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Christopher Hitchens debates David Berlinski in Birmingham, AL September 7, 2010 September 8, 2010

Posted by rationalskeptic in Christopher Hitchens.
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Last night at the Birmingham Sheraton, my wife and I saw Christopher Hitchens debate David Berlinski, and it was an incredible evening to say the least. At one point during the debate, Hitchens asked the audience, who the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut were in need of protection from, that prompted Jefferson to write the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. (the answer is the Congregationalists of Danbury, Connecticut.) Not that it was a hard question, but I was the only person in the audience to answer it correctly, i had to mention that.
Hitchens really mopped the floor with Berlinski, it was almost too easy for Hitchens in this debate, Berlinski was very dull and seemed to just be annoyed by the whole new atheist “phenomenon.”
Afterwards, Hitchens signed books and and sat for pictures, he is the nicest and most humble public intellectual I have ever had the honor to meet.
(I’ll post a more thorough review soon)

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Comments»

1. Michael - September 8, 2010

“Hitchens really mopped the floor with Berlinski, it was almost too easy for Hitchens in this debate, Berlinski was very dull and seemed to just be annoyed by the whole new atheist “phenomenon.””

Could you back this up with some presentation of arguments? Nobody doubts Hitchen’s ability to entertain–it’s hard to compete with him there. But the ability to entertain should not be a criteria for truth.

2. JSL - September 8, 2010

Hitchens definitely won. “Mopped the floor” is a bit of an overstatement. If you really listened to and grasped what Berlinski was saying, both made fair points. Hitchens definitely made his with more flair and style. Objectively speaking, his arguments were also simply more compelling. But they didn’t dismantle Berlinski’s – they only bested them…in a way. Hitchens has yet to prove his premise that religion poisons EVERYTHING, and that is the weak spot Berlinski attacked with moderate, albeit lackluster, success.

But seems to me, Hitchens continues to miss a very salient point. The problem isn’t religion, or money, or politics, or any other thing we blame the world’s issues on. The problem is people. Religion is naught but a very effective tool in the hands of those who would wield it to no good, and if it weren’t religion it would be (and ALWAYS IS)something else – economics, firepower, propaganda, the list goes on.

The assertion is that Christianity is bad because so much time has been spent by authorities in Western culture raping it and using it to their advantage, but that just makes no sense – for in a very real way, Christian religion has been taken advantage of as much as its been used to take advantage of others. As long as we keep barking up the wrong tree by chasing and condemning the wrong criminals, we’ll never get far.

Berlinski misses this point, as well. Power hungry men use whatever is at their disposal to win. If we completely eradicate religion today, it’ll be something else tomorrow, and the space left vacant by religion will be filled with another tool of mass manipulation so fast it’ll make your head spin.

3. rationalskeptic - September 10, 2010

Since I made the comment that Hitchens “mopped” the floor with Berlinski, obviously I still feel this way. Look, I am well read in all the necessary fields of study to “understand and grasp” the points Berlinski was making. I have read a couple of Berlinski’s books and literally all of Hitchens’ works, so it may be clear that I have a slight bias in favor of Hitchens, but my flippant “mopped the floor” comment seems obvious if you attended the debate. Although, Hitchens does have more “flair” and “style” of course that does not justify a win, but in regard to overall content and oratory prowess, it was a slam dunk for Hitchens (I am confident that if there was a poll taken after the debate, the audience would agree (even though that does not prove anything) with my assessment. If you had read and watched Hitchens enough, you would not have made the ignorant comment about how he has not justified his premise that, religion poisons everything (look it up or read a bit more, because I am definitely not erudite enough to come close to a decent explanation of his views).

4. JSL - September 10, 2010

Note that I also said Hitchens won and that his arguments were more compelling…don’t miss that.

5. JSL - September 10, 2010

Regards this statement: “If you had read and watched Hitchens enough, you would not have made the ignorant comment about how he has not justified his premise that, religion poisons everything.”

