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← Hitchens and Boteach Debate on God

Hitchens and Boteach Debate on God - Comments

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 1 by Matt H.

Simply superb. This is how Dinesh D'Souza should be handled in all future debates.... I doubt we'll see Boteach again.

I particularly enjoyed Hitchens' use of 'big boy' as a put down. I laughed out loud several times... I haven't done that in a while. It seems the audience enjoyed it too, it was evident that by the end they were firmly on Hitchens side. The Rabbi just put his foot in his mouth too many times.

As Hitchens Watch says in their review of the debate: "...whatever one feels about Hitchens, it was impossible not to enjoy his systematic and merciless destruction of his loathsome opponent."

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 18:02:00 UTC | #118828

Skep's Avatar Comment 2 by Skep

Boteach was terrible. He couldn't even make a good case, let alone a successful joke.

Is there more than meets the eye? How did he get to be a Rabbi at Oxford? Why did Dawkins debate him 4 times? Watching Hitchens debate this guy was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters trounce the Washington Generals. Were Boteach not so irrationally confident, vitriolic and just plain wrong all in the guise of being "friendly" watching the "debate" would be like watching someone kicking a puppy (Boteach would be the puppy, of course). You cold practically see Hitchens checking his watch.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 18:12:00 UTC | #118830

dazzjazz's Avatar Comment 3 by dazzjazz

Boteach comes across as a cretin and Matt's comparison with D'Souza is spot-on. Boteach didn't make sense at all. Just goes to show the mental gymnastics required to be a rabbi, priest, imam etc.


Well done Hitchens! Did Boteach buy your 100 books yet?

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 18:42:00 UTC | #118839

maton100's Avatar Comment 4 by maton100

Hitch smoked him. Boteach sounds like D'Souza without his hearing aid.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 19:41:00 UTC | #118845

Foth's Avatar Comment 5 by Foth

This was a massacre. It was really really ugly.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 19:46:00 UTC | #118846

mountainpix's Avatar Comment 6 by mountainpix

The sad thing is that it seems Boteach is knowingly dishonest in making his feeble arguments, or at minimum, he allows himself to avoid recognizing obvious contradictions and falsehoods. For example, he claims to believe in evolution so long as it is guided by God, but he then goes on to make the, "where are the transitional species?" argument. Evolution guided by God would still require transitional species. He is either dishonest or deluded.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 19:50:00 UTC | #118848

Foth's Avatar Comment 7 by Foth

Did Hitchens really say idiot children? That makes me sad.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 19:50:00 UTC | #118849

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 8 by Richard Dawkins

Boteach was terrible. He couldn't even make a good case, let alone a successful joke.

Is there more than meets the eye? How did he get to be a Rabbi at Oxford? Why did Dawkins debate him 4 times?


How did he get to be a Rabbi at Oxford? Easy. He moved from America to a house in the city of Oxford and set himself up as a rabbi. He persuaded students at Oxford to set up an unofficial Jewish student group, which he supervised and financed (he had considerable financial resources, which seem to have come from a Jewish organization in New York). He never had any official standing at the University of Oxford at all.

Why did I debate him 4 times? I didn't. He organized debates, with himself as chairman, and I sometimes took part in debates with the outside visitors that he imported, for example Robert Winston. Boteach was a surprisingly impartial chairman, but he was always just a chairman, never a debater in any of the debates that I attended.

Richard

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 19:53:00 UTC | #118850

Foth's Avatar Comment 9 by Foth

I don't think Richard would have wasted 4 whole debates on Boteach anyway. Listen to him talk about evolution! He reminds me of those baptist preachers I listened to every Sunday years ago.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 20:13:00 UTC | #118851

righton's Avatar Comment 10 by righton

Comment #125041

"For example, he claims to believe in evolution so long as it is guided by God, but he then goes on to make the, "where are the transitional species?" argument."

