I am not a fan of debates. They are more a sport than a mode of informing. And of course each side in a debate has its own fans who are more concerned with “who won” than what they learned.
But a recommend this debate between Christopher Hitchens and Bill Dembski, although I have yet to watch it to the end. I make this exception basically for two reasons.
1: Like many people I admire Hitchens. He is a skilled debater which means he may produce more heat than light. It also means he is a bit of a “street fighter.” I don’t think he is necessarily reliable on scientific questions. But his literary skills are impressive. So he can be enjoyable to lsiten to for his turn of phrase alone.
But I also think he is courageous. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer earlier this year and has been undergoing treatment, particularly chemotherapy. He is also very conscious and candid about what this means for his future prospects.
A close member of my family experienced a similar situation this year so I am very conscious of the debilitating effect of chemotherapy as well as the natural response to what the illness means for life prospects. It takes a lot of courage for such a patient to continue struggling with the ordinary mundane frustrations of life, let alone to accept the sort of challenges Hitchens is doing.
2: In my recent review So you want a conversation? (of the book Against All Gods by Phillip Johnson and John Mark Reynolds) I suggested that the “militant” theists and intelligent design proponents who wanted to debate scientists and “new atheists” should take the initiative and organise their own. They have been vocal with demands for their inclusion in scientific and academic forums. At the same time they conveyed a one-sided, pro-theist, version of science and atheism to their own people. So, I suggested:
“Why don’t these ‘militant’ theists get some of these new atheists along to their own meetings and begin the real discussion. It’s just possible the members of those churches and departments will learn something form the “horses mouth” the seminars and theological courses devoted to new atheist strawmannery don’t convey.”
So this debate, organised by the Prestonwood Christian Academy, in Texas, was a step in that direction.The invitation was not exactly completely open (have a look at the 44 page discussion guide for the debate). This was aimed at students of the academy, their parents and members of the church, hoping to provide some sort of immunity to what Hitchens might say. Prominent on page 1 was the biblical advise:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no god.” Psalm 14:1
Now, I wonder of the Bible Colleges, Churches, and religious groups in New Zealand who regularly study their particular “new atheist” straw man, or creation science script would be p[prepared to make a similar invitation to a speaker for atheism or scientific reason?
The You Tube videos of the debate, which was entitled “Does A Good God Exist?”, are given below. Be aware that the first 9 minutes, being part of the immunisation process, can be ignored.