I have also spent considerable time listening to and reading the opposition. Like a truly arrogant pseudo-intellectual elitist, you’re already throwing the word “ignorant” around. It is so incredibly cliche, don’t you think?

“Everything” is an all encompassing word. All one needs is a single example in which religion has acted altruistically to negate the “poisons everything” premise. And there are literally countless examples, old and new, of religion acting altruistically. Recent data tells us that the Salvation Army and the Southern Baptists are among the most active and effect relief missions in existence today.

Again, the problem is not RELIGION. The problem is people and the way they wield religion. Really, the more core problem is “power,” that elusive thing that everyone wants. If we are rising political stars we want political power. If we are power brokers on Wall Street we want economic power. If we are activists we want social power. If we are Net commentators or public debaters, we want intellectual power.

Religion is just one more in an extreeeeemly long line of effective social, political, economic, and militaristic tools which has been favorably used by people to gain power. Does this make power evil? Does it make people evil? Does it make all the other tools people use to inflict oppression and suffering evil?

Everything can be used for good or ill. Everything can be a medicine. Everything can be a poison. This business about “religion poisoning everything” is just hyperbole and rebellion.

Funny. We don’t see too many debates about how selfishness poisons everything, when without the element of selfishness, religion would have no power to harm whatsoever. This alone should tell you Hitches is barking up the wrong tree, and he has duped you into doing the same.

The problem isn’t religion. It never has been. The problem is you. The problem is me. The problem is us. To blame it on dogma and doctrine is to perpetuate the problems you think you’re solving.

6. JK - September 11, 2010

Flair trumps rationality because flair is evidence of intelligence.

Rationality is mere linear connection of factoids. Any isolated fool can assemble factoids into “rational” structures. Flair, by contrast, engages us at multiple levels and as social groups. Flair is fun, “rational” is easily autistic.

7. JK - September 11, 2010

I’ts unfortunate that we must wait for media to hear Hitchens and other public intellectuals.

Several of Hitchens’ best interviews are available on http://www.fora.tv. His most recent interview with Charlie Rose was among Rose’s most respectful (he didn’t butt in) http://www.charlierose.com

As well, there’s a fine 2007 (?) Hitchens lecture, sponsored by Google.org (Google’s nonprofit public venue).

I wish someone had taken a high quality digital recorder (specifically Olympus LS10 or LS11) to that Birmingham debate. Its excellent mics can be narrowly focused and level can be manually controlled, which can eliminate most or all audience, air conditioner, furnature noise.

8. Alfonso - September 12, 2010

@JSL

I shall explain what I think Hitchens means in his title:

Hitchens is someone who holds the all religions can be shown to be man made. Holding this assumption, examples in which a religion has acted altruistically do not negate the “poisons everything” premise. Since the religion is man made therefore false, this distorts the actions of the religion even if they were made with good intent. This mild distortion I think is what hitchens claim to be the “poison.”

My Opinion:
//All one needs is a single example in which religion has acted altruistically to negate the “poisons everything” premise. And there are literally countless examples, old and new, of religion acting altruistically. Recent data tells us that the Salvation Army and the Southern Baptists are among the most active and effect relief missions in existence today.//

I have an issue with this statement. Religion doesn’t act, people do. As a secular humanist, I feel that if someone acts altruistic, he/she does so regardless of religion.

I agree with you that people are to blame, but neglecting dogma and doctrines seems lazy. What do people use to justify their hatred for homosexuals? What do people use to justify what happened in 9/11? These are not people who are power hungry, just gravely under educated because of their religion/dogma/doctrine.

Since people do good and bad regardless of ideology, therefore divine inspiration does not exist. Like Carlin said, we are just half evolved apes with sub machine guns, and many questions yet to have answered. Peace!!

9. Alfonso - September 12, 2010

Sorry for my english, my first language is Spanish. :-P

rationalskeptic - September 12, 2010

Alfonso, your first post was an excellent and concise piece explaining Hitchens’ meaning on the “poisons everything” drama and your short exposition of how we secular humanists think. Thank you for engaging and sharing your views on this blog. It’s an honor.

