This I believe.
I believe Barbara Bradley Hagerty is a shill for religion and shouldn’t be a reporter in the legitimate news media.
The public radio echo chamber is unbearably loud this week with vapid discussions of NPR religious correspondent Hagerty’s new book “The Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality.” Incredibly, they’re giving her a five part series that amounts, of course, to a national book-tour of inestimable value. Maybe NPR’s got a piece of the book sales proceeds, or maybe they’re so accustomed to lavishing attention on every page ejected from Cokie Robert’s laser printer their brains have changed and they don’t realize this is inappropriate.
Meanwhile she appeared today for an hour on Diane Rehm (further expanding Diane’s reputation for gullibility I’m afraid). I’m guessing these aren’t the last.
Hagerty is a sometimes-admitted supposedly former Christian Scientist, which is sickeningly appropriate given the book’s title. Although she has many connections with more fundamentalist people and organizations (brilliantly exposed by Better Angels and Eschaton), she soft pedals it here suspiciously in line with the latest gratuitous anti-atheist pushback from the likes of Terry Eagleton and Stanley Fish.
The theist argument can be split into two questions, “is there a god?” and “if there is a god, what things must follow from that fact?” The second question is much harder because you have to start making a lot of extremely questionable truth claims about things like the age of the universe, virgin births, Roe vs. Wade, and, of course, whether zippers are okay.
The easy road is to start with the whole divine existence question. You have to appear to approach it very timidly and humbly. The tricky part is to first define god with such sweeping generality that the definition conflicts with no faith. It’s “something larger than ourselves”, a “spiritual feeling”, or (straight from the book) “the unearthly wine of transcendence”. Then you interview some scientists and ask them unanswerable leading questions like (again from the book) “When people pray, do they connect to God or tap into a dimension outside of their bodies?”
When you ask a question like that a lot of scientists will try to avoid seeming arrogant or hurting your feelings. Often they are religious themselves. So they’ll respond as the scientist in the book did :
Even if I do a brain scan of somebody who tells me that they’ve seen God, that scan only tells me what their brain was doing when they had that experience, and it doesn’t tell me whether or not they actually did see God.
Then you come to the safe conclusion, as Hagerty does in her book and on the air, that belief in this extremely nonspecific God has the same validity as non belief, that it’s all just a matter of opinion and everybody is equal and everybody wins.
Never mind the fact that this conclusion is nothing more than a hazy tautology, that making this statement after putting a bunch of people in fMRIs is no different than making the statement without the fMRIs. Never mind the fact that this sloppy sentiment contributes not one iota to the eons old debate about god.
The real problem is that Hagerty has, quite intentionally, just made it easier for dogmatists of all stripes to peddle their pernicious claims.