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A Scientist and a Comedian Discuss God Part 2

July 12, 2015     Time: 17:21
A Scientist and a Comedian Discuss God Part 2


Richard Dawkins interviews Ricky Gervais on God and religion.

Transcript A Scientist and a Comedian Discuss God Part 2


KEVIN HARRIS: Welcome back to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. We are going to continue this interview with Ricky Gervais and Richard Dawkins – the comedian and the scientist talking about God in part two here. I really think that it is worth emphasizing why we are doing this. It is not because these two guys are titans of philosophy – obviously, they are not. But they are very popular. Things like this just get passed around in social media. I think I do a count of how many people had watched this video on YouTube toward the end of the podcast, but since then it has ballooned even further. So millions of people are affected and potentially millions more. How do you answer some of the platitudes and sayings and phrases that are just passed around and around? Dr. Craig is really going to shed some light here on How do I answer some of these things that are in the popular culture? Let’s continue with this interview between Richard Dawkins and Ricky Gervais.

RICKY GERVAIS: I’d say determinism is sound. But it is when they start making these leaps that we can’t be responsible for our own actions. Well, you’ve still got to lock someone up if they go around murdering people to protect the innocent.

RICHARD DAWKINS: Yes. It wasn’t me that did the murder … it was my neurons and my genes.

RICKY GERVAIS: Of course. Yeah, it doesn’t work. There is obviously a little bit of that creeping into everything – responsibility, being adult about things. But yeah it doesn’t change a thing. I feel that I make my own choices, and if I don’t I certainly feel like I am choosing. So yeah it is not even worth worrying about.

DR. CRAIG: He tries to say that if everything is determined then how do you meet the challenge that nobody is responsible for what he does? Dawkins says my neurons made me do it. Right, that is exactly correct on a deterministic view. So there is no moral responsibility. Gervais’ response is you’ve got to lock them up anyway to protect other people. But that doesn’t rescue moral responsibility. You still have completely evacuated our choices of any moral significance and therefore made impossible moral praise or blame on this view.

KEVIN HARRIS: But he feels like determinism is sound.

DR. CRAIG: Here again, I feel like I’m free, and that is all that matters. It doesn’t make it worth worrying about. Well, it certainly makes it worth worrying about if you are asking that original question: is human life worth living? On their view, you are just machines, not rational moral agents, and there is no moral praise or blame on his view. For anybody who thinks deeply, this is a very troubling view of the world. To just be happy to say that you feel like you have free will even if you don’t is, as I say, incredibly inauthentic.

KEVIN HARRIS: It is like he is saying, I think determinism is sound, but nevertheless I feel like I am making my own choices.

DR. CRAIG: Right. He thinks determinism is true, but in effect he is saying I can’t live that way. It is really true. You can’t live as if determinism is true. It is impossible to live consistently with this atheistic view of the world, as though everything you do is just determined. Because you’d never reflect on anything. You would just act. But on determinism, even your reflections are determined. It is not rational.

KEVIN HARRIS: Let’s continue.

RICKY GERVAIS: This thing that takes the art out of something or the humanity or the beauty – why? Why does it? It is strange. And the way the thing is all too good it’s all too perfect. What do you mean? Why? You haven’t seen the process. There is a wonderful thing where Douglas Adams goes against the intelligent design theory – is it’s a puddle.

RICHARD DAWKINS: Ah, the puddle, yes.

RICKY GERVAIS: Great isn’t it?

RICHARD DAWKINS: Tell the story.

RICKY GERVAIS: It is just that a puddle is pondering and it says, “I must have been designed because I fit this hole perfectly. Which is just beautiful. What a beautiful metaphor for trying to explain evolution and everything.

KEVIN HARRIS: What he is referring to there is Douglas Adams talking about – This puddle must be designed, look how perfectly the water fits in the hole.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah. What a silly caricature of intelligent design reasoning. That doesn’t bear any relationship whatsoever.

KEVIN HARRIS: Maybe Adams is trying to be funny, but people have run with it as if it’s serious.

DR. CRAIG: Honestly, Kevin, this just shows the intellectual deficiency of anybody who thinks like that.[1] This is comparing the teleological argument to somebody who says that the human nose must be designed because look at the way it is just in the right place to support your glasses for correcting your vision. That is a ridiculous argument because the thing has been tailored to fit this way. Similarly, the water fits the puddle because it has to flow into the dimensions of the hole. But that has nothing to do with either the sort of biological complexity that exists in the world or the fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe which are not comparable to these sort of fallacious examples of supposed design.

