Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Atheism Tapes

In this documentary series, Jonathan Miller meets up with some of the key contributors from his three-part Brief History of Disbelief in these half-hour extended conversations.

PART ONE - Colin McGinn
English philosopher McGinn speaks about the various reasons for not believing in God, and some of the reasons for. He gives a thorough treatment of the ontological argument. In addition, McGinn draws an important distinction between atheism (lack of belief in a deity) and antitheism (active opposition to theism); he identifies himself as both an atheist and an antitheist. Finally, he speculates about a post-theistic society.

PART TWO - Steven Weinberg
Weinberg talks about the effectiveness of the Design Argument, both in the past and today. He also discusses the reasons that people become religious, including the varying influences of physical and biological arguments against religion. Miller connects this to a higher likelihood of biologists being non-believers than physicists, which Weinberg finds surprising.

Weinberg goes on to distinguish between harm done in the name of religion from that done by religion and states that both of these are very real and very dangerous. He goes on to discuss the difference between religious belief in America and Europe, and about how he doesn’t like the "character" of the monotheistic God. He ends by saying that science is very definitely corrosive to religious belief, and that he considers this a good thing.

PART THREE - Daniel Dennett
American philosopher Dennett explains why he called one of his books Darwin's Dangerous Idea, and why many of Darwin's contemporaries, in particular, considered Darwin's theory of evolution to be dangerous. He goes on to deal with the question of consciousness (i.e., is the consciousness /soul distinct from the body), talking about Darwin's rejection of the soul and the possible origins and psychological purposes of a belief in an immaterial soul.

Next, he talks about his Christian upbringing and how he became an atheist. He goes on to ask why it is thought rude to criticise religious belief, and suggests that it is due to the influential status of the religions in question. He finishes by wondering whether we could live effectively in a post-theistic world.

PART FOUR - Arthur Miller
Playwright Arthur Miller and Jonathan Miller talk about disbelief and their experiences of anti-Semitism. He was born to moderately affluent Jewish-American parents, Isidore and Augusta Miller, in Manhattan, New York City, in 1915. Wall Street Crash of 1929 after which his family moved to humbler quarters in Gravesend, Brooklyn.

Because of the effects of the Great Depression on his family, Miller did not have money for college after graduating in 1932 from Abraham Lincoln High School (New York). Before securing a place at the University of Michigan, he worked in a number of menial jobs to pay for his tuition. He continued working in Ann Arbor to supplement his income.

PART FIVE - Richard Dawkins
Biologist Richard Dawkins talks to Jonathan Miller about his implacable opposition to all religion.Dawkins is a prominent critic of creationism and intelligent design. In his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker, he argued against the watchmaker analogy, an argument for the existence of a supernatural creator based upon the observed complexity of living organisms, and instead described evolutionary processes as being analogous to a blind watchmaker. He has since written several popular science books, and has made regular appearances on television and radio programmes, predominantly discussing the aforementioned topics.

Dawkins is an atheist, secular humanist, sceptic, scientific rationalist, and supporter of the Brights movement. He has widely been referred to in the media as "Darwin's Rottweiler", by analogy with English biologist T. H. Huxley, who was known as "Darwin's Bulldog" for his advocacy of natural selection. In his 2006 book The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that faith qualifies as a delusion − as a fixed false belief. As of November 2007, the English language version had sold more than 1.5 million copies and had been translated into 31 other languages, making it his most popular book to date.

PART SIX - Denys Turner
Christian theologian Denys Turner defends the case for God as the answer to the most important questions. He has written widely on political theory and social theory in relation to Christian theology, as well as on Medieval thought, in particular, mystical theology.

More documentaries like this...

Richard Dawkins - The Blind Watch Maker

Why Are We Here - Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins - The Enemies of Reason

The God Who Wasn't There

Evolution - Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Own this documentary series on DVD...

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