10. JSL - September 12, 2010

Alfonso,

Very good answer.

Both of us have expressed a bit of a contradiction in our view. I say that when religion acts as a poison, it isn’t religion, but people. But when religion acts nobly, it isn’t people but religion. You have expressed the same contradiction from the opposite side: when religion acts nobly, it isn’t religion acting, but people. When religion acts poorly, it is because religion is poisonous.

After a fashion, I agree that religion, like anything else, “can” be bad. There is certainly no doubt that atrocities have been committed in the name of religion – no reasonable person doubts that.

What concerns me is that Hitchens seems to focus in on religion and its atrocities, while completely ignoring the social and man-made “poisons” that led to the grotesquery of the 20th century. It was a century of intense bloodletting. Via malevolent dictators, two world wars, and various other global conflicts, more people lost their lives to violence and oppression than all other centuries of human existence combined (I believe that statistic comes from University of Hawaii political scientist R.J. Rummell in his discussion of “democide”).

Funny thing is, the atrocities of the 20th century were NOT motivated by religion. No matter hard Hitchens tries to tie Hitler’s motives to the Catholic church (or any other such ridiculous attempt), the atrocities of the 20th century have only one salient motivator – again, it is power. NOT religion. I still believe 9/11 and the subsequent fall-out from it to be 100% political, and I can justify that position. Islam was not the root…it was just the glue that unified the Arab world after the failure of Arab Nationalism.

So, while religion CAN be poisonous in certain contexts, and has done bad things, Hitchens is straining out a gnat to swallow a camel in zeroing in on religion. That is my point. Religion, man made or not, used for good or for evil, does not “poison everything.” That is a childish exaggeration and it deliberately ignores too many other things. It is an intellectual cheap shot.

To Hitchens’ premise about the negatives of religion, my response is, “Yeah…so what. People do bad things in the name of religion. They also do bad things in the name of jealousy, pride, money, fame, power, mental illness, cultural and social intolerance, ethnocentrism…” I mean, the list could go on almost forever. Right now, ethnocentrism is being mistaken for religion in the Sudan.

But people do an incredible amount of good in the name of religion, and I dare say that religious institutions and foundations (in the form of benevolence missions, mercy ministries, hospitals, third world health care, hunger drives, universities, orphanages, etc.) have done so much good that the world would be a much worse place without them. If they disappeared YOU WOULD MISS THEM, and that says a lot to the issue.

So, does the fact that good things happen through religion make it justifiable? Am I saying, “Hey…give it a rest. After all, the good outweighs the bad.” No, that would be preposterous.

What I am saying is that the good has been under-analyzed in the analysis. It is gigantic. I am also saying that the bad is not the fault of religion, as religion generally teaches the opposite of what is done with it when bad things happen in its name.

But if you hate God and you have a bias against religion that is really more subjective in nature (i.e., you have an axe to grind), you’ll ascribe an evil to religion that is far more than objective REALITY warrants. This makes it somewhat irrational.

If you hate God and you have a personal bias against religion, you’ll do the following:

1. You’ll ignore the fact that (with the exception of maybe Islam) unscrupulous people IGNORE the ACTUAL TEACHINGS of the religion and MANIPULATE it toward THEIR ENDS. Thus, you’ll ascribe evil to the religion itself, when, if the religion were actually followed, IT WOULD BE THE GREATEST FORCE FOR GOOD THE WORLD COULD POSSIBLY KNOW.

2. You’ll somewhat irrationally ascribe to religion a greater propensity to harm than is warranted by an objective view of reality. You’ll also somewhat irrationally ascribe fault to religion when other obvious salient factors are explanatory. You’ll also somewhat irrationally tip the scales so that all other social and political factors are ignored in the drive to demonize religion as much as possible.

