I just got around to watching the Hitchens vs D’Souza debate that occurred last week. I had intended to watch it live but then I found out they weren’t going to stream it live and I don’t think it appeared on Youtube until this past weekend. Furthering the proof that I’ve been living in a bubble, I had never heard of D’Souza before last week where I was introduced to this annoying little man via MSNBC which I switched on when I sat down to eat dinner. He’s got a new book and is making the rounds saying things that make the veins in my temples throb. If you’re like me and are wondering “who is this guy?”, I’d advise you to read up on him because aside from being a complete ass, you’ll see in this debate he’s a very good speaker.
Where Hitchens is gruff, loud and nasty, Dinesh comes off as charming, soft spoken and polite. Now this certainly is not a reflection on the content of their speech, but rather the packaging and delivery of it which, like it or not, does influence the audience. I think most of us atheists have delighted at Hitchens’ blunt deliveries and marveling at how someone can be so surgical while seemingly swinging a sledgehammer. Well in this debate Hitchens was less of the “bible belter” as Dawkins calls him and more of a guy sleepwalking through and eagerly looking for the door. I felt he let a lot of Dinesh’s shit go by either completely unchallenged or inadequately challenged and at times was merely giving a book report on his own book that frankly you or I or anyone who has read it could have done better. There has been some talk about him recently giving up smoking and some eyewitness accounts claim he had the shakes. I know nothing of this but if it’s true and this is the reason he was so far off his game I suppose it’s good because it at least implies he’ll eventually snap out of it but being the hard ass that I am, I find it pathetic and embarrassing to be ruled by addiction. Alright, well I encourage you to watch the debate if you haven’t already and afterwards see if you agree with the rest of my assessments…
Dinesh’s opening comments that I felt went unchallenged were:
• christians were the first to oppose slavery and opposition to slavery only came as a result of christianity
• Christianity not only makes science possible but science is based on 3 christian principles:
1) The universe as a whole is rational
2) The universe obeys laws that are comprehensible in the language of mathematics.
3) Laws of nature are understandable within our own minds and reflect what goes on in our own minds (which I have to confess I have no idea what he’s talking about here)
• “Proof” of the latter is the claim that the top scientists of the last 500 years were christian
• Salem witch trials and the Inquisition really weren’t that bad because they only killed 18 and 2000 people respectively.
To flesh out this last point, he used the typical ‘Stalin, Communism, Hitler and other totalitarian regimes of the 20th century were atheistic and therefore atheism has killed way more people’ argument. Hitchens did make efforts to respond to this but postponed his comments until later where he thought he’d have more time but when he did he really blathered on needlessly, wasting time which Dinesh exploited perfectly complaining about the time, asking when he was going to get his turn, when was he going to wrap it up and made a snarky comment once he did get to respond about how this was typical of the atheist agenda to hog the public square. We all know christians can play that wounded, persecuted crap well and against a big bully like Hitchens it’s effectiveness probably gets amplified but Hitchens, I felt, really played into his hands by, as Dinesh said, filibustering. The man was floundering to wrangle his points and frankly came off as pontificating. I mean, this is one of those classics of theist-atheist debate. The points should be at the ready, especially for Hitchens, but they weren’t. Perhaps he needs a refresher read like this article by the Spanish Inquisitor.
There were other things that Dinesh argued that so strain one’s patience I could be enticed to maybe try smoking to see if the alleged calmness that nicotine delivers could help. Despite his 3 christian principles which he says are the basis of science, he said that our trust of the laws of science is merely faith because we don’t know if the speed of light is really constant everywhere because we haven’t been everywhere to test it and despite testing anything where the results are the same every time for a million times, it’s still faith that makes us believe that it will still be the same on test one million and one. Perhaps it’s the absurdity of these charges that prompted Hitchens to pretty much ignore them. Another gem of his was challenging that morality is inherent in people by saying that if that were true, then it wouldn’t have been needed to explain morality in the bible if everyone already was moral. Surprisingly, this came well after Hitchens’ claims of solidarity being the true basis of morality, his ridiculing the idea that the Jews or anyone else thought perjury, murder, adultery or the rest were perfectly ok before they got to Mt. Sinai, and other mocking comments like that god let humanity progress for some 98,000 years before popping in to deliver us morals in one small corner of the world, compulsory love and fear of christianity, and that before Jesus “meek and mild” there was no concept of eternal hell. The one obvious slip up here was Dinesh mentioning the Good Samaritan story to which Hitchens promptly fired back the obvious flaw – that it was the Samaritan, not the religious men who offer assistance, showing both that you don’t need religion for morality and that having religion is no guarantee that you’ll have morals.
So despite the good points Hitchens made, I felt he was really off his game and I came away thinking Dinesh faired much better, to my disgust.