April Podcast Highlight

In addition to Reflections, I also discuss critical thinking, reason, logic, and current issues in light of the historic Christian worldview on my podcast, Straight Thinking, along with my Reasons to Believe (RTB) colleague Dave Rogstad and podcast host Joe Aguirre. In case you missed them, here are some episode highlights from the past several weeks.

Jesus and Judaism: An Interview with Dr. Michael Brown” – Hebrew scholar and prolific author Michael Brown joins us in studio to talk about the nature of modern Judaism and its relationship with Christianity.

iStock_000019518053SmallFaith and Medicine: An Interview with Physician Perry Santos” –Perry Santos, a friend of RTB, answers questions about the ways in which his Christian worldview influences his medical practice. We also discuss the relationship between our physical bodies––with a great description from his physician’s perspective on the design of our bodies––and spiritual lives, the difficulty of pain and suffering, and Dr. Santos’ own journey of faith and involvement with RTB.

Fear of Religion” – Do some naturalists fear that religion may be true? This is the question we explore on this podcast episode. We talk about the rational and nonrational (though not necessarily irrational) factors that shape the reasons we hold to our worldviews, be they theistic or nontheistic. In particular, we focus on the writing of Thomas Nagel, a distinguished American atheist philosopher and professor of law at New York University.

Why All Religions Can’t Lead to God” – Religious pluralism, the idea that all faiths are equally true, is a popular outlook these days––as demonstrated by the film (and book) Life of Pi. But when examined in light of the major differences between the world religions and sound logic, pluralism falls far short of being a viable perspective. We discuss the pitfalls of this much-admired opinion.

You can also catch me on I Didn’t Know That!, an RTB podcast where the scholars give unscripted answers to listener questions and provide practical apologetics and evangelism tips.

4 responses to “April Podcast Highlight

  1. Very interesting “Fear of Religion” podcast Ken, many thanks.
    If I may respond to a few of your points:

    “Maybe we come to the conclusion we *wanna* come to!?”
    For me this is a key point. From a skeptic’s viewpoint this is exactly what skeptic activism is about addressing. It’s clear that we use post hoc rationalisation all the time, cherry picking evidence and quote mining to back up a position that we had originally arrived at without logic or rationality. Skepticism is a methodology to avoid exactly that pitfall.

    “Are you skeptical of your skepticism? Do you doubt that you doubt?”
    Yes! As a skeptic I regularly compare my world view with others and evaluate how successful they are. So far, rational, logical, scientific skepticism has been the backbone of all the great scientific achievements in history. If I hear of a spiritual activity that measurably improves the quality of people’s lives, I shall investigate.

    “Evolution has brought me to false beliefs? Why can I trust in it?”
    I like this one! It’s quite clever.
    You can “trust” evolution through natural selection because it’s such a far-reaching scientific theory, supported by huge amounts of data that is freely available and easy to understand. A visit to a zoo is a good starting point. A skeptical approach towards evolution is completely sensible. However the only logical conclusion, in my opinion, is that the process has happened, and is happening all around us. There are no alternative hypotheses at all from within naturalism, and as soon as you invoke something supernatural you’re no longer within the reach of science. There are no scientific alternatives to evolution through natural selection. It’s therefore logical to “trust” it. The fact that we have evolved a tendency to believe in the stories we tell each other has very little to do with the science of evolution itself. But nice try!

    Rebellion as reason for naturalistic world view (sorry, I missed the direct quote).
    I can see how this might explain some youthful proclamations regarding religion, but if you are inferring that all the scientific body of knowledge that has been acquired over the centuries through the process of rational, logical scientific inquiry stems from a Brando-like (“wadda ya got?”) teen rebellion urge, well, I’ll go see where I put that biker jacket!

    I appreciate your quite brave acknowledgment of your fears regarding life after death. I get the impression that you are indeed more thoughtful about interesting and important matters than many people who proclaim to be atheists. I do feel, however, that you are committing the very fallacy, post hoc rationalisation, that you warn us of at the beginning of the podcast.

    really fascinating! Thanks again.

  2. Hi, Adam.

    I appreciate you listening to our podcast. And thanks for your comments. Thoughtful and friendly as usual.

    I think there are two big issues here that are potential logical defeaters for the worldview of naturalism. We’ve touched upon them in our past interactions briefly but I think they deserve greater attention. I’ll simply state them here but offer links to articles where I attempt to spell them out in more detail.

    If you have the time and interest I would invite you to read these articles and then to offer your comments in response. I would appreciate hearing more of your thinking concerning these two topics. I can benefit from hearing where you think the arguments are weak.

    1. Evolution Undercuts the Truth of Naturalism:

    Human minds that have evolved through purely natural processes via the mechanism of natural selection (survival of the species) have no good reason to trust the content (truth-claims) of their cognitive faculties.

    See my article: http://www.reasons.org/articles/darwin-s-doubt

    1. Naturalism Fails to Justify Science:

    Naturalism as a worldview cannot justify the philosophical assumptions that are necessary to make the scientific enterprise possible.

    See my article: http://www.reasons.org/articles/the-historic-alliance-of-christianity-and-science

    Again if you’ve got the time and the interest I would value your thoughtful comments to these two articles.

    My best regards.

