Discussion Between the “Four Horsemen”

I haven’t seen this yet, but I’m looking forward to checking it out this weekend.

It’s an unmoderated 2-hour discussion between Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. It took place on September 30th, 2007.

Babies will be eaten. Your wallet will surely be stolen.

Either that, you’ll get to listen in on a pretty damn cool conversation.

All four authors have recently received a large amount of media attention for their writings against religion – some positive, and some negative. In this conversation the group trades stories of the public’s reaction to their recent books, their unexpected successes, criticisms and common misrepresentations. They discuss the tough questions about religion that face to world today, and propose new strategies for going forward.

It’s all free to download and view, courtesy of The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Here are the MP3s: Hour 1 and Hour 2.

And here are the links to Google Video: Hour 1 and Hour 2.

Enjoy!


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://meritboundalley.wordpress.com Joe M

    I am enjoying this discussion immensely so far. One thing that I’m struck by is that I really like Dennett. He’s just a very likable guy. Every time he starts talking, I think “Yay! Santa’s talking!”

  • http://meritboundalley.wordpress.com Joe M

    As a more serious comment, I want to respond to Christopher Hitchens’ comment of the religious mysteries, such as the Trinity. Christopher made that comment (paraphrased) that the point of these mysteries is to keep the flock baffled and inferior.

    I’m not convinced this is the case. I think the point of these mysteries is just the fact that they are mysteries. It makes the religion something more than it is. Liken it to fairy circles. Someone went out one day and found in the middle of the woods a rough circle of flowers. Pretty damned cool in and of itself, but turning that circle into a place of fairies makes it not just a neat thing you found in the woods, but a mystical and magical thing.

    It’s just a way to keep magic in the world. Not necessarily a good thing, but not as subversive as Christopher makes it.

  • Mriana

    I got an email from both Harris and Dawkins about this. I have yet to watch it though.

  • Mriana

    In the second one, I’m wondering how much scotch or whiskey Christopher has had. The rest of them sound fine, but Chistopher sounds and looks like he has a good buzz going on. :lol: I think even Dawkins was at one point thinking Christopher has a buzz going on too. This is about 10-12 minutes into the second vid.

    Aside for Christopher causing me to laugh in the second video, I’ve found them very enjoyable too. I got the mp3s for my iPod to listen to again. :)

    Christopher just caused me to laugh again. I think Dawkins is right, he wants something to argue about, esp when he’s had a wee bit too much. Dawkins laughs at what Christopher says too and he does contradict himself. He did a few times in the second vid.

    Well, off to finish watching the second 1/2 of the second vid. :)

  • Rob

    I wish I could sound that rational after 2 hours of swilling gin. Very interesting.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    TWO hours?? UGH!

    Can someone summarize it for those of us who cannot stay awake for two hours? :-(

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    Joe M: “I think the point of these mysteries is just the fact that they are mysteries. It makes the religion something more than it is.”

    I think you are reading far too much intentionality into doctrines that probably evolved rather than having been designed. Christianity inherits monotheism from Judaism, yet treats three separate entities as if they were gods. Somehow those beliefs had to be reconciled.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    I started to watch the video and …

    I’m sorry to say that I couldn’t really get through even the first few minutes of the video, where Dawkins starts trying to defend himself against the charge that he isn’t “shrill.” Yes, Dawkins isn’t “shrill” in the sense that he doesn’t come off as a pro-wrestling heel, but when he uses the Hitler card to insinuate that people like the folks at the NCSE are moral cowards, any proposed defense against “shrillness” rings hollow. The Four Horsemen probably have somewhat more to offer (though Joe M’s report on what Hitchens had to say about the Trinity is not encouraging), but leading with disingenuousness is a real turn-off.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Okay, nevermind. I watched the first 10 min and got the idea. I found it rather boring. Same old thing. The D’Souza/Dennet debate was much more interesting, which I also watched today on YouTube.

    One point to note, though, is when Dennett says that we should be able to ask the question, “Have you even considered the possibility that maybe you’ve wasted your life believing in a myth?”

    Well, I have to tell you, I consider that almost everyday. I have not met one Christian who has not wondered that at one point or another. It’s a constant struggle to hang onto the reality that only comes in little snippets. Thus the term “faith.” But at the same time, you cannot go around being wishy washy about your beliefs. It is very unfortunate that religious people become defensive and angry, but I think it has partly to do with people trying to discredit them and make them feel foolish for what they hold dear — something that they experienced in their hearts but cannot prove.