I have gotten this same thing many times when talking to christians. They will say they believe in evolution but they will continue to come up with arguments against it. It usually turns out that they only believe in parts of evolution, like "micro-evolution". I dont think the words "micro" and "macro" evolution should be used by scientists because they are misleading. A few of the christians i have talked to will say that they think micro evolution is possible but cannot not lead to a new species. They also think that macro evolution means some kind of large change(macro) into a new species.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 20:14:00 UTC | #118852

peahix's Avatar Comment 11 by peahix

boteach's mental gymnastics and extreme ignorance are on full display here, unfortunately hitch didn't have sufficient time to refute every single inane point. the stuff about mathematical probability was particularly inane.

however, i'd like to point out a couple things. on the whole business of the high court in israel, etc, if you listen back you'll find that hitch DID in fact slip up in his statement and tried to smooth it over after he was caught out by saying something like "...the rabbinical court AND the high court..." so his rather forceful reaction to boteach's challenge was a unjustified in this particular situation because he did, apparently, state inaccurate information. haven't looked up precisely what he said in _god is not great_, but at least here he seems to have mis-spoken.

another thing is that i don't quite buy his oft-repeated challenge about naming a moral act that could not have been done by an atheist, etc. actually, it's not the first part i disagree with, it's the 2nd part, or "corollary," as he puts it. the problem is, when he says "name an evil act that could only have been done because of belief in god," he leaves out the other logical part of this proposition, which is "name an evil act that could only have been done because of lack of belief in god."

now, i personally don't believe that lack of belief in god is likely to lead to evil acts (at least not as frequently/easily as believing in a god who condones genocide, slavery, etc), but it can easily be argued that it can and does. it's simply a matter of examining what any given atheist's interpretation is of the state of affairs where there is no god. the default position is for the question of god to not matter on the question of ethics and morality, but certainly some will take the absence of an ultimate authority figure as a license to do whatever they please. just look at the theists who say things like "without god, i'd be out there raping and murdering!" presumably for such a person, such acts could only be done if they were an atheist.

obviously you can argue about the levels of justification in theistic amoral acts vs atheistic amoral acts, but nevertheless, to be fair, hitch should acknowledge this further point in his challenge. to not do so is, i think, intellectually dishonest and manipulative.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 20:35:00 UTC | #118854

morgantj's Avatar Comment 12 by morgantj

I thought it was funny and enlightening how Hitchens was so calm when he spoke, even after Boteach would be so excited, preachy, and attacking. I also thought that Boteach seemed to debate Hitchen's book more then he debated Hitchens himself in the debate. Boteach did not provide any compelling evidence to support his belief in the existence of god, nor could he even clearly define the god he believed in.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 20:48:00 UTC | #118857

Mango's Avatar Comment 13 by Mango

Mr. Boteach is willfully ignorant or willfully mendacious. He accepts that humans and chimpanzees share 98% of our genes but in the next breath says "so what, watermelons and jelly fish are both 98% water." Of course that is not a valid analogy -- we are discussing DNA, not water content of inter-cellular tissues.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 20:51:00 UTC | #118859

rhlong's Avatar Comment 14 by rhlong

Boteach really didn't make much sense at all.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 21:05:00 UTC | #118862

dragonfirematrix's Avatar Comment 15 by dragonfirematrix

My comments on Christopher’s opening remarks…

Right out the gate, Christopher Hitchens hits all the humanity nails on the head over, and over again with education, logic, reason, and a calm character. I love Christopher’s logical proof of the falsity of design (intelligent, or otherwise I presume). I would have a very hard time keeping my cool with the radical rants of the religious. Chris deserves a metal for his patience. I do hope that the human race grows out of the fantasies of religion before religion destroys all we know.


