• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Flew Two

Agape Press reports that Creationist organisation Answers in Genesis (AiG) is crowing over Antony Flew’s supposed “conversion” to Intelligent Design (discussed previously):

Dr. Terry Mortenson of Answers in Genesis says Flew, who had previously subscribed to Darwinian theories of evolution and natural selection, cited one major reason for changing his tune. But now, the creationist points out, Flew has weighed the evidence for some of those ideas and found it wanting.

Mortenson says, ultimately, Flew said he was dissatisfied with “the arguments from science for the complexity of life,” and had also determined that “the naturalistic theory of evolution for explaining the first reproducing organism is just unconvincing.” Basically, the philosopher concluded that life is simply too complex to have just happened and, therefore, must have had a creator.

However:

…despite the realizations Flew acknowledged in his article, the philosopher cannot be called a creationist just yet.

“In this same article,” the creationist notes, Flew fails to reject Darwinism, but rather states that he still “accepts Darwinian evolution and the origin of all the different species from a common ancestor. What he doesn’t accept any longer is that the first living cell came into existence by chance.”

As noted previously, many advocates of Intelligent Design (ID) reject the term “Creationist”, which they see as an insult – or at least, as bad PR. The last thing they want is to be placed in the same category as a complete Biblical literalist like Terry Mortenson, who believes that the world is only a few thousand years old. But, on the other hand, ID is currently having remarkable successes persuading the scientifically semi-literate that their theories deserve equal time with evolutionary theory. Mortenson probably privately resents being seen as an embarrassment to the slick ID lobby (apparently a spokesperson for the pro-ID Discovery Institute once described AiG as “guitar-strumming hillbillies”), but he appreciates the “wedge” strategy that ID represents. Once it has been established (by politicians and school boards, if not actual scientists) that ID should be considered as valid science, the door is open to others who wish to use populism and misinformation to promote their religious ideas in environments that are currently seen as inappropriate. So a prominent philosopher’s conversion to ID is better than nothing, or, as Mortenson optimistically puts it: “a step in the right direction”.

But it seems Flew has now taken a step back, in a recent letter unfortunately only tucked away as an update to a Secular.web article from last month (although cited on The Panda’s Thumb):

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…I have been mistaught by Gerald Schroeder…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.

(Schroeder is a Jewish ID-er, whose work has been critiqued here) Richard Carrier, to whom Flew addressed his letter, adds:

this attitude seems to pervade Flew’s method of truthseeking, of looking to a single author for authoritative information and never checking their 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.

True enough, and also an explanation for Flew’s ignorant pronouncements on Palestinians (again see my previous entry on Flew). But the interesting thing is that, for the likes of Mortenson, asking why Flew had apparently embraced the ID position was not that important. It was simply enough to have a prominent figure who embodied some sort of authority declare his “conversion”. So much for nullius in verba (loosely, “taking nobody’s words as proof”)…

3 Responses

  1. […] 3: Flew now says he has “made a fool” of himself. See today’s entry. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Bethrick Responds (Part 1 of 3)Week of […]

  2. […] Marsland, and Right Now! Posted on November 10, 2007 by Richard Bartholomew Back in 2005, I blogged philosopher Antony Flew’s conversion from atheism to some kind of Intelligent-Design inspired […]

  3. […] course, as with Antony Flew’s (temporary) turn to deism, the story of an intellectual atheist who rejects disbelief is invariably […]

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