Does God Exist? A Conversation with Tom Holland, Stephen Meyer, and Douglas Murray

 

Does God exist? Something—a being, a power—that’s supernatural? That is, an entity that we’re unable to perceive with our five senses but that’s still real? Ever since the Enlightenment, the knowing, urbane, sophisticated answer has been, “Of course not.” Now a historian, a scientist, and a journalist talk it over and reveal new threads in the debate around science and theism.

Recorded on October 17, 2022, in Fiesole, Italy.

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  1. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    People do seem to spend a lot of time trying to convince themselves . . .

    • #1
  2. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Peter Robinson: Does God exist?

    Yes.  I’m available for podcasts on the subject . . .

    • #2
  3. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Fantastic conversation!

    • #3
  4. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge
    Marjorie Reynolds
    @MarjorieReynolds

    Wonderful.

    • #4
  5. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    Great insights.

    • #5
  6. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Was surprised how good Meyer was. I am not a big fan of ID and haven’t found some of his writings convincing, but he did a good job rebutting materialist presuppositions. It would be interesting to have a similar program with Kenneth R. Miller on it, to give the viewpoint of a theist who is a biologist- since the program had no scientists on it & Miller has published several books on the subject.

    • #6
  7. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Great discussion.  

    At the 50 minutes mark Stephen Meyer says that the non-religious do not have a means of justifying their belief in the reliability of the human mind and that the theist, believing that the human mind is part of God’s work, can justify their belief in the reliability of the human mind.  

    However, most of us don’t think that the human mind is perfectly reliable, only partially reliable.  When we witness someone suffering from hallucinations, either due to lack of sleep or mental illness, we begin to realize that the human mind does not grasp reality perfectly in all contexts.  

    The non-religious person might believe that there is an evolutionary advantage in being able to at least partially understand the external world.  One might decide to believe that the human mind is at least partially reliable in some contexts for pragmatic reasons.  

    Overall, however, the discussion was excellent.  

    • #7
  8. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    At the 50 minutes mark Stephen Meyer says that the non-religious do not have a means of justifying their belief in the reliability of the human mind and that the theist, believing that the human mind is part of God’s work, can justify their belief in the reliability of the human mind.

    https://ricochet.com/273554/empiricism-and-the-sources-of-knowledge/

    https://ricochet.com/930020/meet-thomas-reid/

    https://ricochet.com/1064657/what-is-alvin-plantinga-talking-about/

    • #8
  9. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    At the 50 minutes mark Stephen Meyer says that the non-religious do not have a means of justifying their belief in the reliability of the human mind and that the theist, believing that the human mind is part of God’s work, can justify their belief in the reliability of the human mind.

    https://ricochet.com/273554/empiricism-and-the-sources-of-knowledge/

    https://ricochet.com/930020/meet-thomas-reid/

    https://ricochet.com/1064657/what-is-alvin-plantinga-talking-about/

    As I mentioned, a person who does not believe in God might believe that while the human brain grasps reality imperfectly, he might still, for pragmatic reasons, trust his senses more often than not.

    So, I think Stephen Meyer’s argument is only convincing to people who either don’t understand the imperfections in the human nervous system or don’t understand that there could be an evolutionary advantage to organisms that are able to at least partially understand the external world.

    For example, an organism that has a nervous system that can partially understand the external world is likely to be able to evade predators better than an organism that has no such ability.

    • #9
  10. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    At the 50 minutes mark Stephen Meyer says that the non-religious do not have a means of justifying their belief in the reliability of the human mind and that the theist, believing that the human mind is part of God’s work, can justify their belief in the reliability of the human mind.

    https://ricochet.com/273554/empiricism-and-the-sources-of-knowledge/

    https://ricochet.com/930020/meet-thomas-reid/

    https://ricochet.com/1064657/what-is-alvin-plantinga-talking-about/

    As I mentioned, a person who does not believe in God might believe that while the human brain grasps reality imperfectly, he might still, for pragmatic reasons, trust his senses more often than not.

    Missed the point again, buddy.

    • #10
  11. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    At the 50 minutes mark Stephen Meyer says that the non-religious do not have a means of justifying their belief in the reliability of the human mind and that the theist, believing that the human mind is part of God’s work, can justify their belief in the reliability of the human mind. 

    This seems trivial to knock down as a case of (maybe) special pleading or (definitely) begging the question.

    God may stand outside the mind, but belief in God certainly does not.  Belief by definition is within the mind, and cannot be used to bolster the reliability of the mind.  Unreliable minds produce beliefs just as well as reliable ones do and perhaps better.  If reliable minds exist, of course.

