Friday, February 13, 2009

Flew on Dawkins as a successful but bigoted bully

Antony Flew in First Things with a reply to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion-- who attacked Flew in that book...

The fault of Dawkins as an academic was his scandalous and apparently deliberate refusal to present the doctrine that he appears to think he has refuted in its strongest form.

Thus, we find in his index four references to Einstein. But I find it hard to write with restraint about the obscurantist refusal on the part of Dawkins to make any mention of Einstein’s most relevant report—that there must be a Divine Intelligence behind the physical world.

Of course, many physicists with the highest reputations do not agree with Einstein on this matter. But an academic attacking some ideological position that he believes to be mistaken must, of course, attack that position in its strongest form. This Dawkins does not do in the case of Einstein, and his failure is the crucial index of his insincerity of academic purpose—and therefore warrants me to charge him with having become what he has probably believed to be an impossibility: a secularist bigot.

On page 82 of The God Delusion is a remarkable note. It reads, “We might be seeing something similar today in the over-publicized tergiversations of the philosopher Antony Flew, who announced in his old age that he had been converted to belief in some sort of deity, triggering a frenzy of eager repetition around the Internet.”

What is important about this passage is not what Dawkins is saying about Flew but what he is showing here about Dawkins. For if he had any interest in the truth of the matter of which he was making so much, he would surely have brought himself to write me a letter of enquiry. (When I received a torrent of enquiries after an account of my conversion to deism had been published in the quarterly of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, I managed—I believe—to reply eventually to every letter.)

This whole business makes all too clear that Dawkins is not interested in the truth as such. He is primarily concerned to discredit an ideological opponent by any available means. That would itself constitute sufficient reason for suspecting that the whole enterprise of The God Delusion was not, as it at least pretended to be, an attempt to discover and spread knowledge of the existence or nonexistence of God but rather an attempt—an extremely successful one—to spread the author’s own convictions in this area....


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