Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hitchens vs. Craig in Los Angeles, CA

About a score of freethinkers from all around OKC converged on Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, OK for this event.  Good times were had by all on hand, so far as I could see. Theists and atheists sat cheek by jowl, and were generally polite and respectful each to another. It was quite a fine and rare sight to behold.

Craig lead with his usual five arguments

1. Cosmological (Kalam)
2. Teleological (Paley/Ross)
3. Moral argument (Lewis)
4. Tomb / Epiphanies / Conversion (Habermas)
5. Properly basic beliefs (Plantinga)

None of these arguments are at all novel, and Craig makes most of them in mostly the same way in most of his debates, so Hitchens had absolutely no excuse for failing to directly address at least a few of them, even if philosophy is not exactly his bag.

Hitch leads with a bit of methodological criticism which sounds fairly ad homish, and then pretty much just goes off on the history of the Xn church and its various abuses of power and privilege. He also makes the argument that it seems absurd to expect a revelatory deity to only reveal Himself in to a few illiterate peasants in ancient Palestine relatively late in human history. Surely, it is absurd, but Hitchens pretty much leaves the details as a proof for the reader.

In the rebuttals, things go from bad to worse, as Craig pretty much refutes Hitch's main points
and repeatedly pounds him for failing to return the favor. At first, this is just unfair, since no one should have to rebut during their own opening, but eventually the accusation sticks and goes on to become the overarching motif of the debate. Hitchens increasingly rambles and mumbles, and one begins to fear the debate may become too one-sided to prove illuminating to all concerned.

Mercifully, though, someone at BIOLA decided beforehand to put aside time for cross-examination, and that is when things finally got interesting. Craig conceded the possibility of allegorical layering in the Matthean gospel, as well as giving away a few other tidbits to the schools of higher criticism. It was particularly gratifying to see these two stumping each other and pausing to gather their thoughts.

All things considered, this debate was worth attending, if only for the almost perfect ying/yang combination of these two particular speakers. I'd watch it again, once it hits the internets.  Meanwhile, I can take out my frustration at Hitchens by watching this video over and over.

  • Unbeliever rating: 2.5

  • Believer rating: 4.5

  • Overall rating: 3.5

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