RD Extra: Debunking D’Souza

Last April, secularist author Susan Jacoby and Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza debated each other over the question, “Is Christianity Good for American Politics?” While Jacoby’s argument was more accurate, D’Souza employed a host of logical fallacies and historical inaccuracies to gain a rhetorical edge. For this RD Extra, doubtcaster Jeremy Beahan joins Ed Brayton of Culture Wars Radio for some in-depth post-debate analysis.

Click here to watch the full debate, “Is Christianity Good for American Politics” sponsored by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies (at Grand Valley State University) and Center for Inquiry Michigan.

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  1. Kevin says

    A rational person is never at an advantage when debating an irrational person whose livelihood is based on being irrational.

    I don’t know why anyone would want to participate in such a thing.

    And let’s not forget that the irrational folks are trained at preaching. Most of us are not.

    I do have this fantasy of debating William Lame Craig some day. I would insist on only one thing — that I be allowed to go first.

    I would step to the podium and say something like this:

    “I’m going to concede the remainder of my time for opening statements to Dr. Craig. But every time he knowingly misuses science, every time he misquotes an atheist scientist to assert that physics proves there is a god, every time he egregiously misuses scientific facts, every time he makes a statement that he knows has been thoroughly debunked — I will blow this airhorn.

    “Dr. Craig, your stage.”

    It would be a noisy night.

    He’s got the patter down; throwing him a curveball so he doesn’t get in that crazy creationist rhythm is what you need to do.

  2. Steve says

    Or why not have a panel of rhetoric professors call balls and strikes? Three straw mans of your opponent’s position or the use of a verifiably false statement and your done. End of debate.

  3. Shane says

    Jeremy, this was a great episode. You and Ed make mincemeat out of D’souza and his underhanded debate tactics. I always enjoy listening to D’souza when I need a good laugh, although sometimes his constant shrill yelling can become grating. The humor that comes from listening to this shouting lunatic is, sadly, greatly tempered by the fact that someone like him is actually influential. He is widely published in mainstream publications, and people who are not experienced in logic and debate, or who in this case don’t know US history, buy into his sugary simplicity.

    According to D’souza’s view of the world, atheists run the show and victimize Christians, and there is no morality whatsoever in an atheist perspective (apparently because of a quote from a Dostoevsky novel). These arguments can be very appealing to certain people.

  4. Greg Esres says

    I didn’t listen to the debate, but in the excerpts that you played, I thought Jacoby did a good job.

  5. YouGuysRCool says

    @Kevin: I’d love to see that. Oh man that’d be so refreshing.

    Jeremy and Ed: I thought you guys did a great job breaking this down. I’d love to see this done for a lot of other major debates.

    Great job as always.

  6. sc_3251fe7e6ca1aa478b1ca026f5f71de7 says

    I listened to this debate recently and Dinesh (as usual) made my head explode. I can’t wait to listen to this episode to hear how you guys lay into his “arguments.”

  7. Barefoot Bree says

    Kevin, in your air horn debate, please please please also give a double blast every time Craig (over)uses some gawd-awful cliche catchphrase like D’Souza’s “the fact of the matter is….”. I turned a brighter shade of purple with each repetition, I’m afraid, even in this most excellent debunking. I doubt I’d even make it through the actual debate without steam coming out of my ears.

  8. Jason Goertzen says

    Holy crap…Kevin: our imaginations wandered to the same place — only my ‘fantasy debate’ involved those little bells like at a hotel desk. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  9. jimbo for reason says

    Yo Doubtcasters,

    Best secular greetings from Asheville, North Carolina. I am (as are several of my friends) an avid listener and enjoy the show very much. Also wanted to say congratulations to Grand Rapids for being co-winner (with Asheville) of the Beer-City Award. We must compare Grand Rapids and Asheville craft beers someday…have Luke set up the experiment.

    Love you guys…


  10. Ripples says

    Although I like the air horn I think it lacks a little something.

    How about an air horn and some strategically placed electrodes?
    I would buy the DVD of a debate like that and you would open up the subject to a greater audience.
    *No debaters were hurt in the imagining of this idea*

  11. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    I like the airhorn idea, although maybe one of these would be more apt.

    D/Ling the podcast with interest as I have a (ir)rational hatred of D’Souza & his painful arguments.

  12. hypatiasdaughter says

    The single most important thing to remember about “debates” with CeoIDer’s or apologists is that it is not a debate. It is not meant to be a debate. They would say the same stuff if the other podium was empty.
    It is a lecture to the audience – a pat on the head for believers that their beliefs have some philosophical or “scientific” basis so they can walk away having their beliefs confirmed.
    And they know that if a falsehood is planted in someone’s mind, especially one want they want to be true, it is almost impossible to supplant it with the truth. Lying is just an apologetic tactic.

  13. kmg50 says

    What are the chances that D’Souza doesn’t believe a word of this stuff? He’s an educated man. He knows he’s lying. He wants his fat wingnut paycheck, and the guys he works for need to keep the peasants in line.
    They need a religion to justify their greed and control.
    The only real question is, “Is he a nut, or a phony nut?”
    My vote is phony. This is theater for the peasants.

  14. Tim Beard says

    For another interesting debate, search for Tony Blair vs Christopher Hitchins. I had really expected more from Blair, as he is usually a pretty slick speaker, seen as the father of “spin” in the UK. His arguments seemed to just consist of “not everything about religion is bad, honest!”. I’m not on his side, but it was pretty disappointing nevertheless.

    Also search for the Intelligence Squared debate with Hitchins & Fry vs Widdecombe & some bishop or other. Widdecombe, also an English politician, seemed to have left her debating skills at home too. To use an English expression, the religious side was trounced. Entertaining.

    Both are on YouTube.

    Oh Christopher, you weren’t perfect, but we miss you!

  15. says

    When weighing those odds, I also have to ask, so what if he is? The only people that you need to even ask that question of are the leaders. And whether they are or not, there will still be the same number of followers. There will always be a large number of people who are either unable or just don’t have the time to do the work themselves and figure out that those leaders are wacko.

    I am not suggesting an either/or strategy. Debates like this serve the goal of educating the followers and challenging the leaders. Regardless of the sanity of anyone involved, the strategy for dealing with it is the same. If you don’t think so, look at Ted Haggard. He was exposed as a lying drug addict. His church did not suffer much, and he has started to rebuild a new following.

  16. mutt50 says

    How do these debates “educate the followers”? Don’t they get their brainwashing and mythology in church? and why do you need to “challenge the leaders” (whatever that means) if they are dishonest or delusional?
    If the followers don’t change, as you say, and their numbers stay the same no matter how corrupt and cynical their leaders are, These debates are a waste of time anyway.

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