    Like love. When you say to someone, “prove love,” how can they prove it in any tangible way? — i mean not what love does or the results that can come from love, but what love IS in its pure form. If you don’t feel it, there’s no way to show you or prove to you that it exists. That does not mean that it’s not real to those who have it. And yes… it comes and goes. But it’s real.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    Like love. When you say to someone, “prove love,” how can they prove it in any tangible way? — i mean not what love does or the results that can come from love, but what love IS in its pure form.

    Somehow, a mangling of James 2:18 comes to mind. Love without works is arguably about as dead as faith without works. (And if “faith” is taken in the sense of “loyalty,” the analogy is even closer.) Love is demonstrated by what it does. This is actually one thing that Dawkins gets right.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Somehow, a mangling of James 2:18 comes to mind. Love without works is arguably about as dead as faith without works.

    Wow! An atheist quoting scripture to me. I am very honored.

    I don’t get the same meaning out of that as you. Notice the word “dead.” From the Christian perspective, dead means spiritually dead. No life. Life comes from receiving Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. When your spirit is alive in Christ, you have life. No longer dead. And life automatically lives, breathes, and expresses itself. It’s not something that we “do,” but it is something that we “are.” This passage merely means to me that if you don’t have the vital signs of life, then you are dead.

    But these “works” are just the symtems, not the love itself. The symtoms in and of themselves do not prove the existence of the love. Anyone can fake the symtems. And the genuineness of the existing love can only be known by the individual. No one can “prove” it beyond doubt. When we are alive, we just know it.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    “The symtoms in and of themselves do not prove the existence of the love. Anyone can fake the symtems.”

    The symptoms, though, are not necessarily easy to fake, especially over the long term. Some people are really good actors and can fake the various social cues. Some “symptoms”, like altruistic behavior, are even harder to fake. Of course, you can’t have 100% certainty, but that can be said about almost anything.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Some “symptoms”, like altruistic behavior, are even harder to fake.

    Well, it is my theory that there is no such thing as pure altruistic behavior. With the way humans are, even the most selfless act can be a selfish one in the end. So behaviors are neither here nor there. Ultimately, we all are self-serving. Outward behaviors are not trustworthy indicators of what is really going on underneath, especially when it comes to faith and love.

  • Karen

    Completely fascinating stuff. I don’t find this kind of thing boring at all, quite the contrary. Hearing four of the best minds of our time grappling with atheism and agreeing and disagreeing on how to present it is like mind-candy, but maybe that’s just me. ;-) My only disappointment is that they didn’t include a horseWOMAN in their discussion. Maybe Dawkins will host something like this again, with more diverse participation. I’ve love to get Ayaan Hirsi Ali in there, for instance, or Barbara Forrest, or Eugenie Scott.

    Hour 2 is perhaps more accessible because they talk more about what they hope will happen to religion, and how they should and should not criticize religions. Also, Sam Harris sort of takes control of the discussion and asks the questions. Interesting to me that Dawkins actually talked least, yet is undoubtedly the one most anxious to see religion go away. I believe the other three all said they do not want to see religion eradicated, just transformed.

    The “money quote” from Chris Hitchens, talking about whether they should rank religions from most dangerous to least dangerous:

    “They’re all equally rotten, false, dishonest, corrupt, humorless and dangerous.”

    LOL – no really, Hitch, tell us how you honestly feel about it! :-)

  • Karen

    Like love. When you say to someone, “prove love,” how can they prove it in any tangible way? — i mean not what love does or the results that can come from love, but what love IS in its pure form. If you don’t feel it, there’s no way to show you or prove to you that it exists. That does not mean that it’s not real to those who have it. And yes… it comes and goes. But it’s real.

    Linda, Dan Dennett brings up this exact point on the tape because it is used all the time by theists trying to discredit the scientific method. You really ought to try and watch it, I think you’d be interested if you get beyond the first few moments.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    You really ought to try and watch it, I think you’d be interested if you get beyond the first few moments.

    Oh, Ooooo-kaaayyy…. But only because you recommended it. :) Thank you.

  • Siamang

    “They’re all equally rotten, false, dishonest, corrupt, humorless and dangerous.”

    It’s the humorlessness of it which condemns it most in my mind. With humor, many of the other ills would have been solved eons ago.

  • Rodney

    To Linda:

    As much as I’m not a Christian and so obviously disagree with your religious stance, I truly applaud you having the intellectual curiosity to look at material like this and discuss it, especially within an arena that’s generally opposed to your faith-based conclusions. Listening to and engaging constructively with opposing viewpoints is something I wish more people would value more highly, especially fellow atheists who should hold themselves to high standards in that regard.

    I was gonna say I respected you taking the time to check this material out, but you lost attention-span points for giving up after only ten minutes. ;)


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