Friday 3 June 2011

A Moral Maze — of science and morality (BBC Radio 4)

On Wednesday BBC Radio 4 concluded the present series of the Moral Maze, its weekly live panel discussion on topical issues of morality. Unlike most other radio discussion panels, the Moral Maze adopts a cross-examination format, calling witnesses one by one to be quizzed by the regulars. As it's a live show, things can sometimes get a bit heated. (This also depends on which of the regulars are on the show in any given week, and who is chairing the panel — David Aaronovitch has temporarily replaced Michael Buerk for the latter part of this series. Melanie Phillips' more incendiary views often spark fireworks, though she wasn't on this week.)

The topic on Wednesday was science and morality, and two of the witnesses were Giles Fraser and Jerry Coyne. Fraser doesn't seem to have learned from his encounter with Sam Harris (but Fraser's views appear remarkably ill-defined at the best of times, especially on Thought for the Day). He impaled himself categorically on one horn of the Euthyphro dilemma by stating that God's morality is not intrinsic to God but external to him (which surely makes him less of a god). But theology has never been Fraser's strong point.

Jerry Coyne dealt patiently with his interrogators' questions, but clearly could have used more time to develop his responses. In some ways he was an untypical choice for this topic (maybe they couldn't get Sam Harris), but nevertheless he did well.

The audio can be streamed from the Moral Maze website or direct from iPlayer:
Check out Jerry Coyne's two posts on his blog Why Evolution is True: