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← Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson

Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson - Comments

George Lennan's Avatar Comment 1 by George Lennan

yay first!!
Quick comment about wilson's 'opening a book' argument. Christians and skeptics do indeed open two different books when they need to support their claims, however one of those books is a little pamphlet with a few hundred pages, the other is the enire warp and weft of a 15 billion year old universe. The 'choose your tautolgy' argument looks a little flimsy then don't it?

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 14:43:00 UTC | #395329

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 2 by God fearing Atheist

Sold.

When will it be in the UK?

Preferably to rent, so I can replay important bits n times.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 14:48:00 UTC | #395332

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 3 by Mark Jones

Pastor Wilson wants to claim that basing knowledge on reason is question-begging in the same way as basing belief in the bible on the bible itself is question-begging.

This tactic seeks to render reason and the bible as equivalent ways of knowing - or perhaps even to raise the bible above reason? But this simply ignores the evidence of the relative success of the two ways of knowing. Not only has reason shown itself to be many times more successful than the bible at establishing a putative truth, it is a way of knowing that the Pastor uses himself in most other aspects of his life (I hope!). So hypocrisy has to be added to his inability to evaluate the evidence.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 15:13:00 UTC | #395339

Ananel's Avatar Comment 4 by Ananel

I must admit the line confuse me at first, but just for a second.
You cannot compare reason and bible, both side use the reason to form lines of thoughts, is the base that makes the deferens, the bible, your personal experience etc…..

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 15:25:00 UTC | #395340

krhes's Avatar Comment 5 by krhes

Will be watching and waiting to buy the DVD through this site!! If only I can stop cringing (twitching shoulders and all) through the kumbaya moments of family life around the groaning harvest table ('amen').

I wish I could stop being amazed (never mind particularly miffed and saddened) by the resilience of the crazy-utterly-unsubstantiated-human-construct-literary-fudged-cobbled-together-Bronze-aged-model-of-a-system-supposedly-based-on-supernatural-"moral"-goodness-veil-of-ignorance premise.

That it itself might its quietus make with a bare bodkin...
(Pace Hamlet)

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 15:27:00 UTC | #395342

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 6 by robotaholic

"imagine there is no heaven or hell"

I don't have to "imagine" there isn't-
I have to "imagine" there is-

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 15:42:00 UTC | #395344

notsobad's Avatar Comment 7 by notsobad

Can Douglas Wilson be any more boring?

And the images of the brainwashed kids are creepy.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 15:54:00 UTC | #395345

Luis Dias's Avatar Comment 8 by Luis Dias

"Pastor Wilson wants to claim that basing knowledge on reason is question-begging in the same way as basing belief in the bible on the bible itself is question-begging."


He's merely addressing foundationalism, that is, the philosophical postulation that every philosophical viewpoint must have a foundation of its own. Thus when a person is claiming to speak in the name of "Reason", he's doing no better, categorically speaking, than speaking in the name of "The Bible". He's being technical there, and he's obviously right, irrespectively of the sheer emotional punch that such a remark may or may not give to the unaware. Because all you do when defending reason against the bible is either positing another god (Reason! Roar! Thunder!) or pounding the table.

Thing is, Christopher doesn't sound as a Realist to me, as in, a person that believes that anything meaningful can be said about the "Reality". He says as much when he mumbles about "truth", and tells that the search is what is important, and we should be very skeptical of anyone speaking in its name. Chris is no "foundationalist", that is, he doesn't have to believe in any "eternal" foundation in order to try and build the building of knowledge. This is why Wilson pounds on him about this subject. "But we have to base our knowledge and reason in something".

It's a very interesting philosophical innuendo around metaphysics, noumena, relativism and absolutism. Wilson is very honest and the movie can be good.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 15:58:00 UTC | #395346

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 10 by nalfeshnee

robotaholic:

Marked excellent. My thoughts entirely.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 15:59:00 UTC | #395348

Shigawire's Avatar Comment 9 by Shigawire

Reason and Bible are not comparable in the slightest.

Referencing the "Bible" is to refer to a physical object - an ancient tome with a finite number of pages. A beginning and an end.

Referencing "Reason" is to refer to a potentially infinite PROCESS of deduction.

