Skip to comments.Antony Flew Considers God...Sort Of (Update - Jan. 2005)
Posted on 01/11/2005 1:17:16 PM PST by jennyp
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 360(6399): pp. 25-26, 5 November 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"). 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. But in response to theists citing him in their favor, Flew strangely calls his "recent very modest defection from my previous unbelief" a "more radical form of unbelief," and implies that the concept of God might actually be self-refuting, for "surely there is material here for a new and more fundamental challenge to the very conception of God as an omnipotent spirit," but, Flew says, "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 putative 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.
They have got him backtracking a little bit with regards to Dawkins, but in short, he's done w/ adovcating out right atheism.
The rank and file are not pleased. No indeedy. The sexual rule book has not been subject to change since the 60's. I won't be surprised if Flew has an 'accident' in the next few weeks, a stumble, a fall. Yes, it sounds kooky to say that, but when it comes to faith, belief, and the god fathers of that faith and belief, well, some disciples have been known to get flaky.
Just ask S. Rushdie.
Ahem, Gerald Schroeder is one of your guys.
(Thanks for the ping, jennyp.)
Not everyone is sharp into great age; hardly anyone is, actually.
At his age, Flew should confine himself to wondering whether to eat a peach, and keeping his trousers rolled. ;^)
Another objection would be that personal correspondence is always suspect. Case in point: Their elevated blood pressure at Patterson's letter to Sunderland admitting there are no transitional forms, real or imaginary.
I'm on the ping list!
Wait wait, this is my favorite line
The Reason Anthony Flew will not be "researching" God is because
"I am just too old"
""Mistaught""? Well, that's a new one. At least he was original.
whatever happened to people saying straight out that they were wrong?
the secular sites are good, however, for watching how they keep each other 'on the reservation'. Sort of like a barometer...
Science is a matter of believing God did it -- and trying to figure out how.
As are exceprts from letters. We are witnessing Mr. Carrier have a crisis of faith.
Strange as it is, I would think atheists would have no problem with Flew's defection. Yet they seem to be extremely upset about it and begin not to address his argument, but attack him personally as in the above posts. Gobucks has a point about keeping each other on the reservation. But, assuming atheists really believe they are correct, I remain surprised at how threatening an ex-atheist can be. After all, they tell us that belief in God is no different than belief in the tooth fairy. Yes, I know the real reason, but it isn't the one they give.
"Here's the latest news on the "noted atheist finds God" front. Flew says he was "misled"
by Richard Dawkins, and "mistaught" by Gerald Schroeder. Weird stuff!"
About all Flew needs is to be pointed to G.K. Chesterton.
About a century ago, he (in so many words) said he put his faith/belief about
ultimate causes in the orthodox teaching of Christianity.
Otherwise, he'd spend all his days (and nights) needing to adopt a new belief system
put forward by the high priests of science that were the most influential at the time.
(honestly, the most fashionable ones...)
(N.B.: this was NOT advocacy of "obscurantism"...simply noting the constantly
shifting sands when humanity depends on an endless string of geeks to tell
them how to live their lives.)
"Theists would do well to drop the example of Flew. Because his willfully sloppy scholarship
can only help to make belief look ridiculous."
Hmmm...no mention of the lengthy interview with Prof. Gary Habermas in this article.
And no explicit and specific refutation of that interview.
Well, in the interest of full and unbridled access to source materials, here's the link to
Flew's interview with Habermas
(downloadable .pdf also linked on that page)
WARNING: the interview will be unsettling to folks that like Islam and The World Council of Churches).
The interview was also mentioned today on Charles Colson's "Breakpoint Commentary" at
I'll post the URL for this thread at the thread listed just above.
nonetheless he had concluded that theism was true. In Flews words, he simply had to go where the evidence leads.
HABERMAS: You very kindly noted that our debates and discussions had influenced your move in the direction of theism. (11) You mentioned that this initial influence contributed in part to your comment that naturalistic efforts have never succeeded in producing a plausible conjecture as to how any of these complex molecules might have evolved from simple entities.
FLEW: I think that the most impressive arguments for Gods existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries. Ive never been much impressed by the kalam cosmological argument, and I dont think it has gotten any stronger recently. However, I think the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it.
bump for publicity...
Well, it's now established that the author of this piece is an imbecile of the first water.
Many thanks. :)
Sorry, it was an ad-hoc ping list. I'm really bad at keeping up with the "official" ping lists, so I don't know which ping-list keepers to ping. :-)
Hardly. If Flew really wrote what Carrier says he wrote, then Carrier is right to be frustrated with him. That is very shoddy scholarship for someone who's supposed to be so influential.
Strange as it is, I would think atheists would have no problem with Flew's defection. Yet they seem to be extremely upset about it and begin not to address his argument, but attack him personally as in the above posts.
The argument speaks for itself. We knew when he announced it that the origin of life isn't the insurmountable problem he seemed to think it was, and we knew that Gerald Schroeder was just another creationist who can't get the probability calculations right.
Gobucks has a point about keeping each other on the reservation. But, assuming atheists really believe they are correct, I remain surprised at how threatening an ex-atheist can be. After all, they tell us that belief in God is no different than belief in the tooth fairy. Yes, I know the real reason, but it isn't the one they give.It shouldn't be any different than belief in the tooth fairy. But people like me are a small minority who are despised by people like you who are in the majority.
We're not a persecuted minority, thank Jefferson, but feared & even despised, especially 'round here? Absolutely.
Well, name a single presentable theory.
Do you have a persecution complex or just a poor self image? I don't despise you. Because I don't follow your reasoning or think your caricaturization of Christians is misinformed does not mean I despise you. Your value as a human does not depend on your personal positions. Christianity teaches the intrinsic value of human life primarily because the imago Dei. Contrast that with the atheistic belief that we are only evolved animals. There is no basis for intrinsic value in that system. Peter Singer, for example, thinks we may be of less value than other forms of life.
Why should it bother Carrier as to what Flew thinks?
Because, as a wise woman recently said, "That is very shoddy scholarship for someone who's supposed to be so influential." That and the fact that Carrier has had actual correspondence with Flew, so there's a relationship there. Why shouldn't he be frustrated with him over this?
I assume you're trying to imply that Carrier is secretly frightened that (horrors!) God really does exist and now he has to stop participating in the daily drug-induced sex orgies that all us atheists must surely be engaging in behind your back? Hardly.
Of course there is. We're human beings, regardless of how we came to be human beings. That is the basis of all morality - the necessary conditions of a thriving life, given the facts of human nature.
I could just as easily ask you: Why is it so important to your self-image to know who your very distant ancestors were? Don't you have any self-worth on your own?
If I really, really didn't believe in God I would not care one whit what someone else did nor would I jump on him if he were unable to fully articulate a change in the reasoning. In fact, I suspect I'd be a little like Voltaire in seeking sincere believers for those I hire with the reasonable expectation that they would be more inclined to show up for work and less inclined to pilfer.
the daily drug-induced sex orgies that all us atheists must surely be engaging in behind your back?
Here. Read this.
What is human nature? Anyway, the necessary conditions of a thriving life, given the facts of pond scum nature are the basis of all morality? Or, the necessary conditions of a thriving life, given the facts of dolphin nature are the basis of all morality? etc.
Pond scum morality & dolphin morality look a lot different than human morality, I suspect. What kind of moral principles would be necessary for the development of the kind of pond scum society where pond scum can become the best pond scum they can be?
After 6000 years of human history, modern man is still denying human nature. Christianity has it right. Left to himself man tends to rebel against God. He is different from the animals in his ability to appreciate and create art, to be altruistic, to reason, to speak to choose. He is basically sinful, not basically good. Evolutionists see man as a machine, without free will, only a "higher" animal with an inexplicable religious drive, without special value, basically good.
Which view corresponds to reality?
Well, then it appears you agree with me that your statement concerning all morality was wrong. Further, if there is a morality involving pond scum and dolphins, it surely establishes that morality is based on a "point of view", and thus the bug-a-boo of the lack of an objective basis for morality stares the Objectivist in the face.
You're defending the God of the Nits again.
Let's see... you say our special ability is "to appreciate and create art, to be altruistic, to reason, to speak, and to choose." And from this you conclude that we are "basically sinful, not basically good"? Evolutionists see man as a machine, without free will, only a "higher" animal with an inexplicable religious drive, without special value, basically good.
Only creationists can see that strawman. Real evolutionists, at least those of us not on the far left, see man as a machine with free will. It's only creationists who can't get it through your heads that there is no contradiction there.
Well, you confirm my " it surely establishes that morality is based on a "point of view"". And Joseph Stalin was a human, thus my point stands. Plus you have now introduced "principles of behavior" which along with "human nature" are concepts you have left undefined.
Now Jenny, that is not what I said and you know it. Why is it when an argument gets too difficult, your side resorts to deliberate distortion? Sure, the vast difference between man and his supposed closest relative is a problem for evolutionists. Why not just admit it rather than pretend it isn't there. Better yet, fall back on the old faithful, "Someday science will tell us...."?
Real evolutionists, at least those of us not on the far left, see man as a machine with free will.
OK, that's telling. Only evolutionists not on the far left are real evolutionists. But no, your leaders do not allow for free will. If you accept the premise, you must accept the conclusions.
The philosophical implications of naturalism are troubling both to naturalists and non naturalists. One of the more absurd implications is the absence of free will:
Don't forget that Dawkins calls us survival machines and sophisticated robots.
Nature Magazine (May 8,2003), in an article entitled, The Buck Stops Here claims that free will is a subjective illusion.
Daniel Dennett claims that humans are zombies without consciousness (Consciousness Explained, 1992).
It is also worth noting that any worldview that puts more effort into denying reality than explaining it really isn't something to take seriously.
And here's one compliments of Gary:
He writes in his 1994 book The Astonishing Hypothesis:
Crick, Francis Harry Compton
<sigh> Sadly, that describes your posts here precisely!
I won't hold that against you since, as Francis Crick explained, you really couldn't help it.
This is just a trial post. I am using Amiweb browser on an Amiga emulation.
I miss my old Amiga 1000. It seems to work, but it sure is different. I guess I got too used to the MSloth stuff.