3. You’ll tend to ignore the great good that has come from religious missions. Not a good so great that it is “worth keeping religion around.” A good so great that the world would be a worse place without it. A good so great that its benevolence would be deeply and grievously missed if it disappeared. You wouldn’t like a world without religion as much as you think.

4. You’ll be unable to parse out the issues, discerning religious motivations from social and political ones (for instance, most Americans can’t see the political issues behind 9/11, blaming Islam…and most Muslims think the political and cultural expressions of American life are consistent with Biblical Christianity…both views are laughable).

11. JK - September 12, 2010

A common misconception, tolerated oddly by Hitchens himself, is that his “rationality” is somehow more powerful than his “flair” (voice quality, elocution, performance artistry).

While his arguments against religion are beyond refutation, we listen to him for two reasons: We are thrilled to hear someone agreeing with us in public and we are moved by his dramatic, deeply felt performances.

Reasonably well-educated adults are similarly moved by strong Shakespeare (see Roman Polanski’s “Macbeth” AND Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood”..also a Macbeth), and much of that play defies and shows the limits of rationality.

If we read widely or discuss the matter with others, it is obvious that Hitchens’ performances are the main reason he’s achieved recognition. We would not listen if he was as vapid and dried-up as the people he debates. His writing rings the right bells for most of us, but it is no “better” than that of many with whom we totally disagree (as partisans you may not agree).

His arguments (ours) don’t need his rationality so much as his artistry. His avowedly closest lifelong friends, as opposed to recent heros, have mostly been artists (novelists).

I think that we (“secular humanists”) will do better by encouraging the natural growth of our viewpoint (which for a century has dominated Western and most of Asian society) than by focusing only on rationality. Rational argumentation encourages other game-players to make their cases at that limited, engineer-brain, half-brain level.

We should take our cue from the totality of our friend Hitchens, rather than reducing his influence to logic alone.

12. JSL - September 12, 2010

Let me also say that the Western propensity to misplace blame and attack symptoms rather than causes is not exclusive to its analysis of religion.

We also do this with a multiplicity of social and political issues.

Take for instance the growing hostility between conservatives and liberals in the marketplace of political ideas. We have ceased to examine opposing ideas on the basis of their practicality or their ability to produce the greatest good. It has been reduced – cheapened – to “liberal = bad” if you’re conservative and “conservative = bad” if you’re a liberal.

We are also cheapening the debate about religion in the same way. Demonizing, oversimplification, one-sidedness…all of these are deadly to the debate and ultimately skew reality. Religion has a long and rich history. It’s merits as true, beneficial, or false and evil are not so easily discerned as the secular sages of the day would have us think.

We must also make a HUGE distinction between religion and faith.

Take, for instance, Christianity. The apostle Paul wrote about “following the letter of the Law, but missing the Spirit of the Law.” Alfonso spoke about religiously motivated hatred of homosexuals. Well, no Christian who is actually applying the teachings of the New Testament hates anyone. The idea that saying a behavior or lifestyle is wrong is not tantamount to hatred. But some, nevertheless, do hate in the name of God. Why?

Religion views doctrine and dogma as ends in themselves. Therefore, they will uphold doctrine and dogma as sacrosanct and attack anyone who breaches the boundaries. But faith doesn’t do this. Faith engages everyone reasonably and expects their reasonableness in return.

But is it only the religious who use doctrine and dogma as weapons or zealously guard the fort of sacrosanct belief systems? I would argue that Christopher Hitchens is just as dogmatic and intolerant and any religious zealot. Dogma and doctrine are not the exclusive provinces of religion. Would I be so crass as to argue that Hitchens is religious in a sense? No, though that argument could be made. But he is intensely dogmatic. So dogmatic, in fact, that his dogma places him not just on the defensive, but motivates him toward offense as well.

13. JK - September 12, 2010

“Well, no Christian who is actually applying the teachings of the New Testament hates anyone. The idea that saying a behavior or lifestyle is wrong is not tantamount to hatred. But some, nevertheless, do hate in the name of God.”

