Peter Millican concludes the God debate.

This is the sixth and final speaker at the Oxford Union God Debate. We have been working our way through the speeches of those offering arguments for and against the motion This House Believes in God. Professor Peter Millican is concluding the case against the motion.

If you have read any of this blog before you have only to look at that still picture to know what I am going to say first. Peter Millican, clutching that paper, is a talking head. Immediately at least 40% of his potential sparkle has been squandered by his being welded to that bloody script. It’s not just that it acts as a barrier between him and the audience, but also – as I have observed with other talking heads – he is speaking in written rather than spoken English. You do not have to look: merely listening you can tell that he is reading.

There’s a further detail that bothers me. For nearly all of the first five minutes, whenever Millican raises his eyes from the paper, he seems to look not at the audience but way above their heads. This can be a serious nerve symptom – frightened of eye-contact – or it could be that he is conscientiously including audience members in the gallery up there. If it is the first it’s a problem that should be addressed, if the second he is richly to be applauded.

Let’s look more closely at some specific points.

His hump does not last very long. You see a few symptoms like needless over-straightening of papers, a few brief seconds of not knowing where to put his hands, but it all calms down pretty quickly. At 0:42 he has a short period when he is speaking personally about Belief. His face comes up, he speaks directly to the audience and for 20 seconds he’s strongly communicating. If only he would continue like that! But he doesn’t. Like far too many people he regards the wisdom of his written reasoning as so brilliant and valuable that it must be read, whereas the tiny moments that he shoots from the hip he reserves for the asides. for the dross. It’s exactly the wrong way round.

Reading is full of difficulties that hem in your interpretative ability – and I should know: I often perform readings of poetry or prose. While preparing I smother my typescript in red ink annotations that guide me through the phrasing. You don’t need any of that when you are shooting from the hip. Listen to the sentence he begins at 2:55 and you hear a couple of small stumbles that typify momentary phrasing doubt and are very specific to reading. You may think I am being picky, and you’d be right, but for me it represents a huge screen separating a speaker from his audience. I want to take a sledge hammer to it.

The trouble with a debate on this motion is that it covers a subject that has been argued many times for many years (it might have been argued for many centuries but the church closed down debate on pain of combustibility). I classify myself as a devout doubter, who attends church fairly regularly because he finds the rituals spiritually refreshing (‘spiritual’ was a word rather conspicuous by its rarity in this debate). Whenever someone argues, as Millican does, that there is not a ‘shred of proof…’ I want to sigh that I had kinda noticed this. Indeed at 7:09 Peter Hitchens interjects that the motion is not that this house knows that there is a God, but that it believes there is a God. When I first spotted this debate and decided to delve into it I suppose I sought a completely fresh line of reasoning. It was a long shot. Barker and Shermer did not impress me with their arguments, principally because I had wearily heard nearly all of them before. Millican did no better. What was different about Lennox was the refreshing statement of faith which then turned into his mathematical proving of it. (Not being a mathematician I could not follow but, seduced by his childlike enthusiasm, I could enjoy.) Hitchens came very close to a fresh approach by defining belief as a matter of choice. I fear that Collicutt, because she was a talking head and because of her weird enunciation, turned me off completely.

That brings me back to my department – the quality of the actual speaking. The trophy goes to Hitchens. Shooting entirely from the hip his audience engagement and spontaneity of expression were of a very high standard. Barker and Shermer were not far behind, but they were treading paths that they had too obviously trodden often enough to have worn away a layer of spontaneity. Lennox deserted his script at a couple of key points, and when he did it was tremendously exciting – I wish he’d do that more. I fear that Millican and Collicutt, talking heads both, bring up the rear.

You may think I dwell too much on my no-paper obsession. You may think I regard it as a brilliant show-off, a circus stunt to be applauded for its own sake. No: it is what it does for the quality of the speaking. Yes, audiences do love it and are impressed by it (though if you are interesting enough they may not even notice). My love for paperless speaking stems from the way it sets a speaker free to engage spontaneously, almost intimately, with the audience. Done properly the speaker doesn’t lose the thread and doesn’t waffle. Anyone can be taught to do it: Hitchens did it. You may argue that he is a professional communicator, but what is a university lecturer if not one too? I don’t want to be hard on them: they are in a huge majority. Paperless speaking is shamefully and unnecessarily rare.

If I have begun to bore on the subject of talking heads, that is evidence alone of how widespread it is.

1 thought on “Peter Millican concludes the God debate.

  1. A very big deception of the devil is to get you to debate God, Christianity and other religions. This is one of the surest ways to ensure, that you will never experience real salvation and eternal life, and all the wonderful things God has predestined for you.

    Let us just suppose (for those who do not have faith), that even if you argue and debate, and finally, even if it is a long shot, and you finally are logically convinced (by the way, there are many books,eg by thomas equinas that logically prove the christian faith) that there is a God, and that He is the christian God. Does it mean you are going to heaven, just because you are mentally or intellectually convinced that Jesus is God??????

    Not at all. Not unless you have a spiritual experience called being born again.A logical belief in Christianity will prevent you from experiencing the Real Deal, that is a Spiritual Salvation in Christ in the following ways:

    The devil was once a mighty archangel, and presently with billions of demons, evil spirits, unclean spirits, etc with a far superior intelligence than humans.Each human being is assigned to tens, if not hundreds of evil spirits and demon hordes, that would love for you to deny their existence. For if you deny their existence, then surely you will deny God’s existence. It is extremely easy, 1,2,3 steps for Satan to deceive humans in more than a thousand ways.

    Don’t even think you can compete with satan intellectually. However, he has no control over your heart, and what you choose to believe.And that is the loophole, which God has opened up for you. The faith route is the only way you can bypass Satan,and his cronies who guard the intellectual gates of the human mind.

    When you get in to the logic debate about God, few important things to consider in SPIRITUAL WORLD which is what actually matters:

    1) You could be tempted to fall into the dungeon of SPIRITUAL PRIDE, as you are tricked into judging Almighty God, which is a fool’s folly.Spiritual pride was the reason, for satan’s downfall. Also for man’s downfall, in garden of eden, as eve sucumbed to the temptation about being as knowledgeable as God.

    This could also result in the person who is logically convinced that Jesus is God, as an intellectual knowledge of the truth, will become a STUMBLING BLOCK for a real SPIRITUAL SALVATION experience.

    2) It could also lead to DECEPTION as the person, cannot find God in the intellectual domain, but only in the Spiritual domain. God’s thoughts are far higher than yours, mine and the devil’s, so you have to trust Him at His word. As it is written in the bible:
    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

    God is spirit, only a spiritual born again experience can save the person, and the first thing to do is to humble ourselves. Second, we need deliverance from demonic spirits of unbelief that hold people as captives. This can be done if the person humbles himself/herself and receives Jesus Christ into the heart. Deliverance can be done even online, and specific prayers can set the captives free.

    I speak from experience. Not here to argue with anyone.

    Simple challenge for those who are sincere: Ask God to open your eyes, and to reveal Himself to you.Ask in JESUS name.Simple. Try it. IT WORKS

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