Friday, December 12, 2008

Mentalist Derren Brown on His Religion

Renowned mentalist and magician Derren Brown recalls his journey from devout Christian to rational skeptic. (Part one of the interview)


SuiginChou said...

I was dismayed to learn from the Youtube comments that even Derren's defenders confess that he very probably uses plants for his most elaborate routines. That is disappointing to learn. :( I really do believe based on what I've seen that he is a mostly-honest person who wants to expose "charlatanry," as he and Dawkins often said :), for what it really is. But I suppose that fans of Derren's can fall victim to the very same dangers of the ills he hopes to fight, i.e. they want to believe in him and so that belief can override common sense or healthy skepticism.

Would I trust any other magician? Absolutely not. So why do I trust Derren? Stupid bias! >_<

Thank you for quoting Part 6 for us. I watched Part 1 and most of Part 2 before quitting. I found it to be an interesting topic but it was going on for far too long. I really would have preferred (in this instance) something a little more scripted and a little less on-the-fly since Derren seemed to not quite know where it was he wanted to take the argument at times and so he'd circle around and laboriously explain details to us. Sort of like what I do all the time. -_-; But Part 6 was surprisingly concise and very interesting. Derren sort of reminded me of me at points (someone who grew up in a not particularly religious home, who became a very religious teenager, and who then whether he wanted to or not found that belief system not holding up against the overwhelming evidence which his open-minded and skeptical brain picked up at uni. (Although for me the adventure started in the 9th grade with the best round I've ever had of an all-encompassing World History [w/ focus on Western Europe] course.)

fulleju said...

where does your skepticism come from? lack of christian-peer group? why do i think atheists are essentially as dogmatic as religious people?

Jay said...

It seems to me that using a word like "dogmatic" against an atheist is exactly backward, but it is nevertheless the number one criticism. Imagine a scene: a priest is spewing faith-statements and untestable religious beliefs before a congregation, and a man stands up and declares, "I believe exactly in opposition to this man of faith! I am an a-theist!" and then the man is shouted down by the crowd, "Oh, you're just like him!"

Does this make any kind of sense? I mean, I don't doubt that there are some infantile dopes who have come to their atheism "dogmatically," but the idea is almost a non sequitur.

fulleju said...

maybe i'm just skeptical of the idea of defending one's non-belief just as much as i would be skeptical of the idea of people of faith defending their beliefs. and how do you go about declaring a non-belief? well, i suppose you could go about it the same way as a believer, i.e. dogmatically. or you could start rationalizing it with fact or lack thereof, evidence or it's lack thereof. if anything, the non sequitur would be the entire Conversation (dialectic) about God's existence or lack thereof. Imagine a scene: there is a god (let's say a flying spaghetti monster floating in the sky :) and a team of brilliant scientists create a light that can be shined into the heavens to expose him and all his noodly glory. but every time they shine the light upon him, he disappears. i know its a silly analogy, but i suppose the act of trying expose a creature that is unrevealable is silly too. participation in such a dialectic is futile. even just spectating such a conversation, although momentarily captivating, is perhaps even more futile, especially given the serious offenses to a perpetual peace that almost every religion has threatened throughout history.

SuiginChou said...

You are suggesting that because the Christian God cannot be disproven, an atheist -- rather than an agnostic -- is just as dogmatic as a stringent theist, yes? If so, then my response is that I think you misunderstand or do not recognize that there's a spectrum of atheist beliefs and that most atheists would probably say of themselves, "I can't disprove God, and I won't claim to *know* he isn't real, but given the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, given the overwhelming historical, psychological, political, and financial evidence which would suggest that men of power invented gods in order to control the masses, it is my belief that there is no God."

You have to recognize, fulleju, that a man cannot truly claim the middle-ground for his beliefs; he can only claim the middle-ground for his knowledge. A man can honestly say, "I neither know God to be real nor false," but he cannot honestly say "I neither believe God to be real nor false." He must have some belief. He must swing in one direction or the other.

As an example, somebody who has never seen the movie "Barney's Great Adventure" might rightly claim that he neither has the knowledge that the film is good nor the knowledge that the film is poor; yet clearly he must believe it to be poor, else he would have seen it by now.

Similarly, many self-declared atheists have the exact same declarations of knowledge that agnostics do. The only realm in which they differ is that of belief, i.e. the atheist is man enough to admit a non-wishy-washy position and to say, "Yes, I admit, I personally do not believe that there is a God, for reasons A, B, C, D, and E. I recognize that these are not proofs of his non-existence [and in that sense you could claim I am an agnostic], but they inform my belief that he is not real."