Flew Jab

A snippet from The Revealer about the Antony Flew interview in Biola’s University’s Philosophia Christi journal:

Christian media junkies have recently been gloating over the news that longtime atheist philosopher Antony Flew had changed his mind. Now atheists strike back, with the latest bulletin of Rationalist International declaring that their man remains a defender of the unfaith. Sounds like a he-said/she-said to us, but if Flew really didn’t confess, why did Christian media grab hold of thin evidence to declare that he had?

But what the Rationalist International actually writes is:

This is not the first time that Professor Antony Flew’s atheist position is attacked. In reaction to an internet campaign in 2001 that tried to brand him a “convert” to religious belief, Professor Antony Flew made the following statement. In 2003 he answered yet another campaign in this direction with the same statement. It is still now his latest official position in this regard.

So the RI posting draws on a source that predates the interview by a year, which I would see as a serious weakness. But it is true that in the new interview Flew only says that the evidence for God is “stronger”:

Well, I don’t believe in the God of any revelatory system, although I am open to that. But it seems to me that the case for an Aristotelian God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence, is now much stronger than it ever was before.

I think that the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries. I’ve never been much impressed by the kalam cosmological argument [see here], and I don’t 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…we can be sure that they [Russell, Mackie, or Ayer] would have examined these new scientific arguments.

However, when the interviewer says that Flew “affirms” the Aristotelian concept of God, Flew does not contradict him.

What the significance of Flew’s statement may be is another matter. He talks of Intelligent Design very casually, and shows no knowledge of the many scientific criticisms of the ID movement  (for example, the work of Matt Young and Taner Edis). But Flew feels quite qualified to pronounce on other matters of which he has little understanding. Towards the end of the interview he turns Middle East pundit:

It was because the whole of Palestine was part of the land of Islam that Muslim Arab armies moved in to try to destroy Israel at birth, and why the struggle for the return of the still surviving refugees and their numerous descendents continue to this day.

Yes, Palestinian refugees don’t want to return to their homes for any natural reason that you or I could relate to: their desire must be a manifestation of a bloodthirsty fundamentalism. And the whole Arab-Israeli conflict can be reduced to Muslim irrationality. What is it about Anglo philosophers and a complete inability to actually understand people?

UPDATE: The Church Times (in an article written by my old undergrad chaplain, as it happens) has more details:

Professor Flew, the son of a Methodist minister, agreed that the first life was breathed by God. “Well, I suppose so, yes,” he said on Wednesday.

The theory that the enormous complexity of a living thing that was able to reproduce genetically could happen by accident was “just not on”. “No one has produced any theory for the origin of life, and this [reproduction] is much more complex than that…Yes, life was started by an intelligent being…”

Professor Flew has been to New York to record a video of his new-found belief “under the auspices” of the Christian author Roy Varghese, whom he described as having written “very powerful books on theism”.

Earlier, he attended a symposium in the United States at which he said he had been impressed by the Orthodox Jew, Gerald Schroeder, author of The Hidden Face of God: Science reveals the ultimate truth. This book outlines statistical evidence pointing towards a creator.

References that critique Schroeder’s work are provided by The Panda’s Thumb.

UPDATE 2: The Panda’s Thumb now reports that Flew has distanced himself from Schroeder’s work, although he remains a deist.

UPDATE 3: Flew now says he has “made a fool” of himself. See today’s entry.