RICKY GERVAIS: Their best argument ironically is just faith.

RICHARD DAWKINS: Pretty pathetic really, isn’t it?

RICKY GERVAIS: Well, it is pathetic, but they mustn’t ever engage in logic. It is like Top Trumps – they mustn’t pick logic on their cards. They’ve got a great faith, 100%, and then you go, yeah, sorry, you win. That’s the only way they are going to win the Top Trumps. They’ve got to keep away. Some embrace science. Some say God started the Big Bang. He made the Big Bang. He let it all happen. It was programmed. But now he is not an interventionist God. So you believe in evolution? Yeah, but he did all that. Fine. Fine. But then he gave man free will. So then it is not his fault anymore. Then I say, “Why do you pray then?” Because it makes me feel good. I think they sort of know, but they don’t want to know. What’s the point? I’ve seen people die, but they are looking down on me. They are still around. You know? That is human in a way. We don’t want to think we are alone and we’ll never see our loved ones again. Some we’d avoid. Pets aren’t allowed. I know people that stopped believing in God because pets weren’t allowed in heaven. What’s up with the dog? No soul. No soul. Yeah, so it is a minefield, really, for them.

DR. CRAIG: The “minefield” is for him and Dawkins, and they don’t even seem to realize that they are staggering blindfolded through this minefield trying to affirm the value of human life and its wonder and worth, all the time affirming scientific naturalism (that we are just animated chunks of matter determined to do what we do like machines and having no rationality, no free will, no moral worth). Then this blithe sort of breezy dismissal of religious concerns. To me, it is just amazing to see people discoursing like this. And then, saying it is the religious believers who are the ones who are illogical. This fellow is the one who needs to take a good course in elementary logic.

RICKY GERVAIS: Agnostics annoy me more.


RICKY GERVAIS: Oh, this new trendy little linguistic piece of logic that since neither can know you’ve got to be agnostic. Well, OK. That’s fair enough. But do you follow the same rules with fairies and Santa? No, you don’t. Would you tell your kid that we don’t know if Santa exists or not? No. You wouldn’t.

DR. CRAIG: Here it seems to me he is trying to justify the move to atheism from agnosticism by saying that if you don’t have evidence for something therefore you are justified in believing that thing doesn’t exist. That is clearly fallacious. He calls it a nifty logical move to try to say that you are just left with agnosticism. The whole question here is under what conditions does absence of evidence count as evidence of absence? It would be in cases in which if the thing did exist you would expect to have more evidence of its existence than what you have, and secondly that you have thoroughly compassed the field where that evidence should appear and not found it. The atheist, then, has the very heavy burden of showing that those two conditions are met in the case of God. Certainly, these fellows have not shouldered that burden successfully.

KEVIN HARRIS: How long, Bill, are we going to have to beat this Santa, fairies, flying spaghetti monster thing? Here he is bringing it up again. They are comparing it.[2]

RICKY GERVAIS: Which one don’t you know about?


RICKY GERVAIS: Exactly, yeah. That is the other thing, as well. I am an atheist and I don’t believe in about 2,700 gods. Christians don’t believe in 2,699. So they are nearly as atheistic as me. As a percentage they are right up there. They are very nearly an atheist.

DR. CRAIG: Does this silliness even need refutation, Kevin? The difference between a theist and an atheist is that the theist believes that God exists! There is, in particular, an omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, metaphysically necessary, all-good, creator of the universe to whom we are responsible. That is not a hairsbreadth away from an atheist who denies that there is any such being! So this is just intellectually silly to make this comparison.

KEVIN HARRIS: We have to continue fighting this battle because years ago we dealt with this quote from some guy named Steve (that’s all I remember) saying, I believe in one less god than you do. And here he is bringing that out again.

DR. CRAIG: What this seems to show is that just as in the Christian subculture there are certain patterns of thinking, styles, lingo, that gets perpetuated on and on and on, and is sort of insulated from the wider world. I think in the atheist subculture, too, there must be this sort of insular pattern of thinking that just gets perpetuated from one generation to the next.

KEVIN HARRIS: You are exactly right. Little bumper sticker sayings.

RICHARD DAWKINS: What if they said, Well, I don’t care which god it is, but I believe there is something. Something unknowable.

