by Denyse O'Leary
Flew makes clear that, despite his advanced age (84 as of this writing) his change of mind was not motivated by fear of death. He still does not think he will survive death (p. 2) - despite Bishop Wright's appendix on special revelation.
That's quite interesting, because a separate line of enquiry, as explored in Mario Beauregard's and my The Spiritual Brain makes an evidence-based argument for the existence of the soul that does not directly depend on an argument for God. The two subjects are distinct. God might exist but not souls, or souls might exist but not God (as Buddhists think, for example). At any rate, Flew faces mortality as a final extinguishment - convinced nonetheless that God exists, based on evidence.
Recounting his adventures in philosophy, Flew provides an answer to a question that had long puzzled me: Where did the intelligent design theorists get their slogan, "Follow the evidence wherever it leads!" It seems to have originated in Plato's account of Socrates' command in The Republic, to "Follow the argument wherever it leads." (p. 22) This exhortation formed the basis of the Oxford Socratic Club, of which Christian apologist C.S. Lewis was president (1942-1954) and of which Flew was a member - and a leading exponent of the principle. Somehow (at least by p. 42), this transmutes to "following the evidence wherever it may lead."
One place it led Flew was the realization that the hot and heavy reasons that caused him to embrace atheism at age 15 were not adequate for a philosopher. He vowed to place atheism on more solid foundations, and sought to construct the best general arguments he could find. In matters of this sort, he was no dogmatist and he could not afford to be. He changed his mind when he saw an intellectual reason to do so, and gives several examples (p. 56ff).
Always, he seemed to be in search of the best and finest arguments, the way a curator with a budget is in search of the best and finest works for a collection. No more would Flew allow an inferior argument than such a curator would allow an inferior artifact.
And then, after reflecting on the many arguments he developed during his life against the existence of God, Flew explained in May 2004, at a symposium at New York University,
To the surprise of all concerned, I announced at the start that I now accepted the existence of a God. What might have been an intense exchange of opposing views ended up as a joint exploration of the developments in modern science that seemed to point to a higher Intelligence. (p. 74)
His primary reason was the way in which DNA seems to be a language that looks like "the work of intelligence" (p. 75).
Flew's change of mind, based on the language of DNA, was consistent with the Socratic principle on which he had based his philosophical career, "following the argument no matter where it leads." As it happens, it led into a storm of controversy.
Next: Part Three: Rediscovering the God of the Philosophers
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