Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Antony Flew's Review

Antony Flew, emeritus professor of philosophy at Reading University in the U.K., has written a review of Darwinian Conservatism in the October-November issue of Right Now!, a British conservative journal.

Flew is famous as a philosopher who has written some of the classic philosophic texts arguing for atheism. He was an active participant in C. S. Lewis's Socratic Club. But while he was impressed by Lewis's thoughtful and fair-minded defense of theism, he was not persuaded.

So when he began a few years ago to suggest that the argument for "intelligent design" had led him to change his mind and question his atheism, this became an international news story. The history of Flew's thinking can be found in various places, including this Wikipedia article. It seems, however, that even if Flew is no longer a strict atheist, he has moved more towards deism rather than theism. He wonders whether the complex order of the universe doesn't point to God as First Cause. But he doesn't see this God as having the personal attributes of the Biblical God, and he doesn't believe in an afterlife.

This resembles my position, which is that the quest for ultimate explanations--the search for an uncaused cause--leads us to a fundamental choice between Nature or Nature's God as the unexplainable ground of all explanation.

Since Flew's review is not available online, I will quote it in its entirety here:

"The author of the present book is an American with, primarily, American readers in mind. He therefore, when thinking about Darwin's theory of the origin of species, cannot fail to be reminded that when, early in the 20th century that theory began to be taught in public schools, William Jennings Bryan supported legislation in the State of Tennessee prohibiting any teaching of evolution as denying the Biblical teaching that human beings were directly created by God. Today's well financed campaign to establish that the universe itself is the product of intelligent design points to the fabulous integrated complexity of the world of living creatures as itself the strongest evidence of intelligent design.

"Larry Arnhart's thesis in this book, which I think he proves abundantly, is that the constraints of our biological nature explode the most persistent delusion of the Left: 'that man is so malleable that he can be reshaped or transformed through political actions.' Consequently, a Darwinian politics is a largely conservative politics.

"When Harvard University biologist Edward Wilson argued that sociobiology should study the biological roots of human nature, he was attacked by those on the Left. What bothered the Leftists, Wilson explained, was 'the threat perceived to the core concept of their belief system--namely, that there is no human nature, that human behaviour and human social institutions are entirely the product of economic forces and culture; in other words, that human beings can be shaped by imposing an ideal social order.'

"Larry Arnhart is to be commended for producing an excellent book about conservative thought."


Paul said...
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Paul said...

Nobody could accuse Flew of being boring and consistent. Every day he has a different opinion.