Skip to main content

The Big Question

I was on the live programme The Big Question on BBC 1 this morning. The relevant part starts at 43mins 30secs, and my main contribution is at about 47 mins.

The link to the show is here. This week's show will be up for 7 days, then disappears.

God I look old...

Comments

Michael Young said…
Thanks for the link. For what it's worth, I liked your contribution, although some of your co-contributors didn't seem to fully appreciate the distinction between anecdote and statistic.

So that was a little bit depressing...
Paul said…
This was an interesting debate, you look very different from the photo on this blog Stephen!

It seems to me that its fairly easy for the faithful to point to people in the past and say that they changed society through faith. So many people professed to be so and sometimes may have had to to get their point made. Anyway, as the previous contributor suggests, a number of folk are easily impressed by anecdotes rather than statistics. Quoting Baenjamin Disraeli doesn't make statistics lies and wouldn't change how insurance companies quote for premiums.
wombat said…
"God I look old..."

Shh! Don't say that. You'll have George thingy and the assorted theists jump on you and the Aussie Doctor trying to enroll you on that course...

Seriously though it was a pity they tried to cram so many "big questions" into a single program, it would have been a lot more interesting to develop the points in a bit more depth.
Toby said…
Just watched it. As others have said, a shame that the point about statistics that you and and another contributor (Sinnott-Armstrong?) brought up was not persued at any length.

George Carey got very close to playing the atheism-is-a-faith-position card - but the discussion wandered off.

And as for the minister who was so keen on William Wiberforce and the abolition of slavery as a legacy of Christianity, can he show me the verse in the Bible that condemns slavery? I think this might the minimum required before he can claim that Wilberforce campaigned for abolition because of his faith.
Hugo said…
Crikey, I just watched it and was shocked by the extraordinarily bad quality of the arguments.

Stephen, you were an oasis of reason in a sea of crud. I heard very few decent arguments in the whole hour from anyone else - mostly just non sequiturs, anecdote, assertion, begging the question, and general lack of sound arguments.

A pity you were shouted down by that priest.

What a terrible programme. Nicky Campbell seems to destroy everything he touches.

I notice again with annoyance that the programme is filled under the BBC's "Religion & Ethics" category, as if they go together.
Paul P. Mealing said…
Unfortunately, can't watch this outside the UK apparently, which is a great shame. Something about not having a 'licence'.

Regards, Paul.
snafu said…
i'd largely agree with the above comments.

Stephen - I didn't quite catch the full reference you gave in the programme. Could you repeat here? I'd like to investigate...
Anonymous said…
Stephen and the other philosopher (didn't catch his name) both made highly intelligent contributions and showed just how well a philosophical education aids rational thinking. It's a shame they were so outnumbered by the less able. I think the two low points have to be the remarkably stupid 'people of faith are good because they know they're accountable, Bush and Blair invaded Iraq because they didn't see themselves as accountable' (was he even aware that both men were Christians, and Blair in particular was one of the most devout prime ministers in recent years?) and the infuriating "there are lies, damn lies and statistics" to justify privileging personal anecdote over more substantial data.

Lord Carey was fairly good, although I felt his description of faith as starting with beliefs and then trying to fit new knowledge around them was revealing, and drives home the fact that trying to characterise atheism as a faith position is rather silly.

The presenter was dreadful.
Anonymous said…
You can watch the BBC from outside of Britain with the right proxy arrangement:

http://hurwi.net/blog/?p=28

(See also the January 21st, 2009 at 6:03 pm comment.)
b.b.b. said…
Stephen do you have stats comparing non-authoritarian religious family's with non-authoritarian secular families. Unless you are assuming that religion must be authoritarian ?
Stephen Law said…
No I don't, sorry.
b.b.b. said…
we'll we will have to get them then - im actually on your website looking for some examples of criticisms of faith schools - i'm sorry to say some of your approaches seem too sensible for me to use !

Popular posts from this blog

EVIDENCE, MIRACLES AND THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS

(Published in Faith and Philosophy 2011. Volume 28, Issue 2, April 2011. Stephen Law. Pages 129-151) EVIDENCE, MIRACLES AND THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS Stephen Law Abstract The vast majority of Biblical historians believe there is evidence sufficient to place Jesus’ existence beyond reasonable doubt. Many believe the New Testament documents alone suffice firmly to establish Jesus as an actual, historical figure. I question these views. In particular, I argue (i) that the three most popular criteria by which various non-miraculous New Testament claims made about Jesus are supposedly corroborated are not sufficient, either singly or jointly, to place his existence beyond reasonable doubt, and (ii) that a prima facie plausible principle concerning how evidence should be assessed – a principle I call the contamination principle – entails that, given the large proportion of uncorroborated miracle claims made about Jesus in the New Testament documents, we should, in the absence of indepen

What is Humanism?

What is Humanism? “Humanism” is a word that has had and continues to have a number of meanings. The focus here is on kind of atheistic world-view espoused by those who organize and campaign under that banner in the UK and abroad. We should acknowledge that there remain other uses of term. In one of the loosest senses of the expression, a “Humanist” is someone whose world-view gives special importance to human concerns, values and dignity. If that is what a Humanist is, then of course most of us qualify as Humanists, including many religious theists. But the fact remains that, around the world, those who organize under the label “Humanism” tend to sign up to a narrower, atheistic view. What does Humanism, understood in this narrower way, involve? The boundaries of the concept remain somewhat vague and ambiguous. However, most of those who organize under the banner of Humanism would accept the following minimal seven-point characterization of their world-view.

Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism refuted

Here's my central criticism of Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). It's novel and was published in Analysis last year. Here's the gist. Plantinga argues that if naturalism and evolution are true, then semantic epiphenomenalism is very probably true - that's to say, the content of our beliefs does not causally impinge on our behaviour. And if semantic properties such as having such-and-such content or being true cannot causally impinge on behaviour, then they cannot be selected for by unguided evolution. Plantinga's argument requires, crucially, that there be no conceptual links between belief content and behaviour of a sort that it's actually very plausible to suppose exist (note that to suppose there are such conceptual links is not necessarily to suppose that content can be exhaustively captured in terms of behaviour or functional role, etc. in the way logical behaviourists or functionalists suppose). It turns o