Last Friday I had an informal, but quite interesting debate on the Don Johnson Show. The debate was rather long (approximately 2 1/2 hours), but it flew by quite quickly for me. Below are the two sections of the debate:
Overall, I feel good about how things went. My only apology is that my voice is lower than Don’s in a number of places, since I was not as used to speaking in front of a microphone. Nevertheless, everything is audible, so just turn up your computer volume as needed.
Having listened to the playback of the debate, I feel that everything was covered well, so I don’t think there is need for too much of a follow up. Here is a list of the issues we discussed:
Introduction and Background: 00:00 – 12:00
What is Metaphysical Naturalism?: 12:00 – 28:08
Reductionism and Abstract Objects: 28:08 – 101:11
The last segment got into some fairly arcane philosophical issues that some people might not be familiar with. For those interested in further readings on reductionism and how it explains universals and abstract objects, I recommend Richard Carrier’s Sense & Goodness Without God. His chapter “What Everything is Made of” explains reductionism well, and his sections in this chapter “5.4 Abstract Objects” and “6.4.4 Qualia” explain further how reductionism is compatible with mathematics, colors, and qualia.
What is Christianity?: 00:00 – 10:42
(I misspoke briefly in this section 1:27-1:30: “the brain is an operation of the mind” -> “the mind is an operation of the brain”)
Arguments for Metaphysical Naturalism: 10:42 – 37:30
Arguments for Christian Theism: 37:30 – 43:09
History and Miracles: 43:08 – 1:18:38
(Another time I misspoke: 46:08: “Israels” -> “Israelites”)
In the last part we discussed my recent article “History, Probability and Miracles.” I also mentioned that there are tons of ancient records and witnesses of the pagan god Aesculapius performing miraculous healings in antiquity. Here is a pdf that records many of such miracles, including named persons and conditions, very similar to the alleged Christian miracles that were listed during the discussion.
Overall, I enjoyed the debate. A little disappointing that I was brought onto the show as an ancient historian, but then the issue of history was set aside (part two 37:37), and instead I was asked a lot about things such as the philosophy of mathematics. Also, portions of the debate came off as a little ambushy. I had not read Craig Keener’s Miracles before (review here), so obviously I was not going to be able to comment on the exact details of every anecdote or claim about someone I had never heard of before. Also, the comment about ethno-centrism (part two 46:56) I think was unnecessary (I do not have to share the 18th century racial attitudes of David Hume to think he had a good approach to miracles and history). If Keener’s book is really correct about miraculous healings, then he should immediately take his research to the American Medical Association. I would expect that someone who proved the claims in that book should receive none other than the Nobel Prize in Medicine. I anticipate that I will be waiting a long time to hear of such an award for Keener…
Nevertheless, I am very grateful that Don invited me onto the show and that we got to discuss these issues. Thanks to everyone who sat and listened through the whole debate!