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.