RICKY GERVAIS: Some people do, and that just means I don’t know, I’m not sure. Which is fair enough. It’s a start. I wouldn’t be smug with that sort of thing because maybe they’ve never thought about it or they don’t understand.

RICHARD DAWKINS: I would agree with that. I think the mistake comes when you say Because I don’t know therefore the likelihood is 50/50. It doesn’t have to be 50/50.

RICKY GERVAIS: Well, of course. There is lots we don’t know, but we don’t jump to conclusions. We don’t know everything about the brain, but that is not to say that everything about the brain is unknowable.

RICHARD DAWKINS: We rejoice in not knowing, not because we don’t want to know but because we’ve got something to work on.

RICKY GERVAIS: Absolutely. That is why people do puzzles. It comes back to hobbies. You do a puzzle because you don’t know the answer yet.

RICHARD DAWKINS: Scientists are doing puzzles trying to find out the answers to the nature of reality.

RICKY GERVAIS: Absolutely. Of course. That is all we do. Science just tries to understand the world a bit more for its own ends.

RICHARD DAWKINS: And it is a wonderful process. Worth living for.

RICKY GERVAIS: It is fantastic, because it should enhance mankind.

DR. CRAIG: Let’s just comment on that, because I think this is correct. He is talking about the physical world. Science tries to understand the physical world and the way it works, and this is a wonderful process. If only these New Atheists would stick to that limited understanding of science and its project, much of this whole debate would be eliminated. It is when they begin to arrogate to themselves the role of telling us how reality as a whole is beyond the physical world that they get out of their field of specialization and begin to make metaphysical claims which they cannot support. So all of this talk of God and religion and so forth is extra-scientific, and therefore it is outside of their domain of expertise and outside the domain of science.

KEVIN HARRIS: If you were to press Ricky you would probably see that he is probably pretty scientistic – he says science is about discovering the nature of . . .

DR. CRAIG: . . . the world. If they would just stick to the world – the physical world (which is a part of reality) – then it would be unproblematic. Maybe you are right, Kevin. When he says “the world” he means everything there is. If that is the case then you are right. That is scientism, not recognizing the limits of science.

RICKY GERVAIS: I hate being labeled an atheist because it is not how I live my life. I don’t live my life going around going, “I’m an atheist. I’m an atheist.” There are billions of other aspects to my life, why I do things. It is just when God is brought into the equation, I don’t take that on board. I don’t do anything because a god is watching me or because I feel God owns anything or God is driving me. It is a strange word and it is a strange label . . . we where white middle-aged Western men . . . we blew it because we are atheists.[3] So we are the most hated, oppressed people on the planet. You can’t run for President if you are an atheist.

RICHARD DAWKINS: Well, you can, but you won’t get in.

RICKY GERVAIS: Oh, well, great point. Yeah.

DR. CRAIG: The bit at the end – attempting to portray themselves as victims – is the most ludicrous of all. Here are two extremely successful and rich men thinking themselves as poor me because I am an atheist. I am so shunned and victimized. Don’t make me laugh.

KEVIN HARRIS: Look at the count, though, of how many people have watched this. 1,132,078. 14,403 likes, 554 dislikes.

DR. CRAIG: That’s not very many likes out of over a million. I think you should dislike it, Kevin.

KEVIN HARRIS: I’m gonna hit a dislike. I dislike it.

DR. CRAIG: I dislike it.

KEVIN HARRIS: Dislike. [laughter]

Thank you, Dr. Craig. Hey, did you know that just the name of this podcast and this organization has piqued the interest and changed the perception of multitudes of people. So many people have a wrong perception of what faith is, and they certainly have come to think that it is not reasonable. So our very name – Reasonable Faith – gets people’s attention. We battle this all the time because there are so many voices telling people that one must have blind faith or whatever to be a follower of Christ; that one cannot be an intellectually fulfilled follower of Christ. If you join us in our passion to present the truth of Jesus in an intellectually rigorous yet gracious way then partner with us. Your financial gift to Reasonable Faith ensures that this work continues and grows. Give anytime online at Sign up for the Reasonable Faith newsletter while you are there to keep up with the latest from Dr. Craig. That’s I’m Kevin Harris. We’ll see you next time on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig.[4]

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    Total Running Time: 17:22 (Copyright © 2015 William Lane Craig)