Woody Allen debates Billy Graham where is Jordan Peterson?

For the pointer I thank D.


Woody Allen is a comedian and Billy Graham was an evangelist.

For an actual debate on religion or metaphysics, better contemporary debates can also be found on YouTube, usually between William Lane Craig and a New Atheist.

Or, if you want to learn anything, watch the debate he had with Sean Carroll, a physicist. Unfortunately for Craig, Carroll is easily able to demonstrate over and over again that Craig simply has the physics he uses to support his arguments wrong.

And the scientists never respond to the philosophical arguments and nobody learns anything.

I disagree. I actually learned more philosophy from Carroll in that debate than Craig. He's done his homework. Carroll is a scientist with a healthy appreciation of philosophy: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/?s=philosophy

Carroll's understanding of philosophy is admittedly better than that of most New Atheists, and he is generally kinder to religion as an idea. Unfortunately, Carroll's epistemology is fallacious. He claims that “our metaphysics must follow our physics” in the debate you cited. Unfortunately, physics is an outgrowth and metaphysics, and philosophy more generally.

" physics is an outgrowth and metaphysics"

As a sequence of human thought, but the physics tie-ins to metaphysics, that which is so reliant on notions of substance, is proving ephemeral, given all that has been learned from 20th/21st century developments in physics, which really emerge to stand apart and on their own.

It sounds like you are saying that all questions of metaphysics can be answered by physics

Not all questions. Many questions in metaphysics are, now, meaningless and pointless. Some remaining questions of sufficient import can, and should, be answered by physics, or the higher emergent scientific fields.

Which questions? Causal powers? Substance? Essence? Form?

I've seen that debate, and that's fair to say that Carroll has a much better grasp of physics than Craig. It is also fair to say that Craig has a much better grasp of philosophy than Carroll. I think both have contributed significantly in their respective fields, and are both respectful and enjoyable to listen to.

We must have seen two different debates. Carroll completely crucifies Craig. His command of physics and philosophy shows rare breadth and far outshines Craigs rather weak, incoherent Islamic theology-based rhetorical slights. A literal league and class of his own and a gentleman to boot.

For a philosopher, William Craig sure could relearn logic, perhaps starting with Aristotlean syllogism. Here's a good takedown on the many fallacies he deploys and why he's generally wrong:


The "New Atheists," Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens get trounced by William Lane Craig. They appeal to 2nd grade philosophical thinking. The Dawkins no show, written retorts, appeal to preshcool philosophical nonthinking. Sean, on the other hand, uses philosophy adroitly, maturely, buy primarily draws upon bedrock physics arguments to totally knock out WLC.

Sean is a far more careful thinker than the New Atheists, and he's a gentleman, too.

In Craig's kalam argument, the only premise that draws upon physics is "the universe began to exist". As far as I know, Carroll does not deny that premise, and would be out-of-line with the vast majority of contemporary cosmologists if he did deny that premise.

Re: "the universe began to exist"

Perhaps. This is up in the air, actually, given theoretical developments in QFT.

What are the developments in quantum field theory that suggest the universe did not begin to exist?

You don't have to go that way to question the premise. In practice, what the premise says is that time exists outside the universe, and is a linear, constant concept. We have space-time as a concept. The idea of the universe 'beginning' stops making sense, just along with what happened before the universe beginning. Does anything exist outside of spacetime? Maybe, but we have no measurements. It's also possible that there isn't: The universe only needs a creator if it exist within time, instead of time existing within it.

“The universe only needs a creator if it exists within time, instead of time existing within it”.

This is wrong.

Time is irrelevant.

The universe needs an uncaused cause under any structure that relies on causality.

QFT does not posit a system not subject to causality... it posits the redefinition of something as nothing.

I don't think this is quite right. It posits that the vacuum isn't nothing. But nothing is still nothing. If there is nothing - no laws, no field, etc... you can't get something. All versions of quantum mechanics are causal - that's why you can make predictions and measurements can test those predictions. Some interpretations make quantum mechanics non-deterministic. Whether one goes with Copenhagen paradigm, adopts the pilot-wave or some other interpretation, a certain situation will *cause* a predictable distribution of outcomes that we can test. Otherwise my students would never get an answer wrong (if only...).

When I taught Quantum Field Theory to our grad students last semester, I have to confess that the idea that the universe did or did not begin to exist never came up. I'm not sure how quantized field equations could bear on this. I thought I might be missing something here.

Who cares where Jordan Peterson is?

A number one book on Amazon - a few people care.

