Roy Vagaries. I’m pleased to be here today with former world heavyweight atheist, Professor Antony Bird. Professor Bird stunned the world a few months ago in an article where he claimed to have experienced a religious conversion. Professor Bird, can you describe the experience for us?
Professor. Experience. Yes, very important. Believe nothing if you haven’t had one.
Roy Vagaries. Professor Bird, you are the author of several essays in which you claim that atheism is the only reasonable position. And you have changed your mind?
Professor. Mind – very important. Indeed. Believe nothing if you don’t have one.
Vagaries. So you have changed your mind?
Professor. Not so much changed as rotated. Literally speaking we don’t change minds like dirty nappies. It’s an orbital thing. Mine’s just swung round.
Vagaries. You used to write that the existence of God was “unreasonable” and that we should presume the non-existence of God in the same way a man is presumed innocent of a crime until the facts are in to prove him guilty. You no longer believe that, I presume.
Professor. Oh my, presume nothing young man. It’s a very nasty habit. I haven’t accused God of anything.
Vagaries. No, I meant by analogy. You made that analogy.
Professor. Mmm, no – I don’t think so. The biblical God is a very nasty chap. Only worthy of contempt. Not as bad as Allah. Allah is a perfect bastard. Imagine putting your bum in the air five times a day for that – unless they’re farting of course. If they were farting at him it would be all right.
Vagaries. Professor, let me draw you back to the subject of your conversion.
Professor. My what? I haven’t converted anything except a few quid when I went to the States last summer. Terrific rate. I like Americans. Treat you well, feed you well. Bloody religious though. Churches everywhere.
Vagaries. I take it the God you believe in is of a different – character – than, say, the God of the Pope.
Professor. Pope, splendid chap. Wrote Essay on Man and laid it all out. We can’t know everything. Of course he turned Catholic didn’t he and believed in God and priests and bells and all that nonsense, and wore five pair of socks to make him taller. Poor fellow. If he’d read Hume that would have put him straight. Not made him taller though.
Vagaries. Professor, reports in the press say you have been impressed with certain kinds of arguments – intelligent design for example – Behe’s idea of irreducible complexity.
Professor. Oh my. There are reports in the press? Complexity, eh? What’s irreducible about it. Haven’t they read Ockham? I shall have to look at them. Some chap came to the house a few months back and explained it all to me, and I said, ‘Yes I shall have to think about this’, and he said, ‘So you say there is something to it?’ and I said, ‘Yes there is something to everything,’ and he said ‘May I quote you?’ I do like being quoted. It makes one feel – useful. So I said , ‘Of course.’ I don’t read much anymore – difficult. But I do like being quoted.
Vagaries. So there is something to intelligent design – you think the universe was the work of an intelligent planner?
Professor. Oh my no, that would be Paley, wouldn’t it. Or something like Paley. He’s dead you know, since 1805. Do you know what I said about Paley? Perhaps not. I said that the acceptance of Darwin rules Paley out, and that the universe is a rather different thing than a watch washing up on some Caribbean beach. Of course if you have other reasons for believing in God then you will be fully justified in continuing to discern his hand and wisdom in everything, won’t you?
Vagaries. I don’t know, actually.
Professor. Well now you do because I just told you.
Vagaries. Professor, do you mind if I cut that last bit out? It doesn’t say what I had hoped you would say about God this afternoon.
Professor. I am sorry. No, of course. Come back tomorrow and perhaps I will say something different. What would you like me say? And whilst you’re writing it down, have some tea.