Friday, May 1, 2009

TLS on radio

Here you can find an archive of my interview Thursday night on The Jim Bohannon Show regarding The Last Superstition. It begins roughly one-third into the broadcast. We had a vigorous exchange, though I think we ended up talking past each other to some extent. And then there was the caller who wanted to turn the discussion into a debate about the Rapture, with Jim to all appearances happy to oblige. I thought it best at that point to sit back for a while and let them go at it.


  1. Dr. Feser,

    I didn't listen to every second so forvive me if you did this, but why didn't you ask Bohannon his naturalistic basis for ascribing objective evil to children dying, the holocaust, etc?

  2. That Jim Bohannon.... wow.
    Kind of a goofball.
    I mean, what the hell is he talking about?

    He sure loves his science.... I guess. Despite the fact he has close to little understanding about it and its metaphysical underpinnings.

  3. "He sure loves his science.... I guess. Despite the fact he has close to little understanding about it and its metaphysical underpinnings."

    I think it goes even deeper than that. It seemed not so much as if he understood little about the *relationship* between metaphysics, or philosophy in general, and science, but as if he was almost completely unaware of the *distinction* between philosophy and science. Sure, the distinction isn't always hard and fast, or easy to draw, but it seemed as if he didn't even know of its existence. It's one thing not to know the relationship between orange and red, or exactly where to draw the line between the two, but it's another thing altogether to be unaware of the existence of red as such.

  4. This is off topic, but according to this news "The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS) plans to launch a recruitment drive this summer.

    Backed by professors Richard Dawkins and AC Grayling, the initiative aims to establish a network of atheist societies in schools to counter the role of Christianity.

    It will coincide with the first atheist summer camp for children that will teach that religious belief and doctrines can prevent ethical and moral behaviour.

    The full story is here:

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  6. I don't have time to read the entire article that Jime posted, but I always smile to myself when I hear about stuff like this.

    Does not this type of behavior contradict a little the notion that atheism is nothing but a lack of belief? Wasn't there something in The God Delusion that said something to the effect that atheism can't be a cause of war, because why would someone go to war merely for a *lack* of a belief?

    Well, if a lack of belief in something can't cause war, how can this same lack of belief cause or motivate someone to create a recruitment drive?

    I've also heard the expression that atheism,(because it's just a lack of belief) is just the same as not collecting stamps.

    Well, there are many atheist groups that have become organized in the past couple years. At my university for example there is the "University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics" group. I'm just trying to think, how many groups, meet-ups, and clubs have you heard of whose common interest is *not* collecting stamps?Personally I have yet to hear about a single club.

    If atheism can't cause war because it is by definition a lack of belief, then how can it cause anything else, like summer camps for kids, or other atheist societies?

    I think I've got it... atheism can be the cause of good things, but it can't possibly be a cause of anything even remotely bad.

    Atheism can do many good things, like bringing people together in various clubs, networks and societies, to talk about their common beliefs and talk about how their shared atheism can help make the world a better place. Or like forming other groups which would warn children of the inherent dangers of religious beliefs and doctrines, so atheism can clearly be used for good things that would help the human race prosper and flourish.

    But atheism can't possibly be the cause of anything *bad* like war for example, because atheism is BY DEFINITION merely a *lack* of belief. Got it?

    It is self-evident. QED.

  7. Dawkins is like a preacher for atheism. I wasn't surprised by it, but I thought AC Grayling, as a trained philosopher, knows better about religion and its relationship with science and morality. Obviously, I was wrong.

    Some years ago, Dawkins used the anti-intellectual and totalitarian method of censorship to avoid the publication of writer Richard Milton's artcicle questioning neo-darwinian theory. You can read the full story (and Milton's article) here:

    If Milton is right or not, I can't say for sure. The key point was Dawkins' scientific behaviour.

    Milton is a writer about scientific anomalies, suppressed discoveries, and unorthodox hypotheses, as you can read in his website:

    But such efforts to research are "debunked" with labels like "pseudoscience" or, in the case of criticisms of neo-darwinism, with the well-known label of... "creationist".

    For them it seems to be the end of the debate.

  8. The same dishonest anti-intellectual methods were used by Dawkins to debunk Rupert Sheldrake's experimental research on telepathy and prevent scientific discussion about it:

    Note that the point is not if telepathy exist or not (or if Sheldrake's research prove it or not); the point is that Dawkins "knows" that such thing can't exist, so any research and discussion about it is a waste of time.

    Are these the new "free thinkers" and "rational" men who defends open scientific discussion, empirical data and evidence over ideology and dogma? (and at the same time stigmatizing any line of research or arguments that refutes their beliefs)

    One could think instead of "brights", they could properly be called "Irrational rationalists"... :-)

  9. Brodie BortignonMay 2, 2009 at 5:29 PM

    Dawkins's and Grayling's recruitment campaign isn't really anything to get worked up about. Ultimately, very few people will apply, even fewer will show up, and it probably won't be around for more than a year or two, if that.

    What's more worrying about Dawkins is the deeply negative effect he is having on scientists, particularly young scientists. His shameless conflation of metaphysical beliefs, scientific theories and scientific data is contributing to a dogmatism and dearth of rational, critical thinking in biology, especially theoretical biology, which has a large influence on what is to be researched and the conclusions that are more likely to be drawn from the data. This sort of behaviour, of course, predated Dawkins; though in recent times he has brought it to a fever pitch. Just read some of the breathtakingly awful books written about so-called 'evolutionary psychology'.

    When I was a moderator over at IIDB (Internet Infidels Discussion Board) there was a particular thread in the 'Creation and Evolution' subforum that was emblematic of the Dawkinsian approach to science. One poster, who ended up being a lecturer in biochemistry at Cambridge, made some comments about how he didn't think that natural selection was the exclusive mechanism of evolution. The sheer amount of nonsense replies, from scientists and non-scientists alike, about how he must be wrong and how could he call himself a scientist was absolutely shameful. It was bullying, plain and simple. The few that did engage him politely and seriously really didn't know what they were talking about, though they were confident that he must be wrong.

    And what was all this nonsense over? Obviously nothing scientific. I don't see how entertaining the idea that natural selection is not the sole mechanism of evolution is at all a problem (and note that he wasn't agitating for some theological solution to 'fill the gap' left over by natural selection; he just thought there was a different technical solution to certain problems). The problem is that people like Dawkins, through their conflation of metaphysics, scientific theories and scientific data, have confused people into thinking that the hegemony of natural selection as the sole mechanism of evolution is something that can only be questioned on pain of being unscientific, and similarly for 'evolution', a term which is too vague to say much of anything, but which Dawkins has convinced the public is synonymous with his own, quite idiosyncratic system.

    Let me be clear that I have no problem with evolutionary theory--scientifically, theologically, or philosophically. What I have a problem with--and what so-called creationists really have a problem with--is the bad metaphysics that parasitises an otherwise good scientific theory. This parasitism has been going on for so long that many people can't even see a difference between the bad metaphysics and the good science. And this is why you get people making absurd non-sequiturs like 'natural selection disproves God'.

    It's Dawkins's deeply negative effect on science that's going to be his true legacy. The effect of (village) atheist pamphleteering won't outlive the man in any significant way.

  10. Prof Feser,

    Off-topic, but the Maverick Philosopher made a post about Aquinas' take on the soul (man being a soul-body composite) that I think you'd find interesting, or at least worthy of response.