    “Eight if they’re skinny; four if they’re fat.”

    • #11
  12. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Great discussion.

    However, most of us don’t think that the human mind is perfectly reliable, only partially reliable. When we witness someone suffering from hallucinations, either due to lack of sleep or mental illness, we begin to realize that the human mind does not grasp reality perfectly in all contexts.

    The non-religious person might believe that there is an evolutionary advantage in being able to at least partially understand the external world. One might decide to believe that the human mind is at least partially reliable in some contexts for pragmatic reasons.

    The right inference there would be that accepting the reality of God is a profound evolutionary advantage. Theists of all kinds outbreed non-theists of all kinds and always have. And, of course, if you really know what evolution means – the whole molecules to man bundle- then differential reproductive success is all that matters and all that can matter about any life form. Atheism must perforce be an expression of defective genes.

     

    • #12
  13. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Great discussion.

    . Atheism must perforce be an expression of defective genes.

    I’m sorry, but that is sophomoric.  By your logic, hemorrhoids and the appendix are brilliant.

    • #13
  14. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Great discussion.

    However, most of us don’t think that the human mind is perfectly reliable, only partially reliable. When we witness someone suffering from hallucinations, either due to lack of sleep or mental illness, we begin to realize that the human mind does not grasp reality perfectly in all contexts.

    The non-religious person might believe that there is an evolutionary advantage in being able to at least partially understand the external world. One might decide to believe that the human mind is at least partially reliable in some contexts for pragmatic reasons.

    The right inference there would be that accepting the reality of God is a profound evolutionary advantage. Theists of all kinds outbreed non-theists of all kinds and always have. And, of course, if you really know what evolution means – the whole molecules to man bundle- then differential reproductive success is all that matters and all that can matter about any life form. Atheism must perforce be an expression of defective genes.

     

    But you are asserting that Theism is useful, not necessarily true.  

    • #14
  15. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    But you are asserting that Theism is useful, not necessarily true.  

    And it begs the question, “Useful to whom?”

     

    • #15
  16. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    At the 50 minutes mark Stephen Meyer says that the non-religious do not have a means of justifying their belief in the reliability of the human mind and that the theist, believing that the human mind is part of God’s work, can justify their belief in the reliability of the human mind.

    https://ricochet.com/273554/empiricism-and-the-sources-of-knowledge/

    https://ricochet.com/930020/meet-thomas-reid/

    https://ricochet.com/1064657/what-is-alvin-plantinga-talking-about/

    As I mentioned, a person who does not believe in God might believe that while the human brain grasps reality imperfectly, he might still, for pragmatic reasons, trust his senses more often than not.

    Missed the point again, buddy.

    I thought he made a better one.

    • #16
  17. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    At the 50 minutes mark Stephen Meyer says that the non-religious do not have a means of justifying their belief in the reliability of the human mind and that the theist, believing that the human mind is part of God’s work, can justify their belief in the reliability of the human mind.

    https://ricochet.com/273554/empiricism-and-the-sources-of-knowledge/

    https://ricochet.com/930020/meet-thomas-reid/

    https://ricochet.com/1064657/what-is-alvin-plantinga-talking-about/

    As I mentioned, a person who does not believe in God might believe that while the human brain grasps reality imperfectly, he might still, for pragmatic reasons, trust his senses more often than not.

    Missed the point again, buddy.

    I thought he made a better one.

    What point?

    The point that belief in the reliability of the human mind is pragmatic?  Of course it is.  What’s the point of making that point?

    Or was his point the implicit delusion that we can ignore every argument for epistemic parity between religious belief and belief in the reliability of the human mind?

    • #17
  18. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    At the 50 minutes mark Stephen Meyer says that the non-religious do not have a means of justifying their belief in the reliability of the human mind and that the theist, believing that the human mind is part of God’s work, can justify their belief in the reliability of the human mind.

    https://ricochet.com/273554/empiricism-and-the-sources-of-knowledge/

    https://ricochet.com/930020/meet-thomas-reid/

    https://ricochet.com/1064657/what-is-alvin-plantinga-talking-about/

    As I mentioned, a person who does not believe in God might believe that while the human brain grasps reality imperfectly, he might still, for pragmatic reasons, trust his senses more often than not.

    Missed the point again, buddy.

    I thought he made a better one.

    What point?

    The point that belief in the reliability of the human mind is pragmatic? Of course it is. What’s the point of making that point?

