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Anthony Flew no longer an atheist

Anthony Flew, the world-famous British philosophy professor (and very public atheist) now says, sort of, that he believes in God. He is now 81 years old. He thinks that science is proving that there is a God. He says that biologists’ investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved." But some folks noticed his tergiversation some time ago, see this
and this
by Joe Carter. I’m sure there will be more on this.

Discussions - 8 Comments


An 81 year old sophist now believes in God. Good timing!

"know well, Socrates, that when a man comes face to face with the realization that he will be making an end, fear and care enter him for things to which he gave no thought before. The myths told about what is in Hades-that the one who has done unjust deed here must pay the penalty there-at which he laughed up to then, now make his soul twist and turn because he fears they might be true. Whether this is due to the debility of old age, or whether he discerns something more of the things in that place because he is already nearer to them, as it were-he is at any rate, now full of suspicion and terror; and he reckons up his accounts..."

MV’s comment is mean-spirited nonsense. He presumes to read a man’s mind while offering no evidence whatsoever.

Flew says he has been moved toward a theistic position by scientific evidence. He does not believe in a heaven-and-hell God, which is the presumption of MV’s remark.

Strauss taught us not to start by placing our own interpretations on the words of thinkers.

Fair enough. I thought of prefacing it with ’this is going to be a mean-spirited joke, but...’ but that it was, was obvious.

A rampant, in-your-face, preaching atheist who is in his final years finds evidence of God... yeah, it’s mean spirited, but there is still something humorous in it.

Anyway, cheap jokes aside, the ’creative intelligence’ arguments against the accepted understanding of evolution are very worthwhile as they point out much that needs to be rethought about evolution. Too many, like Dawkins for example, are completely dogmatic about the theory and thereby close down any new thinking on the subject, or even refinement of our understanding. Hopefully Flew’s change of spirit will open up questioning.

That granted, the arguments themselves aren’t enough to conclude that intelligence _must_ have been involved, thereby (rationally) compelling a belief in God (or aliens as others would have it) - though granted, on the other side, a mechanistic account of evolution doesn’t require not believing in God, as some others would have argued.

Points well taken.

I just spoke with a friend who heard Flew speak several years ago. Says he is good-humored and not hostile to religion. Indeed, he is said to be popular on some evangelical campuses.

To be more mean-spirited about the last point I made, how is the complexity of DNA enough to make Flew a believer?

The conversion seems to be: DNA is wonderously complex, I can’t think of how such complexity could naturally arise, therefore there must be a God of some sort.

Dare I counter in kind?

"If there were gods, how could I endure living? Therefore, there are no gods."

But seriously, he may be a nice guy, but if that’s enough, why didn’t he become a believer before? Of all the amazing complexity of the universe, quantum physics to the emergence of conciousness, he could think of natural ways these emerge, but not the amazing complexity of DNA, and so now he believes in God?

Like I said, it’s a pretty funny story.

Heh, oops:

"If there were gods, how could I endure not being one? Therefore, there are no gods."

I haven’t seen/read all of Flew’s proclamation, but if this

"It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism,"

is the heart of his reasoning for embracing some loose concept of a God "person," then it does strike me as pretty weak. It is quite possible that the natural world (either created by God, or existing independently) has complexities that we - including Flew - can’t fully comprehend. The fact that something is inordinately difficult to conceive (including a first conception) doesn’t mean much, other than the bare fact that a limit has been reached of one’s mental faculties, and perhaps those of the human mind generally. It doesn’t take a significant skepticism towards the ability of the sciences to explain everything or solve every problem (or even the struthious dismissal of the scientific community’s imprimatur on the reality of human-caused global warming, as there’s certainly more revealed evidence for THAT than there is god) to concede the possibility that there’s an end to what we can know.

I’m surprised that there hasn’t been any angry rants issued here for this statement by Flew:
"I’m thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins,"
(or maybe there’s some strange satisfaction that Flew’s quasi-admission places an intelligent creator marginally closer to the Christian God than the Islamic?)

I mostly find atheism to be pretty ignorant, so I’m not in any way bothered by Flew’s relatively minor shift in personal belief, except that I think he’s making a mistake in looking for a rational explanation to fill in blanks for which we have no evidence to fill them in. It’s fine that people have religious beliefs, but to try to rationally prove God’s existence (which seems to me to be ,quite understandably, BEYOND rationality) like some axiom of physics, seems to somewhat miss the point.

not that anyone is reading this post and comments anymore, but before someone jumps on me for it, let me correct my final sentence - I should have said "law" rather than "axiom," since an axiom does not require proof in the first place...

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