(thanks for the link, Russell)
Today my guest is Mike Snyder (@mambomike282), a listener of the show who owns a security firm in Washington state. As a Christian, he wanted to challenge me on the subject of evolution and religion, and so we went for it. 🙂
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My guest on #344 is Ben Witherington III, an evangelical Biblical scholar and lecturer on New Testament Studies, who is currently Professor on the New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.
In our discussion, Prof. Witherington makes a case for the historicity of the New Testament and for the existence of Jesus. While he seems to agree with me on certain facts (eg that Mark, Matthew, Luke and John are anonymous documents and that Paul was not an eyewitness), he makes the argument that they can be treated as eyewitness testimonies.
During the show, you’ll notice a couple of times when Ben caught me off-guard and I’ve added my later thoughts into the show, after I had a chance to read up on his claims. I’ve put some links to further information on those issues below:
If you haven’t heard my previous show with Robert M Price (who argues that Jesus is a mythological character), then you can find it here.
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A new study from the UK claims that people with a high IQ are more likely to be atheists. Now I know you expect me to be gloating about this study but really, it’s not that interesting. From my perspective, it’s just common sense that people who have even an average level of intelligent wouldn’t feel the need to believe in the sky bully.
What is much more interesting is to work out why intelligent people *do* believe in him. And not just in God, but in other whacky ideas as well – psychic healing, UFOs, chakras, etc. What’s most interesting to me is how these memes survive in the 21st century when they are completely unsupported by common sense, not to mention scientific evidence.
Someone said to me the other day “I have evidence (for psychic healing), but not scientific evidence”. I went to lengths to explain that any evidence that can be tested, measured and confirmed by consensus *is*, “scientific evidence”. And if you can’t do those things, well… it’s not evidence. It’s just in your head. And while that is still interesting and worth exploring, before we can say something is “true”, we need hard evidence, not just your head.
It in the last few days I’ve had two startling, and somewhat depressing, conversations.
In both instances, I had a debate with people I admire, for their intelligence and intellectual rigour, about the merit of the scientific method. In both cases, my opponents made claims which felt unscientific to me. When I challenged their thinking on the subject, it lead to a conversation which went something like this:
THEM: “I don’t think science is the only way to know the truth.”
ME: “ORLY? What alternative method do you propose?”
THEM: “Well I don’t have an alternative. I just think there are things that science doesn’t know.”
ME: “Of course, there is plenty that science doesn’t know. But the list of things which *might* be true are infintesmal. Only a sub-set of those ideas can *actually* be true. If we don’t use the scientific method (hypothesis, testing, evidence, conclusions, consensus) to determine which of those ideas are *actually* true, what alternative method do you propose?”
Now at this point, people usually start dithering about “well, I don’t have an alternative, I just… well I… it just seems to me that science isn’t the only way… I… well…”.
I am appalled. I mean, I expect that kind of response from people addicted to mythological cults that train you to ignore facts – Christianity, Scientology, etc. But neither of the people I was talking to are religious in a traditional sense. Both are extremely articulate, deep thinkers, and self-confident about their own intellect and opinions. So, unlike when I get into these debates with cultists, I’m sure they didn’t feel threatened by my somewhat aggressive approach to the determination of ‘truth’.
And yet, for some reason which remains unclear to me, they subscribe to this meme that “science isn’t the only way”, even though they are completely unable to articulate an alternative.
How did we get here? How can it possibly be that at the dawn of the 21st century, there are people who are educated, intelligent, free from infection by mythological dogma, yet who still refuse to accept an evidence-based approach to determining fact from fiction?
It strikes me that science – that is, the scientific method – needs a celebrity makeover.
The human race needs a serious dose of education about what the scientific method entails and why it is – without any rational argument that I’m aware of – the superior process for determining what is true and what is false.
Perhaps we need a complete overhaul – we need to dramatically improve how science is taught in school, at university and how it is portrayed by the media. We need big budget Hollywood (and Bollywood) films made which portray science in a positive light, which re-iterate WHAT the scientific method is and WHY it is the best way we’ve come up with (so far) for determining the truth about how the universe works.