    Or was his point the implicit delusion that we can ignore every argument for epistemic parity between religious belief and belief in the reliability of the human mind?

    I don’t think that the human mind is perfectly reliable.  That’s one point I was making.  

    Another is that the evolutionary process could explain why organisms that have at least some partial ability to understand the external world would have a survival advantage over organisms that have less of this ability.  

    But also, having even a small external ability to understand the external world carries a metabolic cost.  So, in some environments, the metabolic cost of a more complex nervous system might be higher than the survival benefit.  

    • #18
  19. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    At the 50 minutes mark Stephen Meyer says that the non-religious do not have a means of justifying their belief in the reliability of the human mind and that the theist, believing that the human mind is part of God’s work, can justify their belief in the reliability of the human mind.

    https://ricochet.com/273554/empiricism-and-the-sources-of-knowledge/

    https://ricochet.com/930020/meet-thomas-reid/

    https://ricochet.com/1064657/what-is-alvin-plantinga-talking-about/

    As I mentioned, a person who does not believe in God might believe that while the human brain grasps reality imperfectly, he might still, for pragmatic reasons, trust his senses more often than not.

    Missed the point again, buddy.

    I thought he made a better one.

    What point?

    The point that belief in the reliability of the human mind is pragmatic? Of course it is. What’s the point of making that point?

    Or was his point the implicit delusion that we can ignore every argument for epistemic parity between religious belief and belief in the reliability of the human mind?

    I don’t think that the human mind is perfectly reliable. That’s one point I was making.

    Tell someone who doesn’t know it.

    Another is that the evolutionary process could explain why organisms that have at least some partial ability to understand the external world would have a survival advantage over organisms that have less of this ability.

    But also, having even a small external ability to understand the external world carries a metabolic cost. So, in some environments, the metabolic cost of a more complex nervous system might be higher than the survival benefit.

    As I said, way to miss my point.

    • #19
  20. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Great discussion.

    . Atheism must perforce be an expression of defective genes.

    I’m sorry, but that is sophomoric. By your logic, hemorrhoids and the appendix are brilliant.

    As if the world we see were still in the prelapsarian condition. No. The Curse of Genesis brought about by a fundamental separation from God is  real. But…so are the blessings and the goodness. The world is kind of like a beautiful house that has been systematically vandalised for millennia.  And the appendix is brilliant. It has multiple functions including storing gut flora to replentish them if they are depleted by disease, trapping undigestible junk and releasing helpful enzymes. In case you have mistaken someone like Nathan Lents for an intelligent informant on the design of the human body, based on your ignorant comment that seems likely, you need to stop.

    • #20
  21. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Great discussion.

    However, most of us don’t think that the human mind is perfectly reliable, only partially reliable. When we witness someone suffering from hallucinations, either due to lack of sleep or mental illness, we begin to realize that the human mind does not grasp reality perfectly in all contexts.

    The non-religious person might believe that there is an evolutionary advantage in being able to at least partially understand the external world. One might decide to believe that the human mind is at least partially reliable in some contexts for pragmatic reasons.

    The right inference there would be that accepting the reality of God is a profound evolutionary advantage. Theists of all kinds outbreed non-theists of all kinds and always have. And, of course, if you really know what evolution means – the whole molecules to man bundle- then differential reproductive success is all that matters and all that can matter about any life form. Atheism must perforce be an expression of defective genes.

     

    But you are asserting that Theism is useful, not necessarily true.

    No. I am asserting that because it is true, knowing that it is true necessarily produces selective advantages for individual and indeed whole populations who align their minds and therefore their lives with that truth.

    • #21
  22. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Skyler (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    But you are asserting that Theism is useful, not necessarily true.

    And it begs the question, “Useful to whom?”

     

    No, it raises the question. Begging the question is assuming that which is in dispute.

    And the answer is: To everyone.

     

    • #22
  23. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    But you are asserting that Theism is useful, not necessarily true.

    And it begs the question, “Useful to whom?”

     

    No, it raises the question. Begging the question is assuming that which is in dispute.

    And the answer is: To everyone.

     

    Whatever.  It’s a lot more useful to someone wanting to control others, in case you haven’t noticed.  

    Perhaps to you hemorrhoids are perfection that has been vandalized for millennia, but to me they are merely an unfortunate byproduct of evolution.  

    • #23
  24. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

     

     

    Perhaps to you hemorrhoids are perfection that has been vandalized for millennia, but to me they are merely an unfortunate byproduct of evolution.

    Nah. More a result of bad diet and sedentary lifestyle. Or horseback riding.

     

    • #24
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