01/01/08
By Denyse O'Leary 08:40:01 pm, Categories: Commentary - OpEd, 766 words English (CA)
Antony Flew, God, and the Evidence: A review of There IS a God
by Denyse O'Leary
ARN correspondent

On December 9, 2004, an Associated Press story story went out on the wires, "Famous Atheist Now Believes in God: One of World's Leading Atheists Now Believes in God, More or Less, Based on Scientific Evidence."

More? Or less? As it turns out, neither. He believes in God simply on the scientific evidence. Many might consider that thin gruel, but he is entitled to cite the evidence in his defense. And there is a lot of it.

Flew's change of mind was a watershed, one that has been obscured by the considerable efforts of major legacy media to discredit the story, by attempting to show that Flew is senile and/or didn't write the book. Actually, legacy media played a key role in this story, a role whose significance one must consider carefully: interfering with public understanding of the significance of Flew's change of mind. But just why did so many industry mavens felt so threatened?

First, why even call them legacy media? Aren't they online as well as in print? Yes, they are on line. But it is their attitudes that are history, not the technology. Their fatal weakness is that they operate on the assumptions that have driven print publication for centuries, not on the assumptions that drive Internet publication today. For example, they assume that readers have limited choices and poor judgment in sources of information, and need their sophisticated and skeptical journalists to act as a filter to tell us how to see the world. In reality, today's reader, at least in the Western world, has vast choices of information and many ways of looking at the world. Legacy media have been losing circulation and ad lineage rapidly as a result.

Look at it this way: If people really believed that Antony Flew had not written There Is a God , the publisher would be compelled by decency to withdraw the work. After all, few care to know why Roy Abraham Varghese is a Catholic of some sort or Bishop N. T. Wright is an Anglican, especially if they and their publisher Harper One* were indeed guilty of the deception implied. But as of 11:08 am EST January 1, 2008, There IS a God was #995 on Amazon.com, which is pretty good for a book about philosophy. So we can count the campaign to discredit the book as failed.

But now, as to why so many felt so threatened: Many media celebrities are comfortable with a view of reality in which science is about facts and God is about fantasies or irrelevancies. If Flew had had a big religious conversion, joined a sect, and was now banging on doors handing out tracts, they could laugh and forget him. Silly old man. Too bad after all these years ...

But that's not what happened. He did not have an experiential religious conversion. He changed his mind based on the evidence from science, particularly evidence that has come to light only in the past fifty years. He believes, based on the evidence, that there is a mind behind the universe, that the universe is top down not bottom up. Worse still, he reveals in the book that many leading twentieth century scientists - including Einstein, who has often been described as an atheist - thought the same thing. He explains why they thought so and why he thinks so, in a way that is well within the grasp of an average reader. Such a careful elucidation is devastating to the recent, intellectually shallow anti-God campaign, puffed by the same legacy media and typically driven by people with a big mad on about Judeaeo-Christian religion - and little else to recommend them to broad public attention.

But now, who was Flew and why should we pay attention to his change of mind?

*Harper One is also the publisher of The Spiritual Brain, but I have been critical of their handling of the Flew book here.

Part One: Antony Flew sought to make the best case for atheism
Part Two: Following the argument wherever it leads
Part Three: Rediscovering the God of the Philosophers
Part Four: Einstein's God and Antony Flew

Next: Part One: Antony Flew sought to make the best case for atheism

Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul (Harper 2007).