World's Leading Atheist Now Believes in God

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World's Leading Atheist Now Believes in God

I wouldn't really consider Flew one of the World's Leading Atheists, but thought you all might be interested in this article nonetheless.

 

http://news.aol.com/newsbloggers/2007/10/10/worlds-leading-atheist-now-believes-in-god/

World's Leading Atheist Now Believes in God

Posted Oct 10th 2007 8:22AM by Dinesh D'Souza
Filed under: Science, Religion, Christianity, Atheism

For the past half century, the leading atheist in the world was philosopher Anthony Flew. He wrote over 30 philosophical works laying the intellectual groundwork for nonbelief. He debated Christian apologists. He was widely cited in atheist literature and at atheist conventions. What distinguished Flew was how comprehensive and fully-developed his atheist philosophy was. Other philosophers, such as Bertrand Russell and Martin Heidegger, espoused atheist beliefs but those beliefs were incidental to their philosophy. Atheism was Flew's philosophy. HIs works such as Theology and Falsification and The Presumption of Atheism were considered classics of theist thought.

Then Anthony Flew became a believer, and his book There Is A God describes his intellectual journey. Go ahead and order this book, along with my new book, What's So Great About Christianity. Together the two books represent what atheism has always dreaded: historically based, philosophically rich, scientifically fluent, logically reasoned refutations of atheism.

Flew says he has a lifelong commitment to going "where the evidence leads." And now, he calmly says, the evidence leads to theism. His own past writings have been exposed as a "relic." Flew writes, "My discovery of the divine has proceeded on a purely natural level, without any reference to supernatural phenomena...It has had no connection with any of the revealed religions. Nor do I claim to have had any personal experience of God or any experience that may be called supernatural or miraculous. My discovery of the divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith."

Flew's argument for God combines science and philosophy, and I'll let you discover it for yourself in his book. What I enjoyed was the way he uses simple analogies to expose atheist illogic. For instance, leading atheists seek to prove that the mind is no more than the brain. If the brain is destroyed, they say, we can't use our minds. Therefore there is nothing to minds excerpt circuits and neurons. Flew gives the example of a child raised on a remote island who finds a satellite phone. Voices come out of the machine. The child recognizes these voices as human and is thrilled by the discovery that she has found a way to interact with other humans. Perhaps there is life outside the island! Then the elders of the tribe (if I may embellish Flew's account, let's call them Big Chief Dawkins and Grand Pooh Bah Dennett) and Witch Doctor Pinker) scorn the child and say, "Look, when we damage the instrument, the voices stop. So they're obviously nothing more than sounds produced by the unique combination of metals and circuit boards. Forget about learning about other humans. From all the evidence we have, we are the only living creatures on earth. So go back to making sandcastles." Who are the real dummies here?

Anthony Flew has been banished from the atheist community. Anthologies have been reprinted removing his essays. Atheist websites condemn him as an apostate. (Atheist toleration does not extend to former atheists.) He doesn't even make the case for Christianity, as I do. But Anthony flew out of the atheist cuckoo's nest, leaving anger and confusion among the unbelievers. And now Flew tells us why he rejects atheism. The atheist monopoly on public debate is over: the theists are striking back.

 

 


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The last paragraph sounds

The last paragraph sounds totaly unbelievable to me.

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. - Seneca


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I've been doing a quick run

I've been doing a quick run of the internet and it appears that most of the articles claiming Flew is a theist are Christian websites.  I found this one website where he claims he's not a theist.  Of course, here is the wonderful and oft inaccurate Wiki page.  Bottom line is that it appears he's made some contradictory comments. 

Disclaimer - I just pulled some stuff quickly off the internet, please don't take any of this as absolute fact. 

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The book itself is

The book itself is real...

http://www.amazon.com/There-God-Notorious-Atheist-Changed/dp/0061335290/ref=pd_bbs_2/103-9408321-3807001?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=11920...

(That's the link I got from Amazon in my inbox this morning.  Apparently it is going to be released soon.) 


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I must be totally ignorant

I must be totally ignorant of something but i've never heard of the guy. So i don't see how he's a "leading" atheist. Besides the fact that they seem to be saying "see this atheist sees the truth now why don't all you other idiot athiests" its totally fallcious.


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zntneo wrote: I must be

zntneo wrote:
I must be totally ignorant of something but i've never heard of the guy. So i don't see how he's a "leading" atheist. Besides the fact that they seem to be saying "see this atheist sees the truth now why don't all you other idiot athiests" its totally fallcious.

it sells books. Eye-wink 


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zntneo wrote: I must be

zntneo wrote:
I must be totally ignorant of something but i've never heard of the guy. So i don't see how he's a "leading" atheist. Besides the fact that they seem to be saying "see this atheist sees the truth now why don't all you other idiot athiests" its totally fallcious.

You're not alone, don't worry about it.  I only vaguely remember reading something about him.  That's why I put that disclaimer on my previous post, lol.

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I've never heard of Flew,

I've never heard of Flew, and that article is by an idiot who wrote a book about the Democrats called "The Party of Death."


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They make such a big deal

They make such a big deal about Flew like he immediately converted to evangelicalism.

He took a baby step and became a Deist. Big Whoop!

D'Souza is his own brand of freak - that's all I can say 

 

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Haha.. I know where you got

Haha.. I know where you got this from.. Eye-wink haha anyway, I will post the same response to this here:

 

Seems like a sales pitch to me. If one is really interested, or should I say, curious about this, instead of buying the book go get it at the library and don't waste money.

When a theist claims that his book is "historically based, philosophically rich, scientifically fluent," and offers "logically reasoned refutations of atheism." Right off the bat you have to be suspect because when you do end up reading the book, it lacks all those qualities.

