Live debate just starting: Atheism is the new fundamentalism, featuring Dawkins and Grayling.

Online here: a debate on “atheism as fundamentalism”. It’s just starting (2:15 EST), so watch now. It will go on until 4:30 EST.  Harries and Moore vs. Dawkins and Grayling:

For the first time, Intelligence Squared will be live-streaming a debate on this page:

“Atheism is the new fundamentalism”

In partnership with, from 6.45pm (GMT) this evening, you will be able to watch online as Richard Dawkins, author of ‘The God Delusion’ and Professor A C Grayling, take on Richard Harries, the former bishop of Oxford, and Charles Moore, former editor of The Daily Telegraph, at this sold-out Wellington Squared event held at Wellington College, Berkshire. It will be chaired by the Headmaster of Wellington (and political historian) Anthony Seldon.

Postmortem:  In the debate proper, I thought that Dawkins and Grayling far outshone the others (of course, I’m hardly objective here!), but Harries and Moore were quite eloquent and put on a good show.  On our side, Grayling had great things to say, especially about Stalin and Hitler as “apostles of atheism,” while Richard was more fiery.  They were a great counterpoise of the restrained but eloquent philosopher and the outspoken evolutionist.

Initial vote (online):

Atheism is the new fundamentalism.

Agree   5%

Disagree 87%

Don’t know 8%

Final vote (after the debate, online):

Agree  4%

Disagree  95%

Don’t know 1%

Initial vote (audience):

Atheism is the new fundamentalism.

Agree   24%

Disagree 48%

Don’t know 28%

Final vote (audience):

Agree  24%

Disagree  70%

Don’t know 6%

Looks like most of the minds changed came moved the “don’t know” to the “disagree” category.  A win in both audiences!


  1. Posted November 29, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Yay! Good for Anthony and Richard!

  2. Posted November 29, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    The audience vote is particularly interesting. Apparently most of the “agree” people didn’t budge at all in their opinion. But the “don’t know” group seems to have switched to “disagree” in large numbers.

  3. newenglandbob
    Posted November 29, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Outcome as expected.

  4. Posted November 29, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Darn, I missed it.

    Atheism is the new fundamentalism, right, and sight is the new blindness and disease is the new health and misery is the new happiness and slavery is the new freedom. I do love a meaningless paradox in the afternoon.

    • Posted November 29, 2009 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      Don’t forget, bold is the new hair color 🙂

      • Posted November 29, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        argh, “*bald* is the new hair color” – I saw it just as I was hitting “post comment”, but I was too late…

      • Posted November 30, 2009 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        Clear is the new hair non-color.

    • Steve
      Posted November 29, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      I hear the next debate will be Karen Armstrong arguing for the motion that 0+0 = 1

      • Posted November 29, 2009 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        Only for large values of zero.

      • llewelly
        Posted November 29, 2009 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

        That’s unfair. Karen Armstrong does not believe that 0+0=1. It is a metaphor. A transcendence.

  5. Posted November 29, 2009 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    More bogus conflation. There should be NOMA concerning religious terminology so that it is not applied to philosophical methodology.

    There is nothing more oxymoronic than “fundamentalist” atheism.

  6. Drosera
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    War is Peace
    Freedom is Slavery
    Ignorance is Strength
    Atheism is the New Fundamentalism

  7. Posted November 30, 2009 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I didn’t find Moore at all eloquent. Once he compared Dawkins to a prison camp commandant, it was all over.

    • Peter Beattie
      Posted December 2, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      The commandant jibe was certainly stupid, and some would say crass, but I don’t think it was uneloquent. Moore’s ideas, such as they were, were rather clearly laid out. They also egregiously misrepresented the Not Really New Atheists and, even worse, utterly failed to support the motion in defense of which Moore ostensibly spoke.

      Moore’s performance was a joke, albeit, I would contend, a fairly eloquent one.

  8. Posted November 30, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    The poll numbers are comforting. What they suggest to me is that while you will never convince that 25% or so who are died-in-the-wool anti-atheists, there is a huge segment of the population (as much as 22%!) who only need a little bit of explanation of what the “New Atheism” is all about in order to accept it as a legitimate philosophy.

