Dembski-Hitchens debate

I’m in the Miami airport, and haven’t yet watched this Battle of the Titans (well, one titan and a schlemiel), but I wanted to put up the URL of the Dembski-Hitchens debate last Thursday.  All the parts are here: there are three, and they total about 2 hours and 15 minutes.  So make some popcorn, sit back, and watch “Does a good God exist?”  And feel free to give your impressions here.  I’ll share mine when I watch it.

h/t: Diane G.


  1. Saikat Biswas
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Fittingly, a prayer was made at the end of the debate – “Dear god, please forgive Dembski for his hatchet job. No matter what, we still believe in you. Always have, always will.”

  2. Brian63
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I will copy/paste what I wrote on the FRDB about it:

    I did not think the debate was particularly notable overall. Both participants seemed to articulate their views fairly well, both made several irrelevant points to the original intended topic, both made some bad arguments, some difficult to follow arguments, etc., etc., etc. In that sense, I thought it was a draw. However, given that this took place in a fundamentalist Christian church and therefore the primarily-fundamentalist Christian audience was expecting a beatdown of Hitchens by Dembski, I think the debate overall benefited the atheists. Dembski did not deliver a beat down, and Hitchens was able to make some arguments that connected with the audience and they had never heard of or thought about before.

    When Dembski was making his point about how if it would be great to meet Shakespeare, how much greater it would be to meet the being that made Shakespeare, I swore at my computer. Apparently he is taking the behavioral traits and personality of Shakespeare and pointing to them as a credit to God. I am going to violate Godwin here, but it is for a useful point. If God made Shakespeare the way that he is though, didn’t he also make the rest of us the way that we are, including the Hitler’s and the Stalin’s and every other partially or completely evil person who has ever lived? This is just another case of confirmation bias, trying to attribute the good qualities to god and dismissing/deflecting the bad ones away even though they both apply if we are going to be consistent.

    Another commenter that attended made a remark about how both of them very frequently cited notable people in history, did a large amount of name-dropping, and generally spoke over the heads of the younger-than-usual audience in front of them. I added:

    A lot of debaters tend to do name-dropping of famous philosophers and authors in part to show off, give extra credibility to their arguments, and intimidate their opponent. I get a little of that impression from Hitchens and a bit more from Dembski, but it also seems that it is somewhat just the only way they know how to debate. It can backfire though, if the audience loses the substance of your point because of your lengthy citations when presenting it. Keep It Short and Simple. It is especially bad, for me anyway, since I already have enough trouble understanding Hitchens (through his accent and his mumbling) and Dembski (through his soft voice and mumbling). Both of them could have done better if they just left out all the name-dropping and just presented simpler versions of the arguments.

    Also, I sent an email to Dembski asking about his attributing Shakespeare’s greatness to God instead of to Shakespeare via his own free will, but will not likely receive any response.


    • Posted November 21, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      This is just another case of confirmation bias, trying to attribute the good qualities to god and dismissing/deflecting the bad ones away even though they both apply if we are going to be consistent.

      Quite; just the way Eugenie Scott chose the “feeling” of bonding with her infant instead of the feeling of hatred of Jews of a Hitler.

      • MosesZD
        Posted November 21, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

        Rough, but good. I get so sick of attributing positive feelings to some divine mystery while pretending all the negative ones aren’t the other side of the same coin…

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        Appropriately acerbic.

      • H.H.
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 4:04 am | Permalink

        Scott’s personal anecdote can also be seen as pretty demeaning to Christians in the way that it ultimately reduces their powerful supernatural creator to nothing more than a warm and fuzzy feeling in one’s tummy. Some people worship a literal god, Genie. Why is she deciding theology like this again?

        • Tulse
          Posted November 22, 2010 at 8:19 am | Permalink

          Why is she deciding theology like this again?

          That seems to be the NCSE’s mission, to advocate for the theology that is least toxic to evolution. (I would have thought that a science education organization would have avoided making pronouncement on the nature of god.)

    • Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Brian–you mentioned you had trouble understanding at times because both speakers were mumbling– did you think the sound of the recording was rather low? I had a hard time hearing both men, and the presenter as well because the sound was *really* soft (sound on my computer was all the way up, vid sound was all the way up). Is there another version of this debate available?

      • AdamK
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        I had this experience as well. (I was able to make out what was being said, with frequent shushing of my noisy dog.)

      • Brian63
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        Hi yokohamamama,

        I meant it more as a general comment, as I always have a little difficulty understanding Hitchens and Dembski (moreso Hitchens though) just because of their usual speaking habits, not anything particular to the audio quality of this debate. English accents seem to take me an extra half-second to process sometimes I think (so I sometimes have trouble with Dawkins as well). I am a big fan of Sam Harris, as he speaks clearly, slowly, sternly, etc. and he does not do the constant name-dropping either but just makes the actual argument and lets people think about that in itself. So, I always prefer Harris to debate over the other new atheists.


      • Brian63
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        Oh, and I do not know of any other version of the debate posted anywhere. I was watching it streamed live at the time, and the audio quality was fine then.


  3. Posted November 21, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I had it on in the background while working. It wasn’t a great debate, all in all, as the two speakers seemed to be mostly speaking past each other. Also, if you’ve been following the ID vs evolution debates for a while, you will have heard most of the arguments that both made.

    For example, Hitchens pointed out in his opening statement that the extistence of the cosmos, and life, could at most lead you to a deist god, not to a theist one. Nevertheless, Dembski spent most of his time trying to present the design argument, claiming it at least got you in the ballpark. How that argument would lead to the Christian God, and to evidence that God is good, he didn’t quite get around to explaining.

    All in all, though, Dembski wins – the sleaziness award, that is. He spent quite a bit of his time trying to show that Hitchens is biased, that his ideology requires him to accept some sort of naturalistic evolution. I wished Hitchens would call Dembski out on this (as on a couple of other misconceptions), but he didn’t.

    So to me it was a bit of a disappointment. I must say, though, that Hitchens got some good responses from the audience at some of his zingers, which I thought was interesting considering the fact that he was speaking for a rather Christian audience.

    • Sam
      Posted November 22, 2010 at 2:19 am | Permalink

      It’s one of my main problems with Hitch, brilliant as he otherwise is: he is ALWAYS letting his opponents get away with things.

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 2:24 am | Permalink

        Sometimes ignoring an opponents point gives the impression that it wasn’t even worth bothering with. Sometimes it means that thinking people will be able to see the opponents errors without help, or that one’s already addressed the point and need not repeat oneself.

        FWIW, I felt Hitch was far more responsive to Dembski than vice versa, throughout the debate.

        • H.H.
          Posted November 22, 2010 at 4:07 am | Permalink

          FWIW, I felt Hitch was far more responsive to Dembski than vice versa, throughout the debate.

          That’s because Dembski isn’t a debater. He’s a lecturer. He’s used to being able to drone on and on without being challenged on anything. Dembski didn’t debate Hitchens. He used his allotted time to lecture.

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 3:41 am | Permalink

        You might make the error of assuming that such apparent insouciance is not especially targeted to toward his perspicacious audience.
        For they may well be bright enough to spot Dumbski’s veil of obscurantist deception in a trice, but have no articulate adult authority who can confirm theist well-founded suspicion that Dumbski is a delusion mountebank.

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted November 22, 2010 at 3:42 am | Permalink

          Pls Excuse sp. errors in above..

  4. Andy
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    I like that Hitchens didn’t dumb down his rhetorical style for the younger audience. I’ve seen Dawkins do the same thing talking to young folks. No condescension, no sugar-coating. (In the case of Christopher, I think he’s likely incapable of altering himself in such a way.)