An example is Francis Collins' book. He claims to offer scientific proof for the existence of God, but offers, instead, faith based assertions with no strong foundation to his argument. Only that he believes, based on some emotional experience in his life. The appeal to ignorance is amazing....DNA is so complicated it has to be the language of god, is really at the foundation of his argument. I didn't read the book, but he did give a talk at VCU and the only science talked was when he mentioned the human genome project. He did offer his "proof" there. It was then, when I realized...yeah....they guy has lost it.

Theism, first off, is not scientific, plain and simple, there is not ONE single peer reviewed scientific journal that even discusses god, including any from theist scientists who are versed in science, say, as in Francis Collins' case (they write books instead in hopes to fool the ignorant). God does not stand the tests of empirical analysis, only flawed metaphors and strawmen arguments.

So if the claim of proof becomes faith as a philosophical principle (borrowing from Rich Rodriguez), then I have faith that god does NOT exist. So right off the bat, I have destroyed any argument that theists use regarding the existence of god.

Old age and the fear of death, for some at least....leads to self doubt and it's at that point that Pascall's Wager starts to wiggle its way into your thoughts.

 But also, as someone else pointed out in the other forum this was in (nonRRS), there are plenty of crazy people in mental assylums that were once normal, should we then dismiss the idea that they were once sane?

 Atheists, turning theist does not prove god, plain and simple.

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I also have never heard of

I also have never heard of this guy.  Also as previously stated, it sounds like all this guy did was convert to deism.  I may not agree with that view, but thats a far cry from what this article seems to be portraying.  Also, I have never seen this huge backlash of atheists going "Ew apostate (funny use of the term btw) and we banish you."  Maybe he had an argument with someone thats an atheist and that person got pissed and said he/she didn't want to talk to them anymore.  Somehow I don't see that as the whole atheist community.

Bottom line, whatever.   Also the analogy for the satellite phone is wrong.  The phone is a communications device.  Its not what originates the voices (thats done on the remote end).  However the brain, tho arguably could be considered a communications device, its also where everything starts.  That analogy works more if you changed brain to mouth, though obviously it then breaks down as we know the mouth (or hand for writing, etc) isn't by itself.     

I do love how theists also run with this concept of the brain.  "How could we be concsious of everything we are without God.  If it was just the brain, then its all chemicals and neurons and we would be machines."  Well one, we are machines, just biomechanical.  Also, theres a lot we don't understand about the brain still.  Thats ok btw, thats how science works.  We start with what we don't know, and we continue to research and test to find answers.  Jumping to God, is flat loony.  

[/rant] 


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Who's Anthony Flew? Oh,

Who's Anthony Flew? Oh, never mind, you just told me.


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LeftofLarry wrote: Haha..

LeftofLarry wrote:

Haha.. I know where you got this from.. Eye-wink

Yeah, I saw that e-mail discussion and got the Amazon new releases e-mail at almost the same time.  Maybe it's a sign from god. Eye-wink 


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Antony Flew Considers

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Dumbsoso has been pulling

Dumbsoso has been pulling this crap for years.

First off, it is nothing new under the sun for people to deconvert or convert from on label to another. And even if we baught this tripe, it still wouldnt constitute magic existing and if Flew said to us himself, "I am now a Christian"  Flew would be in the same boat as any Muslim, Jew or Hindu at that point.

Conversion and apologetics are a dime a dozen and still in the end all the emotional appeal and metaphore and psudo science from "I once was" camp, is about as impressive as farting. Been there, done that.

It never occures to idiots like Dumbsoso that Flew(even if we assume he converted to Dumbsoso's god) that he didnt do it out reality, but Flew is subject to the same human phycology that leads people to hold one position at a given time only later to change it?

No, Dumbsoso would have us believe that because intelegent people believe absurd things that those absurd things are real simply because an intelligent person buys garbage.

Flew is not the first attempt and wont be the last. I've run into Dumbsoso before, and his only agenda is propaganda. The accusations about Flew have been around for years. 

Dumbsoso just wants to make a name for himself. 


 

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A little of topic, but what

A little of topic, but what the heck...

LeftofLarry wrote:
An example is Francis Collins' book. He claims to offer scientific proof for the existence of God, but offers, instead, faith based assertions with no strong foundation to his argument. Only that he believes, based on some emotional experience in his life.

I don't think Collins claimed to offer scientific proof. The subtitle is A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief. It's a scientist presenting evidence, not scientific evidence. But this is a moot point, because your spot on about the kind of evidence Collins gives. Here's how Collins describes his conversion from a theist to a Christian:

On a beautiful fall day, as I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains ... the majesty and beauty of God's creation overwhelmed my resistance. As I rounded a corner and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high, I knew the search was over. The next morning, I knelt in the dewy grass as the sun rose and surrendered to Jesus Christ

Need I quote more?

LeftofLarry wrote:
The appeal to ignorance is amazing....DNA is so complicated it has to be the language of god, is really at the foundation of his argument. I didn't read the book, but he did give a talk at VCU and the only science talked was when he mentioned the human genome project. He did offer his "proof" there. It was then, when I realized...yeah....they guy has lost it.

“Lost it” might be a good description. Collins repeatedly contradicts himself. Collins calls DNA “The Language of God,” but when writing about the origins of life Collins says,

Given the inability of science thus far to explain the profound question of life's origins, some theist have identified the appearance of RNA and DNA as a possible opportunity for divine creative action.

But then Collins correctly points out that this is a “God of the gaps” argument, and that “this is not the place for a thoughtful person to wager his faith.” So much for the Language of God.

What's worse is Collins himself uses a “God of the gaps” argument. Collins, following C.S. Lewis, sees the existence of “The Moral Law”, and with it altruism, as proof of God. (And Collins, like Lewis, merely assumes the Moral Law's existence. But, that's besides the point.) Collins then gives a skimpy review of some natural explanations for altruism, but quickly dismisses them. Collins then asks, “If the Law of Human Nature cannot be explained away as cultural artifact or evolutionary by-product, then how can we account for its presence?” God, of course!

