This post is an advertisement. I have found a podcast that I feel duty bound to share. Let me explain.
I suppose I should describe myself as an agnostic. I don’t mean this is a mealy-mouthed way, as if I never got around to making my mind up. I mean this as a considered decision after much research and contemplation. I find myself unable to answer some of the major philosophical and moral questions we face, and increasingly fear that the answers may, to me at least, be unanswerable.
My background and experience leaves me very divided. As a scientist and clinician, working with people with psychiatric and neurological problems, I can see the power of scientific explanations as to why people do what they do. The brain sciences do help us understand the mechanisms behind our desires and motivations. But although, as a scientist, I can use these findings to help me with questions of why and how, I fail to find them helpful with questions about what we ought to, or should, do.
I find having grown up in a Christian culture that I can comprehend and understand its moral teachings. When I want to know what we should or should not do I find calling on these principles much more valuable than looking at the scientific literature. Instinctivly I find the Christian writings on free will and responsibility much more plausible than the current utilitarian and deterministic viewpoints. Indeed I’d say I ascribe to the christian worldview but I fail in the vital question of faith.
So I fail in both camps. Millennia of thought and development by both groups leave a finely balanced argument that I can not satisfactorily resolve. Unfortunately I have found the writings and debates on these matters becoming less helpful. They are increasingly acrimonious and less concerned with finding clarity than with either preaching to the concerted or revealing the stupidity of the opposition.
I don’t find this polarised hostile battle very helpful in developing my thoughts. Mudslinging and bear baiting might be entertaining to some but I find it distasteful. I have their been pleasantly surprised to discover a series of debates which avoid this strategy.
The Big Question is a series of live debates, organized by a Christian radio station, in which eminent theists and atheists debate these issues. These are long enough to do justice to the topics and have speakers equally balanced in skills and eminence. The speakers are respectful and don’t try for cheap shots but rather try and grapple with the issues.
I have found myself better informed after these debates and think my opinions are clearer. I fear I have a long way to go before I’ll be certain, if I ever am, on these issues. I may be doomed to be a failure to both camps, but my failure might act as a signpost for others if they listen to these debates and form a better understanding than I have.