I have offered several Christian scholars a guest post here at DC. To see them click here. I do so in the interests of letting them speak for themselves in the spirit of dialogue and debate. There is just something about David Marshall I cannot figure out. He seems so nice and congenial at times and yet so, well, ignorant. Still, he's a human being and I find people interesting, even evangelical pseudo-scholars like him. Given some of the comments concerning his debate performances and his indefatigably ubiquitous presence on atheist websites and blogs, I thought I would offer him a chance to address us. I warned him in advance he may not be treated well here, but he can handle it. If nothing else, look at what he writes as a case in understanding the mind of the believer. It was originally an email presumably sent to several prominent atheists. Try to enjoy. ;-)
On October 12th, Dr. Phil Zuckerman and I debated one of the most important issues of our time: "Does Christianity, or Secular Humanism, provide a better foundation for civil society?" The debate has been widely reported, sometimes misreported, in the skeptical blogosphere, spurring some interesting discussion.
I invited Phil to debate not only because his work has become increasingly influential among American skeptics, but also because I respect him. It might be too much to say his approach puts the "humanism" back in "secular humanism." But I believe it is best to hear from thoughtful and fair-minded opponents, which also makes for a useful exchange of views. Furthermore, as a Christian, I believe all truth is God's truth: whatever is valid and "worthy of praise" in secularist thought, should after being sifted, be embraced as part of a larger vision of truth.
Phil was never more mistaken than in accusing me of "defensiveness" in "always choosing the worst example" of non-Christian traditions. My books revel in truth and beauty to be found in Chinese and other traditions from an ancient and orthodox Christian perspective I call "fulfillment theology." Indeed, if I wanted to focus on the worst in Secular Humanism, I would not have contacted Phil!
But I also hoped this debate would provide a springboard for further discussion and thought.
I have now transcribed and posted most of the debate on my website. (With the kind help of Richard Wilson, from the Friendly Atheist blog.) I would now like to make this generally available. This link goes to the my opening talk, which links to Phil's opening talk at bottom, then on to later arguments. (The only part I haven't gotten to yet, is audience Q and A.) If you copy portions, please do so with care to context and sourcing. If you notice any errors, please let me know.In addition, as promised during the debate itself, I have posted reflections on and analysis of some of the key points which there was not time to answer. I will be happy to link to serious responses by Secular Humanists to my arguments as well, if they are forthcoming, so as to continue the conversation.(1) Phil asked what I thought Secular Humanism contributes to society. That's a fair question, which required further thought: I offer a brief answer here.(2) For his own part, Phil argued, as have some of his colleagues in the past, that Christianity correlates at some meta-level to higher degrees of disfunction, and Secular Humanism to happier social conditions. He was careful not to ascribe this alleged correlation to causation. I have, in the past, detailed more than two dozen problems with such arguments, such as the "cropping" of contrary sets of data, overlooked alternative explanations, and counterfactuals. I have now have reposted my detailed rebuttal of two articles making a similar case, including by Phil's sometime coauthor, Gregory Paul, in an article entitled, "Does Faith in God Up the Murder Rate?"(3) Meanwhile, a number of popular atheist bloggers (whom I am also copying, along with Christians I believe may be interested) implicitly supported my argument about the danger to civility (and reason) that more virulent forms of Secular Humanism sometimes pose, by uncivil and sometimes moderately irrational coverage of the debate. With more amusement than malice, I describe the irony and thank them for their support here.(4) During the debate, I promised to respond to that unanswerable flurry of arguments with which Phil concluded, which I believe contained a high quotient of misperception and confusion, at a later date. Here is that critique.(5) Finally, on a lighter note, in response to Phil's references to the Founding Fathers, and the argument for Secular Humanism that is supposed to follow from their actions, let me also offer, "Phil Zuckerman's Recipe For Secular Humanist Pizza." I hope Phil will find this mildly amusing, and recognize the sincere respect (and also logic) behind the tweaking. He is also welcome to try my pizza, which is actually pretty good, on some future visit.The debate is over, but the Debate moves on. As time permits, I will continue to look for ways to advance this vitally important discussion -- and keep it on the frank but friendly level of two weeks ago, that is so easy to lose in a polarized and disputative society. I hope others will join me, also as time permits, in this ongoing conversation over the ideal state of "civil" society, and what can get us there.Sincerely,Dr. David Marshall