Anyway, these are just a few of the issues I found with the book. I should sit down and write an essay at some point. It's truly a book full of muddled thinking.


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shelleymtjoy

shelleymtjoy wrote:

 ...What I enjoyed was the way he uses simple analogies to expose atheist illogic. For instance, leading atheists seek to prove that the mind is no more than the brain. If the brain is destroyed, they say, we can't use our minds. Therefore there is nothing to minds excerpt circuits and neurons. Flew gives the example of a child raised on a remote island who finds a satellite phone. Voices come out of the machine. The child recognizes these voices as human and is thrilled by the discovery that she has found a way to interact with other humans. Perhaps there is life outside the island! Then the elders of the tribe (if I may embellish Flew's account, let's call them Big Chief Dawkins and Grand Pooh Bah Dennett) and Witch Doctor Pinker) scorn the child and say, "Look, when we damage the instrument, the voices stop. So they're obviously nothing more than sounds produced by the unique combination of metals and circuit boards. Forget about learning about other humans. From all the evidence we have, we are the only living creatures on earth. So go back to making sandcastles." Who are the real dummies here?

 

 

As I've said before, if we were to somehow rule out analogies as a form of argument, at least half of the theistic arguments would need to be tossed our or rewritten.

Which is good, since they're all false analogies anyway. 

A place common to all will be maintained by none. A religion common to all is perhaps not much different.


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He casts Dawkins, Dennett

He casts Dawkins, Dennett and Pinker as cocksure primitives? I know I refer to Nietzsche a lot, but boy did he call it when he said Christianity is the inversion of reality. I don't need an analogy to equate theologians and witch doctors.


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Randalllord wrote: The last

Randalllord wrote:
The last paragraph sounds totaly unbelievable to me.

 

D'sousza is full of shit. Leading atheist my ass. D'sousza, the guy who wrote this article, is the same guy who wrote a book that blamed Islamic terrorism on liberalism and feminism because muslims are so traditional that knowing that there is a freedom loving culture on the other side of the planet motivates them to kill themselves to kill us. Its amazing that Amsterdam, Canada, and Norway aren't dust by now.

 

As David Cross said "I think Osama did 9-11 because of all the military bases we have in Saudi Arabia and our unconditional support for the Saudi royal family and Isreal. You know why I think that? BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT HE FUCKING SAID! ARE WE A NATION OF 6 YEAR OLDS?


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According to Richard

According to Richard Carrier:

Quote:
The fact of the matter is: Flew hasn't really decided what to believe. He affirms that he is not a Christian--he is still quite certain that the Gods of Christianity or Islam do not exist, that there is no revealed religion, and definitely no afterlife of any kind (he stands by everything he argued in his 2001 book Merely Mortal: Can You Survive Your Own Death?). But he is increasingly persuaded that some sort of Deity brought about this universe, though it does not intervene in human affairs, nor does it provide any postmortem salvation.

and:

Quote:
I also heard a rumor that Flew claimed in a private letter that the kalam cosmological argument proved the existence of God (see relevant entries in Cosmological Arguments). But he assures me that is not what he believes. He said that, at best, the kalam is an argument for a first cause in the Aristotelian sense, and nothing more--and he maintains that, kalam or not, it is still not logically necessary that the universe had a cause at all, much less a "personal" cause.

Furthermore, and I hate to say this without being able to back it up, but I distinctly remember hearing Dawkins say in a Q&A session that he feels like Flew has simply become somewhat senile in his old age. (He was born in 1923!) Maybe someone else can find that.

In the meantime, here's a video you should watch. I see a man who genuinely doesn't know what he believes, and the interviewer (and those who have used this interview for their own purposes) seems to be intent on getting him to advocate his own god.

http://abetterhope.blogspot.com/2007/05/antony-flew-interview-22.html

 

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Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Everyone should read

Everyone should read this.  It's from Richard Carrier on Anthony Flew:  http://www.secweb.org/index.aspx?action=viewAsset&id=369

 

Antony Flew Considers God...Sort Of

Richard Carrier

Antony Flew is considering the possibility that there might be a God. Sort of. Flew is one of the most renowned atheists of the 20th century, even making the shortlist of "Contemporary Atheists" at About.com. So if he has changed his mind to any degree, whatever you may think of his reasons, the event itself is certainly newsworthy. After hearing of this, I contacted Antony directly to discuss it, and I thought it fitting to cut short any excessive speculation or exaggeration by writing a brief report on, well, what's going on.

Once upon a time, a rumor hit the internet that Flew had converted to Christianity. The myth appeared in 2001 and popped up again in 2003. On each occasion, Flew refuted the claim personally, standing by his response to its first occasion with his own reply for publication at the Secular Web (Antony Flew, "Sorry to Disappoint, but I'm Still an Atheist!" 2001). So I was quite skeptical the third time around. But this time, things have indeed changed somewhat from where Flew stood in his 2001 article. Antony and I exchanged letters on the issue recently, and what I report here about his current views comes from him directly.

The news of his "conversion" this time came from a number of avenues, but the three I have good information on are an interview with Gary Habermas soon to be published by Philosophia Christi in which Flew appears to depart from his past views about God, a letter Flew wrote to a popular philosophy journal expressing doubts about the ability of science to explain the origin of life ("On Darwinism and Theology," Philosophy Now 47, August/September 2004, p. 22; cf. also Flew's Review of Roy Varghese's The Wonder of the World), and, just recently on national TV (the October 9 episode of "Faith Under Fire&quotEye-wink, J. P. Moreland used Flew's "conversion" as an argument for supernaturalism.