He was trolling Jordan Peterson fans in the title. He is everywhere these days.

Maybe. In the past Tyler has seemed like a bit of a fan. Maybe I misunderstood.

Meanwhile, here is one take on Peterson.

But not a very insightful one.

One of the very worst. So uncharitable. Scott Alexander at Star Codex or whatever it’s called, who is actually a psychiatrist, thinks Jordan Peterson is a good therapist.

There was a piece on Peterson in Esquire that was pretty balanced.

The sessions aren’t therapy but let’s write an article based off of the supposition that they were therapy, mostly because we hate Peterson for his political opposition. Nice ‘journalism’.

In Craig's kalam argument, the only premise that draws upon physics is "the universe began to exist". As far as I know, Carroll does not deny that premise, and would be out-of-line with the vast majority of contemporary cosmologists if he did deny that premise.

Fluff... While not a debate, this is more worth your time: Bishop Barron at Google.


Jordan Peterson doesn't have the sense of humor Billy Graham had. Graham could play along with Woody's jokes. Hard to picture Jordan able to.

Jordan P is really uptight for a Canadian, or anybody, for that matter.

It's all that standing up straight and acting like a lobster stuff.

It appears that the ability to argue without hostility has declined markedly. I recently watched a few old episodes of firing line on youtube. I had never seen the show before. There isn't anything like it today so far as I know. Even when Buckley is interrogating he restricts himself to logic and perhaps challenging premises. Now we would only be concerned with whether Buckley and his guests are the good guys or the bad guys.

Where does "marrying your wife's adoptive daughter" fit in the rubric of "enforced monogamy?"

I'd classify adoptions into three broad categories (obviously there will be peculiarities and exceptions, but generally).

(1) Real parents model. Two people who can't create a child together adopt a baby or very young child to raise as their own. This is a wonderful thing.
(2) Step-parent model. Step-parent adopts spouse's child. This "parental" relationship is entirely derivative and will only be as strong, at best, as the parent-step/adoptive parent relationship. Moreover, this is usually complicated by the presence of an actual biological parent who was pressured to agree to the adoption, but still has a relationship with the child.
(3) Collect-a-kid. This seems to be popular in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. This is the situation with Mia Farrow's "adoptions."

That was very funny and interesting. I think that Woody was a little stunned that Billy Graham thought he would be a good preacher. You can see why Woody Allen was a great comedian and Billy Graham was great evangelist.

This was the first time I saw Peterson in Graham.

The question is, who is Woody Allen? Who could have such a courteous, fun conversation with JP, but be of a completely different worldview?

Different worldviews were strong stereotypes back then. Woody was hip, Billy was square. Those were the 2 categories in the 60's.

Peterson's worldview seems complicated. He's primarily a Jungian. He's conservative on some issues, liberal on others. He's passionately against post-modernism, but nobody knows what post-modernism is. He's neither hip nor square.

But if David Letterman were still on network TV, that would be your answer.

Jimmy Kimmel could have a courteous conversation with him, but given Kimmel's Man Show credentials, he wouldn't be viewed as someone with a completely different worldview. Again, we don't have stereotyped worldviews like they did in the 60's.

“Nobody knows what post modern is”...

Really? What makes you say that? Post modernists have been pretty clear — even by sensible peoples’ standares — about their enemies. They are against Truth, realism (metaphysical and scientific), nature in the nature-nurture debate, anti-social constructionism, capitalism, and Grand Narratives. There’s more but most share a thorough hostility to 90% of the above.

Maybe. Maybe I'm just not educated enough, but I've heard post-modernism refer to a lot more than that. For instance, to Samuel Beckett, David Letterman, Borges...

Did the philosophers who are now considered as "post-modernist" call themselves post-modernists, or was the label applied later? I get the sense that the label was applied later and that the term has evolved over the years, and that my confusion is due to the word meaning different things at different times.

How about Norm Macdonald.

I may be one of the few people who really admires both of these people. Woody Allen was one of the great geniuses of the 20th century (though he mostly has misfired over the past 30 years. BTW, that could be a good Marginal Revolution topic: why do so many great artists in modern times burn out?
Billy Graham helped millions of people improve their character and living standards.

Both are major icons of the 20th century.

We don't have civilized conversation like this these days.

Somebody punch this Nazi.

In 1969 nobody asked us to be "fair" to Nazis.

In 1961 the ACLU sided with the Nazi party and asked the courts to do exactly that: treat the *actual* American Nazi Party fairly.

“...(H)is right to speak may not be cut off, no matter how offensive his speech may be to others.”