Several mistakes above:

1) Most “Christians” are aware of St Paul’s expressed hatreds.

2) It’s unreasonable to speak for “Christians” in any case (and without even considering “literal” reads or historicity: many of say the NT was provided for their personal interpretation (which can include bombings in Oklahoma), or on the other hand are content to have the Pope or some media preacher do it for them. That takes care of Protestants of various stripes, and Catholics, without even thinking about Mormons and their historic attitude toward girls, women, and blacks.

14. JK - September 12, 2010

Notions that there “is” or “is not” (“are” or “are not”) god/s seems to me to be similar to “how far is up?”

The question and its up/down answer seem little more than hypotheses about non-issues (unless we’re discussing, say, the religious reasons for US invasion of Vietnam).

Hitchens waves a righteous “atheist” sword (rather than relaxing as a who-cares-agnostic) because he enjoys opposition and controversy. What fun would it be, who would listen to him, if he just drank the Kool-Aid?

Listening closely to him, it seems to me that his position is closer to that of a “real Christian” than any officially designated Christian. In any case, he identifies himself as a Jew through ancestry.

Personally, I find many of Hitchens’ arguments silly, lite. Why bother to doubt the historicity of Jesus, for example? Someone in his part of the Middle East seems to have inspired at least some of the various New Testament tales. Surely we all read Homer’s Odyssey without worrying too much about the existence of the nominal author.

15. JK - September 15, 2010

Here’s Hitch’s atheism…which unlike misrepresentations here is neither dogma mor hostility to nor even doubt about “god.” He simply sees no evidence for the concept. “Proving” or “disproving” “god” isn’t his job.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/11/dennett_harris_hitchens_vs_bot.php

His hostility is to “religion,” something entirely other than and independent of “god”.

16. Alfonso - September 18, 2010

Thank you for your response JSL and also rationalskeptic for your lovely comments.

Now I shall do my best to respond to your comments as much as I can chronologically.

First, my comments may have been vague, but I do not agree that I give religion credit only for its bad deeds. There are countless examples where people have been influenced by religion to do good. As well other examples where the opposite has happened. But the former does not confirm religion to be true, while the latter does not confirm religion to be false. What I believe this suggests though, is that the claims of divinity by almost all religions are false since there is no apparent difference in the actions of the religous with those of that are non religous. You seem to be oversimplify the problem/question with only blaming people or the need for power. What if it is both your proposal of people/power and religion?

“ARE RELIGONS ULTIMATELY TRUE?”
I believe this is the question that we must truly ask ourselves and be willing to answer with intellectual honesty.

Your interpretation of Hitchens’ arguments are gravely mistaken. Hitchens does not try to tie Hitler’s motive to the Catholic Church. What he simply states is that if the Catholic Church is truly the Church of God thus divine, then why didn’t the church oppose facism with complete conviction. The fact that we can make a sound argument about the connections of the Catholic Church and Hitler is astounding, and very indicative (again no divine influence religion may be man made).

***SIDE NOTE*** Just because Hitchens arguements focus only on the misdeeds of religions, does not mean that his argument is false. People can do good things for bad reasons. A murderer can save a person’s life but when assessing the person on whether they commited a crime, their good deeds do not mean anything. I am pretty sure that this claim of yours is a logical fallacy, just not sure which one. Also, my usage of a metaphor can be considered a logical fallacy but I was not sure how to express my point without the usage of a metaphor. ***SIDE NOTE***

With the title of the book “Religion Poisons Everything” if Hitchen’s assumptions that all religions are false is true, then by his premise religion does poison everything, whether explicit or implicit. If all religions are false, religion robs it followers the ability to live a life of integrity since ultimately this people are wrong. Again, people can do good things for bad reasons. But, I don’t care about this so much, it is just a title.

Again you deflect Hitchen’s premise on the negative’s of religion by pointing that other issues create problem. Other things creating bad does not negate the fact that religions creates bad. To blow it off like nothing seems callous, and again Hitchen’s true argument lies on the integrity of religion. Again, is religion true?

To point out religion’s good deeds does not answer this nor negates the mis deeds religion has done. Also, if religion were to leave of course I will miss the good, but do not underestimate the good that may come from it. It is sorta how I miss the religion of my ancestors in South America, yeah it is a shame that their customes and religion have died, but I do not want human sacrifice in my World right now.

When you stated the 4 points about what you will do if you hate God, that was somewhat funny. How do you know this for certain?

I would argue about the bit on the interpretation of religous doctrines, but I see this as pointless. To me the religous doctrines will be interpreted in different ways, since I hold the view that these doctrines are false, until proven to be true. That is why atheist can interpret the books in viscous ways, while the religous give the interpretation a softer tone. The fact that we can decipher the messages on these books differently suggest again that may be these are not divinely inspired.
Maybe like you said, power drove someone to create these texts to ultimatley control people. In that case the doctrines are just a tangible manifestation of the problem you have so eloquently pointed out. Thank you!

17. Shareef Muhammad - September 19, 2010

The atheists on this forum, those obviously sympathetic to Hitchens, have simply not addressed the case against them which is that the notion of religious violence, that more violence has been caused in the name of religion because religion is intrinsically inclined toward violence is an ahistorical essentialist argument that is shamelessly self-serving. It is an assertion that HAS NOT and CAN NOT be proven by any of the tools afforded by the social or natural sciences. It is, as William Cavanaugh eloquently lays out in his book The Myth of Religious Violence, ‘a piece of Western folklore underwriting Western violence.’ Science did not originate as atheistic nor does it validate antitheistic claims.Nothing, whether it is neurology (a profession practiced by people of many faiths) or history and anthropology, show that there is an essential religious nature that is intrinsically violent. What atheist do is seize on a particular epoch of a particular history (almost always European) to portray all religions throughout all time as one way. This is part of their myth: that there is a essential religious nature that is transhistorical and transcultural. This is simply historically false and intellectually dishonest. Seventeenth century Protestantism in Massachusettes was socialogically different from seventeenth century Protestantism in England under King James. Seventeenth century Protestantism in Massachusettes was socialogically different from twenty-first century Protestantism in Massachusettes. The Ummayyads of Moorish Spain where socialogically different from the Amohads within the same era and Islamic Al-Andulus during the 10th-13th century is qualitatively different from the Muslim world today in the areas of concern.

The obsession with so-called religious violence, a term which is anacronistic(you find no mention of religion being blamed for the bulk of violence in their world), obscures the violence committed in the name of democracy. The Enlightenment was a violent utopian movement that continues to use violence to outsource its ideas. How many villages with innocent people (non-combatants) were bombed in the name of progress and regime change with the stated goal establishing democracy. Democracies are and have always been as violent as any religious movement.

18. Jeff - September 20, 2010

Shareef – so explicitly religious Muslim-on-Muslim violence in Iraq, for instance, doesn’t bother you at all?

You simply don’t care if Sunni or Shia kill each other’s children or blow up each other’s mosques? Please explain the basis for Sunni/Shia violence and murder other than on the basis of conflicting religious dogma.

I’m also confused about your apparent hatred of democracies. Do you prefer theocracies or dictatorships?

19. JK - September 20, 2010

It’s as reasonable to consider Communism and National Socialism to be religions as it is to consider Islam or Christianity or Zoroasterism religions.

Much of Buddhism (particularly zen) has little or nothing to do with deities…they’re disciplines, points of view.

Athiesm, for Hitchens, is a crusade, an enthusiasm. Other folks crusade against illiteracy or they kill children with suicide vests.

I think it’s bizarre to reduce Hitchens to his enthusiastic hostility toward religion, and to assume that hostility to religion is the same as hostility to non-religious (presumably) deity/deities. Diety/deities, should they exist in some sense, are not necessarily operators or respectors of religions. If there’s a god, why do we assume s/he is unitary, triumvirate, or holy-ghostish? For that matter, why do we imagine the existence or non-existence of deity/deities is a worthy question in the first place…rather than ancient habit?

