kill him. His friends present him with evidence for why he is mistaken but the student refuses to take it on board and clings to his belief and qualifies it so that it fits with the evidence of his professors being nice to him.

7-8 HARE AND BLIKS Actual Extract Now we say that such a person is deluded. But what is he deluded about? About the truth or falsity of an assertion? Let us apply Flew's test to him. There is no behaviour of dons that can be enacted which he will accept as counting against his theory; and therefore his theory, on this test, asserts nothing. But it does not follow that there is no difference between what he thinks about dons and what most of us think about them otherwise we should not call him a lunatic and ourselves sane, and dons would have no reason to feel uneasy about his presence in Oxford. Let us call that in which we differ from this lunatic, our respective bliks. He has an insane blik about dons; we have a sane one. It is important to realize that we have a sane one, not no blik at all; for there must be two sides to any argument if he has a wrong blik, then those who are right about dons must have a right one. Flew has shown that a blik does not consist in an assertion or system of them; but nevertheless it is very important to have the right blik. Let us try to imagine what it would be like to have different bliks about other things than dons. When I am driving my car, it sometimes occurs to me to wonder whether my movements of the steering-wheel will always continue to be followed by corresponding alterations in the direction of the car. I have never had a steering failure, though I have had skids, which must be similar. Moreover, I know enough about how the steering of my car is made, to know the sort of thing that would have to go wrong for the steering to fail steel joints would have to part, or steel rods break, or something but how do I know that this won't happen? The truth is, I don't know; I just have a blik about steel and its properties, so that normally I trust the steering of my car; but I find it not at all difficult to imagine what it would be like to lose this blik and acquire the opposite one. People would say I was silly about steel; but there would be no mistaking the reality of the difference between our respective bliks for example, I should never go in a motor-car. Yet I should hesitate to say that the difference between us was the difference between contradictory assertions. No amount of safe arrivals or bench tests will remove my blik and restore the normal one; for my blik is compatible with any finite number of such tests. Summary Hare explains his idea of bliks. A blik is the way in which someone views the world, for example, sme peoplehave the blik that everything happens for a reason and so when something bad happens to them, they will assume that it is part of grander plan. A blik is a bit like a gut feeling, it is not based on facts. This means that you can't contradict a blik with more facts. People "cherry pick" the facts that support their bliks and selectively ignore the facts that go against their bliks. Hare's point is that it isn't just lunatics who do this - we all have bliks. Hare gives the example of his blik about driving being safe. He is aware that car crashes happen, but that doesn't challenge his blik about driving being safe. If he had the opposite blik, he would never get in a car - and no amount of safe journeys would convince him that the very next journey might not be the one that resulted in a horrible accident.

9 HARE AND HUME Actual Extract It was Hume who taught us that our whole commerce with the world depends upon our blik about the world; and that differences between bliks about the world cannot be settled by observation of what happens in the world. That was why, having performed the interesting experiment of doubting the ordinary man's blik about the world, and showing that no proof could be given to make us adopt one blik rather than another, he turned to backgammon to take his mind off the problem. It seems, indeed, to be impossible even to formulate as an assertion the normal blik about the world which makes me put my confidence in the future reliability of steel joints, in the continued ability of the road to support my car, and not gape beneath it revealing nothing below; in the general non-homicidal tendencies of dons; in my own continued well-being (in some sense of that word that I may not now fully understand) if I continue to do what is right according to my lights; in the general likelihood of people like Hitler coming to a bad end. But perhaps a formulation less inadequate than most is to be found in the Psalms: 'The earth is weak and all the inhabiters thereof: I bear up the pillars of it.' Summary Hare discusses the work of Hume who argued that all knowledge should be doubted. Hume argued that humans assume that just because something has always happened a certain way in the past, it will continue to do so in the future; he argues that this is an irrational belief. Hare asserts that bliks are our foundation for how we view the world. He refers to a passage in the Bible, I bear up the pillars of it and compares it to the idea that human knowledge is weak but a blik is a bit like God, it provides a foundation for everything, without it, you wouldnt be able know anything at all. 10 SCIENCE AND RELIGION Actual Extract The mistake of the position which Flew selects for attack is to regard this kind of talk as some sort of explanation, as scientists are accustomed to use the word. As such, it would obviously be ludicrous. We no longer believe in God as an Atlas nous n'avons pas besoin de cette hypothse. But it is nevertheless true to say that, as Hume saw, without a blik there can be no explanation; for it is by our bliks that we decide what is and what is not an explanation. Suppose we believed that everything that happened, happened by pure chance. This would not of course be an assertion; for it is compatible with anything happening or not happening, and so, incidentally, is its contradictory.

But if we had this belief, we should not be able to explain or predict or plan anything. Thus, although we should not be asserting anything different from those of a more normal belief, there would be a great difference between us; and this is the sort of difference that there is between those who really believe in God and those who really disbelieve in him. Summary Flew criticises religious statements for not being falsifiable, but Hare's response is that they don't have to be. Only scientific statements need to be falsifiable and Hare has shown that religious statements aren't like scientific statements. Hare asserts that atheists like Flew are guilty of thinking of God as the answer to a scientific problem when he was never meant to be. Hare gives a final example of bliks in action. He offers the blik that everything that happens, happens by chance. A person with this sort of blik would think that there's no point in planning anything or trying to understand anything. This belief would make a big difference to how you lived your life. Hare thinks that religious belief is like this. A theist's blik says that the world is the creation of a loving God. This can't be verified or falsified, but it makes a difference to how you live your life. The Ancient Greeks believed in a titan called Atlas who quite literally supported the sky on his shoulders. This sort of belief is scientific (or quasi-scientific) and it can be proven false. 11 ATHEISTS AND SHARED BLIKS Actual Extract The word 'really' is important, and may excite suspicion. I put it in, because when people have had a good Christian upbringing, as have most of those who now profess not to believe in any sort of religion, it is very hard to discover what they really believe. The reason why they find it so easy to think that they are not religious, is that they have never got into the frame of mind of one who suffers from the doubts to which religion is the answer. Not for them the terrors of the primitive jungle. Having abandoned some of the more picturesque fringes of religion, they think that they have abandoned the whole thing whereas in fact they still have got, and could not live without, a religion of a comfortably substantial, albeit highly sophisticated, kind, which differs from that of many 'religious people' in little more than this, that 'religious people' like to sing Psalms about theirs a very natural and proper thing to do. But nevertheless there may be a big difference lying behind the difference between two people who, though side by side, are walking in different directions. I do not know in what direction Flew is walking; perhaps he does not know either. But we have had some examples recently of various ways in which one can walk away from Christianity, and there are any number of possibilities. After all, man has not changed biologically since primitive times; it is his religion that has changed, and it can easily change again. And if you do not

