Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hitchens vs Richards at Stanford U.

Christopher Hitchens debated Jay Richards (video, audio) over the particular question of theism versus atheism, but they managed to stray far and wide during the course of the event.

As usual, Hitchens puts out a crazy salad of very well-worded emotional appeals, but doesn't bother to show how any of his arguments should lead one to conclude either materialism or deism. He leave the hard work of sorting out his facts into an argument with a conclusion to his listeners, which I suppose may be an acceptable mode of instruction at an institution such as Stanford. Nevertheless, I was (as always) far more impressed with his style than with his substance. Even when he alludes to a good argument (e.g. the problem of evil) he doesn't flesh out the deductive structure thereof.

Richards, by contrast, gives several facially valid arguments in rapid succession, and appeals to natural human intuitions (such as the intuition that moral statements are universally binding, or the intuition that everything that begins to exist has a cause, or the intuition that anthropic coincidences must imply design) to make his case both efficiently and effectively.

As usual, Hitchens recovers significantly during the Q & A, but he never comes close to countering the serene and methodological approach of his opponent, and his frustration (or lack of sobriety) shows through on a few occasions. It was a bit sad to watch, really. With the exception of the Hitchens/Craig debate, I've never seen the Hitch so thoroughly beaten.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars
Believer rating: 5 stars
Unbeliever rating: 2 stars

1 comment:

Rev said...

Amen, brother! I like Hitchens and his style, but have been very disappointed with his debates. He doesn't listen to the other guy's arguments or attempt to refute them, just tosses out the "crazy salad of very well-worded emotional appeals" as you say. First time I've come across this criticism, but it's completely how I feel as well.