33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There is a God, but which God
There has been much said about the authorship of this book. Some have attempted to undermine the book by claiming that it was all or mostly written by Varghese, with Flew in a confused state of mind. Flew himself denied this. It also becomes clear in the style of writing as an essay from Varghese is included in the Appendix. It is the inclusion of this poorly thought out...
Published on 28 May 2010 by S. Meadows
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Flew over to the other side... almost.
While the designation of Flew as `the world's most notorious atheist' might be talking him up somewhat, the book charts the eminent philosopher's journey from arguing for atheism to a deistic position. It discusses his previous arguments for atheism and the rebuttals his oponents made, and moves on to the contemporary arguments that persuaded him to change his mind, and...
Published on 27 Mar 2011 by A Borrowed Flame
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Flew over to the other side... almost.,
This review is from: There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (Paperback)While the designation of Flew as `the world's most notorious atheist' might be talking him up somewhat, the book charts the eminent philosopher's journey from arguing for atheism to a deistic position. It discusses his previous arguments for atheism and the rebuttals his oponents made, and moves on to the contemporary arguments that persuaded him to change his mind, and the ones the didn't.
It's important to note that there has been some controversy with this book. While Flew had already made his change of mind public several years earlier, some felt that Varghese had taken advantage of an old man in mental decline (most notably Mark Oppenheimer's piece in the New York Times). The criticisms have been roundly debunked by a number of people who knew Flew, and indeed, Flew himself offered this clarification:
"I have rebutted these criticisms in the following statement: "My name is on the book and it represents exactly my opinions. I would not have a book issued in my name that I do not 100 per cent agree with. I needed someone to do the actual writing because I'm 84 and that was Roy Varghese's role. The idea that someone manipulated me because I'm old is exactly wrong. I may be old but it is hard to manipulate me. That is my book and it represents my thinking.""
While I don't feel the need to defend the legitimacy of the book against the ad hominem attacks, I was keenly aware of these accusations while reading the book. I noticed a distinct difference between the main text of the book and the appendix attributed specifically to Varghese, and for these reasons, I will continue with the view that the positions put forward are the thoughts of Flew unless specifically stated otherwise.
The first part of the book deals with Flew's career and previous positions and arguments, and I found it very interesting, as well as his appraisal of the debates he has had. One of the things that really struck me about Flew is that he is much more generous and willing to engage and interact with those he disagrees with than might be said about the so called `new atheists'. Indeed it would seem that his former allies in unbelief are even unwilling to give Flew anything beyond scorn. Most of the time he does not go into the arguments in any real detail, often summarising his response in one or two sentences.
The second part deals with the arguments which convinced him that there exists a deistic `infinite Intelligence'. The major arguments he cites are `the laws of nature' - that there appears to be a rational intelligence behind the universe; `fine tuning' - that the universe appears to have been set-up for us; and DNA and emergence of life.
There follows two appendicies. The first is an essay from Varghese entitled "The `New Atheism': a critical appraisal of Dawkins, Dennet, Wolpert, harris, and Stenger. In my opinion, the arguments put forward in this section are rather more inferior than the ones put forward by Flew. The second is a dialogue between Flew and N.T. Wright called "The self-revelation of God in Human history" dealing with the evidence for the resurrection. Flew seems to think that Wright puts forward the best case for the resurrection that he has seen, though while being somewhat open to the claims doesn't seem to find them persuasive. I agree that Wright makes a very good case, and the answers he gives to Flew's questions were very interesting, but inevitably Wright fleshes out these issues in greater depth in his own works.
