Thursday, November 08, 2007

 

Tempest, Meet Teacup


I think the whole Anthony Flew hullabaloo is now officially out of hand.

John Lynch at Stranger Fruit has written about an entry Flew authored on eugenics for Prometheus Books' New Encyclopedia of Unbelief. I've admired for some time John's deep knowledge of the history and philosophy of science and his sober opinions on the blog wars over attitudes of "intolerance" versus "appeasement" at the interface of religion and science.

John's account of the article certainly raises doubts about Flew's views ... not to mention the editor's judgment (unfortunately, since John is also a contributor). But, without more, I'd have to say that it is premature, at least, to throw around terms like "eugenic leanings" in connection with Flew. Now it has been picked up by PZ Myers as "Antony Flew was, and maybe is, a eugenics sympathizer." Supposedly, "This is really going to mess up the great story of his conversion." Naturally, this version of events will now be aired far and wide.

I guess it would be useless to point out that, according to the information given by John, it is likely that Flew wrote the entry on eugenics after his "conversion." Thus, trying to have it both ways ... he converted because he is in mental decline but the eugenics article can be mined for an accurate, rather than confused, account of his beliefs ... might be a tad unjustified.

This near obsession both sides have for one old man and his beliefs is, to say the least, unseemly in the extreme.
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Comments:
I'm just waiting for someone in the atheist camp to say 'See, he believes in God now and is losing his ability to reason the way he used to! Coincidence?'

Christians are notorious for placing anyone who has a conversion of any sort and is a public figure in the spotlight immediately - often with unfortunate results.

Thanks for providing a reasonable attempt to bring calm!
 
I'm just waiting for someone in the atheist camp to say 'See, he believes in God now and is losing his ability to reason the way he used to! Coincidence?'

Have you checked the comments at PZ's blog lately? I'd be surprised if someone hasn't already said something much the same. Of course, that doesn't answer why an Encyclopedia of Unbelief would go ahead and publish it ... can't unbelievers reason well?

And so it goes ...

Thanks for providing a reasonable attempt to bring calm!

For some reason I've always had this penchant for pissing into the wind.
 
> he converted because he is in mental decline

I'd like to point out that I've never claimed this, and I don't really care whether he's declining or not. I don't even really care that he converted.

I do, however, care that he takes a strange view of the history of eugenics and he disses a noted historian while doing so.

I also care to see how the DI - who make a career of decrying Darwin for links to eugenics etc - manage to reconcile their vision of Flew with his writings on this topic.
 
I don't really care whether he's declining or not. I don't even really care that he converted.

John, if that's you, I don't mean to lay any of this at your feet (although you had to know it was pouring gas on an already raging fire). There might have been ways to address your concerns about the historical aspects of Flew's article and even the DI's laying of blame for eugenics on "Darwinists" without giving quite such good fodder to less careful combatants, but that's not my concern here. My point is that this is all part and parcel of a community contest between theists and atheists that has nothing to do with the real issues between them.

I also care to see how the DI - who make a career of decrying Darwin for links to eugenics etc - manage to reconcile their vision of Flew with his writings on this topic.

Do you really? Is there likely to be any surprise? They'll equivocate, misrepresent and, when in doubt, lie outright. They'll say 'that's what a lifetime of atheism will do to a person even after he has taken the first tentative steps toward the Truth™.' Maybe they'll throw in a shot about just how dogmatic atheists are -- that they'll even eat one of their own, if if he does nothing more than adopt a pale bit of deism. This kind of spin ain't hard to do, you know. After all, look at the people the DI has doing it for them.
 
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