Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hitchens vs Boteach in NYC

Christopher Hitchens' arguments are the usual collection of clever and witty one-liners and emotional appeals.

Shmuley Boteach's arguments are also a series of emotional appeals, but without the wit and humor.

Do yourself a favor, and skip this one.

Hitchens vs. Boteach in NYC

In this debate, Christopher Hitchens meets his rightful match in Shmuley Boteach, an interlocutor who is as keen on rhetorical flourish and as short on valid arguments as Hitchens himself.  This debate is massively entertaining though fairly non-substantive (like reality television) and all too often it sounds as if both men are running the playbook from Schopenhauer’s 38 Ways to Win an Argument, which remains the definitive text for cynically unscrupulous rhetoricians.  Perhaps I’m being a bit too hard on these guys.  They each make at least two-and-a-half arguments which might possibly be recast as valid deductions.  I leave that as an exercise to the listener, and good luck with it.

Hitchens quote of the day – “I have rather a crazy salad of slanders to respond to and I don’t want to miss any of them out.”


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Shook vs Craig at UBC

University of British Columbia, 29 Jan 2008

Craig leads with his usual five arguments: cosomological, teleological, moral, historical Jesus, and personal experiences. If you've not seen it before, this debate provides a fairly representative sample.

Shook leads off with the old "atheists believe in only one less god than monotheists" trope, which I consider cute and witty but unpersuasive. He goes on to describe atheism and naturalism for a bit, and finally starts in on an argument, which is really more of an analysis and rebuttal of Craig's theological positions and arguments. What he ought to have done instead is put forth his own arguments for the truth of metaphysical naturalism, as we've seen from the likes of J.J. Lowder and Rick Carrier. To be fair, he alludes to possible arguments (e.g. incoherent properties) but an allusion does not an argument make.

Upon rebuttal, predictably enough, Craig spanks Shook like a naughty schoolboy for failing to make an affirmative argument for naturalism. He does this quite efficiently and effectively, leaving himself time to review, restate, and reinforce his own affirmative arguments. Not looking good for naturalism by this point in the debate. Craig admits that hypothetical oughts can be objective in the same sense as other truths about how to attains one's goals (e.g. if you want to stay healthy, don't eat poison) but goes on to once again confuse objective moral values with subjective divine preferences.

When it comes time for Shook to rebut, he gets scattershot and hits a few targets on accident, but for the most part fails to point out where Craig's carefully and clearly constructed arguments go awry.