20. Alfonso - September 20, 2010

@Shareef

I think that using the misdeeds of the religous and non-religous as evidence against their position is a false assertion. Simply put even if it can be shown that athiesm has a strong correlation to violence, how does this show that (1)?atheism is false? and (2)?theism is true? It doesn’t so if someone uses this as evidence against or for atheism or theism, he/she is commiting the logical fallacy known as non sequitur.

What I think is interesting is that it is the religous who claim to have the ultimate moral truth. Therefore, when religous people commit a misdeed, they are scrutinized more so than others who commit misdeeds for non religous reasons. It is sort of like the dilema promiscuous women face, they are called “whores or bitches” while promiscuous men are called “bachelors or players.”

@Jk
You are commiting the logical fallacy known as the Englishman’s fallacy or argumentum ad temperantiam. The argumentum ad temperantiam suggests that the moderate view is the correct one, regardless of its other merits, it takes moderation to be a mark of the soundness of a
position. Simply put, you are discrediting Hitchen’s arguments on the basis that he represents an extreme of the alternatives.

Again, my first language is Spanish, then French now English so I apologize if I don’t make sense at times. Also, I have a masters in number theory and statistics so debating is not my talent.

21. Alfonso - September 20, 2010

Sorry my last portion was to JSL not JK sorry for the confusion.

22. rationalskeptic - September 22, 2010

I agree that Hitchens essentially views credulous people of all stripes, specifically the religious, have an inherent arrogance of ignorance.
But, his explanation of atheism is assuredly accurate, and would qualify as common parlance. Because, his stance is the same as any atheist and all that includes is a disbelief of any supernatural realm, and that science and reason are sufficient to explain life, universe and everything (in due time.)

“What can be asserted without proof, can be dismissed without proof,” is one of Hitchens’ most popular quotes, I think this is so because it says so much in such few words.

23. JK - September 22, 2010

Since this discussion has as much to do with the man, Hitchens, as it does with ideas, I think it’d be good to honor him with more than intellectual dissection:

His celebrity is due to more than pungent ideas. Atheism and Orwellian political conversion may be interesting, but hardly shocking or new.

His eloquence, physical appearance (casual, slouching, slovenly, booze at hand), and upper-class accent (which he’s denied))combine with his thinking to make his performances (online)downright fun. Fun! Personally, I find his writing a lot less interesting than his act.

He does gore the oxen of some folks, which makes me and others happy. The gored might prefer William F. Buckley, a religionist whose snobbish sneering and prolixity (to the level of near-incoherence, written and spoken)was actually mesmerizing.

One of these days, if Buckley was right and Hitch was wrong, they may have one hell of a debate.

24. Spicoli - November 23, 2010

“What can be asserted without proof, can be dismissed without proof,” is one of Hitchens’ most popular quotes, I think this is so because it says so much in such few words.

What proof does Hitchens have that what he says is true?

25. rodney duck - November 27, 2010

Spicoli:

My first lesson in high school science is to have each student prove to me that the world was not created yesterday – with everything made by a Creator intact with memories of a fictional past, and this today is actually the first day of Creation.

Try it – prove to me the world was not created yesterday with all our thoughts and memories and books and thoughts and everything else by an all powerful Creator.

You can’t disprove that idea. You can’t falsify it. The world could have been created yesterday – and today could be the first day of Creation.

However, that is the basic concept of the scientific method – that anything asserted by the scientific method can be disproved – and what is left standing stands the test of time.

It is why I don’t teach Creationism in the classroom – it can’t be disproved – it can be dismissed. It is not based on the scientific method of reasoning.

Hitchens is basically talking about the scientific method of advancing human knowledge. Things that require no proof don’t really advance human knowledge, not to any degree that will last the test of time.


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