Video and audio from Christopher Hitchens panel debate

UPDATE: My play-by-play transcript of the Biola debate is here.

Over on Apologetics 315, I’ve found links to video and and audio from the recent debate panel from the Christian Book Expo in Dallas, TX. This is a useful preview for the upcoming debate on April 4, 2009 between Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig.

Below is a summary of the initial 4-minute speeches of all of the participants, in order of speaking:

Lee Strobel

1. There are good arguments for the existence of God:

  • creation out of nothing (the big bang)
  • cosmic fine-tuning
  • biological information (DNA, etc.)
  • consciousness (intentionality)
  • free will
  • historicity of the resurrection

2. Christianity makes a positive difference on people’s lives.

Christopher Hitchens

1. Christianity is not needed for personal morality or social cohesion.

2. Christian stories are not unique, they are paralleled in other religious. Therefore, they are not historical, but invented.

3. Christian leaders say and do things that are harmful, but also inconsistent with their stated beliefs.

William Lane Craig

1. There are good arguments for the existence of God:

  • the contingency argument
  • creation out of nothing
  • cosmic fine-tuning
  • the argument from objective moral values
  • the argument from objective moral duties
  • the ontological argument
  • historicity of the resurrection
  • religious experience (in the absence of any defeaters)

James Denison

1. It is not effective to argue against religion in general by citing the specific bad behaviors of certain religious people in a variety of religions.

Doug Wilson

1. Rational thought is not compatible with atheism, because atheism is committed to materialism. If human behavior are totally determined by chemical reactions, then it is not possible for humans to reason about the world.

Further study

To read more about these arguments, please see my index of arguments used in debates. To see an analysis of Hitchens’ case that he used in his recent debate with Frank Turek, click here.

23 thoughts on “Video and audio from Christopher Hitchens panel debate”

  1. I’ll say it again: one of these days, one of these guys should show up at a debate and, instead of letting Hitchens focus, laser-like, on Christianity, he’s simply going to make the painfully obvious case for deism, watch Hitchens sputter and turn red in the face, and proceed to win the debate in about 15 minutes.

    From there, once you’ve forced him to concede that the evidence for such an intelligence is plentiful and obvious, you can then move onto the question of a revelatory god–doing anything else before you’ve taken him down on the former is going to get you nowhere on the latter since he’s just going to keep repeating the same arguments against Christianity ad nauseum.

    I realize, of course, that this isn’t going to be as satisfying for Christians, but I think it might be better to take this battle in smaller, bite-size, chunks, rather than going for the whole enchilada–especially when your opponent is morally-opposed to enchiladas because they have trans-fats in them.

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  2. “painfully obvious case for deism”

    As soon as that case exists then I’m sure Hitch will debate against it. So far the case doesn’t exist. Every argument for deism has been debunked, the supporters of which just need to perform a bit of due diligence and research it.

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  3. Every single one that I am aware of.
    http://www.google.com is good starting point. (I’m not trying to be a smart-alec even though, that is how this posting and my previous one comes across as). I do apologize for the tone.

    I used to be a religious person until I sat down and read the bible, the koran and various other myth texts. I had been religious for a long time but what I found in the myth texts was that each text made statements that were self contradictory and vastly inconsistent with the reality that we see around us.

    But what I try to do when I support a position is look up what the opposing side says regarding my position. I don’t want to fall for the group think fallacy. I analyzed both sides in context, and from my research I came to the conclusion that there is no reasonable evidence for the existence of any deity(interactive or non-interactive).

    One of the hardest parts for me in my research was filtering out the ad-hominem and straw-men arguments that are so pervasive in communication lines between opposing sides.

    However more to the point of a non-interactive deity in the line of true deism. What would be the point of that hypothesis, besides to inject unneeded complexity in a natural system? (besides the emotional effects of belief in a deity) It appears that deism is just a step in theology that was rationalized when scrutiny bore out that the myth texts are not accurate in their representation of the universe. Remove all of the parts in theology that aren’t accurate and you get deism and pantheism and the leanings toward agnosticism. Remove all of the parts in these three that aren’t needed or unnecessarily injected and you get atheism.

    I do have to add that I would like to see a deistic argument that isn’t debunked, circularly logical or suffer from infinite regress. Even ontological proofs for deism fail on multiple levels.

    It would be interesting indeed. If any valid evidence for any deity surfaced it would be a world changing event.

