An iPod is a wonderful thing for long car trips. So this past week I listened to a podcast of a debate on the Infidel Guy radio show. It was an hour and a half long and often exasperating, so I wouldn’t have sat through it otherwise. The debate was between FFRF‘s Dan Barker and Paul Manata, a Christian and presuppositionalist.

Anyway, let me get to the exasperating part. The whole thing made me wonder if it’s at all useful to even try and talk to some people, and presuppositionalists like Manata might be a good example of people with whom I’d have a very hard time to get any dialogue going. I don’t mean that Manata came across as especially irrational or pigheaded or anything (a perfectly sane and nice guy, as far as I can tell) — it’s more interesting than that. It’s that I see very little common ground that could help us start a fruitful discussion. It would be too much work to get to anything more than a few preliminaries.

Manata, like many presuppositionalists (and quite a few other styles of theistic apologists as well) sounded like we would not share much of a common idea of rationality, truth, what have you. In particular, he seemed very enamored of a traditional style of armchair philosophizing, and he seemed very much on a quest for certainty. If I were to try and have a conversation with him, I wouldn’t know where to begin. After all, my background is as someone very much brainwashed into a secular and scientific way of thinking, where I don’t expect much in the way of certainty, and I’m not much impressed by armchair metaphysics. As I said, too much work to be worthwhile — I mean, what the hell would it achieve?

Oh well, I’m off traveling again, and I’ll probably be quiet for the next three weeks…

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University