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← Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson Debate

Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson Debate - Comments

arwelroberts's Avatar Comment 1 by arwelroberts

The Hitch is at his absolute best here - razor sharp.

I suspect the audience gained more from this style of discussion - where the moderator (for the most part) kept his nose out of a free flowing debate.


Mon, 01 Dec 2008 12:09:00 UTC | #280866

kaiser's Avatar Comment 2 by kaiser

True, Hitchens is much much better than in the last couple of debates.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 12:31:00 UTC | #280885

Jeff (HandyGeek) Handy's Avatar Comment 3 by Jeff (HandyGeek) Handy

Can't seem to view this for now. I'll try again later. Wish there was a download avail. It's always fun to watch Hitchens too.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 13:12:00 UTC | #280918

horatio's Avatar Comment 4 by horatio

Snopes says Hitchen's world series anecdote is not true.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 13:15:00 UTC | #280920

arwelroberts's Avatar Comment 5 by arwelroberts

@ horatio - comment #4.

If I cannot believe The Hitch on this issue, then perhaps I should also re-evaluate his evidence for the Big Bang and Evolution?

At least Douglas Wilson's arguments all hold water - praise jeebus!


Mon, 01 Dec 2008 13:32:00 UTC | #280933

horatio's Avatar Comment 6 by horatio

I still think he is right in general but it does hurt his credibility if he makes factual errors.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 13:38:00 UTC | #280940

gkkalai's Avatar Comment 7 by gkkalai

Loved the debate. But i think hitchens should sharpen his knowledge in science.As far as other departments are concerned, he was right on spot.
never ceases to be amazing

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 13:53:00 UTC | #280950

Vinelectric's Avatar Comment 8 by Vinelectric

Time and time again, Hitch lets theists get away with murder.

What applies to the part does not necessarily apply to the whole and the rverse is similarily false. I am made of trillions of particles that behave like particles and waves. I, as a whole, don't.

I need Oxygen and Water to maintain my structural integrity. My atoms don't.

If the universe as a whole is devoid of a particular purpose does not imply that there is no truth or whatever string of non-sequiturs that Wilson was inventing.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 13:54:00 UTC | #280953

JMCARVAS's Avatar Comment 9 by JMCARVAS factual errors on the other facts on the other side.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 14:07:00 UTC | #280963

Logicel's Avatar Comment 10 by Logicel

I suppose such a demonstration (how the psychiatrist Hitchens allowed the delusional patient Wilson gently and surely to disclose his delusions in their completeness) can be used over and over and over again in training psychiatrists to what to expect when a delusional patient believes his delusions are real.


Mon, 01 Dec 2008 14:18:00 UTC | #280978

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 11 by Steve Zara

6 and 7

I think that scientific responses to people like Wilson are over-rated. They just don't accept the scientific approach as the right way to look at things.

I think Hitchens' approach is superb - show that the religious "story" is, even on its own terms, inconsistent, ugly and immoral.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 14:22:00 UTC | #280979

zepner508's Avatar Comment 12 by zepner508

upon hearing the questions by the audience including question about how to judge the stories of the bible and their validity, i thought the same thought i always think, and that is - if you, believer, understand god to be the absolute truth and your flavor of religion to be the only true path, and then throw into the mix that 1 plus 1 is undeniable and obviously true to equal 2, then if these miracles (and god in general) were absolutely true, wouldn't it be obvious? why would anyone have to be convinced?

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 14:35:00 UTC | #280988

SASnSA's Avatar Comment 13 by SASnSA

I think Hitchens missed an opportunity when it came to the 'virgin birth' and counterfeit stories. I mean what about the pagan story of the virgin birth that predates Jesus' birth? Wouldn't that make Jesus' birth a likely counterfeit?

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 14:40:00 UTC | #280992

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 14 by Matt H.

Hitchens' closing speech was probably the best I've ever heard him give.

As Richard Dawkins himself has said before (in much better words), I'd dread having him as an opponent.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 14:47:00 UTC | #280996

MPhil's Avatar Comment 15 by MPhil

The arguments Douglas Wilson presents are best answered by a philosophically informed capable cognitive neuroscientist or a scientifically informed, capable philosopher with broad knowledge in philosophy of mind and epistemology.

"Beauty" as an objective quality, ethical values as objectively existing - how ludicrous. But the statements about mentality being impossible in a universe as science describes it - I have destroyed those arguments more times than I can count.

He has no idea of science or the rigorous application of logic, science and philosophical reasoning - even though he has studied and apparently even taught some of this.

Take the comments of some of out posters here together and you have an absolute refutation of his arguments... and being someone who specializes exactly in the areas (how intentionality, mentality and consciousness arise in the universe as understood by science interpreted and analysed rationally by philosophy) concerned with the claims he makes, I can say he is definitely i)plainly wrong and ii)uninformed about the status of research pertaining to these questions... even though he can at times sound reasonable because he applies reason to subtly false premises - retroactive rationalization of ludicrous mythology.

Btw, Hitchens ALWAYS abuses the word "solipsism". He uses it to mean "egocentrism", whereas it is actually the position that only one's own mind exists - he should know that.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 15:11:00 UTC | #281008

Brian English's Avatar Comment 16 by Brian English

Mike, PM for you.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 15:17:00 UTC | #281010

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 17 by Steve Zara

Comment #294957 by MPhil

I forget if you have commented on my blog post about this a short while ago, but surely people like Wilson know of the scientific and philosophical counterarguments. I believe Hitchens is right when he pointed out there could not be a meeting of minds because their thought processes were quite different. Wilson considers ideas of beauty and ethics as being fundamental to what he thinks of as the appropriate story about reality, and nothing will change that. Scientific and logical arguments just aren't appropriate in his view.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 15:17:00 UTC | #281011

Don_Quix's Avatar Comment 18 by Don_Quix

I'm only in the first part of the debate where Douglas Wilson gives his opening statements (where he talks about objectivity & subjectivity vs beauty).