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted November 22, 2010 at 1:24 am | Permalink

      It was obvious to me that Christopher *was* carefully eliminating the longer words that one only really learns at University.
      I found his speech to be very carefully crafted toward his younger (Christian) audience, especially so when one considers that he was extemporising.
      I was mightily impress with him, irregardless of how lousy he is obviously feeling.
      If I had been a kid at this event, Hitchen’s words would be indelibly stamped in my memory, opverwriting anything that Dembski uttered.
      Not quite “I Have a Dream”, but it might strike one in grade 7 as very nearly ranked as high.

      • Andy
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        Fair enough. He seemed to me to have been speaking the way he normally does (but for the sporadic coughing). If I hadn’t known he was speaking to a crowd of mostly schoolchildren, I wouldn’t have guessed it (is all I mean). 🙂

  5. Doc Bill
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Dembski read from a prepared text, all three parts, and even his “zinger” conclusion.

    Hitch, on the other hand, gave a masterful display of intellect, knowledge and the ability to present both, at will, with no notes.

    Dembski’s thesis had nothing to do with the topic, although he pulled the typical creationist tactic of claiming that he had proven his points when, in fact, he hadn’t even mentioned them. Dembski simply attacked Hitchens and his books. Hitchens said this, Hitchens said that. It was an incoherent mash, however, every time Dembski said “Jesus loves me” the crowd went wild.

    Hitchens made several good points addressing the audience of 13-14 year-olds. “Think for yourselves,” he intoned, “don’t take my word for it or any body else’s. Think for yourself.”

    It was particularly enlightening that the principal of the school gave a closing prayer that addressed each of Hitchens points directly: all you need, children, is the Bible. Thinking is dangerous.

    I hope that a few of the kids were converted by Hitchens. It will have been worth it if he accomplished at least that much.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted November 22, 2010 at 1:30 am | Permalink

      Thinking *is* dangerous.
      Dangerous for the toxic meme that is church-run religious faith.
      Without this mental slavery, the school would have to close it’s doors.
      I am quite frankly gobsmacked that they allowed Hitchens in to their “hallowed” halls to sow the seeds of thought, and thereby deconversion, into the ferile mind-furrows of many of their students.

      • bric
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 3:29 am | Permalink

        ‘ferile mind-furrows’ what an oddly evocative/arousing phrase

        Urban Dictionary: ferile –
        to be feral and virile, like an escaped rabbit introduced to a new habitat and constantly breeding and making more pests.

        (yes I know you mis-typed fertile, but still . . . )

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted November 22, 2010 at 3:48 am | Permalink

          Nature grows the seed, we eat the seed, in the mortal words of Neil.
          I am glad that my speeling eroor has provided such an inadvertent harvest of enlightenment, cricket. 😉

          • Doc Bill
            Posted November 22, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink

            Some of my best bon motes have been spelling errors.

  6. Max
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I think the best way to deal with Dembski or other ID/Creationist folks is to stop them when they start talking about “flaws” in evolution and say, “Wait a second, I’ll concede all of your points. Now, please, I’d like to hear details about how ID happened. Please fill us all in on how it happened, when it happened, who did it, etc.”

  7. Luke
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t finished the whole debate, but I caught the last 20 minutes or so live. Hitchens’ closing remarks were terrific in my opinion. His conclusion was very moving. Also, the pastor’s statements/prayer following the debate was horribly ironic considering Hitchens’ close.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted November 22, 2010 at 1:33 am | Permalink

      I’m sure that Christopher both anticipated and pre-empted the retarded formulaic mantra response.

  8. Kevin
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    I thought the Discovery Institute folks had specifically not named their “intelligent designer” as “god”.

    So, why is Dumbski arguing for “god” with an atheist instead of arguing the science of intelligent design with a scientist?

    Atheism: A conviction that no god exists.
    Theism: A belief that at least one god exists.
    Evolution: A scientific theory that makes absolutely no statements with regard to god(s).
    “Intelligent Design”: A religious objection to the scientific theory of evolution.

    One of these things is not like the other.