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  4. Jason R:

    Traditionally, in a debate, one will attempt to at least refute the points laid out rather than falling back on “Google it” and then offering the standard boilerplate materialist reply that ‘it was all one big accident’ but not before, of course, taking a gratuitous whack at theists a la Hitchens. (I do ever so enjoy when religious atheists say “well, i read all the holy books and found them wanting” even when that isn’t at issue in a deistic argument–it gives the impression that your concern–like Hitches!–isn’t so much with deism but keeping those theists in their place.)

    Furthermore, if you do not wish to do so (and when your response is ‘Google it’ you clearly do not or cannot), then why waste everyone’s time with the same hollow argument that at least Wintery and I have heard a thousand times? Do you figure the sheer force of Google will make us ‘see the light’?

    The funny thing is, I started as a religious man myself (Catholic), made my way to the generic, religious (some say village) atheism you espouse (and belived it full-throatedly because, hey, how could any reasonable person not, right?) and, after weighing the deluge of new information over the past 15 years or so (especially that from the biological world which keeps getting more and more complex with each passing year which confounds those that really need to believe we are a wonderful cosmic accident), finally find myself firmly in the deistic camp by dint of the empirical evidence (some of which Wintery touched upon in the OP that you proceed to write off with ‘Google it’).

    The best part, though, about anti-deism is not that the people weighing the evidence are even that opposed to the concept, nor can they actually refute much of the evidence without, ultimately, falling back to the redoubt of ‘it’s all an accident of nature! Really!’. Rather, I find (after endless debates with atheists), that they are uncomfortable with the idea of letting the camel’s nose into the tent, figuring it will soon lead to full-blown theism running rampant in the streets (oh the horror!) If you are not one of those individuals (based on your invocation of revelatory texts in response to a comment about deism, I already have my doubts), well, perhaps you can present some new evidence that doesn’t lead to the ultiamte regression of: chance and nature did it, which is in pretty firm opposition to Occam’s Razor (really, the fact that the odds against all of the complexity and prescision in the universe being explained away by the lottery to end all lotteries, isn’t very simple, is it?)

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  5. Allow me to add: does it not strike you as somewhat odd that I could simply say “Google it” and that you might find that just a bit lacking in the adequate response department? I mean, by the logic you present here, all Hitchens has to say is:

    1. All of this is an accident of nature and all your arguments are based on infinite regress.
    2. Google it.
    3. ???
    4. Win the debate.

    And, yet, any objective observer watching these debates will likely come away with the impression that Hitchens has just been beaten bloody (again).

    Now, that could be a patch on him for being a truly lousy debater (I happen to believe that he is a very poor spokesman for religious atheism and not a terribly civil one at that after partaking of his books and many of his columns through the years), but the problem is, as I’ve noted in my OP, that Hitchnes isn’t really interested in the arguments, pro or con, against deism–he is interested in disemboweling theism for all its perceived faults–faults that don’t actually exist if you are a materialist/atheist since there is no good/evil or right/wrong in a purely materialist/atheist universe.

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  6. One more thing (sorry, last comment):

    You say:

    It would be interesting indeed. If any valid evidence for any deity surfaced it would be a world changing event.

    For whom? Most of the world already believes that there is a higher power in their hearts even if you and your ilk do not–it would hardly be news to most that there was a god ‘out there’, and the debate would simply, surprise!, shift back to which one is the correct interpretation of that being’s motives/beliefs.

    The fact is, no amount of evidence will convince those who refuse to be convinced. God (or Shiva or Crom) could show up tomorrow and say ‘here I am! I was there all along’ and most heavily-invested religious atheists would likely respond: “well, you’re just another product of random chance and nature so prove to me (not that you’ll be able to) that you’re the one, true, originator of the universe or you’re nothing more than Santa Claus’ and the Easter Bunny’s cousin.”

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  7. This is one of those joke / parody sites right?

    Everyone of the scientific arguments from the Christian posts site (see list below) has been refuted time and time again as you well know (seek and ye shall find vs. ignorance is bliss) but christians persist in claiming them as being valid. The same is true of the philosophical arguments which are really more about word play than useful proofs of anything.

