Monday, 25 January 2010

there is a god

Almost 2 years ago, I reported on the conclusion by leading philosopher and former atheist, Antony Flew, that there is indeed a God after all (see one Flew out of the cuckoo's nest?). I described how many atheists had accused him of selling out, of not writing his new book himself, and of being senile.

I have now, belatedly, had the opportunity to read the book. I was worried it might be too philosophical for me, or, conversely, that it might indeed be the writings of a man who was past it. But I needn't have worried on either count, because it was an enjoyable, easy and worthwhile read.

This is not a philosophical book - he doesn't present any rigorous arguments. It is rather a personal memoir, a look back on his life and why he became an atheist in the first place despite a christian upbringing, and a summary of the ideas and the people who had influenced him to change his mind at this late stage in his life. I wouldn't think anyone would be convinced by the book alone, but any thoughtful person should find plenty of worthwhile ideas to follow up, and the references to do so.

He certainly doesn't sound senile, but he is getting old (he is now approaching 87), as this video shows. And he certainly does sound quite sure of himself. I found it a very human book, with the weakest parts being those written by his co-author (Preface and Appendix 1).

The main reasons why he changed his mind were "the fact that nature obeys laws", the "intelligently organised and purpose-driven life which arose from matter" and "the very existence of nature" (i.e. the universe). Based on the scientific discoveries in these areas, he has concluded that none of these could have occurred if they had not been "brought into existence by an infinite intelligence". He goes on to say that he is open to the possibility that God has revealed himself in the world, and believes christianity is the most likely candidate. He makes it clear he is now considering christianity, and accordingly gave NT Wright, the famous New Testament scholar, the opportunity to write an appendix answering some of Flew's questions about christianity.

According to Wikipedia (last updated March 2009), there is ongoing controversy over Flew's departure from atheism. Certainly I have found on various internet forums that he is not respected by atheists, who tend to react with comments about senility if his name is even mentioned. But I think the book is worth reading for anyone with an interest in philosophy.