I just listened to Bill Maher - the rampantly anti-religious talk show host - hold court on the Conan O'Brian late night show.
(Look it up on youtube, if you can stomach it...ugh)
Anyway, Bill was making the case that you cannot harmonize science and religion - that all religious people are, at best, schizophrenic. To emphasize this assertion and support his false dilemma, he posed this "challenge" to Conan using a popular anti-apologetical question, "Do you believe in a talking snake?"
This had all the makings of a complex question and Conan played the perfect straight-man for the fallacy - to wit - there are at least 2 assumptions "built-in" to this seemingly straightforward question:
a. It assumes a naturalistic worldview.
b. It assumes the Bible account is ridiculous and irrational.
Thus, the only "rational" answer is an emphatic "NO"! (although, to Conan's limited credit, it seemed as if he struggled a bit against the trap...)
So, what is a rational basis for believing a serpent could talk?
Well, here is one Christian's rationale:
a. The bible is the infallible word of our sovereign Lord - the only rule for faith and practice - so I will be biased toward its credibility and authority over man's sensory experience.
b. Naturalist and Christian can agree that the laws of the universe are mutable - that is - even the naturalist's worldview allows for universal laws emerging as an cosmologically evolutionary product, so things today are not the same as they were in the past, albeit we see things at a slightly different progression and from different sources... :)
c. God is Lord over natural and supernatural events (He is supra-natural) - much like the master programmer of a virtual reality space and, if you follow the reasoning, Satan (that old serpent!), has been endowed with some supernatural abilities (See Matthew 4 for an example).
d. As a Bible believer I know that demonic forces can posses animals as well as humans (see Matthew 8 for an NT account), so I have no problem with Satan inhabiting an actual serpent and communicating through it, just as I have no problem with the consequences God imposed on the animal as a reminder of the consequences of sin.
I suppose I could go on and on, but this should be enough to help folk understand my thoughts on the matter! :)
The correct answer is that if the Creator of the Universe wanted to allow a serpent to talk, then a serpent will talk.
Maher is the perfect demagogue for his religion, don't fall into the snare of his father.