  3. Thanks Ken,
    I really enjoyed your Darwin’s Doubt article! I think it clarifies your position nicely.
    There are quite a number of points to address in it, but, rather than address them sequentially, I’d like to start by trying to explain my general position about this.
    Firstly, if Darwin doubted some of the implications of his work, this would fit nicely with what we know about him. He was constantly wracked with self-doubt regarding his abilities as a scientist, and an intellectual, often recording in his diaries that he felt like a tongue-tied idiot in the company of his witty colleagues. He also spent an enormously long time sitting on his work before publishing, only finally revealing the details after being approached by Wallace who had independently come to almost the exact same theory. This is a crucial point. Darwin may well have been flawed, in some kind of internal conflict, unprepared, with fewer details than he would have liked at the time of publication, but he was only the discoverer of a process, and not even alone in doing so. His description is not definitive, and perhaps our current understanding of evolution is also not definitive. It doesn’t matter. He recognized a process that is easy to recognize when you look for it, and I believe it was only a matter of time before someone did it.
    I think of Darwin as the Christopher Columbus of evolution. Columbus wasn’t actually the first man to reach the Americas, but their discovery by Europeans at that time holds a cultural significance. We hang the cultural awareness of the Americas on Columbus, just as we refer to Darwin’s theory. Einstein’s theory of relativity is provable, testable, and correct with or without the guy with the mad hair and wild eyes. Such scientific discoveries are greater than the people to make them.

    Naturalism Postulates a Nonrational Source for Man’s Rationality.

    This sounds like a paradox, but it isn’t. Among the jumble of confused thinking, we as a species have managed to stumble upon a mechanism that has resulted in the building blocks of all scientific and technological advancements. Thousands of years ago we began to measure things. One of the first recorded instances was Eratosthenes, who calculated the circumference of the Earth around 240BC!
    He was about 2% out, but not bad.
    This was the beginning of recording, measuring, experimenting and repeating those experiments. Finally, perhaps 200,000 years after evolving these large frontal lobes, we began to put them to some real use!
    Evolutionarily you could say that such ability is epiphenomenal, that our huge and complex brains came about though sexual selection. Those who could communicate more clearly were perhaps more attractive. There are multiple possibilities within evolution as to why we are so brainy. Although it is true that the understanding of the complexities of scientific theories have few evolutionary advantages in themselves, which may explain why so many people struggle to grasp them, these theories still hold, because they are falsifiable.
    To doubt and to have flaws, these are part and parcel of science. Each scientist stands of the shoulders of giants, but they may well have been giants with problems, illogical beliefs, doubts. Today’s science stands on the work of these giants, and to see how far we have come, you just have to look around. Vaccines could not function if evolution were not true. What we see in DNA is evidence alone that evolution exists, ignoring the vast and growing fossil record, and the intricate tree of life that our research into DNA draws out is a profound wonder.
    Evolution’s relationship with naturalism and the rest of science in general is intricate, intimate, parallel and elegant. Just as we measure and test and experiment, we are imitating evolution. With each new hypothesis we are stepping into a new environment, with each test we are remaining extant or going extinct. With each conclusion we are passing on our knowledge to the next generation that can form another hypothesis based on the new environment they find themselves Science is intellectual evolution.
    Anyone forming a philosophical argument based on the idea that there is a paradox here needs to, in my opinion, take a look at the evidence that’s all around us.
    To claim that naturalism and evolution are in any way discordant is fantastical to me. I’m genuinely at a loss when trying to answer such an accusation.
    This is where I bow out a little, because I’m no philosopher, so when I see an argument that makes no logical sense to me, and that offers no evidence to support it, regretfully I’m left without a meaningful response.
    On your next point, I differ from Dawkins slightly, perhaps more in tone than in content. For me there’s a clear delineation between what we know about the world and what people chose to believe. If you make claims that can be falsified (“the earth is 6000 years old”), you’re stepping on the toes of science, and it’s only fair, in my opinion, if you are publicly and swiftly corrected. If, however, you make a claim that I cannot falsify (“there is only one true god who created everything and hears my thoughts”), I personally doubt that claim, but because there’s nothing scientific about it, I have nothing to say.
    So, regarding the evolution of religious and irrational beliefs, I feel that the jury is perhaps still out. There are still many mysteries about how we came to be the way we are. In my view, the only way to solve them is through scientific exploration, and we still have some way to go.
    I’m a little out of depth here, but regarding a god, if such a god gave us the ability to reason, and scientific methodology, why leave it until so late on in our existence? Why allow all that suffering for so long, only to finally allow us access to meaningful medical intervention in the 20th century, nearly 2000 years after the savior figure died for us? All those believers in the Middle Ages who died of the plague, in childbirth, starvation, why make so many suffer only to now allow me to live in a wonderfully safe techno-heaven with healthcare when I deny his existence, I blaspheme and sin, and, along with the growing middle class of communist China for example, I have no use for a deity?
    To be clear, that’s my personal view, explained rather crudely, and I respect people who believe in something I find impossible to believe in. I only address this issue because your article talks explicitly about God and reason. My intention is not to offend anyone, although I understand that some of what I write could be see that way.
    My main concern is false scientific claims.

    The second article you link to is also very interesting. Unfortunately, all the points I would most like to challenge are supported with references to scripture, and as I imagine you may have guessed, I don’t recognize any religious texts as very reliable historical documents. For example, when you use the premise that we are uniquely made in God’s image, and then refer to Genesis as evidence, I hope you’ll understand that I’m unable to accept that premise.

    Many thanks for your reply, and sorry for the delay in my response, but I’ve been unusually busy.

    Kind regards

  4. Adam:

    Sorry for the delay in responding but I had another writing assignment to complete.

    Thank you very much for reading my articles and for responding to them with thoughtfulness and respect. I will continue to think about some of the points that you made in your response.

    All the best.

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