Dinesh D'Souza Debates Daniel Dennett - Part 1

Part 2 can be found below. The rest should be easy enough to find...


Unknown said...

I like Dennett; the debate calls to mind the problem of children learning about religions and there also being debate about it in classrooms: of course I agree with Dennett, but what about charisma and forceful speech? For kids in a classroom, isn't Dinesh's more skillful speech an issue?


I think Dinesh sort of made a successful appeal to emotion and Dennett fumbled a bit; he could of used more strong analogies in his speech, I think. Dinesh seemed to argue on the presupposition that God existed, which, for believers, is difficult to spot. When an atheist argues on the presupposition that God does not exist, it makes sense to you or I, but to your average crowd it seems like it would take a lot of skilled speech to bring everyone along, so to speak. Does that make sense? Or maybe it's that an atheist has to work against presupposition at all, and basically teach believers the use the rules of logic...which can be difficult if you're indoctrinated!

P.S.: Even though I find Hitchens vile, he was a far stronger opponent for Dinesh...when he could stop interrupting!

Unknown said...

I think I prefer written point/ counter-points...can anyone recommend other debates on the existence God? Did anyone else have difficulty finding parts 9, 11, 12, 13 and 14? I can't find the rest of the Hitchens debate either.

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

Emily: I found all of the parts of this debate with relative ease (some had to be left to run their course, only to return when the whole had been cached), and as I recall I had little difficulty with the Hitchens debate, though the latter was hosted apart from YouTube, in which case it may no longer exist (on that site).

As to this debate, I noticed several glaring issues, which I will address, if I am to be so indulged.

First, Dinesh has a tendency to exaggerate the genocidal natures of Hitler, Stalin, et al, and to diminish the same with regard to the vast history of religiously inspired (mandated, even) genocide. To be sure, genocide in any form is reprehensible, but D'Souza seems to actually be suggesting that if the Catholic Church of old had the technology and amassed population as Pol Pot, that they would somehow refrain from murdering people in the tens or hundreds of thousands, if not the millions. Would not the Crusades or Inquisition have been vastly more bloody affairs had Hitler's instruments been available?

Another fallacy of D'Souza's is the [deliberate] misuse of Occam's Razor. Dinesh suggests that since life (especially humans) is so well-suited for earth, and since the values of natural constants must be so precise for life as we know it to occur at all, that there must be a creator. He actually has the audacity to suggest this as an appropriate use of Occam's fabled Razor. In fact, the Anthropic Principle is a truer use, which effectively rephrases the statement such that it is not the environment which has been created for life, but life which has adapted to suit its environment. D'Souza's argument would actually make more sense if a Rainbow Trout -- as we know it -- was capable of flight.

For the sake of saving space, I'll pare down my critique of the debate (specifically of D'Souza) by listing only two more points of contention -- first, and much more simply, I found it unfortunate that Dennett mentioned the possibilities of multiple "parallel" universes. This is a non-scientific argument, and did not serve to make his point. Whenever atheist/agnostic debaters delve into the realm of philosophy, they only strengthen the religious debater's position. Parallel Universes, String Theory, etc., all fall into the realm of Philosophy, since they cannot be tested. Until any of these hypotheses are able to be tested, and until they are able to support data and make verifiable predictions regarding nature, they are not science, fascinating though they may be.

The last point of contention I here make is that D'Souza made a particular argument which was especially condemning. The self-incriminating argument concerning the "inward experiences" of the religious, which should apparently be held as valid. This revelatory stance is not only untestable, but it ignores the fact that there are countless contradictory "divine revelations" to be had by countless individuals over the course of history, and he even seems to recognize his failure when he belittles the UFO witness in the same argument. If the "inward experience" of the religious adherent is to be valued, then why not the paranoid delusions of a schizophrenic? Why not the conspiracies of the UFO witness? Which "inward experiences" are valid, and which are not?

Of course, as most debates of this nature go, no one's mind is likely to have been changed due to these arguments, and similarly they avoided the keener issue: Even if we accept the *possibility* of a designer (intelligent or otherwise), why should we accept a *particular* dogma over any other?

It is, as D'Souza mentioned, Pascal's wager, but like one questioner mentioned, if we allow for the possibility that even the atheist or agnostic may be eligible to commune with the divine in an afterlife, then all wagers have equal value, except that the atheist and agnostic are much less likely to offend such a deity if the choice proves incorrect.

Agnosticism is essentially an admission as to the lack of evidence and a refusal to make an incorrect choice, and atheism is a more direct denial of any of the choices. Both positions are testaments to the integrity of their adherents, and both represent personal honesty. Any other choice is dishonest, cowardly, and selfish.