Thursday, November 08, 2007

Carrier on Flew

Carrier's testimony is very interesting. I think I am not wrong in demanding strong evidence for claims of this sort of fraud. I could, I think, figure out if there is any sign of Flew's philosophical intellect behind the various parts of the book, though I don't publish on the specific arguments. Carrier actually casts doubt on Varghese's claim that Flew approved ten drafts. A philosopher like Swinburne or Robin Collins, who actually present and defend the type of argument Flew uses, would be the best people to be able to tell if these arguments showed some philosophical competence.

If Carrier et al are right, then this book is profoundly tragic. Tragic in virtue of the fact that an honest account of Flew's mental development throughout his career would have been valuable. And tragic that a couple of unscrupulous Christians damaged the credibility of their own faith by passing off their own poor arguments onto a paragon of intellectual honesty. If that's what they did, these guys should be horsewhipped. It does bother me that apparently the book does not delineate the remaining, very important, differences between Flew's own view and orthodox Christianity.

It would be good if Habermas, in his own voice, or Douglas Geivett, who has corresponded with Flew extensively, could say something.

In any event, I would not have expected a cutting edge defense of theistic arguments from Flew at this stage of his life, so the fact that he doesn't provide that would prove fraud. I would have hoped for a sense of his thinking across his career and some idea of what kinds of arguments moved him away from his lifelong atheism. It does seem that the autobiographical stuff has a lot of Flew content.

Please don't take these comments as the final verdict from me. I would have to read it to form my own final opinion, or get the opinion of, as I indicated, people like Swinburne.

15 comments:

Bjørn Are said...

I guess you really are meaning the following?

"In any event, I would not have expected a cutting edge defense of theistic arguments from Flew at this stage of his life, so the fact that he doesn't provide that would NOT prove fraud.

mattghg said...

William Dembski has weighed in on this controversy. At the end of the post there is the substance of a press release from Flew and his publishers.

Bill said...

Sir Antony Flew's new book is what he will be remembered for in history.

It is a magnum opus, the product of 20 years deep and profound reflection on the philosophy of religion and will be anthologised for decades to come.

I can see many university courses being rewritten to include the book on the course, as its profound and well-reasoned arguments set the new benchmark for work in the field of philosophy of religion.

Anonymous said...

Press Releases is a link to the Harper Collins press release site, so the atheists can read it and weep.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Most would agree that Flew is past his prime as a philosopher.

And that testimonies matter only in so far as they demonstrate the liquidity of coherent philosophical systems, and the variety and changeable nature of human experience and belief.

Because there are people who began as Christians and who obtained the highest degrees in theology, and then became agnostics and/or atheists.

And there are philosophers who began as Christians, and who obtained the highest degrees in philosophy and became atheists.

And there are others, like Flew, who may have at least been taught some Christian theism in his youth, then studied philosophy, became atheist, and now theist again, with reservations such as continuing to acknowledge the problem of evil, and still finding the biblical stories of Christian history, origins, doctrines and dogmatic truths questionable.

The BIG STORY is not FLEW, but the fact that all conservative Christian seminaries so far as I have been able to trace, grow increasingly moderate and liberal over time as they continue to attract the brightest professors and students.

http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/religion/anthony_flew.html

http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/articles/anthony_flew.html

Jason Pratt said...

Victor,

Gary Habermas comments extensively "in his own voice" here. Not sure how much help it actually is toward resolving the question of fraud, but he thinks the book is Flew's material (even if edited, typewritten up and composited by Varghese.)

Hat tip: Bill Kesatie at the Christian Cadre (whose article discussing Habermas' article can be found here.

JRP

philip m said...

So guys...how do you link those things? It's not too fun out here in the html dark.

Douglas said...

The really interesting question in this whole thing is this: How long will we have to wait for Richard Carrier's rigorous historical proof that Antony Flew never existed?

Mark K. Sprengel said...

Douglas,

I'm sure Rook Hawkins will provide that in the book he's writing that Carrier will "peer-review".

;-)

Edward T. Babinski said...

It is interesting to compare the case of the recent book "by" Antony Flew with an article that appeared in Salon magazine about the story that is usually told about how George Bush came to faith. In both cases, it seems to be those responsible for ghostwriting books and those responsible for press releases and publicity that in both cases have put words in the mouths of others.

Mel White used to be a ghostwriter, and his book Religion Gone Bad also sheds light on how the presence of a famous person's name on the cover need not indicate that the alleged "author" actually wrote any part of the book.

We live in a time when we cannot trust pictures - they are so easy to photoshop. Now we cannot even trust what we read to tell us about the views of the "author" whose name is on the cover.

Perhaps, at the very least, this will put the issue of pseudepigraphy in the Bible in proper perspective...

SOURCE: James F. McGrath, "Ghostwriting Faith" at his blog.

Douglas said...

Flew claims he agrees with the content of the book.

So the real insight is merely how talented some people are at explaining away things they don't want to believe. Even to, and especially to, the point of complete disrespect for anyone and everyone who needs to be vilified in order to accomplish that goal.

Anonymous said...

As at 11/13/2007, the publisher's statement that Flew was not manipulated still only exists on an amazon.com review, written by Pastor Bob Hostetler's agent.

In an interview on You Tube, Flew talks about 'The Integrated Complexity Argument'.

I guess theists will now be ditching Irreducible Complexity and going for Integrated Complexity.

Unless Flew can't even remember the name of the argument that converted him.

Duke of Earl said...

Perhaps, at the very least, this will put the issue of pseudepigraphy in the Bible in proper perspective...

Except we have records of the Church Fathers discovering a devout person releasing work under an apostles name and promptly excommunicating them.

I guess theists will now be ditching Irreducible Complexity and going for Integrated Complexity.

Unless Flew can't even remember the name of the argument that converted him.


Unless you consider that the argument from irreducible complexity is a reference to various integrated systems that need each other to function in the assigned manner. In other words it's another way of saying the same thing.

Anonymous said...

'Unless you consider that the argument from irreducible complexity is a reference to various integrated systems that need each other to function in the assigned manner. In other words it's another way of saying the same thing.'

In other words, you don't know what Flew really means by 'intgegrated complexity', but you are convinced by it.

mattghg said...

In other words, you don't know what Flew really means by 'intgegrated complexity', but you are convinced by it.

Talk about putting words into someone's mouth!

in·te·grat·ed / ˈɪntɪˌgreɪtɪd / [in-ti-grey-tid]
–adjective
1. combining or coordinating separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole.

This is a staple feature of ID arguments. It's not such a wild guess to assume that by "integrated complexity" Flew means complexity which is integrated.