Listening to the discussion, it came off to me something like a cross-examination by a lawyer ( advocate) of a friendly witness. But when John Huddleston pauses in response to a question about why he needs verification from Assyrian Annals about Biblical Kings and Chronicles relating to the military process of the House of Omri:
"It's a good question." It does not sound fake. I looked for some background on Professor Huddleston and found some explanation of his viewpoint at the school website. See below.
In essence, both Dawkins and Huddleston are coming from the same perspective, but for different reasons. Dawkins the biologist draws conclusions about religious beliefs from his unrelated academic work, but based as well on the necessity to find cause in mechanism. Huddleston studies religious texts as well, but is bound either by profession or considerations of academic integrity to do the same. In the first ten minutes or so, it is difficult to say whether Huddleston actually has a religious persuasion. But maybe he does. He just does not allow it to influence his professional work. So if you are looking for a debate here, it's just not there. Dawkins is simply smart enough to know where archeology and near eastern studies stands to ask his guest the right questions to support his own viewpoint.
Personally, from my own reading of this sort of thing, I am astounded by the lack of evidence for David outside of the Bible too. Yet the fact remains that there was a Kingdom of Judah as well as Israel. Is there an explanation for Judah's existence that completely sidesteps Solomon and David? How about that Temple attributed supposedly to the clan?
As a scholar who deals primarily with history, society and culture of the ancient (and sometimes not so ancient) Middle East, I adopt a comparative approach both in my classes and research. Thus, discussion of any text or artifact--biblical, Mesopotamian, Egyptian or otherwise--draws upon its wider ancient environment (for example, understanding biblical wisdom literature, historiography, or prophecy as larger ancient Near Eastern phenomena). In this regard, teaching the Bible in a secular, liberal arts institution can be a subversive enterprise. Any talk of authors, redactors, compilers, and their motivating ideologies situates the biblical text within its human context, and ultimately explains it as a human product, an approach in accord with the humanities. As a historian of religion, I do not presume to get into the mind of the deity in the Bible or speculate about divine motivations aside from what is present in the text. Students frequently ask me, "Why did God, who is omniscient, do X with Abraham and not Y?" I can offer plenty of reasons—literary, social, historical, political, etc.—for why the author or editor might wish to portray the biblical deity in such a fashion, but as an academic in a secular institution I deal with socio-political, literary and other motivating factors, rather than timeless theological truths. For me, it is the human dimension of ancient texts, including the Bible, that make them most appealing as an object of study, and that allows me to ask questions that would otherwise be less relevant from a purely theological perspective. It is my goal to instill in students an appreciation for the underlying strategies and ideologies that inform these ancient writings and the cultures that produced them.
Prior to his career in academia, Professor Huddlestun worked as a professional musician, living in southern Europe and Israel. He also pursued studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Hebrew language, Egyptology) before returning to the U.S. to begin graduate work at the University of Michigan.