Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Anthony Who?

Well, I've seen his name once before, but someone's brought up a fundie's fetish for the conversion of the world's leading atheist a fair number of my atheist friends hadn't heard of: Anthony Flew. Mostly it's been stories of alleged conversion that touted him as such. Of course, it's pretty much meaningless to assign a leadership role for a community that generally scoffs at authority. (EDIT: Fixed tone a little bit)

So I did a little quick bit of searching.

First thing I found: Here. Apparently a guy who had some personal correspondence.
But he is increasingly persuaded that some sort of Deity brought about this universe, though it does not intervene in human affairs, nor does it provide any postmortem salvation. He says he has in mind something like the God of Aristotle, a distant, impersonal "prime mover." It might not even be conscious, but a mere force.
Doesn't sound like something I'd label as a "god." And it dips into vitalism after that:
In formal terms, he regards the existence of this minimal God as a hypothesis that, at present, is perhaps the best explanation for why a universe exists that can produce complex life. But he is still unsure.
What? Isn't the piles and piles of research into how simplicity can beget complexity (irreducible and otherwise) via evolution enough?

Direct quotes from here on:
I do not think I will ever make that assertion, precisely because any assertion which I am prepared to make about God would not be about a God in that sense ... I think we need here a fundamental distinction between the God of Aristotle or Spinoza and the Gods of the Christian and the Islamic Revelations.
In short, not anything worth labeling as a deity. But he cranks into vitalism again:
[In fact] the only reason which I have for beginning to think of believing in a First Cause god is the impossibility of providing a naturalistic account of the origin of the first reproducing organisms.
That's the naysayery of woo, there. How do you prove something is impossible without knowing every law of physics? We can do it in math because the rules are pretty well laid out for those proofs. Thankfully, it seems he broke out of that stupidity:
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.
In short, he didn't do the research. It goes downhill from there. Read the rest. I think the article's author makes a pretty good summary of what I'm thinking at this point:
"So what is your final evidence? What is the, what was the clincher for you, Professor Flew?" Flew gives no answer at all, but rambles on about how his newfound deism is no big deal and just an opinion, a conclusion that is "pretty thin." But what he bases this "pretty thin" conclusion on he still fails to say. Later in that same interview he says "I haven't really formulated what I do believe," but it sounds as if he hasn't even formulated why he believes. And I've heard nothing to suggest anything has changed this past year.


Russell Hume said...

If I remember correctly from back when he originally "converted," he had depended on some information he had gotten from scientists who happened to also be Christian. Unfortunately for him, their information had been inaccurate, that's putting it kindly.

Now it seems he is still maintaining that position in the most minimal way. My guess is he does so out of either embarrassment for being duped about the scientific information or because of fear, the abyss draws near for Flew.

King Aardvark said...

I'd heard of him before but only because of his "conversion" - not a good sign if the only reason you're a famous atheist is because you're no longer an atheist. Anyway, it's hard to see how the fundies can take much pride in a guy becoming a wishy-washy deist.