Monday 17 March 2008

Flew from rags to riches

There is a very good book review in this week's Catholic Herald, written by Peter Mullen who is, I think, an Anglican. It concerns a new book by the philosopher Anthony Flew, engagingly titled: There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. And it does just what it says on the tin.
Flew for all his life was, well, the thinking man's Richard Dawkins. He was a pungent proponent of atheism, and the announcement of his 'conversion' was greeted with huge intakes of breath from various quarters. I put the word conversion into inverted commas because he is not converted to Catholicism or even Christianity, merely to Theism. But the conversion seems very sincere, and his arguments have a particular force, coming from one who so profoundly held their contrary so recently. I shall be sure to get this book, maybe some time soon. The arguments as summarized by Peter Mullen have whetted my appetite.
Did the universe come into being by chance? Flew examines the famous monkeys and typewriters argument, by which it is argued that, given an infinite supply of monkeys and an infinite supply of typewriters, they would together eventually produce the works of Shakespeare. Flew does the maths and demonstrates that "...if you took the entire universe and converted it to computer chips - forget the monkeys - if you turn the entire universe into these microcomputer chips and these chips were spinning a million times a second producing random letters, the number of trials you would get since the beginning of time would be 10 to the 90th trials. You will never get even a single sonnet by chance - let alone the complete works. The universe would have to be 10 to the 600th times larger. Yet the atheists think the monkeys can do it every time."
You can read the review here, on the Catholic Herald's splendid new website.

And now we need to pray for Richard Dawkins. Am I alone in detecting a desperation in his arguments? Does he not find them particularly convincing himself?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dawkins is on record as saying that he likes the "poetry" of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs, but that doesn't mean that he accepts the religious message of these two books. Of course you don't have to accept the message of a work of art in order to be able to appreciate it, but there are 47 books in the Old Testament and I do wonder what it is that attracts Dawkins to these in particular. Perhaps there is something deep in his psyche which realises the vanity of the world and which longs for a deep, passionate relationship with God? Maybe the vehemence and irrationality of his polemic is a sign that he is fighting against something, the existence of which within himself he does not wish to admit. Of course it could all go wrong. Pride may win out in the end. But my intuition is that if Dawkins does "convert", he will be a very holy and saintly man. A second Augustine perhaps? Et inquietum cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.