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Flew and Atheism (Part II)
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Okay, here's the interview, soon to be published between Antony Flew and Gary Habermas. Let's have a look...

Very early on there's this:

HABERMAS: Then, would you comment on your “openness” to the notion of theistic revelation?

FLEW: Yes. I am open to it, but not enthusiastic about potential revelation from God. On the positive side, for example, I am very much impressed with physicist Gerald Schroeder’s comments on Genesis 1. That this biblical account might be scientifically accurate raises the possibility that it is revelation.

What the...? If he's talking about Genesis possibly being "scientifically accurate" he's already starting off on bad footing in my book.

He talks about describing himself as a deist, but here he almost talks like a fundamentalist Christian.

HABERMAS: So of the major theistic arguments, such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological, the only really impressive ones that you take to be decisive are the scientific forms of teleology?

FLEW: Absolutely. It seems to me that Richard Dawkins constantly overlooks the fact that Darwin himself, in the fourteenth chapter of The Origin of Species, pointed out that his whole argument began with a being which already possessed reproductive powers. This is the creature the evolution of which a truly comprehensive theory of evolution must give some account. Darwin himself was well aware that he had not produced such an account. It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.

Okay, so he apparently does understand evolutionary theory, to the extent of what it describes. But he incorrectly states that a truly comprehensive theory of evolution must give some account of the origins of life. How something originates and how something develops are generally fairly distinct. Evolutionary theory does an exceptional job of explaning the latter, though there is still a great deal about its working that are still very open questions for research (coevolution, for example, is still not a very well understood dynamic).

But none of this is justification for the attitude, and old, tired one, that "I don't understand it, so there must not be a naturalistic explanation, so it must be god." That's intellectually lazy and lame.

HABERMAS: In God and Philosophy, and in many other places in our discussions, too, it seems that your primary motivation for rejecting theistic arguments used to be the problem of evil. In terms of your new belief in God, how do you now conceptualise God’s relationship to the reality of evil in the world?

FLEW: Well, absent revelation, why should we perceive anything as objectively evil? The problem of evil is a problem only for Christians. For Muslims everything which human beings perceive as evil, just as much as everything we perceive as good, has to be obediently accepted as produced by the will of Allah.

Well, I hadn't heard of Flew until a few days ago, but I can't believe this guy was considered a top philosopher. Revelation is the only source for defining good and evil? What horseshit. One could, through experience and observation, come to the conclusion that good and evil should be defined in terms that either maximize or minimize happiness for the greatest number of people. This is one example, but the point is there are ways to identify and define morality in non-revelatory ways.

And look, the guy even apparently believes in ESP!

FLEW: Perhaps I should here point out that, long before I took my first university course in philosophy, I was much interested in what in the UK, where it began, is still called psychical research although the term “parapsychology” is now usually almost everywhere else. Perhaps I ought here to confess that my first book was brashly entitled A New Approach to Psychical Research, and my interest in this subject continued for many years thereafter.

HABERMAS: Actually you have also written to me that these near death experiences “certainly constitute impressive evidence for the possibility of the occurrence of human consciousness independent of any occurrences in the human brain.”

He even wrote a book on parapsychology. Nice.

HABERMAS: What do you think about the Bible?

FLEW: The Bible is a work which someone who had not the slightest concern about the question of the truth or falsity of the Christian religion could read as people read the novels of the best novelists. It is an eminently readable book.

Um, no it's not. There are sections that read quite nicely. But there are whole sections that are a hard friggin' slog. There are other parts that simply seem to be repetitions. So while there are particular books that are more readable than others, on the whole a beach novel it ain't.

Go read the whole interview if you like. I really don't have a context for comparing Flew's views to earlier ones, since I've never read any of his work. But if this interview is any indication, I can't say I'm much impressed.

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