Month: August 2012

183. The Thinking Atheist Backs Down From Science Debate

Interview examines the scientific evidence underlying an atheist worldview and why atheists are reluctant to defend it. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with The Thinking Atheist, Seth Andrews. During the interview Andrews explains why atheists don’t support scientists who believe ESP has been scientifically proven: Alex Tsakiris:   There is this silly sideshow conversation that always dominates center stage-- “science versus religion, Christianity versus Atheists.” But the science question behind this really boils down to one question -- is your mind purely a function of your brain?  Because if it isn’t then we get into all these other topics that start sounding very spiritual. Seth Andrews:  To say that the reputable science community is advocating that there must be a conduit of spirit out there that is irresponsible, I don’t think that’s accurate. I don’t think it’s reflected by mainstream, especially secular scientists, who are the majority. I think if you spend that much time playing “What if,” you’ll drive yourself nuts. Alex Tsakiris:   That is exactly why I wanted to do this interview in two parts, because I have to tell you, in the dialogues I’ve had, we always get to this point, which is we have to dig through all the opinions that we might have, beliefs we might have, get down to the science. Getting down to the scientific evidence and understanding it the best we can. So that’s my point. If you’re not familiar with Dr. Richard Wiseman – great -- go see what he has to say about ESP. I’m telling you about the near-death experience science and I’m telling you that overwhelmingly hypoxia has been dismissed as a possible explanation. So, go check out the science and then come back so we can have a real debate. Seth Andrews:   So you’re a believer, then, in extra-sensory perception. You believe in ESP personally? Alex Tsakiris:   Personally? Seth Andrews:   I’m not sure why a yes/no question is so complicated for you. I’m just curious. Alex Tsakiris:   Because I don’t what you mean by “personally.”  I don’t have any personal experience with ESP. I think the evidence is overwhelmingly suggestive that it does happen, that there is some form of extended human consciousness that does occur in this way. That’s what the evidence shows. I don’t know what that means. Seth Andrews:   I’m still stuck on ESP. I’m still stuck on it. Alex Tsakiris:   Great, go check out the science. Seth Andrews:   I’m still stuck on it. I honestly think—I mean, I lump ESP in with astral projection, with visions, with crystals, with—I myself think that this is a profound waste of time and energy. But to me, superstition and religion, they go hand-in-hand. Superstition and science do not. I don’t place them side-by-side. They are not bedfellows. They are not partners. Alex Tsakiris:   Science is a method. It is not a position. It’s a set of tools, Seth. It’s just a way of inquiry. Seth Andrews: I think you and I are simply approaching the term “science” from different perspectives. The Thinking Atheist Website Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It: . Listen Now: Download MP3 (68 min.) . Read It: Alex Tsakiris: Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris, and on today’s episode I have a dialogue with The Thinking Atheist, Seth Andrews, whose popular YouTube channel has nearly 100,000 subscribers and millions of views. Now, as you know from listening to Skeptiko, it’s hard to book these kinds of interviews. Despite their claims to the contrary, Atheists and skeptics don’t really like to get into debates about science and about the evidence behind their beliefs. So I was delighted when Seth agreed to come on and come onto my new concept. I had this idea for a two-part format where we’d use the first interview to kind of map out our ideas, map out our thoughts, and then use the second part of the interview to really get into the debate. So here then is my first interview with Seth Andrews, The Thinking Atheist. Today we welcome Seth Andrews to Skeptiko. Seth is the creator of The Thinking Atheist, a very popular website and YouTube channel. Seth is also a former Christian and a former Christian broadcaster who challenges his listeners to “Assume nothing, question everything, and start thinking.” Welcome, Seth, and thanks for joining me on Skeptiko. Seth Andrews:   It’s a real pleasure. Thanks for the invite and thanks for allowing me to be a part of the show.


181. Peter Bannister of the American Church in Paris Sees Hope For Science and Religion Dialog

Interview examines the shortsightedness of the culture war between science and religion. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview composer and lecture series co-director Peter Bannister. During the interview Bannister considers whether Christianity has lost it’s mystery: Alex Tsakiris: Modern Christianity is wed to materialism in some fundamental ways that make it hard to pull it out of there. So this is the problem I have with the dialogue with some of my Christian friends. It gets down to doctrine. I keep pushing saying, “This doesn’t make sense. You can’t really have this doctrine. You can’t really have this belief set as rigidly as that,” but their fallback is, “Well, come on, I am a Christian.” And I think there’s a direct parallel with the scientists. I think the scientists, whether they say it explicitly or not, is saying, “well, come on, I am a materialist because at the end of the day if I can’t measure it I’m out of business.” Peter Bannister: I think you’ve made some perceptive points, particularly about the  marriage of convenience, or Faustian pact between Christianity and I would say Rationalism. But what’s curious if you do the history is that that’s a relatively recent phenomenon.  I think that there is a very close tie to the rise of a certain type of science and a religious rationalism which insists that the doctrine really is about questions of proof and questions of discursive knowledge, propositions, dogma in the worst sense. There are a lot of historians who say that really is a very shortsighted view of what the broader tradition really is about which is much more mysterious and a little bit more fluid than that. But the people don’t actually know this tradition very well because nobody’s ever really told them.  The truth that we’re after is much more relational than propositional. A lot of people in Christianity and some other wisdom traditions and faiths are saying, “Hang on. One of the big problems in the world today is that we’ve got hooked up with this notion of dogma. It’s dogma in the sense of an effort to control.” I think control is really the key thing because as soon as you have a doctrine which you say corresponds to reality in a sort of one-to-one way that gives you a method of control. Alex Tsakiris: That’s the bridge we have to cross.  Science is a religion. Atheism is a religion.  And now we’re all on the same playing field. Peter Bannister: Because it’s our ultimate concern. I think, a very good definition of religion. It’s what is your ultimate concern?  If you go back to the idea of who do we want around this table, obviously the entry fee, as you say, is a certain ability to let go or to say, “Okay, we all bring ourselves to this but we bring ourselves to this in an open way.”  My hope—and you might say I’m naïve in this—is that there is a groundswell of people who have this openness and who are genuinely interested in following and examining the data in an open and intelligent way. And I think there is a big need for the construction of a community like that. Peter Bannister's Website Play It: Download MP3 (48 min.) Read It: Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Peter Bannister to Skeptiko. Peter holds graduate degrees in music from King’s College, Cambridge, and philosophical theology from the University of Wales. He’s an award-winning composer and performer and is co-directing a very interesting lecture series at the American Church in Paris promoting an increased and enhanced dialogue in the relationship between science and faith. Welcome, Peter, thanks so much for joining me on Skeptiko. Peter Bannister: I’m delighted to be with you, Alex.