Back in January (2010), my boyfriend and I moved from Dallas, Texas to Annapolis, Maryland. It's a 22 hour drive which took us right through Nashville, Tennessee. I lived there for three years (2004-2007) and still keep in close contact with a lot of my friends there, so we decided to stop in and visit.

One of the girls I've known since I was 11. We both went to the same private Christian school (TCPS, or Tupelo Christian Preparatory School) and attended the same church (First Evangelical). In fact, I was the one who led her to Christ. I had just "asked Jesus into my heart" and was staying the night with her and her sister. Before we went to sleep, we always said prayers together... and I prayed for anyone who wasn't sure if they were saved to ask Jesus to "come in". I was directing it at her and somehow she felt that. So, she quietly prayed to herself and then woke me up to tell me she'd been "saved". So we prayed again and that was that.

Anyway, about a year later I moved to Texas. Seven years after that I moved in with her in Nashville. Living with her was an adventure, to say the least. She was fun and quirky, and also slightly controlling and really irrational. There was always something bugging me about the church we attended, but she'd tell me either I thought too much or it was me with the "spiritual problem". Needless to say, we've gone in drastically different directions. She's still an ultra-legalistic Christian and I'm atheist.

I hadn't told her that though, and she didn't bring it up while we were having lunch with her. She was on her best behavior and even made a pretty good impression! It was a fun lunch and she had a birthday present for me, but... she insisted that I wait until I was gone to open it. She said I would cry or something.

So, my boyfriend and I got in the car after lunch and I opened it immediately... only to find a book titled There is No A God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind by Anthony Flew.

I did not cry. I just smiled, knowing my secret must be out. So, now I'm going to read this little gem and see if there's anything worth my time. I doubt it, but I don't want to be accused of being "closed-minded". I'd like to see what a former atheist could possibly say to change a person's mind. So far, his reason for disbelieving was "the problem of evil", which to me is the least damaging to God/Christianity's credibility.

Here are the contents:

Part I: My Denial of the Divine
1. The Creation of an Atheist
2. Where the Evidence Leads
3. Atheism Calmly Considered

Part II: My Discovery of the Divine
4. A Pilgrimage of Reason
5. Who Wrote the Laws of Nature?
6. Did the Universe Know We Were Coming?
7. How Did Life Go Live?
8. Did Something Come From Nothing?
9. Finding Space for God
10 Open to Omnipotence


Appendix A
The "New Atheism": A Critical Appraisal of Dawkins, Dennet, Wolpert, Harris, Stenger

Appendix B
The Self-Revelation of God in Human History: A Dialogue on Jesus with N.T. Wright

First of all, those chapter titles are enough to clue me in on the worthlessness of this book, but I'll just humor them. If anyone is mildly interested, I'll be critiquing each of those chapters in the comments section here. I'd love it if someone decided to read this ridiculous book with me, but I won't get my hopes up.

Tags: Christianity, a, anthony, atheist, converts, flew, god, is, there

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Part I: CH 1

Anthony Flew was raised Methodist; in fact, he was the son of a preacher. He was never really interested in religion though, and Kant had an impact on him. He admits he "reached the conclusion of the nonexistence of God much too quickly, and much too easily" and for the wrong reasons. If he had take the time to study, he would have come to that conclusion for the right reasons, over time. But, as he said, he wasn't interested in religion... and his initial problem with it was the "problem of evil", which I personally think is trivial.

When he was of age, Flew went to Oxford University and was recruited into the Royal Air Force. He was part of the OU Air Squadron, which was "entirely noncombatant". There he learned a bit of Japanese and translated intercepted Japanese air force signals. After the Japanese surrendered, he returned to full-time studies at OU in '46 and was "reading for a degree in the final Honors School of Literature and Humaniores." After being awarded a First, he went on to study philosophy. He won the John Locke Scholarship in Mental Philosophy in '48 and was heavily influenced by Ludwig Wittgenstein and even collected and distributed some of his lectures.

Then Flew goes on to say that he follows the Socratic principle: "We must follow the argument wherever it leads." Turns out, the Socratic Club at Oxford held as its president, from '42 until '54, C.S. Lewis himself, the famous Christian writer. Flew attended a debate between Lewis and atheist Elizabeth Anscombe which caused Lewis to revise a chapter in one of his books titled Miracles (in other words, he failed the debate). Despite that, Lewis has been "the most effective Christian apologist for certainly the latter part of the twentieth century". Flew recounts how the BBC asked if he felt he had refuted Lewis' apologetic, and his answer was "No, I just didn't believe there was sufficient reason for believing it. But of course, when I later came to think about theological things, it seemed to me that the case for Christian revelation is a very strong one, if you believe in any revelation at all." ((I don't believe in revelation, and I don't think there's a 'strong case' for it in Christianity))

So... blah blah blah... Flew is a philosopher. He was also atheist at this point in the book, but I would say he was not a "strong atheist". At the end of this chapter, he says,

"Through it all, I hope it will be seen, as I have said in the past, that my long-standing interest in religion was never anything other than prudential, moral, or simply curious. I say prudential since, if there is a God or gods who involve themselves in human affairs, it would be madly imprudent not to try as far as possible to keep on the right side of them."

Dawkins, as a self-titled "strong atheist" would never worry about being on the "right side" of God or gods in the event they exist... and neither would I... because that likelihood is so slim it can be neglected, just like I neglect to "knock on wood, just in case". Obviously, I can't say he wasn't a "true atheist" because that'll turn into a "no true Scotsman" argument. Even still, he obviously felt the likelihood of a God/gods was enough to be careful. And philosophy is not the best means of examining the evidence for God/gods to begin with.

Of course, I haven't read the entire book... but so far, I'm not impressed. He may have been atheist for all intents and purposes, but his lack of interest in religion correlates a lack of interest in the science that refutes it.
I never heard of the guy.

What was he notorious for?
lol exactly... I've never heard of him. I think the title is what we like to call hyperbole. It probably impresses Christians, who don't pay attention to science, and it's easy to make think them this guy used to be some big-wig atheist up there with Dawkins. Wouldn't you say Dawkins is the world's most notorious atheist? But Flew is a philosopher... hardly a scientific career in my mind.
I never heard of the guy.

Haha, same here. I saw this book at Barnes & Noble last week and thought, "Who?" I just assumed that I had not heard of him because I am not very well-read yet.
I would totally read this book with you if my school reading wasn't overloading me right now! :( It sounds like it is worth some good laughs, at the very least.
Well thanks :) I'll do my best to capture the highlights for you! lol
In Chapter 2, Flew briefly mentions the different philosophies that influenced and vexed him (parapsychology, Communism, evolutionary biology=progress, idealism...), barely summing up what each philosophy entails. I don't know if Flew expects his readers to know what these philosophies are, if he doesn't deem them important enough to expound on, or if he expects the reader to simply trust that he's giving a sufficient representation... which I don't think he does.

He moves on to describe a "revolution in philosophy" that is often paralleled with "linguistics". He feels the most valuable insight offered here is "that we must become constantly and crisply conscious of how all philosophy (insofar as philosophy is a conceptual inquiry) must be concerned with correct verbal usage. We can have no access to concepts except through study of linguistic usage and, hence, the use of those words through which these concepts are expressed."

I fully agree with him there, but of course that particular insight reminds him of how his father was such an avid studier of Hebrew so that he could understand the nuances of the Bible. I completely appreciate that sort of dedication and thoroughness, but even if one could glean an accurate picture of what the Bible/Torah meant to convey, it would not necessarily mean it is an authoritative text.

Even still, I have a hard time following him from that into how this "revolution in philosophy" was supposed to eliminate the problem of "whether we could have knowledge by acquaintance of the "external" (logically public) world." Again, just because we can communicate successfully about a particular topic, that does not mean the problem being discussed has been solved. What does this question of philosophy have to do with linguistics?

Flew goes on to tell about how he was an avid defender of this "revolution in philosophy" that focused on linguistics, and somehow ends up talking about the progression of philosophy and whether or not it can be counted as "progress" if not everyone agrees. He says, "Progress in philosophy is different than philosophy in science, but that does not mean that it is therefore impossible." Basically, the difference is that philosophy is rooted in ideas that cannot be tested or falsified... but somehow, progress can be made. What this progress is, I'm not sure; apparently "consensus" does not equal progress.

Honestly, I have a hard time following Flew. It's not that I don't understand, but that he wanders aimlessly from point to point. I can't tell if this is more an autobiography of his own mutation from atheist to theist, or if he's really trying to help the reader understand philosophy.

Here, Flew goes back to his initial problems with God, 1) the problem of evil was a disproof of the existence of an all-good, all-powerful god; and 2) the "free-will defense did not relieve the Creator of responsibility for the manifest ills of creation. He then explains the purpose of his book, "Theology and Falsification", which is to express that, "if you make a claim, it is meaningful only if it excludes certain things." If you say that the world is round, then it must follow that it is not flat/rectangular or another shape. If God loves you, what does that statement exclude? If the statement excludes nothing (like pain or suffering), then it basically includes nothing, either. Essentially, his message was, "If it can be true of everything, it can be true of nothing as well."

My main frustration remains: Flew is not delving into if God exists, but whether he's good. Personally, I could care less about this alleged god's character. I want to know why I should believe he's there at all; an evil god could exist just as easily as a good one could. He blathers on at length about God's identity but is unconvincing in his former atheistic views. Although atheists use God's character in the Bible as proof of that god's evil, that is not why we don't believe he exists. How ridiculous! Murderers are not good, but I still believe they exist.

Flew continues to vacillate between theistic and atheistic responses to such books as God and Philosophy and The Presumption of Atheism, and states that he himself has, many times, changed his mind on the disputed topics. So far, no argument has been made for or against God's existence.

Flew ends Chapter 2 by saying that he has changed his mind about free-will and expounds on the free will versus determinism argument and says that "compatibilism" does not work (in his description of it, I do agree, because it entails the claim that God/agent both directs our lives while also letting us choose it). How his mind has been changed, though, remains unclear. Does he believe the Creator is not responsible because of free will, like some theologians claim? Or does he not believe we have free will at all?

This book, so far, is exhausting and frustrating. I can never tell if he's expressing his own opinion, someone else's, or a particular philosophy. So far, what he's shown is the uselessness of Philosophy when it's deprived of Science to take the arguments to their conclusions.
I was (maybe still am?) debating reading this book eventually, at least to pick apart his arguments. I think his avoidance of the problem of free will is pretty common, at least in my experience talking with a few theistic friends / discussions in philosophy of religion classes. I remember one of my old professors saying that the strongest argument, in his mind, for atheism is the problem of evil. I agree with you, though, and think that the problem of free will is more convincing. After all, I can picture a malevolent God...if he exists, why not? but I would like to hear how he handles the problem of free will and God's existence.

I will have to keep checking back to read your chapter summaries. I will be interested in seeing how he handles other arguments I have read about in correlation with science (quantum physics, infinity, evolution)

Sorry for this long response. I'm quite bored and restless at the moment! haha
Please respond longly! ha... I like knowing I'm at least entertaining someone!

Flew isn't avoiding the free-will argument... he does, or did, have an issue with the idea juxtaposed with predestination. Why are we punished for our bad free-will decisions when our destinies have been set for us? He said he changed his mind about this issue; looking back through that section now, I see that he does believe in free-will and probably not-so-much in predestination.

To me, this is a huge contradiction in theology. The Bible strongly supports the idea of predestination through the circular reasoning of "God predestined you because he knew you would choose him because you were chosen by him" (Romans 8:29-30, Ephesian 1:5 & 1:11, to name a few).

Judas was predestined to betray Christ (Matthew 26:21-25)... and he was punished for betraying him. Did God choose Judas because he knew he would betray him? According to the Bible, someone had to betray Christ in order for the prophesy to be fulfilled, and so God chose Judas, who was later sorry for having done it (Matthew 27:3). Apparently Judas had been bribed with money to do this thing for the priests. If you put this a different way, Judas was tempted by money... and God claims that he does not tempt us (James 1:13) and that he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Using Deductive reasoning, we know that all this information is contradictory. If God says he does not tempt us, and does not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle, the story of Judas is a clear example of how this is just not true. Either God tempted Judas (because of predestination) with silver, or he allowed him to be tempted with silver, making God a bold-faced liar in either case. If Judas was predestined to betray Jesus, then it isn't fair he bear the full consequences, especially since he was remorseful later.

Free-will would be a great excuse for all the atrocities committed in our world if God didn't make such a big damn deal about predestination in the Bible! Flew does believe in free-will, and not compatibilism. So, his views are inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible... and the teachings in the Bible are inconsistent with themselves.
CH 3

So, my first critique of this chapter was deleted when I pressed "backspace", thinking my tab was still safely inside the text box. I was all but finished, too, so I cannot say whether this one will be as good. I'm pretty annoyed.

Flew spends a good portion of this chapter (Atheism Calmly Considered) telling us how hotly he defended atheism in many debates, before and after the two "best" in 1976 and 1998, until he "came out" during another debate in May of 2004. What changed his mind, apparently, was the complexity of DNA.

" has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together. It's the enormous complexity of the number of elements and the enormous subtlety of the ways they work together. The meeting of these two parts at the right time by chance is simply minute. It is all a matter of the enormous complexity by which the results where achieved, which looked to me like the work of intelligence."

This is where I had to roll my eyes. This again? The above statement begs the question, if something so complex cannot arise out of chance, then how can God (who is much more complex) exist without a first cause or intelligent input? It's such an easy cop-out to say God exists outside of space and time, and outside of the laws of nature. Why can God be infinite and not our Universe? Why does God not need a cause to exist yet we do?

Furthermore, no one ever said DNA arose by random chance. Here, Flew uses Gerry Schroeder's "monkey theorem" to demonstrate how nothing so vastly complex could ever arise by chance. If you let a "multitude of monkeys" hammer away on computer keyboards, they will never, ever produce a 14-line Shakespearean sonnet... or even one word as simple as "a". [Apparently six monkeys were put in a cage with a computer for one month and never produced anything legible.] And then Flew tells how Schroeder then applied the probabilities to the sonnet analogy... and, since I'm not a math person, I'll simply say that the gist is that the numbers are just too impossibly vast, and "there are not enough particles in the universe to write down the trials".

I have a huge problem with the "monkey theorem". To start with, a keyboard isn't exactly a random arrangement of letters. If I, myself, started randomly poking letters on my keyboard, the results could be predictable. What if I have a tendency to only strike the keys toward the center of the keyboard? Even with a monkey, the characters on outside of the keyboard would probably be neglected. This is not exactly a great control experiment! What do the keys represent? What does the space bar represent in a DNA strand or a sonnet? What about backspace? What if Schroeder decided to use Binary Code instead of letters, and then let the computer decode what the monkeys came up with then? Would a random series of 1s and 0s eventually produce a sonnet, or at least something that made sense? Why does it have to be a sonnet anyway? Why does it have to be in English? Why do the results have to fit inside such a narrow set of parameters?

Sure, the monkeys may not have come up with anything that made sense to us, but... their random keystrokes could mean something in another language. Or, perhaps, there was a pattern to their keystrokes that don't necessarily translate into a language at all. I would guess most of those monkeys had a pattern; they probably hit the same keys over and over each time they sat in front of the keyboard. Just because it isn't a sonnet doesn't mean it's not a pattern... and DNA is a pattern, not a sonnet.

ANYWAY! I see the "monkey theorem" as a FAIL.

So, he moves on from there (failing to note that most people who accept evolution do not see it as random chance but a slow process, from simple to complex over time) to head his next section, Dueling with Dawkins, where he takes issue with Dawkins' "selfish-gene" school of thought. It seems to be the wrong place to include this section, since supposedly we're calmly considering atheism right now, not its antithesis.

Flew has used all of Part I to showcase just how atheist he was, though I feel he did a poor job of it. Now he moves, rather awkwardly, into Part II where he will "lay out [his] present position and the body of evidence that led [him] to affirm it."
Looks like I don't have to review this book anymore. Kenneth Grubbs has already debunked it for me and exposed it for what it is. At best, it is dishonest (Flew didn't even write most of it, and his ghost writer had yet another ghost writer), at worst it's a complete load of horse dung. Big surprise!

Antony Flew, 1923–2010
Following the Argument Wherever it Leads

a tribute by Kenneth Grubbs

A bristling chill swept the dimming colorless sky over Reading, England one evening earlier this year. In weather uncannily, perhaps even poignantly, similar it was my profound pleasure to speak at length with the delightful and charming Annis Flew, wife of the now notorious Antony Flew who, after almost 70 years vigorously defending atheism apparently changed his mind. Today, at the age of 87, Flew considers himself a deist. At least that is what Annis made clear to me when we spoke in January.
Flew, The Man

At the University of Oxford, during the war-ravaged 1940s, a group of undergraduate students, presided over by C. S. Lewis, gathered each Monday evening below ground in the Junior Common Room of St. Hilda’s College to passionately debate Christianity and atheism.

This elite group, known as The Socratic Club, was the “intellectual hub of Oxford.” At its core is the Socratic maxim to “Follow the argument wherever it leads,” a principle that would guide Flew his entire life. It was here at the Socratic club in 1950 that a 27-year old Flew presented his first relevant work, Theology and Falsification. It was also here at Oxford that he would meet Annis, the woman who would become his wife and lifelong friend and the woman with the kind and steady voice I would speak with on a crisp January evening, some 60 years later.

Professor Flew authored more than 35 books and essays on such diverse philosophical topics as free will and determinism, crime, evolution, logic, ethics, and language. His landmark works include God and Philosophy (1966), The Presumption of Atheism (1976), and now, of course, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (2007). I tried to gain access to Professor Flew for this story, but he was in an Extended Care Facility in Reading, England, tired, confused, and in the paralyzing grasp of advanced dementia. He had been there for well more than a year, and Annis informed me that “Tony is rarely aware of his surroundings anymore.” There would be no interview.
Flew, The Book

There is a God was published in 2007 by Harper One, the imprint of Harper Collins focusing on predominantly religious and spiritual works. The book is “about why I changed my mind,” Flew writes. His name appears in large print on the jacket. Below it, in considerably smaller type, it reads “with Roy Abraham Varghese.” From the jacket we also learn that the book is the “Winner of the Christianity Today Book Award.” This is a curious honor, given that deism shares almost nothing with Christianity, nor any other religion; but far more importantly, Annis informed me without hesitation that “Tony never came to recognize any of the revealed religions.”

Roy Varghese penned the 18-page Preface. The Introduction is written by Flew, spanning four and one half pages. In it comes the thunderous recant, “I now believe there is a God.” There are two Appendices. Roy Varghese writes the first. Its 22 pages consist of one part “New Atheist” bashing, and two parts tiresome argument. Bishop N.T. Wright, an Oxford New Testament Scholar, writes the second appendix. Before Wright begins his 28-page essay, “The Self-Revelation of God in Human History: A Dialogue on Jesus,” there is a brief paragraph by Flew inviting Wright to contribute, an odd invitation from a deist.
Flew, The Controversy

In December of 2004, 54 battle weary years after Theology and Falsification was first introduced at the Socratic Club, a lifetime of work was forever fractured when the Associated Press released the story that Antony Flew, famed British philosopher and atheist, “now believes in God.” In 2007, not long after Flew’s book was released, Mark Oppenheimer wrote an essay in the New York Times magazine (“The Turning of an Atheist,” November 4), for which he interviewed both Flew and Varghese. I spoke with Mark in February, who told me that Professor Flew informed him with no ambiguity that he did not write the book. “This is really Roy’s doing,” Flew said, “He showed it to me and I said OK.” When Oppenheimer interviewed Varghese, he too stated that the book was his idea, and that he (Varghese) “did all the original writing,” but that the “substantive” material came from Flew’s previous work. Oppenheimer describes Varghese as a Christian apologist as well as a “crusader for (and financial backer of) those who believe that scientific research helps verify the existence of God.” Varghese met Flew at a conference in 1985.

Subsequent to Oppenheimer’s story, Varghese wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times magazine: “First the good news: Antony Flew is alive and well (physically and mentally)” (“Doubting Antony Flew,” November 5, 2007. This letter was written just one year prior to Flew’s dementia requiring hospitalization).

When I spoke with Mark he reminded me that Harper One wasn’t entirely satisfied with Varghese’s prose, so they asked Bob Hostetler, an evangelical pastor, to re-write many of the passages, “To make it more reader friendly,” according to Varghese himself. So the ghostwriter had a ghostwriter!

In essence then, two-thirds of Antony Flew’s book is actually Roy Varghese writing for Flew, with some undefined portion written by Bob Hostetler writing for Varghese. The remaining one-third of the book is Varghese writing as Varghese, taking puerile whacks at the “New Atheists” in Appendix A; and Bishop Wright in Appendix B, writing as Bishop Wright, presenting his 28-page Christian dissertation. As Annis said, “All those Christians [were] trying to pull him to their bosom.” Yet almost unbelievably, nowhere in There is a God is any of this information disclosed. The omissions alone are disturbing. “The most disappointing thing to me,” Oppenheimer told me, reflecting back with clear candor, “is the cynicism of the publishing industry. They knew they made a mistake, and never took the opportunity to correct it.”

Roy Varghese declined my request for an interview. He did email me a written statement to highlight three points. First, he explained that the statements made in the book have been made by Flew in other forums as well. Second, Flew signed off on the book’s manuscript multiple times. And third, Varghese arranged a special meeting attended by himself, Professor Flew and Professor Richard Swinburne, famed Christian apologist and long time friend of Flew. The expressed intent of the meeting was for Swinburne to assess Flew’s genuine views, as well as his capacity. Swinburne wrote a testament proclaiming Flew’s grasp of the material, suggesting that Flew’s position was “most of the way toward Christianity.” (Varghese was kind enough to send me a copy of Swinburne’s statement).

The fact that Varghese felt the need for a third party confirmation regarding Flew’s capacity raises concerns. And having decided that such a confirmation was necessary, it would have been more persuasive had a truly independent third party, rather than a Christian apologist, conducted it.

Of the three important points Varghese wanted me to know, point number three negates points one and two. If Flew’s capacity is questionable to Varghese, then the credibility of expressing his newfound views in other forums and signing off on manuscripts is not compelling.

At this juncture then, having reviewed the controversy, having considered Flew’s age and capacity, and having considered the potentially biased motives of those around him, our story finally intersects with its purpose. Simply put, these antics are of no relevance to us here. Why? Because the Socratic maxim so dear to Flew’s heart is not to follow the man; it is instead to follow the argument. Professor Antony Flew affirms that he is a deist; so stipulated. We will follow the argument and see where it leads.
Flew, The Argument

When someone abandons lifelong convictions, changes their mind, and writes a book to explain it all, we should expect new and dramatic reasoning. Let’s follow the argument spelled out in There is a God.

“Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God,” the argument begins in earnest, summarily invoking the authority of science. “The first is the fact that nature obeys laws. The second is the dimension of life, of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings, which arose from matter. The third is the very existence of nature.”

Notice that these points are nothing more than observations for which science is seeking evidence. They are, in and of themselves, not evidence per se, nor do they “point to” anything, despite the semantic implications to the contrary.

The argument continues, “How did the laws of nature come to be? How did life as a phenomenon originate from non-life?” And lastly, “How did the universe, by which we mean all that is physical, come into existence?”

The three scientific observations preceding these questions have been carefully crafted into questions from which the inferences, according to the authors, can only be God. Put more simply, the unspoken conclusion we are to infer is, what else could it be, but God? This is the backbone of the argument for deism. The enigmatic truth that biology and cosmology remain confounded by these questions has been creatively reconstituted into would be articles of evidence.

Flew/Varghese argue that, “Perhaps the most popular and intuitively plausible argument for God’s existence is the so-called argument from design.” Having now read hundreds of pages of masterfully constructed arguments from this classically trained Oxford philosopher, in my opinion Professor Flew would shudder at the notion of employing “popular” or “intuitively plausible” statements as arguments for or against anything. They write, “What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved.”

Consider this passage from God and Philosophy, written by Flew in 1966: “Certainly it is proper to feel the awe in the contemplation of the human eye or of the single living cell. But no exploitation, however breathtaking, of the limitations and potentialities of materials would give good ground for inferring Omnipotence.” So what changed? Did complexity became more complex? Did design became better designed? Is Flew’s qualification, “however breathtaking,” invalidated by the complexity of DNA?

Another cornerstone of any argument for deism is the Anthropic Principle. Flew/Varghese submit the weight of electrons, the speed of light, and gravitational constants to demonstrate that the universe is too “fine tuned” to be accidental. Again, these observations contribute nothing substantive — they are simply statements about the universe, not packets of data’ — save the same misleading implication what else could it be, but God? The authors conclude: “The only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such ‘end-directed, self-replicating’ life as we see on earth is an infinitely intelligent Mind.” The logic proffered fails as an argument because it requires us to accept the lack of knowledge as knowledge, and the lack of evidence as evidence. This is Argumentum ad Ignorantiam, or, appeal to ignorance. It is also the Burden of Proof Fallacy, which states that if we cannot prove X to be false, then X is true; the inability to disprove X becomes the proof of X. The argument is of course invalid.

Bertrand Russell was fond of suggesting that a teapot orbited the sun just beyond Mars; no one can disprove his claim, therefore it is true. If we follow the this line of reasoning we must accept the conclusion that the more evidence we lack … the greater the likelihood that God exists. The argument beckons for God to be defined as “the sum of all knowledge yet acquired.”

This was the reason Flew wrote The Presumption of Atheism back in 1976. It was written to mirror the legal maxim, Ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat, or “The onus of proof lies on the proposition, not on the opposition.” Flew noted in that book: “If it is to be established that there is a God, then we have to have good grounds for believing that this is indeed so. Until and unless some such grounds are produced we have literally no reason at all for believing.” The absence of evidence hardly qualifies as “good grounds” for anything, much less god, and thus our expectations for some epiphanic insight to leap from the pages of this book and help us understand the basis for Professor Flew’s recantation have been thoroughly dashed.

The landscape of science has changed in almost unrecognizable proportions since Flew’s early life. However, it is unreasonable — irrational even — to suggest that Flew’s original position opposing complexity as an argument for a Divine Mind was only a matter of degree. If complexity is a poor argument for the existence of God (and it is) then the degree of complexity is an irrelevant attribute.
Flew, The Conclusion

As a species our hunger for answers is insatiable. So desperate are we to understand the universe around us that for untold centuries we have refused to accept any “gap” in that understanding. Unexplained phenomena are the spawning grounds for ghost stories, sea monsters, grassy knolls, and a Divine Mind.

Antony Flew understood this as well as anyone. He devoted a lifetime of vigorous intellectual argument against presuming God. Today we are asked to accept that he has changed his mind. With asterisks in hand, we accept.

Could we make a cogent argument “pointing to” his age and capacity as factors that might mitigate a change of this magnitude? We could. Are there uncertainties that could warrant a tenable challenge to the motives of those individuals surrounding Flew, with regard to his “conversion” and the curiously construction and authorship of the book? There are. Should the publishers bear any responsibility for preventing misperceptions concerning the disclosure of would-be ghostwriters? They should.

There is little hope of ever reconciling the Antony Flew of 87 years with the Antony Flew of 27 years. Did he change his mind, or did his mind change him?

History will record Antony Flew as a deist; Annis Flew confirmed that for us all. History, I fear, becomes an unwitting conspirator, forever defiled.

With so many varied aspects to this story, it is easy to forget that which matters most. Antony Garrard Newton Flew, philosopher, professor, author, atheist pioneer, and devoted husband, is now gone. For more than 60 years this thinker, this man of great intellect, marched to a different drum and followed the argument. We owe him much.

The last of the old guard, Professor Flew’s festschrift deserves to be written with admiration and respect for a distinguished philosopher. As Annis said to me, her accent reminiscent of British Royalty and her voice never wavering, “I am so very proud to have known him.”
haha!!! nice :)


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