    These asymmetrical debates are more than disingenuous.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted November 22, 2010 at 1:34 am | Permalink

      Atheism is in fact a lack of belief, not a positive belief that there are no magical Sky-Daddies.

      • bric
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        I beg to differ, for *some* of us it damn well is

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted November 22, 2010 at 3:54 am | Permalink

          Then you a subset of atheism, properly referred to as anti-theism, as am I.

          • Tacroy
            Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

            I like to call that gnostic atheism – “I know there is no god, so I’ll act as if there isn’t one” – as opposed to agnostic atheism, which is “I don’t know if there is a God or not but I’ll act as if there isn’t one” (which, incidentally, is the category all rational people fall under – even the ones that go to church. They might pray to get better, but they still take the antibiotics.)

      • Don
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        Kindly Let me point out here that it’s a mistake for us to define atheism as a “lack of belief in gods.” That is the theists’ definition of the word. Many dictionaries offer this definition, I know–but dictionaries are largely written by theists who fail to recognize their implicit bias. The word “lack” carries the connotation of deficiency, the sense that what is lacking is something to be desired. By definition, to lack something is to be in want of whatever one lacks. Atheists know that belief in god is nothing to be desired.

        The better and more accurate definition is: “the absence of [belief in] gods.” It’s from the Greek; “a” meaning “not” or “without,” and “theism” meaning [belief in] gods.

        • Jolo
          Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          Which is better than it used to be when atheism was “the denial of the existence of gods”.

          • Don
            Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink

            Right, Jolo.

            As George Smith writes in “Atheism: The Case Against God” (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1989:

            “Atheism, therefore, is the absence of theistic belief. One who does not believe in the existence of a god or supernatural being is properly designated as an atheist. Atheism is sometimes defined as ‘the belief that there is no God of any kind,’ or the claim that a god cannot exist. While these are categories of atheism, they do not exhaust the meaning of atheism–and are somewhat misleading with respect to the basic nature of atheism. Atheism, in its basic form, is not a belief: it is the absence of belief. An atheist is not primarily a person who believes that a god does not exist, rather he does not believe in the existence of a god.”

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted November 22, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

          I am fully aware of the Greek definition.
          It seems to me that you are arguing vociferously over the choice between “absence” and “lack”. I see them as functionally equivalent in this role.

          • Don
            Posted November 22, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

            Right, Michael, I’m advocating the use of “absence” as clearly the more fitting choice (over “lack”) in the standard definition of atheism. They are certainly not equivalent, functionally or otherwise. They are interchangeable, perhaps, but when the word “lack” is chosen the pejorative implication is unarguable.

            • Michael Kingsford Gray
              Posted November 23, 2010 at 2:42 am | Permalink

              Yes. Upon sober(?!) reflection, you are quite correct.
              I now see the subtle implicational distinction between the two terms.
              Thank you.

              (Try and get a theist to cough-up those words!)

  9. Posted November 21, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Dumbski sounds like a whiny child. He shows us his house of cards and the inner sophistry of rehearsed allegiances. What a boring, smug, and self-satisfied speaker completely void of content. The complex specified information that he lacks is *profound* evidence for no divine blueprint whatsoever.

    • Posted November 21, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      BTW, the Hitch’s closing statement was beautiful — a level of sublime passion unknown in the theistic world of cheap magic and feckless religious fervor.

  10. 386sx
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    At one point Hitchens made some argument about death (I forget what exactly), and Dembski refuted it by saying the Bible says we’re already dead and the only way to find life is to die first. I think that illustrates perfectly the futility of an atheist winning a religious debate. The religious side can say any damn thing they want to, even if it’s the complete freaking exact opposite of reality. And get away with it too. Lol.

    • Posted November 22, 2010 at 1:55 am | Permalink

      Dembskin seemed on the point of saying that God could set up the substitutionary atonement because God can do anything he wants, and then headed away from the possibility that “anything he wants” could include not setting up the s. a. and just forgiving sins without such a monstrous act (I like Hitchins’ point that if he’d been there he’d be duty bound to try to prevent it), by saying “God is a just God” – which raises the question; “If God defines what justice means, what does it mean to say He is just? And if he doesn’t, what is that source of justice that is above Him (and shouldn’t we be worshipping It instead)?” (The Euthyphro paradox applied to justice as a subset of goodness.)