The fact of the matter is: Flew hasn't really decided what to believe. He affirms that he is not a Christian--he is still quite certain that the Gods of Christianity or Islam do not exist, that there is no revealed religion, and definitely no afterlife of any kind (he stands by everything he argued in his 2001 book Merely Mortal: Can You Survive Your Own Death?). But he is increasingly persuaded that some sort of Deity brought about this universe, though it does not intervene in human affairs, nor does it provide any postmortem salvation. He says he has in mind something like the God of Aristotle, a distant, impersonal "prime mover." It might not even be conscious, but a mere force. In formal terms, he regards the existence of this minimal God as a hypothesis that, at present, is perhaps the best explanation for why a universe exists that can produce complex life. But he is still unsure. In fact, he asked that I not directly quote him yet, until he finally composes his new introduction to a final edition of his book God and Philosophy, due out next year. He hasn't completed it yet, precisely because he is still examining the evidence and thinking things over. Anything he says now, could change tomorrow.

I also heard a rumor that Flew claimed in a private letter that the kalam cosmological argument proved the existence of God (see relevant entries in Cosmological Arguments). But he assures me that is not what he believes. He said that, at best, the kalam is an argument for a first cause in the Aristotelian sense, and nothing more--and he maintains that, kalam or not, it is still not logically necessary that the universe had a cause at all, much less a "personal" cause. Flew's tentative, mechanistic Deism is not based on any logical proofs, but solely on physical, scientific evidence, or the lack thereof, and is therefore subject to change with more information--and he confesses he has not been able to keep up with the relevant literature in science and theology, which means we should no longer treat him as an expert on this subject (as Moreland apparently did).

Once Flew gives me permission to quote him I will expand this article with more information about his views and the reasons for them. That will have to wait for when Flew himself has finally mulled things over and come to something like a stable decision about what he thinks is most probable, and that may not happen until the release of his 2005 edition of God and Philosophy. For now, I think his view can best be described as questioning, rather than committed. And there is much to criticize in his rationale even for considering Aristotelian Deism. He is most impressed, he says, by Gerald Schroeder's book The Hidden Face of God: How Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth (2001), but Schroeder (a Jewish theologian and physicist) has been heavily criticized for "fudging" the facts to fit his argument--see Mark Perakh, "Not a Very Big Bang about Genesis" (1999); Victor Stenger, "Flew's Flawed Science"; and my own discussion in "Are the Odds Against the Origin of Life Too Great to Accept?" (2000), as well as my peer-reviewed article "The Argument from Biogenesis," Biology & Philosophy 19.5 (November, 2004), pp. 739-64. Flew points out that he has not yet had time to examine any of the critiques of Schroeder. Nor has he examined any of the literature of the past five or ten years on the science of life's origin, which has more than answered his call for "constructing a naturalistic theory" of the origin of life. This is not to say any particular theory has been proven--rather, there are many viable theories fitting all the available evidence that have yet to be refuted, so Flew cannot maintain (as in his letter to Philosophy Now) that it is "inordinately difficult even to begin to think about" such theories. I have pointed all this out to him, and he is thinking it over.

For now, the story of Antony Flew's change of mind should not be exaggerated. We should wait for him to complete his investigation of the matter and declare a more definite conclusion, before claiming he has "converted," much less to any particular religious view.


Update (December 2004)

Flew has now given me permission to quote him directly. I asked him point blank what he would mean if he ever asserted that "probably God exists," to which he responded (in a letter in his own hand, dated 19 October 2004):

I do not think I will ever make that assertion, precisely because any assertion which I am prepared to make about God would not be about a God in that sense ... I think we need here a fundamental distinction between the God of Aristotle or Spinoza and the Gods of the Christian and the Islamic Revelations.

Rather, he would only have in mind "the non-interfering God of the people called Deists--such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin." Indeed, he remains adamant that "theological propositions can neither be verified nor falsified by experience," exactly as he argued in "Theology and Falsification." Regarding J. P. Moreland using Flew in support of Moreland's own belief in the supernatural, Flew says "my God is not his. His is Swinburne's. Mine is emphatically not good (or evil) or interested in human conduct" and does not perform miracles of any kind. Furthermore, Flew took great care to emphasize repeatedly to me that:

My one and only piece of relevant evidence [for an Aristotelian God] is the apparent impossibility of providing a naturalistic theory of the origin from DNA of the first reproducing species ... [In fact] the only reason which I have for beginning to think of believing in a First Cause god is the impossibility of providing a naturalistic account of the origin of the first reproducing organisms.

He cites, in fact, the improbability arguments of Schroeder, which I have refuted online, and the entire argument to the impossibility of natural biogenesis I have refuted in Biology & Philosophy.

So what of the claim that Flew was persuaded by the Kalam Cosmological Argument? Flew "cannot recall" writing any letter to Geivett claiming "the kalam cosmological argument is a sound argument" for God but he confesses his memory fails him often now so he can't be sure. Nevertheless, I specifically asked what Antony thought of the Kalam, to which he answered:

If and insofar as it is supposed to prove the existence of a First Cause of the Big Bang, I have no objection, but this is not at all the same as a proof of the existence of a spirit and all the rest of Richard Swinburne's definition of 'God' which is presently accepted as standard throughout the English speaking and philosophical world.

Also, regarding another rumor that Flew has been attending Quaker meetings, Antony says "I have, I think, attended Quaker meetings on at least 3 or 4 occasions, and one was at the wedding of a cousin," and thus hardly a religious statement on his part but a family affair. Nevertheless, for him and his family generally, he says "I think the main attraction" of Quakerism has been "the lack of doctrines." On the whole God thing, though, Flew is still examining the articles I sent him, so he may have more to say in the future.


Update (January 2005)

Antony Flew has retracted one of his recent assertions. In a letter to me dated 29 December 2004, Flew concedes:

I now realize that I have made a fool of myself by believing that there were no presentable theories of the development of inanimate matter up to the first living creature capable of reproduction.

He blames his error on being "misled" by Richard Dawkins because Dawkins "has never been reported as referring to any promising work on the production of a theory of the development of living matter," even though this is false (e.g., Richard Dawkins and L. D. Hurst, "Evolutionary Chemistry: Life in a Test Tube," Nature 357: pp. 198-199, 21 May 1992) and hardly relevant: it was Flew's responsibility to check the state of the field (there are several books by actual protobiologists published in just the last five years), rather than wait for the chance possibility that one particular evolutionist would write on the subject. Now that he has done what he was supposed to do in the first place, he has retracted his false statement about the current state of protobiological science.

