NPR show on Robert Ingersoll

January 18, 2013 • 1:39 pm

From yesterday’s National Public Radio’s “On Point” show, Tom Ashbrook discusses The Great Agnostic, Robert Ingersoll, whom you surely know by now.  Ashbrook has two guests (Susan’s book is new, and she’s quite eloquent about the man):

Susan Jacoby, author, “The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought.”

Dale McGowan, writes the secular parenting blog “The Meming of Life.” Author of “Parenting Beyond Belief” and the upcoming “Atheism For Dummies.” (@memingoflife)

The show is 47 minutes long, and I recommend it. At 5:20, you can hear a rare recording of Ingersoll’s voice!

h/t: Kurt

7 thoughts on “NPR show on Robert Ingersoll

  1. It was a great interview, Susan Jacoby had a great rant regarding our “Pastor in Chief” at the end. I wish I could live long enough to see the end of religion, because it will come some day.

  2. Jacoby’s earlier book A History of American Secularism also has extensive discussion of Ingersoll. This book is a must-have and I consider it even more valuable than those by the four horsemen. Let’s face it tomes explicitly on the subject of atheism may be material most of you wholeheartedly agree with, but they have limited penetration in the broader population. Even as the number of atheists in the U.S. increases I feel the assiduous reasoning behind it is a limiting factor, and absolute numbers of atheists will always be low. However, if you broaden the scope of secularism to a mistrust of organized religion and ethics/civics grounded in reason, you resonate with a vastly bigger audience. The social benefits of this approach are more promising. This is not to say that any of this is mutually exclusive to clinical atheism. The two are complementary. It’s just that an excessive infatuation with an erudite and effete godlessness will get you only so far. It’s why a consider Jacoby’s historical expose one of the most important out there.

    1. “Assiduous”? “Clinical”? “Excessive”? “Effete”?

      Physicalism is simply an observation, there is nothing assiduous or excessive with those.

      Is it assiduous or excessive to observe the rotation of the Earth on its axis, done once (or perhaps a few times to make sure) but reminding us daily?

      And there is nothing clinical or effete about the observation that there are no gods.

      2004 saw the inflationary standard cosmology, and late 2012 the 9th WMAP data release managed to test inflation, with its observational constraints but without its cosmology constraints, to over 5 sigma.

      Such a 0 energy universe must arise spontaneously beyond reasonable doubt. (Either just before big bang or, as an eternal inflation multiverse at any time and potentially always existing.) I know of at least 5 independent ways to assess the 0 energy property of such a universe. And the kind of testing beyond reasonable doubt involved would be the same as elsewhere, such as for the observation of Earth rotating on its axis.

      Precisely as Darwin once killed the creationist gods that made species, WMAP killed the creationist gods that made universes.

      Physicalism aside, religionists can now retreat to deism. But I don’t think it is intellectually reasonable anymore.

      Inflation all by itself assures us that our observable universe physics is homogeneous, and that is how we can live within it. So we already see processes that decides physical laws.

      Eternal inflation may take that to the observation that all laws are decided by anthropic theory. We will see, but the main observation is that science moves forcibly and excitingly in this field, whether or not secularism sits still and/or strawman science.

      So atheism is not an extreme position. In the form of physicalism it is simply an embrace of (ever uncertain) observation and an avoidance of sitting halfway to the crazy town of religionism. As such, skepticism, “a mistrust of organized religion”, should follow suit, as their organizations in turn embrace science.

      I don’t think I have ever seen atheists say that any one approach to break the back of religion should be pursued. Most seem to say multiple ways are beneficial. The world wide diminishing of religion today comes from the relative diminishing of poverty, and the increased opportunities to get an education. Any education, so while science is useful here it is not the end all of “pro-noneity”.

      Well, the important thing is that you have found a way to feel superior to both positions.

    2. Also ironic here that Jacoby speaks directly against this type of strawmanning of atheism:

      “But the most powerful force holding us back is our own reluctance to speak, particularly at moments of high national drama and emotion, with the combination of reason and passion needed to erase the image of the atheist as a bloodless intellectual robot.” [ ; my bold.]

      I guess it confirms that you read what you want to read.

  3. I kinda wish Susan had taken that guy who said that science and religion will converge to task, that peeve aside I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks!

  4. Reblogged this on Sarvodaya and commented:
    More people should know about this eloquent and intelligent historical character. The US has a long and fascinating history of secular freethought, beginning with many of our own founding fathers.

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