I don't think the book is intended to be an argument for deist belief so much as a chronicle of Flew's journey and thoughts, and in that sense I doubt it will necessarily change anyone else's mind. It is a shame that his opponents resorted to petty ad hominem attacks on someone following the evidence where they saw it to lead. If you're looking for rigorously defended philosophical or apologetic debate, this is not the book for you. If you want to see what a great philosopher thought and how he changed his mind, this is an interesting read.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There is a God, but which God,
This review is from: There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (Paperback)There has been much said about the authorship of this book. Some have attempted to undermine the book by claiming that it was all or mostly written by Varghese, with Flew in a confused state of mind. Flew himself denied this. It also becomes clear in the style of writing as an essay from Varghese is included in the Appendix. It is the inclusion of this poorly thought out and scientifically illiterate essay at the end that has resulted in this book getting 4 stars instead of 5. The crass nature of this appendix contrasts with the rest of the book greatly.
The main body of the text is a marvelously honest account of the thinking of a great mind. Detailed philosophy has been as accessible as I ever seen it. The arguments are fine and concise. Each chapter could be expanded into a book in itself, and could certainly be the basis for a debate.
However, be under no illusion: this is not a Christian book. While passing references are made to Christianity, and indeed the second appendix is a typical tour-de-force that we have come to expect from Tom Wright, Flew (at the time of his death) was a Deist, not a Christian. This book is very much focussed on ontology.
Given his earlier position in life as an atheist it is good to see the inclusion of many atheistic arguments contained in this book. These are not straw men, as you may find in many other anti-atheistic writings and present the unbeliever with ammo and the believer with food for thought. Likewise, the second half of the book reverses the roles.
249 of 284 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Following the evidence,
This review is from: There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (Hardcover)After fifty years as a leading non-theistic philosopher, whose challenges to theistic thinkers did much to shape the debate about God, Flew declared himself convinced of the existence of a God (although not of any particular religious tradition) in 2004, thereby sending shock-waves through the atheist community.
Unfortunately, several prominent atheists responded to Flew's apostasy with ad hominem assertions about his losing his marbles in his dotage (yes he is getting slower and forgetful, especially of names; but his solo interviews and writings seem lucid, and his arguments should be taken on their own merit), or about his hedging his bets with respect to the afterlife (despite the fact that Flew doesn't believe in an afterlife!).
Part autobiography, part theistic apologetic, Flew's 'last will and testament' There Is a God (written with Roy Abraham Varghese) is a fascinating read that deserves wide circulation and careful consideration.
Flew summarised the reasons for his change of mind in an exclusive 2007 interview with Benjamin Wiker:
'With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a `lucky chance.' If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over... I would add that Dawkins is selective to the point of dishonesty when he cites the views of scientists on the philosophical implications of the scientific data. Two noted philosophers, one an agnostic (Anthony Kenny) and the other an atheist (Nagel), recently pointed out that Dawkins has failed to address three major issues that ground the rational case for God. As it happens, these are the very same issues that had driven me to accept the existence of a God: the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization and the existence of the Universe.'
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rigorous enough - but rather dry,
This review is from: There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (Paperback)For all the excitement that philosopher Anthony Flew's renunciation of lifelong atheism generated, this account of the reasoning process that led to it is a rather flat and curiously unsatisfying read. To be sure, the philosophical arguments are robust enough (though Flew not infrequently draws heavily on others' conclusions to buttress his own), and the even-handed treatment of the counter-arguments refreshing. Flew makes a case for concluding that such elements of the physical world as the fine-tuning of the four fundamental forces and the development of the cell's information-processing capacity point to a divine mind. But this conclusion is delivered in a neutral, detached way that almost invites a `so what ?' in response.
His deity seems to resemble very closely the deistic God so popular with 18th century thinkers, a being who set everything going and then, for all practical purposes, retired from the scene and accordingly demands nothing of us by way of response. Flew's openness to the idea that this God might one day reveal him[sic]self (for example in the way that Christians claim was the case with Jesus) is humble and open-minded, but you almost get the feeling he would greet such a revelation in the same reasoned, deductive way he examines here the arguments for a divine purpose/mind `behind it all': interrogate rather than embrace or befriend. Good as far as it goes, then - but definitely on the dry side.
