In this unique American election season I’ve spent far too much time watching partisan pundits on cable news. One thing you are unlikely ever to hear from a Clinton or Trump supporter: “If I’m wrong, I want to know. ” Still less: “After examining the evidence I have changed my views to be less partisan in support of my candidate.” Instead, the two sides quickly line up against one another and open fire with the host left to run for cover.
Compare that with the most recent episode of Unbelievable in which Christian apologist Jeff Zweerink and atheist Skydive Phil have an open and honest discussion on the multiverse. This is Unbelievable at its best with both Zweerink and Skydive Phil exemplifying a refreshingly non-partisan, open discussion on possible evidence for the multiverse, and the implications it might have for alleged cosmic fine-tuning. While the entire show is worth a listen, two moments stand out for me as especially revealing for the way they exemplify the spirit of Unbelievable.
The first moment comes 32 minutes into the show. To set up the context, the very intelligent, informed, and articulate Skydive Phil has claimed that there is scientific evidence for the multiverse. However, in a recently produced (and excellent) short video Brierley claimed that there isn’t scientific evidence for a multiverse.
So what do you think most folks would do if they were in Brierley’s shoes? What would most do if they’d just produced a professional video in which they made a claim that was now being challenged by a guest who was intelligent, informed, and articulate? Simple: they’d sit quietly until the storm had passed. Or, to shift metaphors, they’d deftly guide the interview through the mine-field. Or, as folks are wont to say in the current American election cycle: they’d pivot.
Not Brierley. Instead, he addresses the elephant in the room. Or, to shift metaphors again, he takes the bull by the horns and plays a clip from his video in which he makes the very claim under contention. Then he comments:
Give the man credit. That is what it looks like to place a concern for truth over partisanship or personal reputation or a professionally produced video. We should all aspire to this level of open and vulnerable discussion.
And that brings me to the second point which comes 36 minutes into the show. In this clip Brierley asks Zweerink whether the multiverse does damage to claims to cosmic fine-tuning. Zweerink’s honest and vulnerable evaluation of the situation is disarming and most certainly not the norm in the typically partisan and heated atheist/Christian debates:
Zweerink is a research scholar with Hugh Ross’s organization Reasons to Believe. While I certainly respect Hugh Ross as one of the smartest (and nicest) people in Christian apologetics, Ross also tends to reflect a triumphalism about the scientific evidence for Christianity.
While I don’t mean to pit Zweerink against Ross, I will say that Zweerink’s modest admission of the points where the available evidence is not a boon for the Christian is an essential part of a credible apologetic in the contemporary world. The lesson, I would submit, is that apologists on all sides should recognize when the evidence doesn’t favor their position, not least because it’s the right thing to do. What is more, in the long run being honest actually serves one’s interests as an apologist in search of a winsome and effective presentation of their views.
I illustrate the latter point in my book You’re not as Crazy as I Think with an analogy drawn from Miracle on 34th Street. The problem starts when Kris Kringle, the Macy’s Santa, starts telling customers when Gimbel’s has a lower price on a particular toy. As soon as the manager hears of this he is outraged and plans to fire Kringle. What kind of employee would cede a sale to their competitor? What the manager didn’t anticipate is that Kringle’s honesty leads the customers to become more loyal to Macy’s because they recognize that here is a retailer who is more interested in serving the customer rather than merely making the sale.
It’s worth underscoring the first point again: whether you win a customer or not, it’s still the right thing to do. At the same time, in this world of perpetual partisanship and ceaseless spin-doctoring, honesty has its own rewards just the same, and you may well find that losing an argument wins you respect … and perhaps even a convert.
All that is to say that these are two refreshing examples of why we love Unbelievable.