Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hitchens vs. Turek in Richmond, VA

Christopher Hitchens/Frank Turek Debate on Vimeo.

Dr. Turek provides a handful of arguments, many of which are really the same argument stated with various degrees of cleverness and alliteration.  He sums up by saying that naturalists have to explain the following features of the universe:  

  1. How the universe arose from nothing
  2. How extreme fine-tuning and design arose from chaos
  3. How life arose from non-life
  4. How morality arose from materials
  5. How reason and logic arose from matter
  6. How mind arose from mud
  7. How maths arose from molecules
  8. How human freedom arose from blind forces
  9. How consciousness arose from chemicals
Of course, problems #4-9 are all really asking the same question, "How do minds arise from matter?" which is really just a subset of problem #3.  The answer, in a word, is evolution.   Unfathomably long ago, self-replicating molecules came about through natural processes which we do not yet understand, and eventually lead to the massive biodiversity which we observe on Earth via a process of evolution by descent with modification.  This answer is provisional inasmuch as we've little idea of how the first replicators originally arose, but this hypothesis nevertheless has vastly more explanatory scope and power than Turek's so-call explanation, an immaterial immeasurable magical mega-mind moving by means and methods most mysterious.

Turek's first two arguments are essentially borrowed from Dr. Craig, and I've addressed those elsewhere.  I should point out, though, that modern cosmologists have had quite little to say about the properties of nothingness.  If the good Dr. Turek things he has new insights about t=0, he should perhaps get published and put them all to shame.

Hitchens leads with a brief homage to Thomas Jefferson, and then (oddly enough) Peter Griffin. He goes on to point out that Turek's arguments prove deism at most and that Darwin made most of them rather toothless quite long ago.  This is the closest that Hitchens comes to refuting any affirmative arguments.  Turek could have bit on this bait and started arguing about the evidence for evolution, but quite wisely declines to do so.

The cross-ex was spirited if a but rude at times.  Worth watching for its entertainment value, but do not expect much in the way of insight.  What I found most frustrating about this part was Hitchens' refusal to directly address the myth of an objective morality.  Alas, one ought not expect incisive debate from a rhetorician.

As to Turek, I must say that for his first foray into public debate, he performed amazingly well. Dr. Craig should watch his back and start demanding royalties whenever other apologists crib his best arguments.  


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