    This suggests that maybe the billboard/bus ad campaigns will do some good, just by getting that 22% to realize, “Hey, atheists are here, and they are just normal people.”

    • newenglandbob
      Posted November 30, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Actually, since we do not know the makeup of the audience, we can not make those type of statements.

      • Posted November 30, 2009 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        I tried to be guarded in my phrasing, but apparently not enough. Of course you can not make such statements rigorously, but it is interesting nonetheless. It would be rather surprising if the audience consisted of a disproportionate number of people who were convince-able on this issue. In fact, the strong scent of selection bias in the online results would tend to suggest that, if anything, the audience underrepresents undecideds. I suppose it’s conceivable that for whatever reason the debate attracted a disproportionate number of undecideds who were unlikely to agree that “atheism is the new fundamentalism” in relation to undecideds who were more likely to agree… but this seems unlikely.

        And in any case, I’m not citing this as proof of anything, I just say it’s somewhat comforting.

  9. scott
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I really must continue to protest the repeated, sustained and systemic use of the term: “evolutionist”.

    as in:

    They were a great counterpoise of the restrained but eloquent philosopher and the outspoken evolutionist.

    By this you give great aid and (ray) Comfort, to those who wish to brand evolution as some special kind of thinking apart from science.

    It would be proper to refer to Dawkins as an “outspoken evolutionary biologist” or simply “biologist” or better, “scientist”.

    Bringing the professor of the “public understanding of science” down to an “ist” … is low you JAC … it hurts your meaning not one bit to elevate your terms here.

    With sincere appreciation, i say this (yet) again … toss out “evolutionist” it never helps “the public understanding”.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted November 30, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      ok, you’ve made your point twice. That’s enough.

      • Don
        Posted November 30, 2009 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        Scott may have made his point twice, but it’s an excellent point, I think, offered (what’s more) “with sincere appreciation.” When such an apt point seems to have gone unrecognized, certainly it’s worth re-emphasizing.

      • scott
        Posted November 30, 2009 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

        I started with the sincere hope of understanding your thinking behind the use of the term … but if there was a reply I missed it, and I’m not sure I keep seeing it used in this space.

        It is a fact that the whole idea of pulling out “evolution” from the greater thrust of scientific thinking, was the goal of “the wedge” … if you really want to “win” this argument, keep darwins idea firmly encamped under the umbrella of “science”, where it belongs, don’t brandish it around like a stand alone “ism”.

        On one hand it is a small point, but it matters.

        seriously … though if OB says she thinks “evolutionist” is kosher, I’ll shut up. OB? Should JAC take my advice or not … you have thought about these things. What say you?

      • scott
        Posted November 30, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

        I meant “i’m sure” i keep seeing it used … sorry

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted December 1, 2009 at 6:49 am | Permalink


        Sorry, but I did recognize the point, and responded to it on this website.

      • scott
        Posted December 2, 2009 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

        Jerry: Is this what you were referring to as an a response?

        That is it? The word means what you say it means? Do you think that when Ray Comfort uses the word he simply means the same thing as you do?

        Are the aims of the DI to parse evolutionary theory from the body of knowledge referred to as “science” or not? Can we at least agree that that much is true? That your “enemy” wants to discuss “evolution” as if it were not science, but rather a special kind of thinking best described as its own “ism” … can we agree on that point at least?

  10. gerryfromktown
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    “Harries and Moore were quite eloquent and put on a good show”

    Goodness – were we watching the same debate. I watched a dithering Bishop fall apart when challenged on his assertion that Dawkins wasn’t interested in the “balance of probability”. I also watched a spiteful “Christian” apologist liken Dawkins to a “camp commandant”, and then with trembling hand brandish a crucifix as a part of his act. Is that what you call putting on “a good show”?

    Neither were eloquent, neither began to address the question of the debate, both were ad hominem.

    Perhaps you meant, “in comparison to other apologists, Harries and Moore were quite eloquent”?

  11. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    a legitimate philosophy

    Better, a legitimate claim based on observation.

    Prove me wrong. 😀

  12. Peter Beattie
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    An mp4 version of the video is available as a torrent, in case you’re interested:

  13. Cafeeine
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    And should you not care for torrents, here’s the direct link to the .mp4 from their website.
    [video src="" /]

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