The "free speech for me AND thee" stance is increasingly bizarre to younger leftists. Why on earth would you defend something you don't like?! This common sense kind of position once belonged solidly to conservatives. It's now the left's turn to hold the mantle.

Old fashioned liberals and conservatives feel more and more like some misunderstood beatnik in the 1950s, always being confused for a dangerous malcontent commie, who's now given way to fascist.

I thought as I posted it that someone might take "fair" in the ACLU sense, and not the "deplatforming" sense.

But that would be dumb.

Today the right demands that Nazis not be deplatformed.

More like Ben Shapiro and Condi Rice not be deplatformed at taxpayer funded Universities, you goon.

You illustrate, but not what you intended.

Free Speech has never meant a pleasing platform for all.

The right wing is really screwed up on this now. They think they should get to speak everywhere because that is "free speech."

In reality public and private institutions may make their own arbitrary choices as always. Same as it always was, and not infringement on Free Speech.

"public institutions may make their own arbitrary choices as always. Same as it always was, and not infringement on Free Speech"

100% false and both illegal and also a gross violation of moral and ethical standards

What the heck are you talking about? Do you think the NRA must host Jane Fonda?

The NRA is a public institution? My tax dollars go to the NRA, the same as GMU? That is outrageous!

Come on, this deplatforming thing is not only been about public institutions.


I was quoting YOU

+3 or so to Anon.

"Come on, this deplatforming thing is not only been about public institutions."

That's a shallow attempt to move the goal posts because you had lost the argument.

Good God you are a trusting soul, JWatts.

I say "In reality public and private institutions may make their own arbitrary choices as always"


"In reality public and private institutions may make their own arbitrary choices as always"

Learn something:


First of all, it is a Red Card when you edit a quote. Out of the game.

Second, back all the way up to what that first quote really meant. It is that in a high information environment, with many parties, public and private, offering platforms, no one can be first or featured all the time. All choices will be arbitrary, but different, and varied.

You can't demand a venue.

But conversely, in a high information environment, with UNRESTRICTED PUBLISHING, you don't need to ask for a venue. JUST PUBLISH.

This was the dark comedy of the whole Dark Web farce. People with unrestricted reach and large audiences imagining themselves overcoming great obstacles ... because they weren't granted the best venues when they wanted them.

The generation who was told everyone is special?

Well, they demand that people not be deplatformed violently based on the spurious justification they they qualify as Nazis, which ironically is exactly analogous to what actually Nazis did, except substituting "Nazi" for "Communist"

The alt-right wants it both ways, they say "we aren't Nazis, why won't you listen to our Nazis?"

Man, you are annoying. You literally said x, and were refuted by someone smarter than you posting not-x. Shouldn’t you slink off or apologize or something? Instead you double down on conservatives as alt right. I revile Nazis and the truly wacko alt right but I know darn well that “alt right” is the latest stick to beat conservatives and Republicans and Tories with.

Do you really think the ACLU and Trump's "Some Very Fine People on Both Sides" are equivalent?

If so you have really missed what is happened in the intervening time.

I mean let's not forget the traditional form is that where Nazis appear Republicans disavow them.

Don't accept the absence of that ("fine people") as a new normal and then complain when people notice.

"... physical force is always better with Nazis. It’s hard to satirize a guy with shiny boots."

Yeah, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower weren't very fair to the Nazis either...

Yes, this is precisely the point.

I was hoping this would include one of my favorite debate-related anecdotes: Woody Allen once said that Billy Graham told him something to the effect of "even if you are right and I am wrong, my life will be better than yours, because I will not live under the same dread about death that you do." And Woody conceded that Graham was correct.

The unavoidable internal contradictions of America's system are becoming increasingly clear.

Maybe Peterson fans are meant to realize they’re close to Christian conservatism.
Maybe left critics are meant to realize that Woody Allen should’ve listened to Billy.

Speak for yourself. Personally I’m a fan of Jordan Peterson’s for his anti-post-modernism.

Railing against "post-modernism" does nothing for the millions of Americans facing rising health care costs, does nothing to bring down the cost of housing, and fails to create higher paying jobs for an evershrinking middle class. It is elites like you and Jordan Peterson that continue to distract from the real struggles of the American middle class with ridiculous culture wars like transgender pronouns and your "post-modernism"

Quite the opposite

I like Peterson too, but I think the main reason for his appeal is that he is a throwback to an earlier time, a man who speaks his mind instead of kowtowing to the latest fashion. He's Clint Eastwood with a PhD.

I missed the movie where Clint said he'd "slap" someone.

"Do you feel lucky, punk?" - Jordan Peterson's twitter, 2018

You might be getting there, but if you think slapping and carrying the world's most powerful handgun are the same, you might need more manliness lessons.

From there go to


I notice Graham's argument is basically hedonism. Do XYZ because God's going to give you really cool things (like an 'acid trip 10,000 more potent than acid').

Take his argument about pre-marital sex. This is a commandment because 'psychologists' agree having sex before you get married leads to worse outcomes. First no one takes that seriously but second it's ultimately depicting God and faith as a set of self-help rules whose ultimate underlying purpose is to ensure humans are as happy as they can be.

Nonsense. Premarital sex is associated with much higher rates of STIs, this is true across cultures and time. Premarital abstinence is associated with more stable marriages, lower stress levels, and lower all cause mortality (and yes this is certainly partially confounded with other things).

If 1950s levels of premarital sex had prevailed through the 80s we would have saved millions of lives with HIV. If 1920s levels of premarital sex had been maintained it would have all but stopped the HIV epidemic.

Premarital sex trades away pleasure now for increased risk of bad things later. No one in healthcare has ever seriously doubted this. What has changed is the relative measure of those risks (e.g. premarital sex rates rose more strongly with the introduction of antibiotics than later with birth control). Today we know the health risks and just accept them as being worth paying for the social conformity and hedonic value on the other side.

We also tend to be soft bigots against the young insisting that they are not capable of abstaining.

Ultimately Graham was correct there is a trade off and people who take his side of the wager have robustly better medical outcomes. We just think it is too hard and those outcomes are not worth it.

This should not be surprising. According to longitudinal data, doing everything Graham wants (conversion, church membership, regular worship) is associated with a one-third reduction in all cause mortality. That is a medical outcome superior to curing all cancer. Picking out exactly which bits of his lifestyle are the most beneficial is hard, but the package deal is sufficiently strong that most any of them show some nice ANOVA regressions.

"If 1950s levels of premarital sex had prevailed through the 80s we would have saved millions of lives with HIV. If 1920s levels of premarital sex had been maintained it would have all but stopped the HIV epidemic."


How did the death rate due to sysphillis, which is not as deadly as untreated HIV, exceed the peak of the AIDS epidemic?

So obviously you know nothing about epidemiology then.

First, syphilis is transmitted roughly three times as efficiently per act of heterosexual intercourse. This is exceedingly important for low density webs like 1920s sexual interaction clusters. Sustained transmission is much harder if you need multiple contacts.

Secondly, syphilis has a near 100% vertical transmission rate. HIV has around 25% untreated. This is worse with the family sizes common in the 20s (i.e. AIDS would have killed a lot more babies if we were having as many children in the 80s as the 20s).

Third, it was, after all, the 1920s. Getting treated for syphilis necessitated being exposed to all manner of nosocomial infections. Everything back then had much higher death rates. If you happened to catch TB with your syphilis, well you might survive the TB but be weakened against your syphilis. The best hospital or sanitarium in the 20s would be closed today (or in the 80s) for terrible infection control.

Fourth, with AIDS, even in the 80s, we would dose with agents that did not exist back then against the opportunistic infections which weakened and killed patients. Amphotericin, TMP/SMZ, azithryomycin etc. all allow us to slow death even if we cannot manage treat the underlying disease. People still die, but it death rate is a function of incidence and survival time, increasing survival time does drop the rate until steady state is reached (which we thankfully never really hit with HIV).

This is not that hard. Just plug and chug from a simple SIR model. Take whichever set of numbers you like and drop the beta term down. This will always decrease the spread rate and if you drop it low enough you get back to AIDS in the early 20th century where it was locally contained but sustained by high partner sexual behaviors (e.g. colonial prostitutes). Breaking out it the wider world requires a pretty high beta. We have largely stopped HIV spread among heterosexuals by dropping beta down (with condoms and screening) to something not terribly dissimilar to the beta for STIs of 1920s.

This is why we are so blindingly happy that syphilis has not developed hardly any antibiotic resistance. If we lost the ability to treat it, it would be a bloodbath. Thankfully, penicillin still works and we largely ignore it.

All very good points. But my point is fundamentally demonstrated. You didn't need a mass prohibition on premarital sex to deal with either HIV or syphilis and today we enjoy a very low death rate due to both despite premarital sex remaining quite high.

