By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
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Flew, now 84, says his atheism was shaken loose by recent scientific discoveries, namely the evidence of the Big Bang, which assumes a beginning of the universe; DNA and the unlikelihood of a naturalistic explanation for its enormous complexity; and the lack of plausible theories explaining the first self-replicating forms of life. "I don't know that anyone has offered any sort of theory," he says of reproduction. "[It's] a virtually insoluble problem."
Yet Flew most certainly hasn't revealed himself a theist in the Christian, Judaic or Islamic sense. In a BBC Radio interview in March 2005, Flew tossed aside the notion of a deity actively engaged in the universe. He also rejects the existence of an afterlife, strangely citing the same reasoning that riles evangelical atheists: the unpleasantness of the biblical God. "If I believed...I would get very worried indeed," he says, "because...the facts of the universe suggest that it's run by this, you know, this [evil] sort of being."
Flew refused to comment for this article. According to Varghese, he is irritated with many of the subsequent interviews—which he claims misrepresented his views—in the wake of his change of heart. But his refusal to be interviewed seems due as much to commerce as annoyance. Flew and Varghese are currently collaborating on a book titled There Is a God that will articulate Flew's position and the evidence and thinking that brought him there. Varghese says the publisher has asked that Flew abstain from interviews until the book is released in November.
Varghese is working on other books exploring life after death, evolution with an "elaborate critique of Richard Dawkins' many errors" and what he loosely describes as "the 10 truths that keep you from going crazy." But he suggests his work with Flew has been his most fulfilling.
Varghese resolutely insists the origins of life and reproduction will never be explained in purely material terms. Science will never unravel the mysteries of thought, consciousness and self-awareness. These are not scientific phenomena, he says. They're irreducible to scientific methodology. "To give an analogy, you can never study/observe the concept of justice in a test-tube," he writes in an e-mail. He's probably right.
Still, it seems wise to remain open to the unexpected strangeness of science. Just two months after that 2005 lunch meeting at Perry's where Varghese rhapsodized on the wonders and mysteries of hovering bees, researchers from the California Institute of Technology and University of Nevada Las Vegas announced a startling discovery based on evidence from high-speed digital photography and sophisticated robotics. After 70 years of confounding confusion, scientists had finally unraveled the secrets of bee flight.