    Supposed scientific proofs for god:
    1) Creation of the universe out of nothing. (Refuted over and over. In addition the “how, who, what, when, where, why was god created?” are questions that can never be satisfactorily answered. How can a christian be satisfied with the shallow answers provided by the bible?)
    2) Fine-tuning of physical constants and ratios to support the minimal requirements for life (see response to 4 below).
    3) Origin of biological information in the simplest living organism (please read up on evolution before using this tired argument again).
    4) Galactic, stellar and planetary fine-tuning to support the minimal requirements for life (Conditions for life exist throughout the universe. Christians fall into these kinds of traps all the time. Once contradictory evidence is demonstrated, they fight it for a few decades and then have to modify their belief system to accommodate the new findings. Kind of like how christians defended slavery in the U.S. in the 1900’s based on the bible until they developed some morals that were in opposition to the bible which contradicts the claim that our morals come from the bible).
    5) Sudden origin of all animal phyla in the Cambrian explosion (“Sudden” if you consider 50 to 100 million years sudden and have an incredulous attitude).
    6) Natural limits of biological change (again study up on evolution before making these kinds of nonsense arguments)

    Tch tch – such dishonesty from good christians. You’ll end up in hell if you keep this up (you know the place where all the fire and the devil and sinners are. I can’t seem to locate it on my GPS. In fact I doubt that any christian can tell me anything about it scientifically speaking).

    The challenge Christians face is to actually provide meaningful explanations for the natural world with any sort of the predictive power of scientific explanations of the natural world.

    How was the universe formed? I guess an unthinking person would be satisfied with the “God did it” answer. But by asking the next question, “How exactly did God do it?”, we can start getting into the science of it. We can form a hypothesis and then test the hypothesis, and if all the tests pass we can call it a theory because it provides the best explanation and if we learn something new later, we can update our theory (it’s great how the scientific process is so reasonable). With science we can develop a deeper understanding of the universe.

    Today, even after religious groups have fought progress every step of the say, we no longer have to rely on a very flawed, inconsistent, and contradictory 2,000 year old book that has God creating light before the stars existed during a time when there was a celestial sphere overhead containing stars and the sun and planets on the sphere as they crossed over the flat earth (but we don’t believe that anymore do we?) And somehow two kangaroos managed to make it back to Australia after the big flood. And virgin births and coming back from the dead are something we all experience on a regular basis. The bible is probably not the first place to go for scientific facts.

    A key difference between science and religion is that science allows for change as our understanding changes. Religion cannot change without contradicting god’s word. Another difference is that science doesn’t rely on the existence of specific individuals as key proofs of its validity whereas christianity without Jesus is not valid. Conversely, science doesn’t depend on whether or not Albert Einstein actually existed. The Theory of Relativity is true (but it might change if we learn more about how the universe works) regardless of the existence of any human being.

    One of the links on one of this site’s sub-pages references “1 Corinthian…”. Please read this chapter objectively before saying it proves that the resurrection is true. If this is your kind of proof then have I got some real estate to sell you. There is absolutely nothing in any of the verses that are supported by any kind of scientific information for the resurrection. It is simply line after line of declarative statements. Where’s the proof? Where are the thinking and reasoning and evidence? In fact there is nothing of significance in the bible that is corroborated by other non-christian historical accounts. One would think that miracles, including the dead coming to life would be reported in some of the other true historical accounts of the day. But they aren’t.

    One of the biggest problems I have with religions of all kinds, but especially christianity, is the way misinformation is spread and any contradictory arguments are ignored or valid. I don’t see how christians can live with the hypocrisy of knowing that they are defending something even they can’t truly believe.

    I have this strong suspicion that most religious leaders don’t believe any of the information they preach. If they believe then they choose to be ignorant and lose 100 points. If they don’t believe then they get 50 points for not believing but lose 100 points for their hypocrisy and deception. I’d rather have an honest ignorant christian than a hypocritical lying christian, hence the point advantage to the ignorant.

    Anyway don’t get me started. I guess this site is what free speech is all about.

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    1. That is the worst comment I have ever seen. I usually am really nice, but I seriously don’t know what to do with you. I’m going to allow this comment and make it into a separate main post for humor. Maybe ECM will reply to you, I can’t even stop laughing.

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  8. Sorry Wintery: right now I’m too busy trying to stave off iron(y) poisoning to form a cogent, coherent response. (But at least he knows how to use Google, even if he forgot to edit it before cutting and pasting and then leavening it with heaping helpings of ad hominem and straw.)