Flew also makes another admission: "I have been mistaught by Gerald Schroeder." He says "it was precisely because he appeared to be so well qualified as a physicist (which I am not) that I was never inclined to question what he said about physics." Apart from his unreasonable plan of trusting a physicist on the subject of biochemistry (after all, the relevant field is biochemistry, not physics--yet it would seem Flew does not recognize the difference), this attitude seems to pervade Flew's method of truthseeking, of looking to a single author for authoritative information and never checking their claims (or, as in the case of Dawkins, presumed lack of claims). As Flew admitted to me, and to Stuart Wavell of the London Times, and Duncan Crary of the Humanist Network News, he has not made any effort to check up on the current state of things in any relevant field (see "No Longer Atheist, Flew Stands by 'Presumption of Atheism'" and "In the Beginning There Was Something&quotEye-wink. Flew has thus abandoned the very standards of inquiry that led the rest of us to atheism. It would seem the only way to God is to jettison responsible scholarship.

Despite all this, Flew has not retracted his belief in God, as far as I can tell. He only writes that "if any unbelievers choose to make a fuss about my recent very modest defection from my previous unbelief in any journal to which I subscribe, then I intend to point out in a letter to the editor that" his new preface to God and Philosophy "points the road to a more radical form of unbelief than" he held originally, which "was a belief that there was no sufficient evidencing reason to believe in the existence of the Gods of either Christianity or Islam," but now "surely there is material here for a new and more fundamental challenge to the very conception of God as an omnipotent spirit," it's just that "I am just too old at the age of nearly 82 to initiate and conduct a major and super-radical controversy about the conceivability of the concept of God as a spirit." This would appear to be his excuse for everything: he won't investigate the evidence because it's too hard. Yet he will declare beliefs in the absence of proper inquiry. Theists would do well to drop the example of Flew. Because his willfully sloppy scholarship can only help to make belief look ridiculous.


Update (March 2006)

During the course of 2005, Flew cut off all correspondence and now refuses to speak to any member of the press. When Matt Donnelly, a reporter for Science and Theology News, asked him for permission to read and quote his letters to me, Flew refused, and insisted that even his phone conversations with Donnelly not be used. A friend and eyewitness whom I trust reported to me that he and another prominent secular humanist spoke to Flew in private during his recent visit to New York for the 25th Anniversary conference of the Council for Secular Humanism in October of 2005. They found him to be philosophically incoherent. He affirmed his belief in an uncaring, uninvolved, unconscious (yes, unconscious) Jeffersonian Deity, but despite half an hour of questioning as to why, he could not give any specific reason for this belief.

In the meantime, Flew wrote "My 'Conversion'" for the Autumn 2005 issue of Think (pp. 75-84), the only article Flew himself has ever written about his conversion. This article is so confused and unclear that in it he fails to affirm belief in any God and actually suggests he is still an atheist. Flew claims to set the record straight about his, as he himself puts it, "putative conversion from atheism to some form of revealed theistic religion." Because of the massive press attention, "it seemed to me," Flew writes, "that there was a need ... for me to explain myself" (p. 75). Yet nowhere in the entire nine pages of the article does he explain himself.

Flew starts with a few autobiographical paragraphs explaining that he was an "atheist" in the same sense that someone would be "apolitical," so he didn't believe in God simply for lack of evidence, not because God's nonexistence could be demonstrated. He explains that because of the nuance of this distinction, after the first edition of God and Philosophy he "was mistaken to be a very positive opponent of the Christian religion." Then, he says, his new introduction to God and Philosophy "reveals my present position." But it doesn't. The rest of his Think article proceeds to quote that introductory chapter largely verbatim. But neither that chapter nor this article ever says anything about what he believes or why. Though in both he surveys some of the cutting edge issues in the debate between theists and atheists, he offers no conclusion as to whether any of these new arguments succeed in refuting or confirming theism. And in both, he never once voices any opinion or conclusion about what he himself believes.

The closest he ever comes to such a revelation seems to assert that he is still an atheist, though surely he can't mean that. Flew writes, "I can here say only that I myself, having read" Victor Stenger's book Has Science Found God? "cannot but agree with his negative conclusions" (p. 78). Since Stenger's conclusions are "No, science has not found God," and Flew says he agrees, ordinarily this would mean Flew remains an atheist, affirming there is still no evidence to warrant believing in God. But given his personal affirmations in New York, all I can conclude from this sentence is that either Flew does not believe any scientific evidence supports his belief (which leaves us completely in the dark as to what evidence then does) or Flew didn't read carefully what he himself wrote. Neither possibility inspires much confidence.

In the Think article and the new introduction to God and Philosophy Flew does offer some encouraging words for Aristotelian Deism, but he never affirms his belief in it nor says whether he considers any arguments for it successful. For instance, he says things like "the expectations of natural reason must surely be that an omnipotent Creator would be as detached and uninvolved as the gods of Epicurus" (p. 81, my emphasis), not "that an omnipotent Creator is as detached and uninvolved." Flew never actually says in this article or in the new edition of God and Philosophy whether he believes an omnipotent Creator exists, only that "if" he did "then" he would be "detached and uninvolved." Then Flew repeats his belief that "there is an enormous yet very rarely recognized difficulty with the very conception of 'A person without a body (i.e. a spirit)'" (p. 81). He quotes Gaskin favorably as concluding "the absence of a body is therefore not only factual grounds for doubting whether a person exists" but "also grounds for doubting whether such a bodiless entity could possibly be an agent" (p. 83). Flew even cites his own books, The Logic of Mortality (1987) and Merely Mortal (2001), against the possibility of disembodied existence. So Flew seems to think there is still insufficient reason to believe a disembodied spirit like God can even exist. He never explains how, then, or why, he still believes in such a god, nor does he even mention that he does. Flew concludes by saying that Swinburne's book Is There a God? offers only a "religious hypothesis" that "cannot in principle be either verified or falsified by any experience" (p. 83).