So far, it's not making much sense to me and seems rather non sequitur. Hopefully it gets better.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 15:21:00 UTC | #281014

MPhil's Avatar Comment 19 by MPhil

Hmm... I think Hitchens's approach is quite good - but there were a lot of opportunities to directly dismantle and fatally rebut his assertions of the impossibility of the development of consciousness and mentality in a naturalistic, physicalist universe without god.

Wilson doesn't present arguments for this, though the students of the apology-class and many more in the audience will have read (during their studies) texts with elaborate formulations of such arguments... and thus he can feel confident that they will see his position as supported by arguments and his "argument" for the impossibility of mentality and consciousness and free will in a naturalistic, physicalist universe as not being addressed by Hitchens.

Man, if such a person as Wilson can make his living with such intellectual diarrhoea, surely it must be possible for me when I have my Doctor Title to make a better living from an academic career in philosophy than he ever could... I hope.

At least, that would be the case if the world was fair :)

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 15:36:00 UTC | #281019

MPhil's Avatar Comment 20 by MPhil

I also think that Hitchens's "nouminal" and "transcendent" are mysticistic concepts which have no real counterpart... these are aspects of individual and social mentality.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 15:38:00 UTC | #281021

chewedbarber's Avatar Comment 21 by chewedbarber

I cringe every time I hear a theist say they do not need reason and evidence to support their beliefs; as though they had a fucking choice if they want to be taken seriously.

Even more disturbing is that despite this promise, Wilson immediately appeals to reason. God damn-it man, if you're claiming mysticism then at least have the courage to be mystical!

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 15:47:00 UTC | #281027

Fuller's Avatar Comment 22 by Fuller

Even more disturbing is that despite this promise, Wilson immediately appeals to reason. God damn-it man, if you're claiming mysticism then at least have the courage to be mystical!

Totally. A theist will use reason and logic as far as it takes them (which is basically nowhere), and then dismiss it the moment it's used against them.

You can't have it both ways.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 15:57:00 UTC | #281029

MPhil's Avatar Comment 23 by MPhil

Wilson states (around the 51-53 minute mark) that Christianity is responsible for "lifting the clouds of superstition" since it eliminated the active belief in witchcraft etc.

In addition to what Hitchen's answers - we can and should counter that even where this is true to some degree, this does just mean that a set of uncontrolled superstitions and dogmatisms and articles of cultivated ignorance is supplanted with a controlled, more structured and thus more powerful and broadly influential superstition, dogmatism and cultivated unreason... and as such with a more dangerous organized superstition.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 16:05:00 UTC | #281033

JMCARVAS's Avatar Comment 24 by JMCARVAS

I found this philosophical analysis of the subject useless. You don't need to tell me what Hitchens words mean, because I already know that.

Anyway, philosophy never did a useful thing for humanity. Philosophy stands in the oposite side of science, almost as religion does.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 16:15:00 UTC | #281039

MPhil's Avatar Comment 25 by MPhil


I am sorry. You evidentally have absolutely no idea of philosophy, neither of the relation philosophy to science (mature sciences are in fact a special case of philosophy, historically and conceptually, since the empirical sciences developed out of philosophy and philosophy historically and conceptually is the demarcation between mysticism and reason in explaining and investigating the world).

I am an academic in the field of philosophy with good relations to physicists, information theorists, mathematicians, biologists, programmers, computational scientists, neuroscientists etc...

You are dogmatically entrenched, so I won't even try to convince you, but your ridiculous and pityful display of unreason, pride in ignorance and dogmatism must only underlined, not countered.

Now crawl back into your hole...

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 16:27:00 UTC | #281045

Tack's Avatar Comment 26 by Tack

Wilson's (and almost all believers') equivocation on the term "faith" is really goddamn irritating.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 16:42:00 UTC | #281054

MPhil's Avatar Comment 27 by MPhil



Mon, 01 Dec 2008 16:47:00 UTC | #281056

Don_Quix's Avatar Comment 28 by Don_Quix

After Hitchens points out that either all religions are true, none are true, or only one is true (in this case it is Wilson's particular flavor of Christianity), Wilson responds with a (very poor) analogy of counterfeit dollar bills vs genuine dollar bills. Essentially Wilson misses the entire point and claims that there are only a limited number of "counterfeit" bills (the *other* religions), and he can easily distinguish between those and his own "genuine" bills because they represent his own (one true) religion. Then Hitchens asks:

Hitchens: Why are your miracles the real bills and the others are all copies?

Wilson: Because they happened. Jesus really *did* rise from the dead...

Well...I guess that pretty much settles it, then. :facepalm:

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 16:49:00 UTC | #281058

MPhil's Avatar Comment 29 by MPhil

Don Quix,

yes, quite infuriating... especially considering that many people regard this as valid reasoning... *shudder*

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 16:54:00 UTC | #281064

DarwinsPitbull's Avatar Comment 30 by DarwinsPitbull


Anyway, philosophy never did a useful thing for humanity. Philosophy stands in the oposite side of science, almost as religion does.

Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" help gather people to fight the revolutionary war, which led to our independence. So there is one example where it helped.

But I think philosophy does more to help individuals than it does to help humanity as a whole.

Mon, 01 Dec 2008 16:55:00 UTC | #281065