December 09, 2004

Long-Time Atheist Now Believes in God "At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England."
  • Question: how does one become a 'leading atheist'?
  • Is that sort of like a "powerful Quaker"?
  • Answer: Your publisher decides to milk sales
  • By the way, Flew's newfound beliefs are well-covered by #6, #7, #297, #325, #328, and possibly others.
  • Shorter Flew: this shit is too complex for me - there must be a god.
  • Reality Flew: I'm going to die soon. I'm sorry god.
  • FLIP-FLOPPER!!! How can anyone take this guy seriously? First he has one opinion, then all of a sudden he has another? Would you trust this guy about ANYTHING? Of course not! He's a flip-flopper!!
  • Right when I saw this on Drudge I knew it'd be here. Complexity implies god? Creationists have been saying this for decades. Unfortunately none of these geniuses seem to have studied fractals, chaos or complexity arising from parameters that couldn't. be. simpler.
  • Former evangelist espouses atheism. Stay tuned to this channel for regular updates on the God wars.
  • At least he didn't turn Christian or Muslim (or whatever).
  • My guess is he just wants to auction things shaped like religous icons on Ebay. (I heard somewhere that is popular nowadays)
  • "Hi God, long-time atheist, first time prayer. Love the phenomena"
  • Abiezer_Coppe wins.
  • Argh: though he does claim not to believe in an afterlife. I would think that random mutations and "survival of the fittest" would produce a much more complex biosphere than something kind of like Intelligent Design would. The latter implies to me something goal oriented. If some supreme being meant to lead up to humans as the goal, for example, why would it go off on so many side trips that didn't make the evolutionary cut? Maybe the Earth's supreme being was a baby one who needed practice? Hey, look. As an aging monkey, I can tell you that our brains start to corrode at some point. If he's happy with his new belief, lets let him go gentle into that good night.
  • I think this is a good example of the fact that being intelligent, or gaining scientific knowledge doesn't compel you to disregard God. For many it actually strengthens - or in this case, gives birth to - faith.
  • God is an atheist.
  • Atheist notices that, at 81, he isn't getting any younger, and the reaper might be making a house call some time soon. Decides to hedge bets with regard to the afterlife.
  • I don't think that a belief that there must be a God who started this all off is not the same thing as saying, "I believe that a bunch of 2-3000 year old stories written by mostly unknown authors must be the direct word of God.
  • God is a homo. -"Jesse Ventura" on Conan O'brien
  • don't go gently into that god night
  • Clock - yes, Dylan Thomas gave that advice to his father, and I've thought that advice toward my 87 year old mother. But, I'm beginning to understand why going gently is ok.
  • no, dylan said good night
  • Yes, but I gave you the benefit of the typo thing. So, what were you really trying to say?
  • What did Dylan Thomas mean by that? I've always been ashamed to admit I don't know. Should we fight death? Wait for a *bad* night? Thank god I've never had to write an exposition of this poem. It's probably so obvious.
  • So some old athiest says, in a video released today, that he now believes in God more or less? Were guys with covered faces and rifles involved?
  • What did Dylan Thomas mean by that? I think the "good" can largely be ignored. Since it also says "rage against the dying of the light" I think it's safe to say he was saying "fight death." That is pretty much the only thing by Dylan Thomas I HAVE ever understood.
  • I'll go for the life of sin, followed by a presto-chango deathbed repentance. It's a pretty good angle...
  • When my grandmother was 81, she believed that sharks might jump out of the toiled and attack her. Really. Hope it's not genetic.
  • "Toilet"
  • hikikomori wins
  • I was advocating not falling into the comfortable darkness of faith late in life
  • Hey Fuyugare, that was a great list o hilarious god proofs !!!!!
  • Any god that would take him after all that, who'd want to be associated with? But beyond that, thanks for taking one for the team, Flew! you colossal pussy!
  • Clockzero: why should we want to deny him that comfort? No one here has to change their own beliefs just because he did. Most people, when they reach their 80s, find that life is pretty cold. It if gives him some warmth to believe in some sort of god, I certainly don't find that problematic. And, Fes: if there were a god of some stripe out there, seems to me the best kind would be one who would take him. He was apparently quite sincere in his lack of belief for all those years, and seems to have had a sincere change of heart. Should a god carry a grudge? Seems kind petty and all too human. In fact, if there were a god, the only kind I'd find imaginable would take him even if he'd stayed an atheist.
  • He *might* be doing Pascal's wager. But he probably doesn't believe in salvation or afterlife. It looks more like a poor old man trying to find some comfort.
  • path: You didn't even read the article, did you? It has nothing to do with psychological comfort, the coldness of life, or any of that sentimental business. He's a scientist. He now believes that God may have had some role in creation and compares himself to the Deists. That's what I take issue with: intellectual laziness. I don't take issue with people having comforting beliefs in trying circumstances.
  • Clockzero: why should we want to deny him that comfort?
    Why should we allow someone to make a bunch of very public assertions if we don't agree with them? It'd certainly be mean-spirited to bug some random old guy about his beliefs. If you want to inject yourself into public debate with a bunch of assertions, you're going to get a bunch of responses. If you don't like it, don't go there in the first place.
  • Flew's letter to Philosophy Now. I suppose we shall have to wait for his book to find out exactly what he means, (depressingly, it seems to have something to do with evolution). I'm not holding my breath, though.
  • What did Dylan Thomas mean by that? Thomas's father had always been a fighter. When he received news that he was ill unto teh death, he accepted it calmly. Dylan, on the other hand, couldn't, and blamed his father for doing so. He claimed he hardly recognised his father during his final illness.
  • Long-Time Dyslexic now believes in Dog.
  • if god does exist and is perfect and divine, why would he demand that we worship him? wouldn't that indicate a real narcissist? *brain hurts*
  • Has he explained yet, since his belief is that DNA is to complex to exist without a creator, how the creator came to be? And if the creator just "is," why not the universe?
  • Its turtles all the way up. And down.
  • It's interesting to see some of the defensive reactions to this post; whether re-hashing old stand-by arguments for reassurance, or quickly labeling this fellow as senile so he can be safely filed away in the 'crackpot' drawer and ignored.
  • So, A Lot of Numbers, where's the "evidence"? ("In my book!" Flew says in his letter. "You've got to wait for my book!" Um, okay, that's good enough for me!) Given that every single person who has had "evidence" of God's existence has ultimately failed to produce that "evidence," it seems likely that Flew is going to fail to produce, as well. Show me the money, dammit. Until you do, I'm assuming Flew is trafficking in opinion, not science.
  • Senility is so sad.
  • I don't think that ALoN's point is to argue the merits of theism or deism. I think his/her point is that the only theories presented here as to why Flew changed his mind are senility, fear of death, etc. Those are understandable reactions, given that the man was an atheist LONG before atheism was cool and is only now accepting the existence of God when there are only a few more steps left to run in his race, but isn't it possible that the man reconsidered and decided that the deists have a point?
  • Atheism is cool?
  • My personal guess is that Prof. Flew is the cranky, refined British academic version of the internet troll, a professional contrarian. He was an atheist back in the day because it was daring and got a reaction, and now that's not so daring he's a deist. I say this with no knowledge of the man or his work apart from this, so no doubt it's a horrible slur, but I've met the type. As likely he's an earnest spiritual enquirer not afraid to speak his mind and more power to him. Won't be buying the book though!
  • that was a half-assed reference to "I was country before..." etc., meant to make the point that atheism wasn't nearly as broadly accepted back in the day. Unless of course you're just making a joke, in which case I'll go back to the drinking.
  • MCT: And I was responding by pointing out just how reasonable it is to file this guy away in the crackpot drawer.
  • rodgerd - I did, indeed, read the article. I still feel that his own mortality may be weighing on him. Or that his brain is going though changes connected with being 81. Or, that he just changed his mind, in full possession of his faculties, with reasons that he found convincing, however specious you found them. And, whichever one of those it is, it doesn't matter. And "Why should we allow someone to make a bunch of very public assertions if we don't agree with them?"???? So the guy can't express himself? I've seen so many rants here (though not necessarily by you) about freedom of speech that that question surprises me no end. Who are "we" to disallow his expression of what he thinks. You don't have to agree with him, and I don't, but hey, he has his perceived reasons. It's not as though his statement is the end of the discussion. I kind of think he's entered into to world of philosophy but that's ok. It's probably wonderfully attractice to someone of his age. I'm sure you won't agree with his conclusions, and I probably don't, but it may be that philosphical discussion is what keeps science honest.
  • rodgerd - I did, indeed, read the article. I still feel that his own mortality may be weighing on him. Or that his brain is going though changes connected with being 81. Or, that he just changed his mind, in full possession of his faculties, with reasons that he found convincing, however specious you found them. And, whichever one of those it is, it doesn't matter. And "Why should we allow someone to make a bunch of very public assertions if we don't agree with them?"???? So the guy can't express himself? I've seen so many rants here (though not necessarily by you) about freedom of speech that that question surprises me no end. Who are "we" to disallow his expression of what he thinks. You don't have to agree with him, and I don't, but hey, he has his perceived reasons. It's not as though his statement is the end of the discussion. I kind of think he's entered into to world of philosophy but that's ok. It's probably wonderfully attractice to someone of his age. I'm sure you won't agree with his conclusions, and I probably don't, but it may be that philosphical discussion is what keeps science honest.
  • Oh, sorry! There was Rl going on and I screwed up,
  • path: I still feel that his own mortality may be weighing on him. Or that his brain is going though changes connected with being 81. Or, that he just changed his mind, in full possession of his faculties, with reasons that he found convincing, however specious you found them. And, whichever one of those it is, it doesn't matter. Well, considering that this position he's taken is in reference to science, not an afterlife, I don't see how old age has to do with it. He stated explicitly that he doesn't believe in an afterlife. What exactly is your position on this issue? You say that you feel like three different and apparently mutually exclusive things about this. It seems like you're drawing conclusions which are sort of refuted by the article. "but it may be that philosphical discussion is what keeps science honest." Belief in God isn't a discussion, though, and neither are "proofs" for God's existence; the way God is understood these days is emphatically ascientific, since it has nothing to do with empirical evidence or falsifiability. How could this "keep science honest"? Why should scientific disciplines need that to be honest?
  • You know what I think? I don't think it matters a flying fuck what this guy thinks, whether he was a long time atheist or whether he was the founder of a religion based around the Pink Bunkadoo. No one is an expert on the existance of a creator. His opinion, lack of one, or changing stance means absolutely nothing.
  • Some guy who happens to be a respected scientist changes his mind, now thinks God exists. Film at 11.
  • As we age, humility sets in. Each day we're alive, life teaches us that we don't have all the answers, that we don't know everything. If you live long enough, you'll eventually reach a point were you acccept that everything you've ever believed is false. This isn't a fault. This was obvious an important subject to him, he spent his whole life with the topic on his mind. He changed his mind? That means he's still analyzing it, while most of us have quit doing so. We think that either our incomplete answer are all that's needed, or we delude ourselves in to thinking our answers aren't incomplete. He's still open to possibilities after 80 years? Good for him. Let the old man change his mind. If he's wrong, then at least he's wrong about being wrong.
  • Clockzero - I was suggesting some reasons why he might have made the statement. They were possibilities, not things I "liked". My father died a few years ago at the age of 90, and my mother is now 87. I've seen both of them go through changes I wouldn't have expected when they were younger. As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with new scientific input, they just settled down into something that made them more comfortable with their mortality. Mr. Knickerbocker said it well. The guy's still thinking. Whether you approve of his conclusions or not is not important. The thing I don't understand is why his changing his mind makes you so antagonistic. This isn't some "win or lose" debate. Neither of us knows the reasons for his change of mind. I did read the article, and he didn't ask any of us to agree with him. And, it doesn't change what's real, from any of our perspectives. "Reality" is multifaceted. Not every discussion/judgement has to be a duel to the death. I don't agree with him, but, hey, he got there on his own. And I got there on my own. And you got there on your own. Call we when you're 80 and tell me if you have the same opinion you do today.
  • Brava, Pat.
  • Thanks, goetter. I missed you while you were on hiatus.