Anyone who knew nothing about Flew except this one article would conclude that Flew is currently an atheist. That's odd for an article that is supposed to explain his conversion. Instead, he calls the claim of his conversion merely "putative," states no belief in a god of any kind, presents all the new debates as unresolved stalemates or as unsolved problems for theism, affirms his belief that science has not found God, cites even his own past work in defense of the conclusion that spirits (divine or otherwise) cannot exist, and suggests that God's existence "cannot in principle be either verified or falsified by any experience." Nevertheless, Flew claimed this article "explains himself" and "reveals his present position." I shall leave it to my readers to decide what is going on here.


Update (May 2006)

In recognition of his "conversion," Antony Flew was awarded the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth at Biola, an Evangelical Christian university in La Mirada, California. Flew accepted it in person (see Former Atheist to Receive Award at Biola). I have received communications from several eyewitnesses in attendance who all confirm that Flew appeared to sleep through most of it, said little, and what he did say was difficult to understand. James Underdown, Executive Director of Center for Inquiry-West recorded the whole event, including a personal interview with Flew afterward. Underdown's article reporting briefly on this affair will appear as "One Flew Over Biola" in the August-September issue of Free Inquiry, which should come off the presses by the end of July.

Underdown was kind enough to give me an advance look at his article and discussed the experience with me. Flew gave a roughly ten minute acceptance speech to an audience of over a hundred, in which he said nothing new. He declared he was a Deist and believed in a God who "is neither interested in nor concerned about either human beliefs or human behavior." According to Underdown, the only clear reason he gave for this belief was "that since we've not yet solved how the first form of life came about then it must have been God that created it," even though Flew admitted to the same audience that he lacked any expertise in chemistry. Flew already abandoned his prior claim that science has no viable hypothesis for the origin of life (since he renounced that to me in writing, as noted above), so it appears he has retreated and is now resting his belief in God solely on an invalid "God of the Gaps" argument: merely because no scientific hypothesis of biogenesis has been confirmed, therefore God exists. I doubt any Evangelical with a Ph.D. would endorse such an argument as valid. Underdown said Flew also tried to make some argument about evolved life being too complex for evolution to explain, but it wasn't clear how Flew determined something to be "too" complex or how he determined that evolution hadn't or "couldn't" explain it. In short, it does not appear to me that Flew presented any sound argument for his position at this event, and Underdown and other witnesses agreed.

Apart from being unsound, Flew's belief might also be incoherent, since it is unclear why a God who was not "interested or concerned" would go out of his way to "intervene" in nature specifically to start life on earth and "intervene" repeatedly again to increase its complexity. What could possibly have motivated a disinterested God to do that? What was His purpose in doing it? By what mechanism did He accomplish it? Why that life instead of some other? Why didn't this God simply make the universe capable of producing life and complexity in the first place? That is, why did this God create a universe incapable of producing life, and then change his mind billions of years later and alter the laws of physics just to put life on one planet, and then continually alter the laws of physics again to increase that life's complexity toward some mysterious end? Flew consistently ignored me when I asked him such questions before. He avoided answering Underdown's questions, too. And he still has offered no answers to this day. I can only conclude he has no answers. It seems as if Flew has no clear understanding of what he means by "God" and is basing his belief in this "God" on entirely unsound reasoning. That this is what a Christian university praises and rewards perhaps tells us something about the epistemic values of Evangelical Christians.


Update (January 2007)

On November 2 of 2006, Christian apologist Lee Strobel posted an article on his webpage detailing his interview with Antony Flew (Why Top Atheist Now Believes in a Creator), including short, edited clips from video footage of the interview. Those known to me are: An Interview With a Former Atheist: Why Did Your Beliefs Change?, An Interview With a Former Atheist: What Is God Like? and An Interview With a Former Atheist: Afterlife and Christianity. If anyone knows of other portions that are available online please use the feedback link below to let me know where.

Strobel never says when this interview was taped. If anyone knows for sure, please send feedback through the link below. By publishing this only now and giving no other indications of the interview's date, Strobel is certainly implying that it was taped in late 2006. From internal evidence, though, there are indications it might have been 2005, maybe early 2005, or even late 2004. That would mean during the interview Strobel referred to the year of taping in the past tense, and although that would not be too unusual in an interview taped for posterity, it seems unlikely, which would almost rule out a 2004 taping. But the evidence from the interview itself leaves me a bit perplexed:

Flew reveals he is substantially unaware of the Christian reception of his conversion, and implies he has had no major dealings with the Christian community and even asks why he would have, which are all remarks he could not have made after he accepted, in person, the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth in May of 2006 (see previous update above). Unless he doesn't remember that event, which would be alarming. He also implies he is largely unaware of the atheist reaction to his conversion, which can't have been true even in early 2005. Indeed, it would be a strange thing to say even at the end of 2004. He also exhibits signs of not having thought through many issues (and outright says as much), as if some of Strobel's questions he had never been asked or even thought about, which can't have been true by mid-2005, unless, again, Flew's memory is in shambles.

Finally, at least in what is shown, neither Strobel nor Flew ever mention me or what I've said about Flew's correspondence, his irrationality, or his ignorance of the scientific evidence, especially as led to his retractions on the matter of biogenesis, yet these remarks of mine were all reported in early 2005 and even made national news, and would surely be of interest to any journalist interviewing Flew now. The fact that Strobel never asks Flew about what I've written about him on these points, and the fact that Flew shows no indication of having admitted to being corrected on the science of biogenesis, suggests to me this interview was actually taped before late December of 2004. The only other explanation I can imagine is that Flew's memory is failing to an alarming degree.