think that such changes make a difference, get acquainted with some Sikhs and some Mussulmans of the same Punjabi stock; you will find them quite different sorts of people. Summary Hare explains that he believes that all atheists still share common beliefs with theists such as the idea that it is important to be kind. However, Hare does think that some atheists might genuinely abandon the religious blik. Hare doesn't say it outright, but he implies that this would be a bad step. Hare has already mentioned Hitler and perhaps sees Nazism as one of the "different directions" people might go in when they live the religious blik behind. Hare thinks that the religious blik has kept evil urges restrained, but these will express themselves once the religious blik is abandoned. Hare finishes with a contrast between Sikhs and Muslims, he says that, although Punjabi Sikhs and Muslims are racially/culturally similar, they are "quite different sorts of people" because their religions involve different bliks. 12 CONCLUSION - DETACHMENT Actual Extract There is an important difference between Flew's parable and my own which we have not yet noticed. The explorers do not mind about their garden; they discuss it with interest, but not with concern. But my lunatic, poor fellow, minds about dons; and I mind about the steering of my car; it often has people in it that I care for. It is because I mind very much about what goes on in the garden in which I find myself, that I am unable to share the explorers' detachment. Summary Hare is arguing that religious questions have a direct impact on how a person lives their life whereas the same is not true of scientific ones. It is therefore not appropriate to apply the same rules of what is meaningful? to both disciplines. 10 MARK QUESTIONS OVERVIEW FLEW HARE 1 Parable of the Gardener 2 Qualification

Each time the believer is faced with evidence that there is no gardener, he changes his claim to make it fit with the evidence rather than accept that there might not be a gardener after all. Flew explains his idea of qualification. He argues that sometimes, people are so convinced by what they consider to be the truth that they will not accept any evidence to the contrary and instead will just change or qualify their ideas so that they fit in with any evidence that they are presented with. 6 Parable of the Paranoid Student 7+8 Bliks 9 Hume 10 Science and Religion 11 Atheists 12 Detachment Hare tells the story of a student who is convinced that all of his professors are trying to kill him. His friends present him with evidence for why he is mistaken but the student refuses to take it on board and clings to his belief and qualifies it so that it fits with the evidence of his professors being

nice to him. Hare explains his idea of bliks. A blik is the way in which someone views the world, for example, sme peoplehave the blik that everything happens for a reason and so when something bad happens to them, they will assume that it is part of grander plan. Asserts that bliks are our foundation for how we view the world. He refers to a passage in the Bible, I bear up the pillars of it and compares it to the idea that human knowledge is weak but a blik is a bit like God, it provides a foundation for everything, without it, you wouldnt be able know anything at all. Flew criticises religious statements for not being falsifiable, but Hare's response is that they don't have to be. Only scientific statements need to be falsifiable and Hare has shown that religious statements aren't like scientific statements. Says that some atheists might genuinely abandon the religious blik. Hare doesn't say it outright, but he implies that this would be a bad step. Hare has already mentioned Hitler and perhaps sees Nazism as one of the "different directions" people might go in when they live the religious blik behind. Hare thinks that the

religious blik has kept evil urges restrained, but these will express themselves once the religious blik is abandoned. Argues that religious questions have a direct impact on how a person lives their life whereas the same is not true of scientific ones. It is therefore not appropriate to apply the same rules of what is meaningful? to both disciplines. A blik is a bit like a gut feeling, it is not based on facts. This means that you can't contradict a blik with more facts. 3 Interpretations of Religious Language Liberal represent a meaning. Traditional actual truths. He does not think liberal interpretations are the proper way to view religious language and believes that it would be unpopular with believers themselves. 4 Assertions 5 Example of the Dying Child This is the key crux of Flews argument and what he is basically saying is that if a person will not allow their ideas to be falsified (ie, proved wrong) then these ideas are not based on facts and are therefore meaningless.

Flew gives an example of a child dying from throat cancer, whose father frantically searches for a cure. God, however, "reveals no obvious sign of concern". Hare asserts that atheists like Flew are guilty of thinking of God as the answer to a scientific problem when he was never meant to be. He raises the question of how much horror is too much to be compatible with a belief that God loves us? When does the word love lose all meaning? Flew doesn't say it explicitly, but his conclusion is that, if a believer maintains a belief in a loving God REGARDLESS of what happens, then that belief is a meaningless belief. HOW TO STRUCTURE A MIND MAP FOR FLEW AND HARE Interpretations of Religious Language Qualification Assertions FLEW Example of the Dying Child Parable of the Gardener KEY IDEAS FLEW Something is only meaningful if it is sensitive to facts. HARE Something is meaningful if it has an impact on a persons life Parable of the Paranoid Student Detachment HARE Bliks Atheists Hume Science and Religion

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