Saturday, October 8, 2011

F is for Flew

Flew Who? you may be asking. The English philosopher Sir Antony Flew [1923 - 2010] was among the most outspoken atheists of the 20th Century. He debated religion with C. S. Lewis and wrote several serious books extolling atheism and attacking religion. His conversion to theism in 2004 was taken as a major triumph by believers everywhere. Some atheists argued that the old man had been conned in his dotage. This does not appear to be supported by the evidence.

What is most interesting are the attributes of the God that Flew came to believe in during his sunset years. Flew’s God bears a striking resemblance to the Creator believed in by 18th Century Deists—an impersonal Supreme Intelligence responsible for the intricacy of the universe. The complexity of DNA seems to have caught Flew’s attention and convinced him that such wonderful complexity cannot be explained by random evolution. As he put it, “The findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.” Like proponents of Intelligent Design, Flew concluded that a super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature. In "Has Science Discovered God?"—a video released in the year of his conversion—Flew maintained that biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce [life], that intelligence must have been involved.”

Flew clarified his notion of God in a letter to The Sunday Telegraph in 2004. “The God in whose existence I have belatedly come to believe is most emphatically not the eternally rewarding and eternally torturing God of either Christianity or Islam but the God of Aristotle that he would have defined—had Aristotle actually produced a definition of his God—as the first initiating cause of the universe.”

On the subject of the afterlife, Sir Antony was most emphatic: “I want to be dead when I’m dead and that’s an end to it. I don’t want an unending life. I don’t want anything without end.”

Now let us suppose tens of millions of people suddenly began to believe as Sir Anthony Flew believed at the end of his life, To which side would this pose the greater challenge—atheism or institutionalized religion?

Old Flew may have flown the coop but not very far.

Sir Antony Flew’s obituary appeared in the New York Times on April 16, 2010.

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