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  9. ECM and Wintery Knight:
    No Googling or editing involved in the preparation of my response. I did the best I could in terms of editing on my Blackberry. If there is emotion and insult/offense in my response it is due to my years of frustration with trying to reason with religious people. All religious arguments are essentially based on years of religious indoctrination that prevents one from seeing outside religion’s thinking box and on having an incredulous worldview (the “I can’t believe it could happen through natural causes, therefore it must have a supernatural explanation”). I just hope that eventually, our society will mature and become truly reason-based rather than faith-based.

    “two hands working can do more than a thousand hands clasped in prayer.” – anonymous

    That’s all the time and interest I have for this site.

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    1. Thanks Arthur, you get the last word, unless ECM wants to reply. Can’t help but notice that there were no arguments in your response, but more insults. If you want to see what an argument actually looks like, consider reading this post which discusses 3 scientific arguments for God that emerged from recent progress in science. These evidences are presented by Dr. Walter Bradley, a distinguished scientist at Baylor university.

      So, to sum up, unless you present some evidence, I will win our exchange 6-0, since I presented 6 scientific arguments and you presented 0 arguments. That’s the way we roll here on the Wintery Knight blog, where it’s all about who’s got the data.

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  10. Wintery Knight, all Bradley’s argument boils down to is the argument from incredulity. Just to take the fine tuning argument. Admittedly, if you tweak just any ‘one’ of the constants it appears that the universe as we know it with everything ‘just right’ for matter etc. to form doesn’t happen. However, if you tweak more than one of the constants then an universe suitable for life to develop is possible with a range of differing values to the ones we see in our universe. Thus the fine tuning argument is irrelevant as there are more than one set of values that can give a suitable universe and thus the values present in our universe are not unique.

    The physical laws or phenomena versus the elegance of the mathematical formulae describing them? Why should this mean a god? After all, most are actually only approximations of reality. One would have thought that an engineering professor (my field BTW) would know this. For instance, using his example of throwing a ball. True, the Newtonian equation describing this is relatively simple. However, it is also only an approximation that is accurate enough for our use because of the non relativistic velocity of the object. Have the object move at relativistic speeds and Newtonian physics becomes increasingly inaccurate and we then have to use relativistic, i.e. Einsteinian, maths instead. And Einsteinian maths, while still having a certain elegance of its own, is far from simple. Especially when you start to include frames of references and the like. I won’t even mention how quantum mechanics messes everything up, so to speak.

    As to his argument with respect to life and its origin. Please, who designed the designer? Or is it turtles all the way down? For you can’t argue that something complex must be designed without first explaining who designed the even more complex designer.

    As to self replicating organic chemicals, we have already seen the spectroscopic signatures of various simple amino acids in space. Thus they are relatively common compounds in the universe and are the starting point for self replicating organic compounds. Plus, and admittedly I am going out on a bit of a limb here but not I think too much so, I foresee us producing our own self replicating organic compounds in the next decade or so. Of course, this in itself proves nothing with regards to god or no gods, but it will show that moving from simple amino acids to more complex replicating compounds is not ‘magic’ just organic chemistry. We have been playing around with this type of organic chemistry for only half a century or so, Earth had half a billion years or so before the first living organisms arose.

    Ultimately, to repeat myself, his arguments all come down to one from incredulity. Myself, I am satisfied saying that we don’t know where we yet don’t know and so far the existence of a god is totally irrelevant to our present day scientific knowledge. I.e. it neither adds to or detracts from it and thus, parsimoniously, can be ignored. As to whether we will ever know what happened before the big bang, admittedly I am totally agnostic. Then again, cosmology, at least as the term is understood today, is one of the youngest sciences so it is much too early to say what the possible limits of knowledge are.

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    1. The number of sets that work is miniscule compared to the number of sets that don’t work. And by miniscule I mean beyond the reach of a probability limit of 1 in 10 to the 125.

      When we say design, we mean Dembski’s specified complexity. Sequences of parts that are selected to have function, such as God’s DNA code or my Java code or Doug Geivett’s written essays. God is not a sequence of parts, he is a non-physical mind, because he is the cause of the entire physical universe.

      Regarding OOL, the existence amino acids is not the issue under debate. The issue is who is going to sequence these parts into proteins and then into a functional genome. I want to hear the solutions to the chirality problem, the peptide bond problem and the sequencing problem. And so on! The problem is the effects that require an intelligent agent.

      You seem to be hinting that there is some sort of laws of attraction that causes the pieces to fit themselves together. There are no bonding affinities that would create complex specified information. If you need me to explain why, let me know. Or search for Dean Kenyon’s work on this topic.

      If scientists can create life in a lab, that is just design. What you need is to show that chance can do it.

      The trend in science is away from atheism, and toward theism. The more discoveries we make, the worse it gets for your side and the better it gets for ours.

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  11. The deluge of new information over the last fifteen years helped me change my mind as well.

    For example, learning that Jesus is just a rebranded Mithras along with all manor of known and written ‘miracles’ that conveniently got coopted by the creators of Jesus.

    Enjoy.

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    1. Hey, good comment. You need to listen to a good debate on the history of religions objection between William Lane Craig and Robert Price here. For an essay on Christianity and Mithras, see here.

      If you think Price wins the debate with Craig, you’re welcome to that view. Just a general comment about life… Don’t believe what you want to believe because of other non-truth considerations, like autonomy. Believe whatever survives debates, and adjust your will to that which can be proved.

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  12. In the book of Corinthians, Paul, makes an argument that Jesus rose from the dead, but he makes NOT ONE reference to the empty tomb.

    Corinthians 15:35-50 gives us the evidence that Paul’s belief was in a “spiritual” resurrection.

    The apologists, Mark and Paul, both fail to make the same case for the resurrection! Mark leaves out all of the appearances, Paul says nothing about the empty tomb…hmm. Then Luke 24, Mark 16:1-8, John 20, Matthew 28 all give contradictory statements.

    So lets stop looking at the major inconsistencies of the bible and look at something else – scientific enlightment. Is it a coincidence that the very time when these things no longer happen (miracles) is the same time that we have the means and methods to check them in the light of science and careful investigation?

    The resurrection had no good witnesses, just a lot of second hand accounts from uneducated, biased, distraught followers.

    As I’ve argued many times with wintery, I believe you also have to look at the times. People were prone to believe in superstitions and magical creatures, so they’re views and throught processes are not very critical.

    If I were to offer evidence, written in the early 1900’s of my great(-great?) grandfathers rising from the civil-war fields based on the evidence of his anonymous comrades, or even non-anonymous one or two, how many people would rush over to my house to worship me as the descendent of a prophet?

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    1. Jerry, this is a great comment and I want to thank you for taking the time to write it. If I were an atheist, I would probably go with this theory, and you said it so well.

      I’ll write something tonight on the empty tomb to celebrate Easter. Remember last year when you and I exchanged like two dozen e-mails over the Easter weekend? That was fun. I really value your friendship especially when you write good comments like this.

      By the way, regarding the enlightenment, I think that God is interested in providing information about himself in every generation. Given the times we live in, with the abundance of wealth and prosperity and the amount of learning, I feel that he really is tipping his hand a lot lately with the big bang, fine-tuning, DNA and other scientific arguments.

      Somehow, I think that we have become so proud and desirous of autonomy from God, that we are getting some of the best evidence to balance out these psychological factors.

      Work is still needed to investigate – so there is still that need for those who want to believe to work for it. But what they find when they look is some of the most convincing data anyone has ever had for God’s existence at any time!

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  13. The problem is the effects that require an intelligent agent

    Says who? As I said previously, the Earth had half a billion years or so to ‘perform’ organic chemistry before life arose. Not forgetting the start that the previous 13 billion years or so gave in terms of the formation of simple amino acids. Thus in that half a billion years or so, how many powers of ten organic chemistry experiments was that? I.e. if simple amino acids can form so readily and be seen even in space how much easier would it be in the energy and chemical rich ‘melting pot’ that was the early Earth.

    As to complexity, however you define or redefine god, it still comes back to turtles all the way down. Unless of course you have actual evidence that shows otherwise.

    As to the ratio of sets that work compared to those that don’t, it doesn’t really matter what the actual ratio is as long as it shows that ours is not unique.

    The trend in science is away from atheism, and toward theism. The more discoveries we make, the worse it gets for your side and the better it gets for ours.

    Really :) As I said previously, to date and without any actual evidence, all arguments for design amount to little more than an argument from incredulity. All we ask for is some actual evidence that goes beyond hand waving and a sense of incredulity.

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