The lowest form of debate is one where both sides cite luminaries who take their position. You're an atheist, so you go on and on about how Einstein was an atheist, how Mother Teresa was full of doubt, how Lance Armstrong calls himself at least an agnostic. You're a theist, so you seize on stories of famous atheists who converted to theism, or famous scientists who believe.
Naturally, I'm completely beyond such nonsense. Er, well, almost. As a non-believer, it does kind of bug me seeing the title of the new book by long-time atheist Anthony Flew--There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. But I'm happy to report this week is getting off to a fun start. There's a priceless article in the New York Times magazine today about how Flew's book was written. He wasn't quite tortured by evangelicals, but the journalist makes a very convincing case he didn't write the book.
Now, you might say, what does it matter who really wrote it? The important thing is the arguments! But of course to the intelligent design crowd behind the book, Flew's name on the cover has all the importance in the world. Apparently they've been courting him for 20 years.
If the journalist is right, the book was doubly ghost written--mainly by Roy Abraham Varghese (who is listed as a co-author), a guy without academic credentials who runs an intelligent design foundation in Dallas. And secondarily, to make it read better, by an evangelical pastor hired by HarperOne.
It's not that Flew hasn't decided to embrace a very minimalist belief system--"Aristotelian Deism," as he calls it--but that you can't take the argumentation in the book seriously as his own. The journalist says what's in the book is standard intelligent design fare, and little that comes distinctly and originally from Flew.