Got a few hours to spare? Here’s another recent debate, this time between Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens vs. Boteach, D’Souza, and Taleb in Mexico, with Robert Wright stuck in the middle. The sound quality is OK, but very low…so crank it up to hear it.
Don’t want to listen? Here’s a quick summary.
Shmuley Boteach: Yeesh. What an awful, screechy person. There is a god because evolution is impossible, and god is the only reason people are moral. Oh, and Hitler. Tiresome and cliched.
Sam Harris (about 9 minutes in): There are only 3 ways to defend god: 1) argue that your specific religion is true; 2) or you argue that religion is useful; or 3) you attack atheism. Only (1) is valid. He brings up a beautiful metaphor: what would you think of a friend who announced that he was so happy because he was destined to marry Angeline Jolie? The usefulness of this belief, or the idea that it makes him happy, is irrelevant against the falsity of the claim, yet this is the kind of argument defenders of religion always make.
Dinesh D’Souza (20 min): Claims to rise to Harris’s challenge to speak about the truth of religion in a 21st century way…so he chooses to talk about life after death. Tries to argue that believers in an afterlife and those who don’t believe are in exactly the same state of ignorance. Then he says there is empirical evidence for life after death, which I anxiously await.
Wait…he says that the Big Bang proves the existence of other realms, therefore there is a heaven? Dark matter and dark energy could be where are immortal post-death souls are stored? This guy is nuts. Oh, and Pascal’s Wager.
Christopher Hitchens (29 min): What matters is not what you think, but how you think, and discovery has come from non-religious thinking. Religious arguments are useless and unverifiable. Refutes the fine-tuning argument by pointing out the fate or our planet, our sun, and our galaxy is destruction. D’Souza’s argument of equivalence is false: we don’t claim absolute knowledge, we say that the theists have failed to provide any evidence.
Robert Wright (39 min): Doesn’t want to be on either side. Muddled as always.
Nassim Taleb (47 min): Can’t track reality with science and equations. Religion is not about belief. We were wiser before the Enlightenment, because we knew how to take knowledge from incomplete information, and now we live in a world of epistemic arrogance. Religious people have a way of dealing with ignorance, by saying “God knows”. At least he’s making a novel argument, but he’s still full of bullshit.
Daniel Dennett (54 min): This is familiar, from his talk at AAI. He discusses his study of priests who have become atheists, but remain in the pulpit. Theology evolved as a way to accommodate theologians’ personal integrity with what society told them they had to believe in their religion. The idea that you can’t be good without god is the biggest lie spread by religion.
Shmuley Boteach (60 min): Hitler. Hitler, Hitler, Hitler. Evolution can’t have love. Evolution leads to racism. All morality comes from religion. Man, this guy is a scumbag.
Sam Harris (64 min): Points out that the other side hasn’t provided any evidence for their position — they’re using the arrogance of their iron age faith, only. The real issue is the veracity of the textual narrative of the Bible, which is clearly a clumsy pastiche.
Dinesh D’Souza (69 min): Why is there a universe? Why are we here? Where are we going? Science doesn’t have an answer to any of them. Has this fathead ever considered the possibility that they’re bad questions? See Harris’s first discussion: D’Souza is arguing his point 3. Finally resorts to misstating scientific claims about life on other planets. Total moron.
Christopher Hitchens (73 min): Call’s D’Souza’s argument “piffle”, and that he’s misleading people about science. Science can say what will make us stop accepting an idea; theists do not have anything equivalent to ‘rabbits in the precambrian’. Theists make positive and entirely implausible claims about what god is telling us to do. A wager: Name a moral action that a believer will take that he can’t.
Nassim Taleb (77 min): Until about 70 years ago, visiting a doctor would reduce your chance of living. From this, he leaps to the conclusion that science hasn’t been good at dealing with evidence. Even now, doctors kill us — fewer people die when hospitals go on strike. WTF? This guy is a real crank. If you remove religion, what will you replace it with?
Daniel Dennett (82 min): We are going to replace religion with secular morality, without the dogma of religion. How has religion proceeded? Not one person in this room would choose to live by old testament morality. We’ve worked together to adjust our morality, we make these adjustments.
Robert Wright (86 min): Argues with everyone. Accomplishes nothing. Oh, and the New Atheists are fundamentalists. FU too, Wright.
The rest of the event seems to be commentary in Spanish…I turned it off. I hung in there long enough, and should have bailed out the instant Boteach opened his mouth.