One of the 20th century’s most renowned atheists and influential philosophers has accused Professor Richard Dawkins – of The God Delusion fame – of being ‘a secularist bigot’ and amateur in his use of academic scholarship.
Professor Antony Flew, now 85 and Emeritus Professor at Reading University, was for decades internationally regarded as one of the foremost philosophical authorities. His works were studied by hundreds of thousands of students, and it was his intelligence combined with profoundly atheistic views that led him to be one of the foremost opponents of Christianity in the western world.
His attack on Professor Dawkins, the former Oxford don, comes just months after he shook the academic world by publishing the reasons that he – ‘the world’s most notorious atheist’ – has changed his mind. He now believes in a ‘Divine Intelligence’ as a result of both scientific evidence and philosophical argument. His book, There is a God, was published in November 2007.
Lack of contents
Professor Flew’s attack on Dawkins was published on a Christian website which seeks to use such arguments to persuade students at British universities. The website http://www.Bethinking.org is run by the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF).
Whilst Flew acknowledges the remarkable achievement of The God Delusion in selling over a million copies, he declares: ‘What is much more remarkable is that the contents – or rather lack of contents – of this book show Dawkins himself to have become what he and his fellow secularists typically believe to be an impossibility: namely, a secularist bigot’.
Flew continues: ‘The fault of Dawkins as an academic was his scandalous and apparently deliberate refusal to present the doctrine which he appears to think he has refuted in its strongest form. Thus we find in his index five references to Einstein.
‘They are to the mask of Einstein; Einstein on morality; on a personal God; on the purpose of life; and finally on Einstein’s religious views. But he makes no mention of Einstein’s most relevant report: namely, that the integrated complexity of the world of physics has led him to believe that there must be a Divine Intelligence behind it.
‘An academic attacking some ideological position which she/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 in charging him with having become, what he has probably believed to be an impossibility, a secularist bigot’.
Professor Flew also takes issue with Dawkins over an allegation in the book (p. 82) that ‘we might be seeing something similar today in the over-publicised tergiversation 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 all around the Internet)’.
Flew says: ‘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 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.
‘This whole business makes all too clear that Dawkins is not interested in the truth as such but 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 non-existence of God but rather an attempt – an extremely successful one – to spread the author’s own convictions in this area’.