Skip to comments.Famous Atheist Now Believes in God
Posted on 12/09/2004 1:15:38 PM PST by ZGuy
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's 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 the 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.
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 last 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.
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 current ideas have 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.
Your post 57 in response to my post 48.
This is just a small, first step. He now needs to read The New Testament and accept God's grace and Jesus as his Lord and Saviour before he could be considered a 'believer'.
Every atheist believes in God: a split-second after death...
"Maybe he's a "Frisbee-tarian" When they die their souls fly up on the roof and nobody can get it down."
That's Frisbeeite. They also believe that you have a much better view from the roof.
I don't mean to pick on you. There is only one God. The question is what does this god want us to do? If he concludes the Hindus are right he will organize his life according to the tenets of Hinduism.
This question is infinitely the most relevant question a man can face if a god exists.
Yeah, at 81, I'd start believing there is a God. He has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.
A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature,
Darwin did try to explain the complexity of nature.
I wonder if he feels he deserves congratulations for making a breakthrough scientific discovery..
Nor does it imply that all things can be explained by science - or known by science alone - or even detected by science.
Science assumes that matter is the foundation everything that exists. This is an assumption, not proven (or capable of proof) by science. It is a worldview, a metaphysics. It is the essence of of scientism.
Some, perhaps like Flew, convert from scientism, most don't even know they're believers.
Thanks for the ping!
So long as he limits himself to rejecting abiogenesis, and not the patently obvious science of evolution, then whatever.
My attitude remains this: the burden of evidence is on those who claim that deities exist. I haven't any problem with the idea that there is something beyond the observable universe, but rather the idea that we have even remotely enough information (we have none whatsoever) to validly speculate what that might be.
That the universe is here is obvious. That it is complex is also obvious. To proclaim failure in the quest of understanding that complexity achieves nothing but to displace the exegetic mystery.
In other words, to follow this line of reasoning, if God 'must have' created the universe, then what created God? So, Flew falls prey to the god-of-the-gaps. He says: "I don't have the answer, so I'll just make one up!" Oh well.
PS. I also think most people are better off believing than not, so long as they don't interfere with scientific progress beyond the limitations they impose on their own rationality.
There is definitely no hope for me, though! If there is a God, then he clearly chose to create the universe such that I would never believe in him. Who am I to argue with God? =)
If all matter is made up of matter, what was there before the first matter?
We have the same problems with time as we do with matter. Yet matter exists, we can know it though our senses. Some things we can know exist that we cannot know using our senses alone. There are many such things for you. God is one of them, but it has not quantity, size or specific location. So seeking this knowledge with science alone is like trying to see the periphery with a telescope. It's the wrong method for the empirical knowledge sought.
there is something beyond the observable universe
Transcendent. Many things you know transcend your sense detectors. It is the unobservant one who clings to the illusion that all he knows about reality he knows by sense and reason.
Flew falls prey to the god-of-the-gaps.
I recognize the old reference, but my point is science has gaps as well. By design it limits what it can know. It limits it to those things detectable by the senses (and their extensions) that have simple location, size and quantity. That all of reality conforms to these restraints is a leap of philosophy, not science. And it's a leap made two centuries ago that fell upon it's own weight within a decade. Yet it lives on in the popular mind - and in the mind of some scientists who don't realize they are very poor philosophers and theologians.
The fault some make is to slide lazily to the false conclusion that if Science cannot know it, therefore it doesn't exist. Neither Science, nor reason, can prove this. It fails on it's on logic.
so long as they don't interfere with scientific progress beyond the limitations they impose on their own rationality.
Why interfere with your own progress by imposing the limits of rationality upon it? If you look closely, you will see you know a great deal more of reality that can known using science or reason alone.
You have all the equipment you need; observe yourself.
I think he created a you that doesn't believe in what you think others believe God is.
I also think you have experienced God, but it wasn't the same thing you thought others called God.
he clearly chose to create the universe such that I would never believe in him.