So in other words you are moving your goalposts. If society had followed Graham a few more million people would be alive. Every epidemiologist worth their salt takes it seriously. We have a clear and easily demonstrable example of why premarital sex "lead to worse outcomes". You then tried to distract with syphilis. Exactly how many more dead people would need to say that we had a "worse outcome"?

Nor is the danger from STIs completely gone. Pelvic inflammatory disease, today, is a leading cause of infertility. HPV, today, still causes cervical cancer in great numbers and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future (and no not all HPV strains are covered by vaccination nor are condoms sufficient). When these diseases kill people it is less dramatic than AIDS, but no premarital sex is still a risk factor for lots of deadly things.

Beyond anything specific, those who do not have premarital sex still have greater life expectancy and lower all-cause mortality. Again, abiding by the totality of Mr. Graham's advice results in better outcomes than curing cancer; something we cannot replicate with modern medicine.

More interesting to me is what did the change in sexual mores actually accomplish? We now have less sex than back then (about 20 times per year compared to Kinsey data). We report greater stress about both sex and life. Woman are much more likely to report mismatches between desired and achieved fertility. Actual verses desired marital status has grown more discordant. Suicides are increasing. Loneliness is terribly more common and more severe.

If Graham is wrong, what is the proof that you offer? What are the positive benefits?

This is quite interesting to me. Even the poorest among us can live like kings of old. We want for no material comfort with minimal effort. And yet we are killing ourselves at ever greater levels. We are addicting ourselves to ever more lethal drugs. Supposedly shucking off the old morality was to liberate us to achieve great things and personal fulfillment. Instead the average American hates their job, has few or no friends, is not likely to have a single lifelong partner though they desire one, and will report more stress in their life than the average WWII combat veteran.

You could point to tolerance, but frankly as a somewhat conservative minority I feel like the intolerance has just shifted to what about me people dislike. You could talk about our lower murder rate, except that it has not returned to the 1950s levels, has most recently been rising (in spite of improved emergency medicine), and is still multiplicatively worse than the murder rate in the 1900s. We have better healthcare ... but we are losing ground to drugs and suicide.

Now sure the rich, powerful, and bright can parlay their position into all manner of diversion and fun ... but for the average American who has trouble finishing community college, who will not be able to afford to live in California or NYC, and who will not have good health, I just don't see the upsides being all the persuasive for a baseline decades out from Graham and Allen.

One prophet told us that premarital sex will make us happier. One told us that it would not. I have seen no reason to believe the second made a worse prognostication.

Saw a graph floating around the interwebs that showed that the more premarital partners a woman had, the more likely they were to have a divorce. This effect was large.

So basically the purpose of the Bible is to give roughly accurate pop psychology advice to privileged, first world people who lived thousands of years after it's authorship.

I’m rapidly reaching the point where the only comments section I can read without slightly vomiting in my mouth is Slate Star Codex.


This is not the argument and you know it is not the argument. Why even write the comment?

"without slightly vomiting in my mouth"

if you are a dude, watch more Peterson.

Err actually that was Graham's argument. God's commandments are a set of instructions for our benefit, not his.

This is akin to saying God prohibited pork because poorly cooked pork could get you sick. If that was the purpose then you can dispense with the regulation if you accomplish the goal by other means (proper cooking, consistent ovens, etc.).

The concerns with premarital sex can be easily addressed. We can cure STDS, use testing to lower the risk that a partner has one. We can adopt norms that cope with the psychological stresses of non-lifetime-monogamous lifestyles.

Graham's arguments are essentially secular ones in the interview, like dietary advice from fad gurus. This is not a solid foundation upon which you can build a faith.

You are basically correct. In fact another Baptist preacher, John Piper, got pretty famous in the evangelical world for his book called Desiring God: meditations of a Christian hedonist. You can get the gist here:


Where Billy Graham was charming and charitable, Jordan Peterson is not. Living a life to honor God versus enforced monogamy. Which approach has a greater chance of convincing radical feminists to abandon post modernist neo-Marxism?

The striking part of their discussion was Graham's generosity. Since the Moral Majority the American public has been denied this interplay between two figures with differing viewpoints that has not dissolved into a WWE match. Persuasion is more potent than derision.

I would be very interested to see Tyler have a conversation with an evangelical/conservative Protestant. Tyler mentioned his interest in Calvin’s Institutes. How about the historian D.G. Hart. He literally wrote the book on Calvinism (as well as Mencken and Machen).

If he wants a pastor, Piper, Keller, or Begg would be interesting to hear. Other “weird” intellectuals who would be interesting interviews are Al Plantinga, Carl Truman, and Tommy Kidd.

Comments for this post are closed