William Craig, famous Christian apologist, has long maintained that the various accusations about Antony Flew’s new atheist-to-theist conversion are all bogus. In response, Richard Carrier, who corresponded with Flew throughout Flew’s conversion days, has penned another powerhouse response to critics like Craig, and it’s even more devastating than his last.
Dispute over the basic facts still seems to be going on, even months later. For instance, Intelligent Design propentist (sic) Denyse O’Leary insists that, based on her intuitive editorial prowess, that she can see that Flew did in fact write the book. “I think that there is no question that Flew wrote the material that appears under his name. And if he didn’t, he would certainly have tried to.”
Unfortunately for O’Leary, far from there being “no question” that Flew wrote the book, that he didn’t write any of it is pretty much a settled fact. Even Craig admits as much. Flew himself admits as much. And as Carrier points out, the “with Roy Varguese” on the books’ cover is especially deceptive given that Varguese is explicitly credited for the book’s preface and an appendix. This would lead readers to think that the “with” refers to these contributions and that the rest of the writing is Flew’s own first person narration. It simply isn’t. It’s, at best, what an amateur evangelical philosopher thinks Flew should be saying, signed off on by a Flew who demonstrably can’t seem to remember the names or arguments of half of the people “he” credits in the book.
Carrier also points out several sections of the book which cannot help but be flat out dishonest, in that they involve Varguese talking about Varguese in Flew’s voice, even describing events and discussions with Flew that apparently only happened to Varguese! And that’s not even getting into the issue of the other ghost author, evangelist Bob Hostetler, who is never mentioned at all as a major contributor and copy-editor.
Ironically, even as people have leapt to the defense of the project, they have inadvertently admitted to more and more damning details over time. For instance, an article in the evangelical ezine Crosswalk claims makes all the same claims that Carrier has already refuted, but in passing it seems to acknowledge that many of the seemingly first-person stories and anecdotes are not Flews.
Again, the issue here is less about what Flew does or doesn’t believe, or did and didn’t write. It’s clear that he did agree to have the book published in his name, whomever actually wrote it. It’s quite clear that he did become a deist. The issue is with what this all means. The book sets Flew up as a compelling authority, but then conceals the fact that Flew himself was unable to actually make and defend the arguments credited to him. The fact that he couldn’t even dictate the book is a serious problem in an of itself when it comes to citing “his” reasoning as being important (as just about every defender denies doing… and then does). Whatever Flew may believe now, the book appears to have invented a false history of Flew’s original conversion. Worse, there’s ample evidence that Flew may not even remember his original conversion, much less the arguments or counter-arguments involved.
Given all this, the accusations of mean-spiritedness and bitterness in criticizing the book still seem a pretty lame. Time and time again important facts are first concealed, and then admitted to with a “but so what?” excuse. And yet, if these facts are unimportant, why wasn’t anyone upfront about them to begin with?