Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Conversion in Progress

Antony Flew, the world famous atheist philosopher who began having doubts back in the 1980s about the ability of atheism to explain certain facts about the world and who subsequently became a theist (though not a Christian), has written a book describing the thinking that led him to abandon atheism and embrace theism.

The volume is titled There Is a God and in it Flew, the son of devout Christian parents - his father was a Methodist preacher - recounts how he abandoned his parents' faith at about the age of fifteen, largely under the influence of the problem posed by the unfolding Nazi evil in the 1930s, and how he went on to become one of the most prominent philosophical atheists of the twentieth century. He was committed throughout his career to the principle that one should follow the evidence wherever it leads, and he could never see the evidence he was able to observe leading anywhere but to atheism.

This began slowly to change, though, in the 1980s. Throughout his career he had been in contact with some brilliant Christian thinkers - he knew C.S. Lewis - but by the late 80s the number of outstanding Christian philosophers had multiplied and their work was undermining several of Flew's chief philosophical arguments.

Following hard upon this state of affairs were the developments in cosmology which had been accruing for the past decade. Three questions in particular kept popping up and pointing Flew away from his atheistic assumptions: Where did the laws of nature come from? How did the cosmos come to be so finely tuned for life? And how did complex life arise out of nonliving matter?

Gradually, Flew was led by the evidence to the conclusion that there is indeed a divine mind behind the universe. He had no Damascus road experience, no moment of conversion, just a gradual realization that theism is true.

He is not a Christian and still finds the idea of an afterlife difficult to accept, but he's very open to Christian belief and even includes in his book an appendix written by renowned theologian N.T. Wright, with whom he has been in dialogue, in which Wright lays out the case for the resurrection of Jesus, a case that Flew finds impressive. He concludes with this assessment of Wright's argument: "It is absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful."

It will be interesting as the life of this great thinker draws closer to its end if there are not yet one or two further surprises forthcoming.

There Is a God can be ordered at Hearts and Minds bookstore.


Top 100

The Daily Telegraph of England unveils its list of the 100 most influential conservatives and 100 most influential liberals in America. Like most such lists there's much to quibble with.

For instance, the list of conservatives belies a real failure to understand American conservatism. They have Rudy Giuliani ranked #1, but Giuliani isn't really much of a conservative, and he's certainly not influential. General Petreaus is #2, but I doubt that he has ever publicly stated a political position, and despite his excellent service to our country, he's hardly influential in the realm of conservative ideology. Matt Drudge at #3 deserves to be somewhere on the list, perhaps, as does Newt Gingrich at #4 but certainly neither belongs in the top five. Drudge is best known for his news website, not his political views and although Gingrich is influential his influence is mostly confined to the more cerebral conservatives. The most influential conservative in America actually doesn't appear on the list until #5. You can go to the link to find out who that is.

In my opinion the most influential liberal doesn't show up until #9 on the liberal list. I certainly don't think the number one choice, Bill Clinton, is really all that influential or even all that liberal.

Another reason to not like the list is that Viewpoint doesn't appear anywhere on it. What's up with that?


1984 in 2007

This will make your jugular bulge. The University of Delaware has been requiring students to attend mandatory reeducation and consciousness raising sessions with the Resident Assistants in their housing units. The group FIRE has the details in this press release from last week:

The University of Delaware subjects students in its residence halls to a shocking program of ideological reeducation that is referred to in the university's own materials as a "treatment" for students' incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The Orwellian program requires the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware's residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling for the total dismantling of the program, which is a flagrant violation of students' rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech.

"The University of Delaware's residence life education program is a grave intrusion into students' private beliefs," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "The university has decided that it is not enough to expose its students to the values it considers important; instead, it must coerce its students into accepting those values as their own. At a public university like Delaware, this is both unconscionable and unconstitutional."

The university's views are forced on students through a comprehensive manipulation of the residence hall environment, from mandatory training sessions to "sustainability" door decorations. Students living in the university's eight housing complexes are required to attend training sessions, floor meetings, and one-on-one meetings with their Resident Assistants (RAs). The RAs who facilitate these meetings have received their own intensive training from the university, including a "diversity facilitation training" session at which RAs were taught, among other things, that "[a] racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality."

The university suggests that at one-on-one sessions with students, RAs should ask intrusive personal questions such as "When did you discover your sexual identity?" Students who express discomfort with this type of questioning often meet with disapproval from their RAs, who write reports on these one-on-one sessions and deliver these reports to their superiors. One student identified in a write-up as an RA's "worst" one-on-one session was a young woman who stated that she was tired of having "diversity shoved down her throat."

According to the program's materials, the goal of the residence life education program is for students in the university's residence halls to achieve certain "competencies" that the university has decreed its students must develop in order to achieve the overall educational goal of "citizenship." These competencies include: "Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society," "Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression," and "Students will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality."

At various points in the program, students are also pressured or even required to take actions that outwardly indicate their agreement with the university's ideology, regardless of their personal beliefs. Such actions include displaying specific door decorations, committing to reduce their ecological footprint by at least 20%, taking action by advocating for an "oppressed" social group, and taking action by advocating for a "sustainable world."

In the Office of Residence Life's internal materials, these programs are described using the harrowing language of ideological reeducation. In documents relating to the assessment of student learning, for example, the residence hall lesson plans are referred to as "treatments."

This Orwellian brain-washing is precisely what totalitarians have done everywhere they've had the power. Now it's being done by the lefties at Delaware. I'll be sure to scratch that school off the list of possible destinations for my college-bound child. I think I'll also send them a DVD of The Lives of Others. It's a movie the apparatchiks at Delaware should find inspiring.

UPDATE: The chairman of the University politburo, Patrick Harker, sensing the PR disaster that this program has turned into, has ordered it be terminated. Good decision, comrade.