My comments on Rabbi Boteach’s opening remarks…

Right out the gate, Rabbi Boteach jumps into a blinding religious emotionalism, quoting bible verses, ranting about the problems with sex though he claims eight children, and he went off on a tangent about sex and circumcision. Why are the religious so worried about the sex parts of other people? Are the religious that terrified with the pole and the hole? I have only heard about two minutes of the Rabbi, and I already feel like I am in a religious School Gym Class receiving my daily proselytizing. I see no need to flag more of the Rabbi’s speech. I do hope that the human race grows out of the fantasies of religion before religion destroys all we know.

Other comments as I go…

The phenomenal complexity of life on Earth is through the millions and billions of years of evolution (balance, rebalance, balance, and rebalance, not to mention the survival of the most fit). I do not believe in “POOF, THERE IT IS” as the Rabbi appears to mandate...

Huckabee represents the Rabbi’s Neanderthals in America. Speaking of Neanderthals, I live about six miles from Liberty University where dinosaurs are only a few thousand years old, well at least on “their” campus, but no where else in the world. Huckabee spoke there.

I tell you what. I need not comment further on this debate. I know where I stand, and I stand with Christopher Hitchens. Now, I will spare further analysis and listen to the rest of the debate without further comment except for this last repeat, which is...

...I do hope that the human race grows out of the fantasies of religion before religion destroys us all.


Wayne (Forest, VA USA)

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 21:07:00 UTC | #118865

bosshlk's Avatar Comment 16 by bosshlk

"Even dumber than you look now."

Absolutely fantastic!

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 21:08:00 UTC | #118866

chuckg's Avatar Comment 17 by chuckg

Boteach display some of the most breathtaking inanity in his misunderstanding of the science I've ever witnessed(I didn't partake in the Dover trial). Most of his arguments had the tone of extreme Zionist apology, as if Israel needs an apologist, especially one as inept and down right nasty as he. Except for about doubling my blood pressure, this debate was quite enjoyable.
chuck

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 21:21:00 UTC | #118867

Mbee's Avatar Comment 18 by Mbee

This is amazing.

How someone can completely misstate Evolution theory and provide no evidence to support his argument as to an alternative is just pathetic.

I would much rather believe in an argument that is supported by evidence than an argument that has none!

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 21:24:00 UTC | #118868

peahix's Avatar Comment 19 by peahix

not to mention that fact that boteach shrieks "where's the evidence?!?" with respect to evolution, whilst:

a) demonstrating an immense degree of ignorance about the evidence for evolution

and

b) failing to have any problem whatsoever with the complete lack of evidence for the existence of his god

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 21:37:00 UTC | #118869

MikeV's Avatar Comment 20 by MikeV

WOW!

I was so pissed off while watching this debate.
It was like watching a screeching monkey shouting out creationist propaganda.

He's made so many errors when talking about evolution that it's obvious that he has NOT studied it.

Monkeys randomly typing on a typewriter?
Where are all the transitional fossils?
Misquoting Darwin about the eye?
Saying that Stephen Jay Gould doesn't believe in evolution?
etc...

Is this guy an idiot? YES HE IS.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 21:50:00 UTC | #118871

tacitus's Avatar Comment 21 by tacitus

Wow, I've never heard a creationist claiming that Gould rejected evolution before. That was pretty brutal -- the more the Rabbi began to rant, the wilder and dumber his claims became.

And he wasn't really interested in debating the subject at hand, he spent the whole time trying to refute specific passages of Hitchens' book. And I guess we've just found another flea to add to the growing list.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 22:07:00 UTC | #118873

Jeffersonian-Marxist's Avatar Comment 22 by Jeffersonian-Marxist

I was amazed at the Rabbi's ignorance of Greco-roman history. He equated the military state of Sparta with Hellenistic culture, and then he went on to make Antiochus Epiphanes seem as though he was the embodiment of Greco-roman attitude and culture. Either he is just plain ignorant of the history of atiquity or he is willfully decitful to make a point.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 22:11:00 UTC | #118874

Mango's Avatar Comment 23 by Mango

The more Mr. Boteach spoke the more rope he was making to hang himself intellectually.

The flailing and flapping arms only added to his caricature of a caricature.