  11. Diane G.
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    Having just finished segment 3 of the webcast, I find myself puzzled by earlier online reviews that suggested that Hitchens, at least at first, was somewhat off his game. I thought he was marvelous all through, though certainly building to a dynamic & inspiring end. Perhaps some listeners are just not used to the dispassionate British habits of debate, including understatement, droll asides, and most especially, NOT telegraphing one’s humor or wit.

    (By contrast, in the first segment Dembski delivered more than one obviously prepared would-be zinger, paused hopefully–but received no laughter. I’m thinking of his remark about something “which evolves Richard Nixon into Christopher Hitchens, a scary thought”–hopeful pause–and his remark about having published something with “that flaming fundamentalist publisher–the Oxford University Press”–hopeful pause; both pauses followed by having to resume his train of thought (such as it was) after an uncomfortable silence…

    (Judging by the laughs Hitchens did get, I’m thinking there had to be a scattering of freethinkers in the audience!)

    While Dembski came across to me as terribly confused and often reaching (and quite often unintentionally humorous), I was surprised to find that he didn’t impress me as particularly smarmy, disingenuous, oleaginous–or basically downright creepy–as so many of the evangelic apologists I grew up hearing did…Rather, he seemed just so thoroughly brainwashed and deluded that he couldn’t even see what an incredible effort he had to make to attempt to tie together so very many totally conflicting ideas, facts, and beliefs. I really ended up feeling sorry for him. (Until, of course, I thought of all the lives he might successfully influence.)

    He seemed to go from one contradiction or malapropism to another. From the minor–calling Hitchens a “scientific reductionist,” then, just a few breaths later, “a humanities guy”–to totally confusing statements such as “science is not a cumulative enterprise” (something about because it sometimes disproves itself and discards previous positions…?)–to the sort of thing that can happen to anyone speaking on their feet, but is still fun–“What for Hitchens is a dirty word…Intelligent Design…”–to someone being focused on “deconstructing Darwinism” (my, aren’t we modern! Uh, postmodern)…

    More Dembski: “Hitchens is obsessed with the eye” (no, he addresses it only because that’s an example always thrown out by theists); that there is something that is “always the problem with scientific theories–‘totalization'” (huh?); and at one point talking with a straight face about “old creation myths” (those other ones, of course)…

    At another point he states that “the problem that ‘good’ presents for atheism is never addressed,” then proceeds to address it in such a convoluted fashion that my notes literally became just a random spiral after which he says, “I want to go back because I think I wasn’t as clear as I wanted to be;” at which point I had to pause the vid in order to laugh without missing anything…

    …”Nature has no values;” “my Dad was a biologist;” comparing “Enlightenment naturalists such as Hitchens” to “female genital mutilators…”

    Really, prepared notes or not, he sounded just about that random, and I found myself wanting to help the guy out by pulling out his points for him…

    Overall he seemed to be just reciting a bunch of random bits of science, platitudes, classical references, theology, and apologetics, and hoping the audience would just be overwhelmed into thinking there had to be a there there. But then, that’s sort of my view of most religious assertions…

    And that’s only halfway or less through my notes…Towards the end he essentially buried what could have been an effective card for him, that of the problem of free will. But I don’t think anyone was still trying to follow him at that point. Basically I felt sorry for the guy. Especially when he promised a zinger in his prepared ending, only to end by telling how mean Hitchens was about Mother Teresa and then lamely remarking, “Well, I think I’ll leave it there.” As opposed to, as others have noted above, Hitchens’ absolute crescendo to an immensely stirring & thought-provoking finale.

    Game, set, and match.

    But–it would seem to me that most of this discussion, esp. Hitchens’ much more erudite half, would have sailed right over the heads of many high school students, let alone middle schoolers…sigh.

    It’s also interesting to note that they chose not to include in the webcast the ending prayer that rankled so many real-time listeners.

    As for Hitch, if anything I thought he seemed remarkably energetic and almost hearty-looking–how wonderful that he can still rise so delightfully to occasions like this despite what he’s going through. Bravo, Hitch!

    (I know–tl,dr.)

    • Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Long but interesting. I read.

      it would seem to me that most of this discussion, esp. Hitchens’ much more erudite half, would have sailed right over the heads of many high school students, let alone middle schoolers…

      I don’t know about that. Hitchens tried hard to speak to them in many places, especially in his closing. I think back on when I was in middle school and wonder how much more quickly I would have been enlightened to atheism had I seen that debate. If nothing else, Hitchens’ performance would have inspired in me a search for works such as his the next time I entered a library, and knowledge about all the things religions don’t tell you is essentially the foundation of rational ex-theism. To the curious and interested students in the audience (those who did not fall asleep during Dembski’s lecture series), Hitchens may have awakened something in them that their fellow believers may not be able to stop.

  12. camelspotter
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    I watched the whole debate live. It was my first time to hear a whole Hitchens debate, and the first time I ever saw Dembski. I thought Dembski was boring, reading from his notes almost the whole time, didn’t tackle the central question “Is there a good god?”, but rattled off some creationist arguments that everyone has heard before. Hitchens was great – very engaging.

    One of Dembski’s dumbest statements was along the lines of “I’m so sick of hearing that there is overwhelming evidence for evolution that I registered the domain name… and”. And therefore evolution is false right Bill?! Should we credit the man with inventing “Argument by domain name registration”? anyone?

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted November 22, 2010 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      Whilst this disclosed Dumbski’s utterly infantile approach to reality, I imagine that it was intended as an attempt at tragic ‘hip’ humour for a younger audience.

      • Sili
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        ” I imagine that it was intended as an attempt at tragic ‘hip’ humour for a younger audience.”

        Nope. That is a registered domain. Not surprisingly hawking Dumbski’s books – much like he did in this ‘debate’. I liked how Hitchens suggested the kids read this, or read that, while Dumbski basically ordered them to read his book (and perhaps (bits of) the bible)).

  13. Michael Kingsford Gray
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    Watching Dumbski fatuously adorise his imaginary inchoate sky-daddy is like what I imagine it is to watch a pimply male nerd masturbate with unearned pride in front of a high school assembly crowd, on stage, and not feel embarrassed by the bizarre spectacle.

    I may just hand back my math degree…
    (And my mental floss.)

    • bric
      Posted November 22, 2010 at 3:43 am | Permalink

      Goodness! At my school we had to do it standing at the back in Assembly (while singing hymns – Ha!) On stage would have been so, so ironic and postmodern.

      I am definitely coming here for my morning fantasies in future

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 3:56 am | Permalink

        Would you care to rephrase that terminal sentence?

        • bric
          Posted November 22, 2010 at 4:11 am | Permalink

          Yes I apologise for the downward-turning tone, I was still tickled by the mind furrows. I shall in fact stay with the Over 80s nudist leapfrog site for those.

  14. Dominic
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    This Friday Hitchens debates with Tony Bleurrgh in Toronto
    You have to pay to see it online…

    • James Rowland
      Posted November 22, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      There were a dozen-odd years I can’t forget where I’d have paid to have Blair shut up. There’s no way I’m paying now to hear him speak, even if it’s so Hitchens can demolish him.

      • Dominic
        Posted November 22, 2010 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        Agreed! My late father called him Phony Tony. As far as I am concerned he is a smarmy git, but CH at least appreciated Tony Bland’s Iraqui interlude. However for the Hitcenophiles possibly 50% would be worth listening to!

        Yesterday’s Observer article with Grayling inter alia on a similar theme is on the Dawkins website –

        • Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

          Thanks for that link. Not a bad discussion – except for the repeated claims that new atheists are so extreme and intolerant. Are they really?