As a point of comparison, compare this with his BBC Radio 4 interview by Joan Bakewell on March 22 of 2005. Directly contrary to what he says in the Strobel video, in this radio interview Flew retracts his certainty of the unexplainable complexity of DNA, noting that the "starting point" for life "is a thing that still needs a naturalistic explanation" but though "many people after the findings of DNA looked around and wondered whether they'd ever be able to find it, and thought it would simply be impossible to do it," Flew instead concedes, "Well, it isn't." In other words, as of March 2005 he publicly admitted that naturalism was not incapable of providing explanations of biogenesis (exactly as he admitted to me, even more emphatically, in his letters). Yet he shows no awareness of having made this concession in his interview with Strobel. So either Flew forgot (not only everything he said in his letters to me but even in his BBC interview), or the Strobel interview must have preceded March of 2005, probably by many months.

Another oddity is that in the BBC interview, Flew references his new Preface to God and Philosophy, noting that "the really long introduction which I wrote for this book did express my own incredulity about this," i.e. the plausibility of naturalistic explanations for biogenesis, but "the new one" will say "what has in fact been done" on that question, and instead "indicates that my incredulity has stopped in the face of the evidence." This is not at all consistent with what he says in the Strobel interview. Likewise, in the Strobel interview he implies he finds a quasi-Einsteinian form of the fine-tuning argument somewhat convincing, yet in the BBC interview he says, "No. No I, I've never thought the, the fine tuning argument was any sort of proof," and instead says "I don't think it proves anything but that it is entirely reasonable for people who already have a belief in a creating God to regard this as confirming evidence," which he had already been saying since at least 2001 when he was still an atheist.

In the Strobel interview, Flew says "Einstein didn't have any authority at all" to assess the biological argument for Intelligent Design, which is ironic because Flew has even less authority to do so, but I find it odd that he would make this point and yet not mention his recent discovery of the actual status of the science of biogenesis, which led to correcting himself, both to me and to the BBC. Instead, in the Strobel video, Flew says:

If the integrated complexity of the physical world is a good reason, as Einstein clearly thought it was, of believing that there was an intelligence behind it, then this argument applies a fortiori with the inordinately greater integrated complexity of the living world, isn't it? It seems to me this is just obvious, that that argument is much stronger now.

Strobel presses and asks if this is indeed Flew's reason for believing, and Flew emphatically answers "Yes!" No other reasons are given. Notably, Strobel's quotation of Flew's remarks on this point, in Strobel's article about the interview, is substantially different, suggesting either Strobel is not being careful at all with Flew's exact wording, or he got Flew to repeat the same point in different words and simply didn't include the second version in the available video clips, which would be strange. But either way, what Flew says above is what he was saying to me and others before January of 2005, which he specifically retracted and heavily qualified afterward, as evidenced in the BBC interview, and his letters to me.

Ultimately, since I can't determine when this interview was conducted, nor is the entire interview available to me, but only a few short, edited clips, I don't know what to make of it, apart from the fact that it offers no illumination whatsoever as to what Flew actually believes or why. The portions made available say nothing new or different from what Flew has already said in other venues, which have been discussed throughout my original article and all the updates above. All this Strobel interview establishes is either that it is uselessly out-of-date (if shot years ago, even before Flew and I corresponded) or that Flew no longer has a functioning memory--since if this video was shot recently, then he has completely forgotten everything he has learned, thought and said over the past two years.

Either way, Flew has yet to explain in any coherent way what he believes or why. Unfortunately, in his BBC interview, when Bakewell asked Flew what I had been trying to get him to answer before March 2005 myself, "So what is your final evidence? What is the, what was the clincher for you, Professor Flew?" Flew gives no answer at all, but rambles on about how his newfound deism is no big deal and just an opinion, a conclusion that is "pretty thin." But what he bases this "pretty thin" conclusion on he still fails to say. Later in that same interview he says "I haven't really formulated what I do believe," but it sounds as if he hasn't even formulated why he believes. And I've heard nothing to suggest anything has changed this past year.

 

 

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Damn! If only I had

Damn! If only I had scrolled down to the bottom of the thread before I signed up to be a Sikh. Now I have to return my kangha, kara and kirpan. I would return my kaccha, but most stores don't accept returns on undergarments.

 That will teach me for playing follow the athiest leader.

"A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven." -- former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien


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how funny.. so when exactly

how funny..

so when exactly did the "atheist community" get together and decide to ban this Flew fellow? i must have missed that meeting. maybe i can review the minutes.

i guess we can file this D'souza guy's report in the same folder with the alleged recantations of Einstein and Darwin? oh, before i forget, did we ban them, too? or should i schedule a conference call? 

www.derekneibarger.com http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=djneibarger "all postures of submission and surrender should be part of our prehistory." -christopher hitchens


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So one guy converted....big

So one guy converted....big deal. My atheism doesn't stand or fall on other people's decisions.

Nero(in response to a Youth pastor) wrote:

You are afraid and should be thus.  We look to eradicate your god from everything but history books.  We bring rationality and clear thought to those who choose lives of ignorance.  We are the blazing, incandescent brand that will leave an "A" so livid, so scarlet on your mind that you will not go an hour without reflecting on reality.


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 "Deism. The Doctrine that

 "Deism. The Doctrine that belief in God can commend itself to the human mind by its own inherent reasonableness, without either being supported by appeals to alleged divine revelations or imposed by religious institutions. ... It is usually taken to involve God's leaving the Universe to its own lawful devices, without any particular interventions, once the process of creation has been completed." - Anthony Flew from A Dictionary of Philosophy

So basically Deists like Dr. Flew believe in a non-intervening intelligent creator, and as a result people are calling him a "theist".

I have not read Anthony Flew's latest book, nor do I wish to assume to speak for him, but from my own perspective I do not consider a jump from atheism to deism to be that unreasonable. What I believe is unreasonable is the assumption that deism = theism.