Perhaps Wilson's deduction consisted of the following:
"Reason" = Noun...
and
"Bible" = Noun...
This means that "Reason" <> "Bible"

Some of the neurobiological wiring must be jammed in these peoples' logic centers.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 15:59:00 UTC | #395347

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 11 by nalfeshnee

Oh, and the comparison about arguing from reason and arguing from the Bible has to be the lamest thing I have heard all week. (Quite apart from the (deliberate) semantic confusion of the ability TO reason with the proffering of A reason.

Well, I'd like to see Wilson solve a quadratic equation using arguments from the Bible.

Although I guess he could just follow the god's advice in the big book and just kill the pesky mortals asking stupid questions.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 16:21:00 UTC | #395350

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 12 by nalfeshnee

Luis, you write:


, the philosophical postulation that every philosophical viewpoint must have a foundation of its own. Thus when a person is claiming to speak in the name of "Reason", he's doing no better, categorically speaking, than speaking in the name of "The Bible". He's being technical there, and he's obviously right,


I'd agree with you if we were talking about Marxism – or even Maoism, to be honest. Perhaps even Mein Kampf might work as a book offering a philosophical viewpoint to be compared with reason in the sense you suggest.

However, your argument would seem to suggest that the Bible offers us a coherent philosophical viewpoint, would it not?

Given that the Bible is an incoherent, self-contradictory mess – isn't that cutting Wilson a little too much slack?

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 16:25:00 UTC | #395351

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 13 by God fearing Atheist

8. Comment #413376 by Luis Dias


I am sure there is a joke in there somewhere about four philosophers on a plane discussing the esoteric nature of reality when one of the engines cuts out and they all have a viceral brown trouser moment as they suddenly discover it.

Sorry.

I did find your post interesting, and shall think carefully about it as I watch the file.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 16:57:00 UTC | #395354

alaskansee's Avatar Comment 14 by alaskansee

I like how Wilson wants down trodden christians to see the move because it shows them how to argue against atheists whereas he wants the atheists to see it because their arguments are sophomoric and they need to step it up to engage the brilliant "truths" of his mythtism. Still seems to miss the point that Allah is the only true god.......

engaged and defeated

done and done

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 17:02:00 UTC | #395356

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 15 by SaintStephen

From Mr. Wilson's brain, roughly transcribed:

"I want to base everything on the bible... and you'd say "Why do you want to do that?"... and I'd say, well, as it says here in Romans... but then you'd say I can't just flip to a verse in the Bible, because that would be begging the question... Well I'd say the same thing about reason... if a person says I want to base everything on reason... then I say "Why do you want to do that?"... When he turns to give me a reason, what is he doing? He's flipping open his bible!
Applying reason to fabrics resulted in the clothes Wilson wears. Applying this very same "bible of reason" to metals and plastics, resulted in the car that Wilson drives. Could these things have been accomplished merely by consulting the bible? Am I oversimplifying his position here? Would Wilson deny that a rigorous application of reason produced these tangible things? Or was God whispering instructions into Henry Ford's ear? To equate the discipline of reason with passages from an ancient book is a brand of insanity I've not been exposed to before.

More from Wilson:

"You'll notice that I'm following the ancient triad of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Christians are not rationalists. Of course Christians would point out that rationalists are not rationalists, either. Every position is a faith position."
Didn't Wilson just shoot himself directly in the foot here? Does his whole argument boil down to "Please accept my subjective, irrational opinion: the bible is everything?

BTW... did anyone else notice Marvin Olasky popping his head into the camera briefly? Even when I was an aspiring Christian in Texas, this pious dweeb's column in The Austin-American Statesman newspaper always gave me the urge to take the Lord's name in vain.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 17:37:00 UTC | #395363

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 16 by SaintStephen

8. Comment #413376 by Luis Dias on September 8, 2009 at 4:58 pm

He's merely addressing foundationalism, that is, the philosophical postulation that every philosophical viewpoint must have a foundation of its own. Thus when a person is claiming to speak in the name of "Reason", he's doing no better, categorically speaking, than speaking in the name of "The Bible". He's being technical there, and he's obviously right, irrespectively of the sheer emotional punch that such a remark may or may not give to the unaware. Because all you do when defending reason against the bible is either positing another god (Reason! Roar! Thunder!) or pounding the table.
No, he isn't "right" at all. Foundationalism is an unterminated, infinite regress. Please tell us what the foundation for foundationalism is.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 17:49:00 UTC | #395364

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 17 by nalfeshnee

SaintStephan:


Does his whole argument boil down to "Please accept my subjective, irrational opinion: the bible is everything?


