One Flew over the cuckoo's nest

Blogger (friend, colleague, etc.) Radley Balko has responded to news that philosopher Antony Flew has had a come-to-Prime Mover moment thus:

Antony Flew

. . . would like you to know that contrary to web rumors, he still hates the Baby Jesus.

Posted by Radley Balko on December 11, 2004

The piece he links to is a statement by Flew that some of his writing on the subject of proof and belief had been misconstrued by giddy believers.

The title of the article, "Sorry to disappoint, but I'm still an atheist!," fairly accurately summarizes the text that follows. Flew writes, "I still believe that it is impossible either to verify or to falsify -- to show to be false -- what David Hume in his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion happily described as 'the religious hypothesis.'"

Further, Flew opines that "the eschatological teachings of Christianity and Islam" make him wish he could "demonstrate their falsity."

Having reasserted his atheist bona fides and inveighed against Osama bin Laden and the Left Behind series, Flew then proceeds to make an interesting -- indeed, fascinating -- concession:

We negative atheists are bound to see the Big Bang cosmology as requiring a physical explanation; and that one which, in the nature of the case, may nevertheless be forever inaccessible to human beings. But believers may, equally reasonably, welcome the Big Bang cosmology as tending to confirm their prior belief that "in the beginning" the Universe was created by God.

. . . I recognize that developments in physics coming on the last twenty or thirty years can reasonably be seen as in some degree confirmatory of a previously faith-based belief in god, even though they still provide no sufficient reason for unbelievers to change their minds.

Three things are worth pointing out about this statement:

1) This is a remarkably conciliatory response to religious believers by one of the world's most famous atheists.

2) It sounds very much like Flew is wrestling with an idea, trying to reassert his atheism against evidence that bolsters the case of his old sparring partners.

3) It was written in 2001.

That's right, take a look at the table of contents of the Antony Flew page at To rebut news reports in 2004 that Flew has changed his mind about the existence of God, Balko has linked to an article from before Republicans took back the Senate.

According to the AP, Flew now calls himself a deist and definitely does believe in some sort of Prime Mover. Flew doesn't believe in the Christian God but he doesn't insist on the aloofness that many famous deists ascribe to the Almighty. He now admits that God "could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

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