Antony Flew Receives Award From Intelligent Design Community

La Mirada, Calif. — British philosopher Antony Flew, once considered the most prominent defender of atheism in the English-speaking world, will accept the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth on May 11 from Biola University, a Christian university in Southern California.

Flew, 83, argued in books such as God and Philosophy (1966) and The Presumption of Atheism (1984) that one should presuppose atheism until evidence for God proves otherwise. Then, in 2004, the Oxford-educated philosopher stunned the intellectual world by relinquishing his long-held atheism, claiming that the natural sciences supplied evidence for the existence of a designing intelligence. Flew said that he simply “had to go where the evidence leads.”

The Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth was given to Flew for his lifelong commitment to free and open inquiry and to standing fast against intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression. Flew drew scorn from skeptics following his shift in views. When informed that he was this year’s award winner, he remarked, “In light of my work and publications in this area and the criticism I’ve received for changing my position, I appreciate receiving this award.”

Biola University established the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth in 2004 to honor legal scholar and Berkeley law professor Phillip E. Johnson, who was the award’s first recipient. The award recognizes Johnson’s pivotal role in advancing our understanding of design in the universe by opening up informed dissent to Darwinian and materialistic theories of evolution. Flew is the second recipient of this award, which will be presented on May 11 at Biola University through the university’s Masters of Arts in Science and Religion (MASR) program.

Educated at Oxford following World War II, Flew frequented the weekly meetings of Christian scholar C. S. Lewis’s Socratic Club. Unpersuaded by Lewis’s apologetic and becoming an outspoken defender of atheism, Flew nonetheless advocated the intellectual freedom of scholars of all stripes to challenge reigning orthodoxies and to ask forbidden questions. 

Flew received the Oxford University Prize in Philosophy in 1947.  He was a lecturer in philosophy at Christ Church, Oxford from 1949 to 1950, followed by four years as a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, and 20 years as professor of philosophy at the University of Keele. Between 1973 and 1983 he was professor of philosophy at the University of Reading. Upon his retirement he took half-time posts from 1983 to 1985 at York University, Toronto and from 1986 to 1991 at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

Excerpts from Dr. Flew’s Acceptance Speech

"I am tonight delighted to be back again in Biola University in order to accept, most gratefully, the 2006 Philip E. Johnson Liberty and Truth Award.

I've been told that the donors of the award were hoping that I would give some brief remarks on academic freedom and/or on what influenced my own changes of view which have led to my becoming - like the young Mr. Jefferson who drafted the Declaration of Independence - a Deist.

About the pursuit of truth, which is the justification for academic freedom, the best thing I can do is to quote the methodological recommendation which Plato scripted his Socrates to make in that first and greatest classic of political philosophy, The Republic. It was, and I quote, "We must follow the argument wherever it leads."

My change of theological views has been from a very far from militant atheism to Deism. In speaking to, or writing for, my fellow professional philosophers I write or speak only about Aristotle's God, who was not concerned with or about human beliefs or behavior. But in speaking to an audience in the United States I cannot do better than to say that I have become, like the young Mr. Jefferson who drafted the Declaration of Independence, a Deist.

The Deist God, unlike the God of the Jewish, Christian, Islamic or any other Revelation is neither interested in nor concerned about either human beliefs or human behavior. What eventually became my theological best-seller, God and Philosophy, was originally intended only to fill the "religion slot" in set of five works intended to provide a comprehensive introduction to philosophy. In that book I quoted a remark made by Einstein, to the effect that he had become aware of an intelligence behind the inordinate, integrated complexity of the physical world.

What, as a physicist, he did not go on to say was that, if the integrated complexity of the world of physics provided a sufficient reason to postulate an antecedent divine intelligence, then the unmeasurably greater complexity of the biological world constitutes a far more compelling reason to postulate an antecedent divine Intelligence."

Watch Interviews with Antony Flew By Lee Strobel