Baggini’s consolations for a post-truth world


Hugh D. Reynolds interviews Juliana Baggini over at 3:AM Magazine:

3:AM: In the first chapter, Eternal truths, you write: ‘One of the problems we face is not the absence of truth, but its overabundance.’ You make a case for maintaining divergence into two streams of truth: revealed, religious truths, and those more grounded in science. I can see that this is a pragmatic, perhaps vital split to reduce conflict, but isn’t it permitting a kind of truth bypass?

JB: There are lots of very sophisticated religious believers who make religion out to be a kind of primitive science – and it really isn’t. They’ll talk about Stephen J. Gould and the two Non-Overlapping Magisteria (see his Rock of Ages (Random House 1999)). I think that they are prescriptively right and descriptively wrong.

A lot of religious belief – even the majority – involves making factual claims about the world which do come into conflict with science and history. For Christians, a test of this is the Empty Tomb. I ask Christians: ‘are you saying that it does not matter – as a matter of fact – whether or not Christ’s tomb was empty and that he was resurrected?’ At that point, I find that, to a lot of them, it really does matter, despite all the fine talk about not wanting to confuse science and history with religion.

Having said that, it is the right door to push against. There are believers who are already there or half the way there. Rather than say ‘let’s forget about religion – let’s get rid of it’ – I think we should try and force people to walk the talk: to take more seriously the idea that, whatever religious truth is, it’s not the same thing as science and history. People find that easy to say, and difficult to do.

More here.