57 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The evidence leads to agnosticism,
This review is from: There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (Hardcover)This is an interesting book which is worth reading for the seond half. Flew effectively points to, among other things, the futility of atheism now that we know that this Universe had a beginning and we have no explanation for how it started. The fact is we do not know what 'caused' the universe and must therefore remain agnostic as to whether it was caused by an 'uncaused' god or some other Physical law we know nothing about. Flew also effecively shows that the theory of relativity and big bang lend considerable credance to the monotheistiic religions notion of an omniscient God who operates outside of space/time. I think it is true to say that the evidence has led us to this point.
28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Won't change anyone else's mind,
This review is from: There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (Hardcover)Antony Flew may have been one of the 20th century's leading philosophers, but this account of his journey from atheism to deism is distinctly underwhelming. His case is basically argument from design, but he doesn't have any new perspective on this hoary old argument, nor does he address the equally hoary old objections to it. So just why *did* a distinguished philosopher who was the "world's most notorious athiest" argument-from-design compelling in 2004, when he had found it unconvincing for a big portion of the 20th century? On this, Flew's account is disappointingly silent.
The last part of the book is supposedly a discussion of whether "God" has communicated anything to humankind. Co-author Roy Varghese penned "Appendix A", but like his Introduction, it's just a series of pot-and-kettle attacks on Richard Dawkins and the vigourous evisceration of some rather obvious straw men.
"Appendix B" is billed as a "dialogue" between Flew and biblical scholar (and Anglican bishop) NT Wright on the historicity of the Resurrection. But Flew's side of this "dialogue" consists of exactly three one-line questions which absolutely anyone could have asked, while Wright's side covers 20 pages of text. Engagingly written though it is, Appendix B doesn't really have anything to do with the subject of this book, particularly as Flew himself seems ambiguous on whether or not it presents a compelling case for the Resurrection.
Flew also gives a last-minute, out-of-the-blue endorsement of Christianity. Where this comes from is anyone's guess, since it certainly doesn't follow logically from anything Flew discussed up to that point, and it's supported only by some handwaving that Christianity is the sort of religion an omnipotent being would come up with. I'll leave others to try make sense of that, because I certainly can't.
I don't doubt Flew sincerely came to believe in a distant, deistic kind of "God", but if you don't already find argument-from-design compelling, there's nothing new here which will incline you to share that belief.
45 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flew's journey,
32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flew Has Still Got All His Marbles!,
Flew's argument for change of mind is based upon new knowledge of cosmology and biochemistry and his reassessment of his opinions based on logical conclusions from that new knowledge. He is to be congratulated on his candour and certainly should not be subjected to the type of personal abuse that he has received (including from some Amazon reviewers). As he states in the book that he does not actually believe in life after death the critical remarks that he is somehow 'insuring against his death' are as inaccurate as they are offensive.
There is of course no compulsion to believe Flew's new theistic belief anymore than his previous atheistic one but he remains an excellent philosopher and writer whatever your viewpoint (including agnosticism).
Whatever you believe, this book covers a wide range of issues connected with this topic that any thinking person needs to consider and provides a lot of meat on the bones. Any open minded person should find it interesting and if they do not agree with Flew's conclusions, they should ask themselves whether their logic is better or whether something other than logic is at work. Self examination of why we hold longstanding beliefs as Flew has done here does us all good, be we theists, atheists or agnostics. (John Stuart Mill's four points on 'Opinion, Truth and Discussion' in 'On Liberty' are very relevant in this regard.)
There is nothing in this book that should cause any vitriolic reaction unless you have the sort of intolerance and totally closed mind that seems (sadly!)to be even more pervasive amongst some prominent and less prominent modern day atheists than amongst the religious extremists that they so enjoy villifying for those same characteristics.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A valuable contribution,
This book is thoughtful and takes the reader through Flew's intellectual journey. Particularly interesting is his reassessment of some of his old arguments for atheism in the light of his new belief.
4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking Subject,
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There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind by Roy Abraham Varghese (Hardcover - 1 Nov 2007)
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