"You asked for white noise and you got it." - Hitchens to the moderator

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 22:25:00 UTC | #118875

cerbera's Avatar Comment 24 by cerbera

Four debates with RD ? Interesting. Where can we see those, I wonder ?

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 22:28:00 UTC | #118877

Skep's Avatar Comment 25 by Skep

"Why did I debate him 4 times? I didn't. He organized debates, with himself as chairman, and I sometimes took part in debates with the outside visitors that he imported, for example Robert Winston. Boteach was a surprisingly impartial chairman, but he was always just a chairman, never a debater in any of the debates that I attended."


My apologies. I made the mistake of assuming his characterizations in the 92nd St. Y debate were based in fact rather than farcical extrapolation or bald-faced lies. In the debate Boteach said he was a "Rabbi at Oxford" and that he "debated Richard Dawkins 4 times" (I'm paraphrasing). I fell for his claim hook, line and sinker. He used that characterization in the debate to bolster his credibility and supposed amateur "expertise" in evolutionary biology, implying that your knowledge either rubbed off on him or that he held his own against you. Alas, such attempted bootstrapping turned out to be in vain as Hitchens was more than a match for Boteach even on the topic of evolutionary biology. And even where Boteach should have had some home field advantage (the 92nd St Y was founded as the "Young Men's Hebrew Association") it was clear from the audience reaction that Hitchens had the crowd, not Boteach.

I had thought that to imply a falsehood was considered wrong in Judaism even if a statement is technically correct. One would think this would be especially true for Rabbis. Apparently not in Boteach's case.

By Boteach's logic, I suppose I could become a "Resident Skeptic" at Oxford by taking a nap on an Oxford park bench and could also claim to have "debated" Richard Dawkins merely on the basis of the one response above--but such claims would be knowingly disingenuous.

I consider myself a tad foolish for having presumed the honesty of someone because of his authority in a religious organization. Sigh...I really should know better.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 22:29:00 UTC | #118878

eXcommunicate's Avatar Comment 26 by eXcommunicate

Hitchens' opening statement is blistering. He actually delivers it with gusto! I am impressed.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 22:37:00 UTC | #118879

Skep's Avatar Comment 27 by Skep

11. Comment #125050 by peahix on February 10, 2008 at 8:35 pm
however, i'd like to point out a couple things. on the whole business of the high court in israel, etc, if you listen back you'll find that hitch DID in fact slip up in his statement and tried to smooth it over after he was caught out by saying something like "...the rabbinical court AND the high court..."


I think Hitch might be on a bit of a ledge on this issue, but to find one story that might be in error in Hitchens book is not to prove that God exists and is the is the source of morality! All Hitchens has to do, if the story turns out to be false, is say so and move on. All the rest stands and the issue has no bearing on the rest of his book.

There are follow ups by Hitchens and Boteach on the 92nd St. Y on this issue. Hitches provides the proof of the citation he was referring to. But, the source is vague on details and could be apocryphal. What is clear, though, is that Boteach's slanderous claim that Hitchens is just "making things up" is a crock. Hitchens did not make the claim up and the citation proves it. Botaech's argument was false. And regardless of whether the story relayed by the source is accurate or not, Boteach has not proven that natural selection is false, that morality requires god (well, not just "god" but the Hebrew God), nor that Stephen J. Gould didn't believe in natural selection!

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 22:40:00 UTC | #118880

ryaninaustin's Avatar Comment 28 by ryaninaustin

So, does anyone know if the "100 book" bet was resolved?

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 22:43:00 UTC | #118881

SamHandwich's Avatar Comment 29 by SamHandwich

That was an great. I just really hated how Botaech was screaming the entire debate.

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 22:50:00 UTC | #118882

mejdrich's Avatar Comment 30 by mejdrich

Has anyone followed up on the Jewish court that Hitchens sited?

Sun, 10 Feb 2008 23:10:00 UTC | #118883