Today’s Video of the Day is a podcast starring Atheist Experience host Matt Dillahunty. In this video, Matt talks about the essentialism that underlies the thinking of most people (and that finds its expression in a lot of religious arguments).
The guy talking to him is kind of
annoying, but luckily he doesn’t have too much to say: the video mostly
consists of Matt freely discoursing on this subject, with the interviewer just
bringing up various topics for him to discuss. Some of the topics covered
include the “Ship of Theseus” thought experiment, identity/labels, abortion,
gay marriage, Hitler sweaters, and in what way numbers can be said to “exist.”
This is one of the best podcasts I’ve
listened to in a really long time.
You can find the video here.
Readers may want to reflect on the ways
that the argument from definition – a favorite of religious dunderheads – is
the product of one kind of essentialism. As Matt mentions in the video, words
don’t actually have (essential) meanings…they have usages that vary in
different contexts and that develop over time. He tells the story of one debate he did in which the Christians in the audience were dumbfounded by this idea
and mocked him for it…but it’s precisely this kind of essentialism that
underlies so many faulty religious arguments, from assumptions like “Marriage is a union of a man and a
woman” to “Materialists start from the assumption that the natural world is all