He Finally Got it Right

In a strange reversal of the career of Yochanan Kohen Gadol (who went bad after 80 years – see Talmud Berachos 29A), an illustrious British philosopher has foresaken atheism at the age of 81.

British philosophy professor Antony Flew, a champion of G-d’s non-existence since age 15, has reconsidered. Unlike some of the French encyclopedists of the 18th century, it is not the prospect of death that is responsible for his conversion. Flew still rejects an afterlife, and only accepts a “minimal G-d.”

Rather, it is the complexity of life and the improbability of the spontaneous and random genesis of life that led to his gradual acceptance of a Deity. He now sees himself occupying a position similar to the �intelligent design� camp.

One of those whom Flex credits with providing him with material that helped reshaped his thinking is well know in kiruv circles: Orthodox scientist Dr. Gerald Schroeder.

A long and fascinating ew with Flew is available online for those halachically and hashkafically able to deal with both a very Christian context and many allusions to hundreds of years of Western philosophy. He articulates his debt to Dr. Schroeder for forcefully suggesting a way in which contemporary science and Genesis are not at loggerheads. While he calls himself a deist, he shows himself open to consider other elements of theistic thought that he is unconvinced of at the moment. His positions are based, at the moment, entirely on Christian and Islamic works. He rejects notions of predestination he finds in both of these faiths. He struggles with different conceptions of the afterlife, and of consciousness after death. It is clear that he would have an easier time accepting the notion of a personal Deity if he would have the opportunity to explore Judaism, and particular works like Derech Hashem.

Probing deeper, we find that Flew was blessed with a measure of fairness that has evaded many of his European colleagues. He was a vocal critic of the present incarnation of Islam as early as 1994. Towards the end of the interview linked above, he had this to say:

I would never regard Islam with anything but horror and fear because it is fundamentally committed to conquering the world for Islam. 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.

Watch for people using this to prove that Flew has gone bonkers!

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3 Responses

  1. Rabbi Yaakov Feldman says:

    I don’t think his having become a “Deist” (as the story depicts him) is proof that he “got it”. He believes in a Boreh Olam (a Creator), but not in a Manhig Olam (Universal Administrator) as any poor soul with half an ounce of non-scepticism in him can. I say that his “revelation” isn’t so much a step up for him but an anti-climactic step side-ways.

  2. Asher Gabbay says:

    Rabbi Feldman got it almost right. Not an anti-climactic step sideways, but rather no step whatsover.

    Prof. Flew was alerted to the rumours of his early conversion on the internet, and quickly published a correction: “Those rumours speak false. I remain still what I have been now for over fifty years, a negative atheist”.

    Right here: http://www.rationalistinternational.net/archive/en/rationalist_2004/137.html

  3. Yaakov Menken says:

    There were many rumors that Flew had changed his views — this time, however, it’s really true, and confirmed on a video released Thursday (according to the AP).

    Yet 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 says in the new video, “Has Science Discovered God?”

    Even Infidels.org (aka “The Secular Web”) admits this is true. As they say, “Flew is one of the most renowned atheists of the 20th century, even making the shortlist of ‘Contemporary Atheists’ at About.com. So if he has changed his mind to any degree, whatever you may think of his reasons, the event itself is certainly newsworthy.”

    I’m not sure what Rationalist International would say to this. The archive posted earlier by Asher is now gone from the site, but there’s a new denial on the home page… dated Dec. 16th. Now that Flew is captured on video, I’m not sure how far that denial will fly.

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