The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


banner

The Michael Shermer Show

A series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time.

Watch or listen here or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

EPISODE # 178

James Hunter & Paul Nedelisky on Religious vs. Secular Morality — Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality

Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality (book cover)

In their book Science and the Good, professional philosophers James Hunter and Paul Nedelisky trace the origins and development of the centuries-long, passionate, but ultimately failed quest to discover a scientific foundation for morality. The “new moral science” led by such figures as E. O. Wilson, Patricia Churchland, Jonathan Haidt, Joshua Greene, Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, and Michael Shermer is only the newest manifestation of that quest. Though claims for its accomplishments are often wildly exaggerated, Hunter and Nedelisky argue that this new iteration has been no more successful than its predecessors, and that the science of morality becomes, at best, a feeble program to achieve arbitrary societal goals.

The conversation took a decidedly interesting turn when Drs. Hunter and Nedelisky revealed, unbeknownst to Dr. Shermer, that they are both theists and that their Christian worldview informs their thinking on moral issues. The three then got into the weeds of the difference between religious and secular moral systems, the nature of God and morality, why a purely naturalistic approach to morality does not negate religion or even the existence of God (natural law could be God’s way of creating moral values), natural rights and rights theory, consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics, progress in philosophy, why philosophers never seem to reach consensus on important subjects like morality, how to think about issues like abortion, why they believe in God and follow the Christian religion and yet reject Divine Command Theory, and much more.

James Davison Hunter is LaBrosse-Levinson Distinguished Professor of Religion, Culture, and Social Theory at the University of Virginia.

Paul Nedelisky is a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.

You play a vital part in our commitment to promoting science and reason. If you enjoy the podcast, please show your support by making a $5 or $10 monthly donation. This episode is sponsored by:

The Great Courses Plus (sponsor)

This episode was released on May 4, 2021.

Donate
For those seeking a sound scientific viewpoint

Newsletter

Be in the know!

Subscribe to eSkeptic: our free email newsletter and get great podcasts, videos, reviews and articles from Skeptic magazine, announcements, and more in your inbox once or twice a week.

Sign me up!

Copyright © 1992–2023. All rights reserved. | 3938 State St., Suite # 101, Santa Barbara, CA, 93105-3114 | 1-805-576-9396. The Skeptics Society is a non-profit, member-supported 501(c)(3) organization (ID # 95-4550781) whose mission is to promote science & reason. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Privacy Policy.