          • Dominic
            Posted November 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

            I am! 😉

          • Michael Kingsford Gray
            Posted November 22, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

            Intolerant of liars, frauds & con-artists leeches, certainly!

  15. Zuropa
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I had forgotten the debate was in front of a young audience until Hitchens’ magnificent closing statement. It’s one for the record books. Here’s the very end of it, though if I had time I’d transcribe more.

    And I’d urge you to look at those of you who tell you—those people who tell you at your age that you’re dead till you believe as they do. What a terrible thing to be telling to children [applause begins]. And that you can only live [pause for applause]—and that you can only live by accepting an absolute authority. Don’t think of that as a gift. Think of it as a poison chalice. Push it aside however tempting it is. Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.

  16. Helen Wise
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Hitch used this opportunity at Pinewood not to debate Dembski (an ultimately pointless waste of time) but to reach out, perhaps for the last time, to his young audience with the invitation to think for themselves and to form their own conclusions. Hitchens seemed ill and frail, and the entire thing has me feeling dark about losing him.

    • Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      I thought that, too. That he seemed almost unaware of Dembski and was speaking primarily, even urgently, to the young minds in the audience. I can hardly believe he’s still debating, and–ill as he is– *he used no notes*. I hope those kids in the audience noticed that.

  17. Quidam
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Dembski continues to use the dishonest quote mine about Peter Ward on the Cambrian Explosion. He’s been called on it many times for many years* and for him to continue demonstrates his lack of concern for honesty.


  18. sasqwatch
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Due to popular demand, the 3 segments are being moved to another server…

    Right in the middle watching it, too.

    • Marco
      Posted November 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Same here. I was going to see Part 2. Annoying. Hopefully the videos will REALLY be available again soon, and they’re not just being surreptitiously “retired” for some reason.

      • Posted November 23, 2010 at 1:29 am | Permalink

        Same–I had only watched the first part, because the sound is really soft, so I’ll have to watch it after the kids are asleep. Just checked–still down, ’til Wednesday evening, it says. Well–we’ll see, won’t we.

        Thanks to Zuropa for re-posting Hitch’s closing statement. If the videos remain down, at least I can read his closing remarks (splendid! inspiring!).

  19. Doc Bill
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    To be honest I never knew much about Hitchens, which is a pity (for me) and I’ll work to redress that deficiency.

    I must say, I was captivated by Hitchens in this “debate.” His final remarks were outstanding and inspiring. His thoughts about the Universe and our place in it, I would place among the best of Carl’s which is a big admission for me.

  20. Robin Lionheart
    Posted November 23, 2010 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I went to watch the archived webcast, but got a page which reads only “This text will be replaced”.

  21. Ibis3
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I can barely get through the part where Dembski is justifying genocide. It’s okay because:
    1) we live in a fallen world (that’s Eve’s fault right?) so it’s all right
    2) we all die anyway, so what if it’s a little sooner?
    3) the Isrealites not only committed genocide but engaged in civil war so….(?)
    4) God wants it to happen and God is good, so genocide is good too
    5) bombing Hiroshima & Nagasaki with nuclear weapons was necessary [really?!]
    6) it makes perfect sense when you accept the “whole system”
    7) atheism has it’s own problems
    8) you have no basis to criticise genocide or other immoral acts if you’re an atheist

  22. articulett
    Posted November 26, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I loved Hitchens example of the elephant tusks– first he used the creationist straw man, and then he explained evolution in a way that it would take effort NOT to understand. (And he did it so quickly and slyly.)

    I thought it was brilliant, and it cuts through the obfuscation of the kid’s indoctrinators. No doubt, it will eventually clue some of the audience into which side really has the truth (and their best interests in mind).

    I’m glad the religious folks are confident (arrogant) enough to give the “debate” a wide audience. I think it’s a big win for the side of reason and will have lasting ripples into the future.

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