Dinesh D’Souza is one of these new slick christian apologists. He’s an author and a guy who goes on the debate tour to do battle with atheists. As you may have seen before here, I do enjoy dissecting and displaying theist’s debate tricks. Believe me, every theist argument boils down to one of two things – insufficient logic or blatant chicanery. Why, take Dinesh’s own admission:
“In my debate with atheist Christopher Hitchens in New York last October he raised a point that I did not know how to answer. So I employed an old debating strategy: I ignored it and answered other issues. But Hitchens’ argument bothered me.”
Well after 9 months of working on this problem, and some help from one Erik Kreps of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, little Dinesh feels he’s figured out a response so he doesn’t have to run and hide from Hitchens’ point anymore. Before I was even done with reading his rebuttal, I saw the flaws, and when I went back to consider the flaws, they brought forth more flaws.
First, let me recap Hitchens’ point. He points out that although homo sapiens have been running around on the planet for say 100,000 years, this god character allegedly didn’t bother to take an interest in us and intervene until about 5,000 years ago. So what was he up to all that time? “After all, cave-man’s plight was a miserable one: infant mortality, brutal massacres, horrible toothaches, and an early death. Evidently God didn’t really care.” To make matters worse, when he did decide to intervene and get his message out, he passed over the civilized parts like China, Egypt and India and went to some desert nomads. Wtf?
Dinesh starts by giving us Mr. Kreps’ argument, that although his god ignored humans for 95% of their time on Earth, 98% of all the humans that have ever lived were born in the last 5,000 years. So the argument is “God’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect.” He goes on to ask, “[i]f He’d come earlier in human history, how reliable would the records of his relationship with man be?” So this is his “gotcha”, one that he’s so confident in he smugly says, “Sorry Hitchens.” Well Sorry Dinesh, that strategy doesn’t work, and for several reasons.
• If the concern was for the reliability of “the records of his relationship with man” to survive, then wouldn’t he have given his message to civilized societies in China, Egypt or India instead of some nomads in a desert?
• If he had showed up 2,000-3,000 years sooner, he could have given his message to the Summerians, and had he done so, that civilization might not have been lost to the ages and its advances in mathematics wouldn’t have had to be relearned by later civilizations.
• Now although I don’t have a total for all the people who lived and died before, judging by this chart I think it’s safe to say that had Dinesh’s god showed up say around 400 BC, he still would have showed up in time to save a sizable percentage of every human who ever lived, and had he given it to the Greeks, well, I think it’s safe to say those records would have survived and be considered very reliable, far more reliable than what we have from the desert nomads or the christians of the 1st century AD.
The most obvious flaw I’m going to hold off on mentioning until after I address his second argument (which is also predicated on Mr. Kreps’ data so Dinesh should be indebted to him for the whole kit and kaboodle and not just the first part, but you know, his grace and modesty can only go so far). That argument is that despite having the same brains essentially, before 5,000 years ago, there was “[n]o real art, no writing, no inventions, no culture, no civilization.” “Then, a few thousand years ago, everything changes.” What follows is so good (I can imagine him all worked up and frothy), I’ll quote the whole block of it:
“Suddenly the naked ape gets his act together. We see civilizations sprouting in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and elsewhere. Suddenly there are wheels and agriculture and art and culture. Soon we have dramatic plays and philosophy and an explosion of inventions and novel forms of government and social organization.”
Asking then how humans got so smart and got their act together, how this “historical miracle” took place, he has but one answer, “[i]t seems as if some transcendent being or force reached down and breathed some kind of a spirit or soul into man”. Yes, because whenever we don’t have a clear answer (or sometimes even when we do, but it conflicts with the christian bible) there’s no choice but to conclude god did it. Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to show all the things wrong with this second argument.
• Well Dinesh conveniently ignored the Sumerians, who existed before his god allegedly came onto the scene. That’s about 6,000 BC.
• The “civilizations sprouting in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and elsewhere” were most assuredly not monotheistic, and were ones where his god isn’t believed to have popped in to say hello. Even if you want to buy his belief that they came about because his god “reached down and breathed some kind of a spirit or soul” into them, that still then begs the question of why didn’t he interact with them, give them his laws, his infamous 10 commandments? In fact, not only did he ignore them, but he apparently stepped away again for another few thousand years and then popped back to clue in only some nomads in the desert, ones who certainly had nothing ever to do with “dramatic plays and philosophy and an explosion of inventions and novel forms of government and social organization”, by the way.
• If his god did breath this spirit or soul into humanity and this was the reason for the exponential growth in population and the great achievements of art, philosophy and what not, then he could have done that at any time, right? In his first argument, he shows how clever his god is for showing up just at the right time, then here says he was responsible for that right time. Hello self contradiction!
• And what about this nonsense of his god reaching down and breathing some kind of spirit or soul into humans 5,000 years ago? Doesn’t that fly in the face of the other accepted nonsense of his faith that Adam and Eve had souls from the beginning?
Well of course it would be convenient for him to say that before that point, humans were soulless. Why? Despite his nifty math (well Mr. Kreps’), he doesn’t deny that yes, 2% of all the humans who ever lived had their pitiful lives of “infant mortality, brutal massacres, horrible toothaches, and an early death”, all without his loving god intervening. Well that’s still not very nice but hey, it’s ok, they didn’t have souls! Well I have no idea if this is what he meant or not but either way he’s still left with this problem, the one I alluded to earlier as the most obvious, that his omnibenevolent god allowed all those people (roughly 2.1 million according to Mr. Kreps) to suffer miserable lives. Sorry Dinesh, this is what the kids call an “epic fail”. See ya again in say another 9 months?
Special nod to the Chaplain for sending me Dinesh’s article.