By Flew's own definition, deism is basically a view that there may be an intelligence that created the laws of physics from which everything else follows. It is a purely speculative unscientific view, and from a logical perspective it relies too heavily on the "god of the gaps".

The theist God is human. It loves, it is jealous, it is judgmental, it is merciful, it is forgining, it is caring, it has a conscious mind and is constantly watching over us.

A deist God is none of those things, and does not really care or think about us at all. Giving human qualities to something that is not human is something we humans do instinctually without even considering the real nature of that thing.

Does a deist god answer our prayers? Step in to save the day? Care about us at all?

So what difference does it make? The answer is "none at all". From a pragmatic perspective, there is no difference between deism and atheism.


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Roy Varghese and the

Roy Varghese and the exploitation of Antony Flew

Category: Religion
Posted on: November 4, 2007 1:10 PM, by PZ Myers

I have not been shy about my contempt for the crackpot, Roy Varghese — he's one of those undeservedly lucky computer consultants who struck it rich and is now using his money to endorse religion. He's a god-soaked loon who pretends to be a scientific authority, yet he falls for the claim that bumblebees can't fly and therefore there flight is evidence for a god. Really. He's that deluded.

I've been too kind, however. You must read this New York Times article, The Turning of an Atheist, in which it turns out that Varghese is also a contemptible manipulator.

It's the story of Antony Flew, the former atheist philosopher who rejected Christianity, but has since been dragged back into the limelight as a convert. It is not a story of an intellectual decision, but a sad tale of an aging, fading scholar who has lost almost all of his acuity and is severely memory-impaired, who is being manipulated and used as a pawn by a team of frauds and apologists for religion and creationism: Varghese, Gerald Schroeder, and John Haldane, Liberty University, and Biola University.

There's a tragedy here, the decline of Antony Flew. The author visited him to quiz him on the content of the latest book credited to Flew.

In "There Is a God," Flew quotes extensively from a conversation he had with Leftow, a professor at Oxford. So I asked Flew, "Do you know Brian Leftow?"

"No," he said. "I don't think I do."

"Do you know the work of the philosopher John Leslie?" Leslie is discussed extensively in the book.

Flew paused, seeming unsure. "I think he's quite good." But he said he did not remember the specifics of Leslie's work.

"Have you ever run across the philosopher Paul Davies?" In his book, Flew calls Paul Davies "arguably the most influential contemporary expositor of modern science."

"I'm afraid this is a spectacle of my not remembering!"

He said this with a laugh. When we began the interview, he warned me, with merry self-deprecation, that he suffers from "nominal aphasia," or the inability to reproduce names. But he forgot more than names. He didn't remember talking with Paul Kurtz about his introduction to "God and Philosophy" just two years ago. There were words in his book, like "abiogenesis," that now he could not define. When I asked about Gary Habermas, who told me that he and Flew had been friends for 22 years and exchanged "dozens" of letters, Flew said, "He and I met at a debate, I think." I pointed out to him that in his earlier philosophical work he argued that the mere concept of God was incoherent, so if he was now a theist, he must reject huge chunks of his old philosophy. "Yes, maybe there's a major inconsistency there," he said, seeming grateful for my insight.

Flew has, sadly, lost it. He's an old man being used as a figurehead for a callous Christianity, to endorse ignorance. And they even admit it! The new book is There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, and the authorship is credited to Antony Flew and the despicable Roy Varghese (it doesn't actually say "despicable" in the byline, but maybe the publisher should insert the word real quick.)

When I asked Varghese, he freely admitted that the book was his idea and that he had done all the original writing for it. But he made the book sound like more of a joint effort — slightly more, anyway. "There was stuff he had written before, and some of that was adapted to this," Varghese said. "There is stuff he'd written to me in correspondence, and I organized a lot of it. And I had interviews with him. So those three elements went into it. Oh, and I exposed him to certain authors and got his views on them. We pulled it together. And then to make it more reader-friendly, HarperCollins had a more popular author go through it."

Don't buy the book. Remember this every time some apologist brings up the name of Flew to argue against atheism: this is an example of the depths to which desperate Christians will sink — they will lie and take advantage of the confusion of an old man to get a trophy for their wall. Remember too that Roy Varghese is a wretched con man, as are his collaborators, Schroeder and Haldane.

"The powerful have always created false images of the weak."


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OP, World's Leading Atheist

OP, World's Leading Atheist Now Believes in God ....

 so he's now a buddhist ? , no problem ...

mabey just a bad god who translation, I hope ....  

silly words, G+O+D = ?

and people do loose their minds ....

 


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Dinesh "Flew's argument for

Dinesh "Flew's argument for God combines science and philosophy, and I'll let you discover it for yourself in his book. What I enjoyed was the way he uses simple analogies to expose atheist illogic. For instance, leading atheists seek to prove that the mind is no more than the brain. If the brain is destroyed, they say, we can't use our minds. Therefore there is nothing to minds excerpt circuits and neurons. Flew gives the example of a child raised on a remote island who finds a satellite phone. Voices come out of the machine. The child recognizes these voices as human and is thrilled by the discovery that she has found a way to interact with other humans. Perhaps there is life outside the island! Then the elders of the tribe (if I may embellish Flew's account, let's call them Big Chief Dawkins and Grand Pooh Bah Dennett) and Witch Doctor Pinker) scorn the child and say, "Look, when we damage the instrument, the voices stop. So they're obviously nothing more than sounds produced by the unique combination of metals and circuit boards. Forget about learning about other humans. From all the evidence we have, we are the only living creatures on earth. So go back to making sandcastles." Who are the real dummies here?"

Dinesh D'souza is one of the most dishonest apologetics of the modern era, his analogies are complete non-sequitirs or outright lies, and he misrepresents everything and everyone who disagrees with him. I thought his latest debate with Barker was horrendously dishonest and see him as the Ann Coulter of modernity's most deceitful apologetics.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda