Monday, July 13, 2009

Anthony Flew's Story

I was perusing books in the religion section of Borders last night. I picked up Anthony Flew’s book on his change from atheism to deism. The majority of his book is on why he was an atheist in the first place and with the last few chapters devoted to why he has renounced his atheism. He said that he often argued that he was not going to believe in the existence of God until presented with good evidence of his existence. He now believes that science has produced such evidence. He believes that the Intelligent Design argument gives sufficient evidence for a change from his atheistic position.

He also asserts in his book that he is in the process of tackling evidence for Christianity supplied upon request from N.T. Wright. He speaks highly of Wright and says that the evidence Wright has compiled is by far the best collection of data for the cause of Christianity. He hasn’t accepted it as true of it, but it appears he is taking a new look at the information to see what he finds.


He says that even though he now believes there is a God, he has no experiential contact with him to date. But he seemed to leave that open as something that may or may not take place in the future.


I know that Anthony Flew’s change of mind is old news, but I am curious to know who has read his book or followed the story and if it gave anyone pause to reconsider the evidence.

30 comments:

CyberKitten said...

karla said: He believes that the Intelligent Design argument gives sufficient evidence for a change from his atheistic position.

Really? What is his scientific background?

[spookily the word verification for this post is: comedi]

Kevin DeGraaf said...

And now, the rest of the story...

Karla said...

Kevin, I wasn't aware the book was potentially co-written. Like I said I merely flipped through it and read parts of it out of curiosity.

Karla said...

Cyber, I don't know. I am not familiar with him really beyond perusing his book.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: Cyber, I don't know. I am not familiar with him really beyond perusing his book.

I checked him out - OK, it was Wikipedia but.... apparently he doesn't have a scientific background so its more understandable that he was confused by some of the scientific sounding ideas of ID. At least confused enough to be taken in by it anyway!

Karla said...

Are you a scientist Cyber?

CyberKitten said...

karla said: Are you a scientist Cyber?

By training and education I'm a sociologist & philosopher.

By profession I'm a Project Manager.

By outlook and temperment I'm a naturalist and scientist.

Saying all of that even I can see that so-called Intelligent Design is arrant nonsense.

cl said...

I've not read this book, but I don't see what the link to PZ's vitriol was good for. If Flew was just an old man losing it as PZ claims, how do we know whether he knew Paul Davies or not, or for how long? That is, if we're going to use Flew's senility as an argument, mustn't we allow the opposition to do the same?

Karla said...

CL, the intro to Flew's book says he is not an old man making a death bed conversion and that he does not believe in an afterlife. He says that belief in God's existence doesn't do anything for him, he just is seeing that the evidence suggest a designer. He doesn't take it farther than that. He doesn't ascribe to Christianity--though he says he is investigating it further.

I am familiar with several of the Christians who endorsed his book and are friends of his--especially Gary Habbermas the worlds expert in Resurrection research. These guys aren't playing games with him, and aren't exploiting him, their not that type.

cl said...

Karla,

I understand. I was just pointing out that if we appeal to Flew's senility, arguments that Flew didn't interact with the specified individuals remain as credulous as their counterarguments.

Cyber,

Have you read Flew's book yourself?

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CyberKitten said...

cl asked: Have you read Flew's book yourself?

No, I haven't. If you've ever checked out my regular book reviews on my Blog you will have noticed that I read very few books in the area of religion. The last one I can remember was probably 'The God Delusion' which I found to be rather dull.

Karla said...

It is interesting to me that atheists are so hard pressed against the idea of God's existence that they (not talking about people in this room) would turn against one of their renowned philosophers because he now claims evidence exists for God's existence. Someone who has written over 30 books against that proposition now saying, hey wait a second, I think there might finally be some good evidence which refutes my life's work is worth taking at least some time to consider his claims.

CyberKitten said...

I'd actually never heard of him until he brought out this book.

Even if I had I doubt very much that the fact he appears to have changed his mind on the issue would've affect my disbelief in any way. Why should it? If a famous theist lost his faith wouldn't you simply assume that they had made a mistake which they'll realise soon enough and rejoin the faith in good time?

GCT said...

Karla,
It's the circumstances involved that are fishy. First, he's cited ID research as compelling? That's a joke. ID doesn't have a compelling argument. They have arguments that are made to look slick and nice, but are substanceless. A quick perusal among websites like Panda's Thumb are enough to disabuse someone of the notion that ID has anything to say. If he actually had some evidence that led him to a form of deism, then that's one thing, but the evidence has not been forthcoming. He simply makes nebulous claims about the design argument, arguments which I know are bunk since they've been debunked many times (even before they were formed under the banner of ID, since they are all warmed-over, already debunked creationist arguments).

Secondly, there's the evidence that he may be senile and being used by unscrupulous Xians. I mean, it's not like we've never seen Xians using unscrupulous tactics like this before, which gives credence to the idea that Xian vultures are manipulating the situation to their benefit (no trick is too low if you're doing it for Jebus).

Note: For examples of creationist lies and propaganda there's a couple things:
- The human and dinosaur footprints that are supposedly side by side and were made up.
- The clay pots that supposedly had pictures of dinosaurs
- The fact that most (all?) creationists continue to use debunked data and arguments
- Darwin's false deathbed conversion
- Etc. - the examples go on and on.

Karla said...

I am familiar with the Christians who are friends of his especially Gary Habbermas (who I have corresponded with in the past) and I don't think he or the others are ones who would exploit the man. His book is endorsed by Habbermas, Francis Collins and N.T. Wright. I don't know much about Collins, but Habbermas and Wright I am familiar with and don't think any exploitation is happening.

Regardless, I really just brought up the subject out of curiosity. I only read parts of the book standing in a book store. I just wondered what others thought.

cl said...

Cyber,

You said, "..he was confused by some of the scientific sounding ideas of ID. At least confused enough to be taken in by it anyway!"

If you haven't read Flew's book yourself, how might you support your statement here?

Karla,

Your comment July 15, 2009 9:10 AM was great.

GCT,

Have you read Flew's book?

CyberKitten said...

cl said: If you haven't read Flew's book yourself, how might you support your statement here?

karla said: He believes that the Intelligent Design argument gives sufficient evidence for a change from his atheistic position.

Together with my reading of some ID websites I've come across over the years.

Sabio Lantz said...

Could you name 3 books of Wright's that you would recommend (in order with best being #1).

cl said...

CyberKitten,

So, you mean to tell me that after all of your appeals to rationalism and evidence-based epistemology that a handful of third-party anecdotes were sufficient for you to conclude that Flew was confused about ID when you never even read the source material yourself?

CyberKitten said...

cl said: So, you mean to tell me that after all of your appeals to rationalism and evidence-based epistemology that a handful of third-party anecdotes were sufficient for you to conclude that Flew was confused about ID when you never even read the source material yourself?

I think that you are expecting too much from what is basically the equivalent of a chat on a street corner. As I have already said that I haven't read the book (and from the original post it looks like karla hasn't either) any comment about Flew's motivation would inevitably be speculative - and I expected it to be taken as such. If I had been writing an academic essay, not only would I have read the book - and probably his earlier works - but I would've spent more than the 5 minutes I did spend on Wikipedia digging around in Flew's background to explain his change of heart. As this is a simple Blog 'debate' I did none of those things.

GCT said...

"I just wondered what others thought."

Well, I've told you. The Xian vultures are circling and trying to gain a propagandistic victory. They've bamboozled the man with slick ID BS, and it sounds like he's not in his right mind enough to realize how unscientific and logically fallacious ID really is.

GCT said...

ck: I think that you are expecting too much from what is basically the equivalent of a chat on a street corner.

Yet, you've come to the right conclusion in regards to ID being bunk. The ID camp can not propose any actual research, relying on nebulous terms like CSI, which can't be calculated, but 'we know it when we see it.' IOW, it's designed because we say it is.

Besides that, they've got the argument from analogy, which doesn't work.

Oh, and they've got IC and its ever shifting definition, which doesn't work either, especially considering that the latest definition is that an IC system could evolve, but we're still going to say that it's designed because it's just really complex.

Karla said...

Sabio, welcome to my blog. I recommend the following by N.T. Wright. (the last one I have read, the first two are on my to read list) He has many more than this though.

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense

Evil & The Justice of God

Judas and the Gospel of Jesus

cl said...

CK,

Perhaps. I just find it odd that you'd pontificate on the matter when in fact Flew might have a cogent argument. I'd be interested in hearing an atheist's reasons for embracing some tenet of ID or deism-based thinking. I mean, why just say the guy was confused if we haven't even read him?

CyberKitten said...

cl said: Perhaps. I just find it odd that you'd pontificate on the matter when in fact Flew might have a cogent argument.

[laughs] I'd hardly call it pontificating! As I freely admitted, I was speculating.

I presume that Flew thought the ID argument compelling enough to warrent his change of mind/heart on the whole atheism thing. However, the ID arguments I have seen are far from compelling. That's one reason why I questioned his scientific background. Some ID *sounds* reasonable until you start digging a bit deeper (from what I remember on ID websites I am ocassionally pointed to as being particularly good) when it all falls apart.

cl said: I mean, why just say the guy was confused if we haven't even read him?

I simply presumed that Flew was a reasonably astute adult. In order for such a person to give that much credibility to ID that he gives up his disbelief in God I'd have to say that he would be *necessarily* confused on the matter in that he has apparently accepted something that *I* belive to be unacceptable.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I own the book, but haven't read it yet and it's far down on my list. I'll probably do a post or perhaps comment here once I do.

cl said...

Cyber,

"I simply presumed that Flew was a reasonably astute adult. In order for such a person to give that much credibility to ID that he gives up his disbelief in God I'd have to say that he would be *necessarily* confused on the matter in that he has apparently accepted something that *I* belive to be unacceptable."

Of course, because you're already assured you're conclusion is the correct one. Anyone who dissents is thus confused. I say that's unjustified, along with your assumptions about Flew.

CyberKitten said...

cl said: Of course, because you're already assured you're conclusion is the correct one.

What conclusion? That Flew gave up his disbelief on insufficent grounds? It certainly seems that way - if, as it has been put forward, that he has decided to believe in God because of his exposure to the idea of Intelligent Design which, as far as I know, does not lead to that conclusion.

cl said: Anyone who dissents is thus confused.

I think that without understanding some basic science and especially biology (not to mention evolution) it is possible to be bamboozled by the scientific sounding ideas presented by so-called Intelligent Design.

cl said: I say that's unjustified, along with your assumptions about Flew.

So my assumption that he's a reasonable astute person is unfounded? Or that he doesn't have a scientific background?

Karla said...

Cyber it's okay. I was really just looking for opinion on this topic from the atheists perspective.

I see your opinion is basically that he doesn't seem to have scientific credentials for renouncing atheism based on the ID argument.

Others have opined that he is an old man loosing his mind.

I had no familiarity with him until his deism was made known, so I really can't say more than I did in my post.