Indeed, I suspect that the full statement would be:

SaintStephan:


Does his whole argument boil down to "Please accept my subjective, irrational opinion: the bible, as translated into English from the original Latin or Greek is everything?


I know I harp on about translation a lot recently, but there is a point to it.

Much of science is written – or at least can be expressed – in some sort of universal language. Primarily mathematics, but also the formulas of chemistry or individual contributions such as Feynmann's diagrams. Even if I can't read German, or English, or French, I can still follow science if I'm given the equations and the formulae.

Yet for Wilson, the Word literally is God, although not only is this Word not constant (many translations, erroneous copying and interpretation) but he cannot even read the original words of his Creator God.

I don't get it.

Mind you, Wikipedia informs me that Wilson once said this:


The Christian faith is good for the world because it provides the fixed standard which atheism cannot provide and because it provides forgiveness for sins, which atheism cannot provide either. We need the direction of the standard because we are confused sinners. We need the forgiveness because we are guilty sinners. Atheism not only keeps the guilt, but it also keeps the confusion


This quite clearly shows that Wilson has a truly appalling grasp of logic.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 17:56:00 UTC | #395366

Luis Dias's Avatar Comment 18 by Luis Dias

However, your argument would seem to suggest that the Bible offers us a coherent philosophical viewpoint, would it not?

Given that the Bible is an incoherent, self-contradictory mess – isn't that cutting Wilson a little too much slack?


That presupposes that coherence is something foundational, that is something given a priori. If you posit that the word of God is more important than coherence, then you will excuse very easily these "small" details. And I'm not being pedantic, why do you think that the other pope talked about "fides et ratio"? Namely, faith goes beyond reason (transcendent).

And I'm not cutting no slack at all. I just say, his point is lame, politically unsound, unconvincing to the free thinker. But, nevertheless, technically correct. And worse, a source of pride for religious, the belief that there is something more than this, a feeling of outcoming ennui and the valley of tears. This is truly a romantic and idealistic vision, and something they feel an atheist has "lost", for so focused he is about "reason".

Applying reason to fabrics resulted in the clothes Wilson wears


This won't get you far, too. I'm annoyed at this line of thinking, extremely bored by it. You are holding materialistic values as if a christian would hold them more dearly than their god. Hint, they do not. They care more about their faith, their vision and dream, than your motorcycle. Curiously, they even see these things as work of the devil (and here we say, how convenient!). Anyways, it's a strawman, and will only work to alienate yourself even further wrt to their point of view. (How materialist of you!)

Didn't Wilson just shoot himself directly in the foot here? Does his whole argument boil down to "Please accept my subjective, irrational opinion: the bible is everything?


He's merely addressing Hume, Kant and the whole of philosophy that arose from there on. Namely, the problem of induction, and the problem of being unable to speak about "noumena". He's quite right in doing so, if you are willing to accept metaphysics is something worthy of its salt. Which I do not.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 18:02:00 UTC | #395369

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 19 by SaintStephen

17. Comment #413397 by nalfeshnee on September 8, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Ahhhh... although I hesitate to draw any comparison (whatsoever) between Doug Wilson and Isaac Newton, wasn't it John Bernoulli who said "I recognize the lion by his paw" in reference to Newton's anonymously published solution for the brachistochrone problem?

For Wilson's "solution," allow me to be his John Bernoulli: I recognize the clown by his big red nose and floppy feet.

Thanks for the quote, nalfeshnee!

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 18:08:00 UTC | #395371

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 20 by God fearing Atheist

18. Comment #413400 by Luis Dias


What is your solution? Is there any common ground? Is there any basis for a discussion with any common axioms?

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 18:18:00 UTC | #395372

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 21 by SaintStephen

18. Comment #413400 by Luis Dias on September 8, 2009 at 7:02 pm

This won't get you far, too. I'm annoyed at this line of thinking, extremely bored by it. You are holding materialistic values as if a christian would hold them more dearly than their god. Hint, they do not. They care more about their faith, their vision and dream, than your motorcycle. Curiously, they even see these things as work of the devil (and here we say, how convenient!). Anyways, it's a strawman, and will only work to alienate yourself even further wrt to their point of view. (How materialist of you!)
Excuse me... maybe you're confusing me with a lazy accommodationist who actually gives a rat's ass about "their" point of view, aside from proudly and vigorously joining the effort to rid the world entirely of this poppycock.

And who cares if you're bored? Nice logic to that argument. The argument from ennui. How Christian of you.

Plus, you're dead wrong about Christians and materialism. Laughably, horrendously wrong! In my 48 years on this planet, I've seen exactly the opposite, and I was raised a Catholic, served as an altar boy, and was Confirmed. "God wants us to have beautiful things" is one piece of tripe believers will use when deciding whether to purchase the new Mercedes, or donate the money to charity, and there are many others.

You sounded intelligent in your first post, but I'm rapidly losing respect for your arguments.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 18:22:00 UTC | #395373

Big City's Avatar Comment 22 by Big City

I damn sure won't be purchasing that video if it includes more footage of those dancing cult babies.

SaintStephen transcribed:

"I want to base everything on the bible... and you'd say "Why do you want to do that?"... and I'd say, well, as it says here in Romans... but then you'd say I can't just flip to a verse in the Bible, because that would be begging the question... Well I'd say the same thing about reason... if a person says I want to base everything on reason... then I say "Why do you want to do that?"... When he turns to give me a reason, what is he doing? He's flipping open his bible!"
So basically Wilson's argument is, to validate logic, we have to turn to nonsense. Truly staggering.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 18:24:00 UTC | #395374

Luis Dias's Avatar Comment 23 by Luis Dias

What is your solution? Is there any common ground? Is there any basis for a discussion with any common axioms?


There is no "solution". But there is plenty of common ground. Science is deeply rooted in common ground, namely, empiricism and reason. But these are not gods, they are only tools that we humans have created. And as we are, they too are flawed. Such is the human condition. To solve this "problem", some people posit a god so they feel better in knowing there is truly an ultimate reference somewhere where they can put their angst. Others simply grow up beyond santa claus and deal with the uncertainty and the infinite depth of the rabbit hole. Well, the best we can at least, until we die.

And who cares if you're bored? Nice logic to that argument. The argument from ennui. How Christian of you.


Well you could say that I am a Christian. An atheist one, but still. And the ennui is not about my own boredom regarding your argument. The ennui remark was against materialism. For all the spaceships we build, we are still going to be dust. Materialism is no foe for transcendent. They speak of different languages.

Plus, you're dead wrong about Christians and materialism. Laughably, horrendously wrong! In my 48 years on this planet, I've seen exactly the opposite, and I was raised a Catholic, served as an altar boy, and was Confirmed. "God wants us to have beautiful things" is one piece of tripe believers will use when deciding whether to purchase the new Mercedes, or donate the money to charity, and there are many others.


There's plenty of subjects here. There's hypocrisy, there's charity, etc. I did not say that they hate materialism in itself, only that they despise materialism as a foundation for their lives. Charity... Nietzche talked about Christian charity a lot. I urge you to read about it. And hypocrisy, well, should I even say anything about christian hypocrisy? I've heard the line "atheists bother more about christianity than christian themselves" too often. The people that say these things don't even consider for one moment that one possible answer to this "paradox" is that the people who think more about this stuff see it's inherent evils, falsehoods and hubris at it.

You sounded intelligent in your first posts, but I'm rapidly losing respect for your arguments.


Such anger.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 18:41:00 UTC | #395379

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 24 by God fearing Atheist


Comment #413410 by Luis Dias

There is no "solution". But there is plenty of common ground. Science is deeply rooted in common ground, namely, empiricism and reason.


How is "science, empriicism and reason" common ground with Wilson who takes the bible as axiomatic and on the film stated that "reason" was an infinite regress, and thf. his bible was as good. Where does the recursion bottom out? Is it the same place for both camps?

Interesting, but gotta go ... goodnight.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 18:51:00 UTC | #395381

Metch's Avatar Comment 25 by Metch

I grow tired of these debates because honestly, there is nothing to debate anymore.

Wilson argues that Atheists use reason, and he uses the bible, therefore admitting that his beliefs and arguments are unreasonable! Does anyone else notice this? I think I read some comments that word it better than I have, although what kind of intellectual uses such an amateur nonsensical play on words to argue for the existence of a magical sky being?

Hitchens has his honest reason, rational thought, scientific evidence, history education, critical thought processes.. etc... and Wilson has his "holy" bible and a bunch of ideas that he made up, conceptions about nature which he can't wrap his thick head around, and his inability to give up his childish story book with witches, wizards, multi-headed dragons, and bodily resurrections.

