The New York Times has an interesting piece up about Antony Flew, formerly vocal atheist and revered philosopher, who’s been co-oped by the Intelligent Design brigade in his dotage. In 1950, Flew published a discourse on atheism “Theology and Falsification” which pointed out something quite astute: that the term “God” is so amorphous as to be impossible to either prove or disprove. Seems like common sense now, but at the time it sent shock waves through an academia only recently comfortable with evolution and secular science.
Years later, Flew was forking over his legacy to the creationists, allowing himself to be paraded around at their various meetings to stand up and recant his earlier beliefs in a halting voice marred with age. While Flew seemed to reject fundamentalist Christianity, but his admittances that ‘there is a God’ is enough to set the Religious Right into a frenzy—look, a vocal scientific atheist has recanted! Perhaps it is only significant because it is so rare and unusual, and is it any coincidence that the onset of religiosity settled in in Flew’s extreme old age? How disappointing to see a revered rational thinker, who posed many excellent arguments paving the way for today’s intellectuals, fall for the very tired old tricks that he once dismissed as unscientific. Flew even signed a petition to England’s Prime Minister encouraging the teaching of intelligent design in schools.
However, the plot thickened as a concerned graduate student writes to Flew and points out that his trust in the religious allies is misguided and not scientifically sound. Amazingly, Flew listened and recanted many of his recent deist statements. Then two years later, Flew was back in the pro-deist thick of it all again, but suffering from memory loss and a “nominal aphasia.”
“He once was a great philosopher,” Richard Dawkins, the Oxford biologist and author of “The God Delusion,” told a Virginia audience last year. “It’s very sad.” Paul Kurtz of Prometheus Books says he thinks Flew is being exploited. “They’re misusing him,” Kurtz says, referring to the Christians. “They’re worried about atheists, and they’re trying to find an atheist to be on their side.”
Check out the NYT story for the full story.