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Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Antony Flew

Okay, this is disturbing. Be sure to read the journalist's account on Page 5 of his conversation with Flew.

(Via Pharyngula and Daylight Atheism)


Alon Levy said...

I don't think it's that disturbing. At my department, perfectly cogent professors forget conversations with grad students, or even being on a student's oral exam committee; why can't something similar have happened with Flew and Carrier?

Lynet said...

It's not Flew and Carrier so much. The article directly implies that Flew is not in possession of all his faculties -- essentially, that he's being manipulated in his old age. That could be bias on the part of the reporter, I suppose. Furthermore, since Flew says he suffers from an inability to remember names, it could be that he doesn't know the names of the people he quotes or refers to in the book he supposedly co-wrote purely because of that. I don't know if an inability to define 'abiogenesis' comes under the same rubric.

The point is, though, that the book is being sold as if it's by Flew, when in fact Varghese did a lot of the work, and it's unclear to what extent Flew understands the arguments in it, even.

I don't know for sure. Maybe it is just bias on the part of the reporter and the places I originally read about it. "His mind is going" does sound like the sort of feeble excuse you might come up with offhandedly for an atheist who could be persuaded, in his old age, that the book of Genesis was actually describing the Big Bang. Perhaps the accusation is spurious. Do you think so?

Alon Levy said...

I suspect so... though it's partly an issue of trusting the people who're making the accusation. I'd believe this accusation more if it came from someone who comes off as both impartial and close to Flew. Paul Kurtz may have known Flew personally, but he also heads the largest secularist thinktank in the US.

My guess, without having read the book, is that Flew had some input, but wasn't the primary author. At least Varghese was credited; ghostwriters rarely are. I have no idea who actually wrote Living History.

His inability to remember things he refers to in the book is more ominous, but again, it doesn't have to be. I don't remember the name and precise political arguments of every minor character in my book, and I forget words in languages I've invented.