There's no debate anymore, the people who aren't thick headed cowards are slowly and tediously uncovering the truth about life on earth and the universe, while the rest cling to their ancient stories for instant, simple, comfortable, answers to everything.

I barely know anyone my age, 23, who can honestly call themselves anything other than a deist, or perhaps a moderate, and eventually the older superstitious generations will die off and the majority of humans will be irreligious, except for a few fringe religi-cults.

I think Dan Dennett hypothesized this outcome, and I think it is the most likely to occur.

(although I always love hearing Hitchens speak, I hate debates that make the public believe that there is some sort of legitimacy to religious beliefs)


The debate is dead.

Evolution happened, and no one designed it. If anyone had designed it, we would ALL know it.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 18:53:00 UTC | #395382

cowalker's Avatar Comment 26 by cowalker

In comment 413397, Nalfeshnee says:

Wikipedia informs me that Wilson once said this:

"The Christian faith is good for the world because it provides the fixed standard which atheism cannot provide and because it provides forgiveness for sins, which atheism cannot provide either. We need the direction of the standard because we are confused sinners. We need the forgiveness because we are guilty sinners."


My response to Wilson would be:
In the Woody Allen movie "Annie Hall," Alvy tells the old joke about a man who goes to see a psychiatrist. He says, 'Doc, my brother’s crazy, he thinks he’s a chicken.' The doctor says, 'Well, why don’t you get him cured?' and the guy says, 'I would, but we need the eggs.'

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 18:55:00 UTC | #395384

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 27 by the great teapot

I am king of the world,(replace with favourite random proclamation of ones own to taste), to doubt it would be question begging.
Welcome to idiots philosophy 101.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 18:56:00 UTC | #395385

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 28 by Steve Zara

Comment #413410 by Luis Dias

Science is deeply rooted in common ground, namely, empiricism and reason. But these are not gods, they are only tools that we humans have created. And as we are, they too are flawed


I disagree. They aren't tools we have created. They are tools we have evolved to use because they are an effective and economical way of investigating reality. A chimp that selects a certain twig as better than another to extract termites from a nest by trying and seeing is being a scientist. Reason and science work because of the way the universe works. To talk of other ways of knowing the truth about reality is just making things up, literally.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 19:10:00 UTC | #395387

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 29 by SaintStephen

23. Comment #413410 by Luis Dias on September 8, 2009 at 7:41 pm

I did not say that they hate materialism in itself, only that they despise materialism as a foundation for their lives.
This is obscurantist nonsense. I did not say that they hate McDonald's hamburgers, only that they despise McDonald's hamburgers as a foundation for dinner. Oh please. Take a trip to The Vatican, observe with your own eyes the Pontiff's obvious disdain for the trappings of his estimated 500 billion, and then come back when you have something rational to say.
Such anger.
Ahhh... the trump card is finally played. Luckily for a passionate, emotional, warm-blooded rationalist like me, my feelings have no bearing on the truth. Nice comeback, though.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 19:16:00 UTC | #395389

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 30 by nalfeshnee

Luis quoth:


That presupposes that coherence is something foundational, that is something given a priori. If you posit that the word of God is more important than coherence, then you will excuse very easily these "small" details. And I'm not being pedantic, why do you think that the other pope talked about "fides et ratio"? Namely, faith goes beyond reason (transcendent).


It is one thing to posit that faith is a "basic belief" (in accordance with the foundationalism you mention).

It is quite another to suggest that it provides a complete and self-contained framework for understanding the world, as Wilson claims.

Put another way: if I hold faith to be a basic belief, then no-one can argue that my belief is irrational (greatly simplified).

However, I can't then turn this around to argue that my basic belief is the equivalent of a knowledge system.

Indeed, reformed epistemology (a specifically Christian branch of foundationalism) argues that faith supplements and extends reason. To mangle from a well-known beer commercial, "it refreshes the parts reason cannot reach".

It does not supplant it.

As the Pope said: "fides et ratio". Not "fides sive ratio" (or whatever, my Latin ain't what it used to was).

Anyway, further reading on Wilson seems to reveal him to be a homophobe and racist, so I would concur with Metch, above, and repeat his comment:


Although I always love hearing Hitchens speak, I hate debates that make the public believe that there is some sort of legitimacy to religious beliefs


And there is even less legitimacy than usual to Wilson's beliefs.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 19:30:00 UTC | #395394