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Skip to comments.Famous Athiest Now Believes in God.
Posted on 12/09/2004 2:20:12 PM PST by Republic_of_Secession.
Science Gives Famous Atheist Faith in God.
NEW YORK - A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God, more or less, based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.
At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.
Flew said he was best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives.
"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," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."
Flew first made his mark with the 1950 article "Theology and Falsification," based on a paper for Socratic Club, a weekly Oxford religious forum led by writer and Christian thinker C.S. Lewis.
Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates.
There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.
'Intelligence Must Have Been Involved'
Yet 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," Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?"
The video draws from a New York discussion in May organized by author Roy Abraham Varghese's Institute for Metascientific Research in Garland, Texas. Participants were Flew; Varghese; Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder, an Orthodox Jew; and Roman Catholic philosopher John Haldane of Scotland's University of St. Andrews.
The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. "It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism," he wrote.
The letter commended arguments in Schroeder's "The Hidden Face of God" and "The Wonder of the World" by Varghese, an Eastern Rite Catholic layman.
This week, Flew finished writing the first formal account of his new outlook for the introduction to a new edition of his "God and Philosophy," scheduled for release next year by Prometheus Press.
'Follow the Evidence'
Prometheus specializes in skeptical thought, but if his belief upsets people, well "that's too bad," Flew said. "My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads."
Last week, Richard Carrier, a writer and Columbia University graduate student, posted new material based on correspondence with Flew on the atheistic www.infidels.org Web page. Carrier assured atheists that Flew accepts only a "minimal God" and believes in no afterlife.
Flew's "name and stature are big. Whenever you hear people talk about atheists, Flew always comes up," Carrier said. Still, when it comes to Flew's reversal, "apart from curiosity, I don't think it's like a big deal."
Flew told The Associated Press his new ideas had some similarity with American "intelligent design" theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life.
A Methodist minister's son, Flew became an atheist at 15.
Early in his career, he argued that no conceivable events could constitute proof against God for believers, so skeptics were right to wonder whether the concept of God meant anything at all.
Another landmark was his 1984 "The Presumption of Atheism," playing off the presumption of innocence in criminal law. Flew said the debate over God must begin by presuming atheism, putting the burden of proof on those arguing that God exists.
It took him to 81 to realize that? Bah, I'd reached that conclusion by my late 20s. I'm not a person of faith and am highly skeptical of the Old and New Testaments (and the Koran, and every other so-called holy book) but I do not believe the theory that random mutation and natural selection are solely responsible for the diversity of life as it exists today. And it revolts me that this dubious proposition is itself accepted as an article of faith by the so-called intellgentsia, with skepticism treated as heresy.
Amazing...it's taken 81 years for this asshole to recognize an obvious, basic fact. Strange, what passes for elite intelligensia.
Wow. It's not a conversion but it's something.
What most scientists forget to remember about science is that there are rules and patterns. Else, why study it if it is completely random? Science is about writing down and understanding what is going on. For everything to be random defeats the purpose of science.
I was thinking the same thing. Being the son of a minister, one wonders just what he was taught about God as a child?
For what it's worth:
I was brought up in the reform Jewish tradition, Bar Mitzvahd in 1963 and confirmed in 1964. During high school, I began dabbling in Hinduism (studying the Bagavhad Gita, reading Siddhartha and learning to play the sitar). I subsequently became a confirmed atheist, and remained so for almost two decades.
During the 1980s, my laymans interest in physics, particularly my efforts to understand the theories of Albert Einstein, led me to contemplate the implications of the unified field theory -- a single mathematical equation that describes every process in the universe.
Einstein spent the last years of his life trying unsuccessfully to discover that formula, and although modern physics has yet to establish this Holy Grail of everything, I believe that it will one day be found. Stephen Hawkings has said that the discovery of this formula would be equivalent to reading the mind of God.
Through such readings, I eventually came to realize that the entire universe, which at the subatomic level is not solid, is nothing more than one incredible concept. To me that fact implies a single, universal mind at the core of creation. Once I had that insight, I felt I could no longer scientifically justify my atheism especially since at about the same time, while I was training for my black belt in Korean Zen Sword, I began to notice that when modern physicists try to put their mathematical formulas into English, they end up sounding a lot like Zen Buddhists.
Of course, try as I might, I really couldnt grasp the implications of all this intellectually since it really cant be done. But in the early 90s, reeling from a great personal, professional and familial disaster, the only way I could find comfort was by spending hours alone in the famous Mt. Auburn Cemetery, where day after day I would walk among the tombstones or sit in the chapel sobbing and praying out loud for relief from my great pain. I experienced the healing that I felt there as finding my connection to God on a heart level.
To this day, when I feel the need for spiritual renewal, I head to the nearest cemetery by myself and pray to God for strength, wisdom, courage and guidance.
So when asked today what my religion is, I tell people that I am a Cemeterian.
Through such readings, I eventually came to realize that the entire universe, which at the subatomic level is not solid, is nothing more than one incredible concept. To me that fact implies a single, universal mind at the core of creation.
I'm not sure what you mean by 'realize', 'concept', and 'universal mind' in this passage. You have every right to use such words, but when you stretch them beyond their ordinary significations, it might be a good idea to explain yourself more fully.
Not really. He doesn't believe in a God who is personally involved in his life and he believes that when you die, that's all there is.
That's hardly a man who has taken Pascal's wager.
The very existence of matter and its conservation is empirical proof that there is a God - which Flew is conceding.
Thanks for sharing. That's quite a testimony.