Posted by: Brad | April 13, 2008

Jonathan Miller’s Brief History of Disbelief

(Everything here taken from the BBC or the documentary itself, probably without any rights whatsoever. 😉 The documentary is not available on DVD, so you have to resort to piracy to see it. Everyone thank Google Video!)

Shadows of Doubt: “Jonathan Miller visits the absent Twin Towers to consider the religious implications of 9/11 and meets Arthur Miller and the philosopher Colin McGinn. He searches for evidence of the first ‘unbelievers’ in Ancient Greece and examines some of the modern theories around why people have always tended to believe in mythology and magic.”

Noughts and Crosses: “With the domination of Christianity from 500 AD, Jonathan Miller wonders how disbelief began to re-emerge in the 15th and 16th centuries. He discovers that division within the Church played a more powerful role than the scientific discoveries of the period. He also visits Paris, the home of the 18th century atheist, Baron D’Holbach, and shows how politically dangerous it was to undermine the religious faith of the masses.”

The Final Hour: “The history of disbelief continues with the ideas of self-taught philosopher Thomas Paine, the revolutionary studies of geology and the evolutionary theories of Darwin. Jonathan Miller looks at the Freudian view that religion is a ‘thought disorder’. He also examines his motivation behind making the series touching on the issues of death and the religious fanaticism of the 21st century.”

The Atheism Tapes

Miller did a lot of interviewing that was unable to be squeezed into his Brief History of Disbelief series. The footage was collected and put into what is called the Atheism Tapes. Unlike BHD, the Atheism Tapes are available on DVD at Secular Philosophy. I’ll give a preview with two good interviews and links to the rest. (Also see deitywatch for a transcript of every part.)


Short response to Turner: Doesn’t the question “Why is there anything rather than nothing at all?” presuppose a deciding factor involved in some kind of selection between “anything” and “nothing at all”? If there were such a deciding factor, wouldn’t that factor be something and therefore begging the question of its own self-origin? Saying that the factor is outside the human-comprehensible set of “things” is truly meaningless and is only a defensive effort to keep the plausibility of a god thinkable. Let’s keep ontological precedence in check before making awkward questions of ultimate source and existence, shall we?



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