Baseball Crank
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June 7, 2007

Lileks on debating the existence of God:

Hugh Hewitt had a three-hour debate between Hitchens and Mark D. Roberts the other night over the subject of God, and it was quite enjoyable, both for its depth and civility. I think Hitch won, ergo God Does Not Exist. Dynamite the churches! Of course, in such situations the atheist always wins, because he doesn’t have to prove anything. It’s like a color-blind man debating someone without sight about the existence of Red – a fascinating intellectual exercise that tests and reveals the talents and character of the debaters, but has little to do with the hue of the stuff that runs through your arteries.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Religion | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

Hitchens better hope he is right or that God is forgiving. Otherwise eternity will be long and unpleasant!

Posted by: zogger at June 7, 2007 10:42 AM

But then you have the next question, which is which one? Then it's how many? Him, her or what?

But atheists don't win because you don't have to prove anything. Religious people also win because their answer is, "It's faith. I just know."

So everybody wins, and everybody loses. Call it a draw.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at June 7, 2007 11:07 AM

The real debate is not if God exists, but what right does a person have to impose their belief on someone else. Debate and an attempt to win the other over to your point of view is great, but when the aim is to force your view on someone else...well that might be a sin too.

Posted by: maddirishman at June 7, 2007 12:05 PM

"It's like a color-blind man debating someone without sight about the existence of Red..."

Um, it's actually not like that at all.

Posted by: jim at June 7, 2007 12:06 PM

Actually, Jim, it is. Two people with no empirical knowledge of the existence of something debating whether or not it exists. The analogy, like all analogies, works in a general sense, not in every potential application.

I think the main problem with Hitchens' general premise is that he argues that religion has caused all of these problems... like anything powerful, religion can be abused. The inverse of its power to do so much good in the world is a proportionate power to do evil. Religion has been abused by charismatic people to convince people to do evil things, but that's not Religion's fault. Another analogy: the internet almost inarguably has improved the human condition on the whole, allowing increased prosperity and interpersonal connection. It has also been used by degenerates to purvey filth that destroys marriages and to perpetuate fraud and crime... It's obvious you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater, you have to accept that the power will be used by those with both good and evil intentions.

Posted by: Joel Baughman at June 7, 2007 2:13 PM

It is not so much that religion itself causes problems. Some of the worst crimes have been committed by ardent secular societies: USSSR, PRC, Nazi Germany, Cambodia under Pol Pot.
It's that organizations tend to attract power hungry people, whether it is Stalin rising through the Communist Party or one of the de Medici becoming pope. Take away those organizations' ability to inflict harm, and you wind up with, say, a Jack Welch at GE.

Posted by: rbj at June 7, 2007 2:39 PM

Er, that should be USSR.

Dr. Nick voice
The extra S is for slaughter
/Dr. Nick voice

Posted by: rbj at June 7, 2007 2:41 PM

Why it is not though is that "Red" is not a concept. I would imagine if you asked, the preponderance of blind and/or color-blind people they would be willing to acknowledge that there is a property that is called "red" that is based upon the how light refracts. It is not a subject open for debate.

The existence, or lack there of, of an invisible, omnipotent, all-powerful being that created the Universe, everything there in and controls it with his/her/its will is an entirely different matter. I get the analogy, I just happen to think it is not very apt. Light refracting to certain colored wave lenghts can be understood and accepted even by those who cannot perceive it since it is a scientific fact. While they may not have a "correct" mental picture of what red might look like they at least can understand that its existence is without question. Putting Red and Deities into the same debating construct is a stretch. Nit picking on my part? Perhaps.

Maybe if the analogy was with some J. Crew color...

Posted by: jim at June 7, 2007 4:14 PM

Thanks Jim. That's about it.

The Red is to God analogy is laughably weak. It's almost like saying:

"Fred and Ted debated the existence of the Magical Wheaties Box in the living room. Fred said there was a Magical Wheaties box right next to them on the couch. Ted said there wasn't. Fred couldn't prove the Magical Wheaties Box was there because it was invisible, and since it created the entire world as we know it, it also chose to avoid detection with the other senses as well. It was magical!

Then Ted tried to disprove that the magical Wheaties Box wasn't next to them on the couch. Fred refised to believe Ted, because he said Ted ignored that The Magical Wheaties Box had that power to evade the otherwise immutable laws of nature.

So he called it a draw."

Just because one can't "prove" a negative doesn't necessarily mean the "positive" is true.

I can't prove that I'm "the best guy in the world." But that doesn't mean I'm therefore the worst.

Man, logic and reasoning take a back seat when theology's in the room, huh? I'm not slagging on anyone's religion or faith. That's fine by me. But don't try to hang this "analysis" label on superstition. Please.

Posted by: Mike at June 8, 2007 7:01 AM

For all those creationists in the room, check out today's WSJ. It deals with drug resistant staph infections. Bacteria evolves very quickly indeed to stay alive against antibiotics. Either that, or the germ is the inheritor of the earth.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at June 8, 2007 9:50 AM

As a "creationist," I'm able to easily reconcile evolution with creationism. I think it's perfectly reasonable to believe that God used the process of evolution to create the variety of life that exists on earth.

Posted by: Joel Baughman at June 8, 2007 12:03 PM

Joel, I don't equate the belief in God and ultimate creation (I wan't there, and don't know any witnesses either) with creation pseudo science, which exists to replace evolutionary biology with religious claims. I have no idea what or who was around before the Big Bang, nor does anyone, including Heisenberg and Hubble, know how it came to pass. As Arthur C. Clarke said, any sufficiently advanced science can appear to be magic.

So in truth, if someone (even me) believes that God created the Big Bang, and then said, "Let the games begin," fine with me. I just won't put it on anyone else. So your belief Joel, is valid, and as correct as anyone else's as far as I am concrned.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at June 8, 2007 11:27 PM

Christians start with the reality of the historical Jesus, and proceed from there.

The Lord is surely as verifiable a figure in history as Hitchens, and far more appealing-what is it with Chris' loathing of Mother Theresa?

Posted by: John Salmon at June 11, 2007 6:07 PM
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