The best I can say after reading and then rereading Mark Oppenheimer’s article, “The Turning of an Atheist,” in today’s New York Times Magazine ( http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/magazine/04Flew-t.html ) is that Antony Flew is not the man he once was and has been out of touch for some time. Readers of PT will recall his recent conversion to deism, which he based on the “teaching” of the old-earth creationist, Gerald Schroeder. Professor Flew recanted his acceptance of Schroeder but maintained his belief in a god - a deistic god, however, not a personal god, and certainly not the God of Christianity.
Now, according to Mr. Oppenheimer, Professor Flew acquiesced when Roy Abraham Varghese, an eastern-rite Catholic, ghost-wrote a book under Professor Flew’s name. Much of the manuscript was book-doctored by an evangelical pastor, Bob Hostetler. Though Professor Flew allegedly vetted the book, it is hard to know how much he truly approved of; he freely told Mr. Oppenheimer that he suffers from a form of aphasia and did not recognize the names of several philosophers mentioned in the book. Similarly, he could not recall conversations that took place in the last year or two and could not define certain words used frequently in the book. Professor Flew is 84 years old.
Mr. Oppenheimer makes a valiant attempt not to conclude that Professor Flew is being exploited, at least not deliberately. It is a noble effort, but it is hard to agree with him.
References. We have discussed Professor Flew several times on PT; see, for example, my “Antony Flew’s Conversion to Deism,” http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000687.html , and two updates at http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000723.html and http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/01/more_on_antony.html .
See also my paper, “The Young Antony Flew,” http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/exclusive/young_01-05.htm , a Free Inquiry Web exclusive, where I discuss the famous paper, “Theology and Falsification,” and conclude that “the young Antony Flew would never have embraced an argument based solely on a lack of empirical evidence.”
Anyone interested in Gerald Schroeder might want to read Victor Stenger’s Free Inquiry piece, “Flew’s Flawed Science,” http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/stenger_25_2.html .
Mark Perakh’s “Not a Very Big Bang about Genesis,” http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Schroeder.cfm ,
or my “The Bible as a Science Text,” http://www.mines.edu/fs_home/users/mmyoung/public_html/BkRevs.htm .