I’ve been hoping to take a look at the new book by Antony Flew, at the very least to help shed some final light on the long baffling saga of contradictions, ambiguity, retractions, re-retractions, and so on. But while I haven’t had a chance to check it out in the bookstore yet, hearing that it ultimately wasn’t really even written by Flew sort of puts a damper on things. In fact, it’s sort of a depressing spectacle, all told.
Plenty of giddy believers would like to write this off as atheistic sour grapes: we’re pissy because Flew converted. But that’s really not any sort of big deal: people convert and deconvert all the time. Plenty of intelligent people that I respect, in the prime of their intellectual acuity, believe in god (and not just Flew’s thin deism): so what difference does Flew make as an example?
What matters are the reasons and whether or not you personally think they hold water. Flew’s given reasons, or at least what his ghostwriter says are his reasons, are embarrassingly old-hat in atheism/theism debates (a bunch of fine-tuning and argument from incredulity blather). To my ear, they are not only unconvincing, but disappointingly amateur. There are plenty of theist philosophers who, while I still disagree with them, at least seem to me to have really considered the subject matter, surveyed the literature, and can defend these arguments in both detail and obvious awareness of common counter-arguments. Flew seems have had no time or desire to really engage in this debate, and instead seems to have passed on the task of laying out arguments to a rather third-rate huckster (Roy Varghese) and a circus of ghouls who are far more interested in crowing over a prize trophy than caring all that much about the philosophical details.
To be clear, Flew has no obligation at all to reconsider his newfound reconsideration, entertain anyones counterarguments, or anything else. Whatever his reasons for thinking deism is justified, I don’t see much point in anyone badgering him about it unless he himself really wants to debate the matter. It’s just sad to see people trading on his former reputation for the purposes of some rather cheap apologetics.
Ross Douthat, certainly no atheist, gets the same icky feeling from the book.
PZ Myers provides this embarrassing video of the Lee Strobel salivating over Flew that makes me even more disgusted and ever more happy to use the word “ghouls” for this case.