A Church’s Discussion Guide for the Hitchens/Dembski Debate

Thursday morning, Christopher Hitchens will be debating Intelligent Design proponent William Dembski at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas. The debate is mostly for a middle school and high school audience.

The church in question has put out a discussion guide for the debate (PDF) — it was sent to me by a reader and it’s worth a look.

If you have some time, print it out, grab a red pen, and mark up all the mistakes you can find.

You may need more than one pen.

I don’t even know where to start taking this apart, but let me jump to the first of the “Student Questions” intended for “younger” kids:

An atheist is a person who claims that God doesn’t exist. Psalm 14:1 says: A fool says in his heart, “There is no god.” How can a person really know something exists or not?

Not sure why they felt the need to insert that second sentence…

And here’s a question and response for older students (emphases mine):

You’ve heard the term “secular” before as it refers to a person who is not religious. The term “secular” is opposed to the concept of eternity — which means that a secular person believes that all that matters in this life is the here and now…there is no hereafter. How do you think people might live differently if they believed that their actions have no eternal consequence — or that they face no ultimate judgment for the decisions they make — would they tend to make “better” choices?

a. Part of this question looks at the issue that those who are secular would tend to make decisions that are more self-gratifying in nature, while those individuals who are “religious” and believe in an eternal destination are more likely to make decisions in light of a pending judgment before an Almighty God.

b. If there truly is no God, then why is one person’s life better than another’s? Wouldn’t Maslow be correct — that the highest achievement in life would be simply self-actualization — being the best “you” you can be, whether that is a murderer or doctor, a train engineer or a window washer?

Yes, that is what I strive for. I want to be the best murderer that I can be.

No wonder Prestonwood is hosting this debate. They have no idea how to respond to these questions…

But they won’t hesitate to tell you what to believe.

Not only that — they’ll tell you to avoid anyone who claims they know something special about God. Like Oprah, when she said “there can’t just be one way to heaven.”

While Oprah is a wonderful talk show host, she is untrained and unqualified to speak thoughtfully and authoritatively on matters of theology. Be careful about the advice you listen to especially in matters as important as God and eternal life!

I wouldn’t trust Oprah on theological matters, either. She believes in as much nonsense as the churchgoers do (e.g. The Secret). But it’s not like a pastor or reverend has any more knowledge about these matters than any random person off the street. They just believe they know more. They attend church and hear leaders who think they know something about god. They go to Seminary and learn from people who are “experts” in the subject of god. They run their own churches and it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy — people begin to smile and nod when you speak and you think you’re onto something regarding what god wants for your life.

Then you publish something like this discussion guide and it becomes clear how much your knowledge clashes with reality.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Deiloh

    Have rational answers to the questions printed and hand them out as the students enter the debate.

  • Russell

    I was weighing the “best murderer” vs. “best doctor” thing and noticed that I could think of a lot more top murderers than top doctors. In fact, the first doctor i thought of was Mengele, who probably should be in the other category. So if there are fellow atheists out there trying to choose between the two, murderers get remembered… just saying.

  • http://twitter.com/artiofab artiofab

    “The bottom line is that if evolution is true, we have no need for God”

    Wow. Well I guess that just about clears it up for God, eh?

  • ACN

    Wow. Well I guess that just about clears it up for God, eh?

    I LOL’d really loudly. In a library.

  • AxeGrrl

    Speaking of Oprah, there should be an entire thread about her show today featuring the ‘healer’ John of God!

  • Scott

    Wow…after reading just a few pages of this guide, I feel like I could adequately debate these yahoos. You’re right. Anyone who has read a book other than the bible can pick this paper apart. The false logic, non sequiturs, and false dichotomies abound. They fall back on the standard Christian/Creationist playbook at every turn. They even mistake Darwin’s theory by saying that he tried to explain “the origin of THE species”. It’s “The Origin of Species”, a subtle but important difference. He explains how all species originate, not how one (ours) originated, i.e. how life began. I wish I could attend this event. Further, I wish there was some way to see how many converts (one way or the other) walk out of this debate.

  • JulietEcho

    The stupid… it burns. It really, really does. And I know from (way too much) experience that many (most?) in the audience will tune out the logic, or convince themselves that Satan is simply tempting them with arguments that *sound* wise.

    In the end, religion is about emotions and wishes for many people, and debate/logic/education rarely has much of an effect on that group.

  • Militant Maggie

    So if there is no evidence that god DOESN’T exist, he must exist. Right. So by that logic, I have a giant green polka-dot armadillo anteater hybrid hanging out in my closet. And none y’all can’t prove he doesn’t exist. So nyeh.

  • Gretchen

    Scott,

    Even if you can’t attend the event, you can watch it via live streaming here. Seeing as how this “study guide” appears to be a little more than a set of instructions on how to reject everything Hitchens is going to say before he says it, I just find the whole thing rather depressing. The academy is priding itself on bringing in a big-wig atheist so that students don’t think they’ve been confronted with someone who can easily be shot down, but at the same time they’ve basically been inoculated against all valuable points that Hitchens might make. This debate should by no means be considered a good faith (no pun intended) attempt to get students to actually think critically about their theological beliefs.

  • Nick Andrew

    It seems like a standard tactic – erect straw men and then burn them down. The part of the document that I read is littered with logical fallacies – arguments from ignorance, special pleading and so on.

    I note they had to warn parents that Hitch is an “excellent communicator unlike any that your children or students have been exposed to previously”.

    They will lose. It won’t be obvious 5 minutes after the debate ends, but several of those students will have seeds of doubt sown in their minds, and eventually it will lead to disbelief and rejection of religion. Considering that the audience at the start is presumed 100% christian, how can Hitch not win?

  • Oli

    wow that makes my brain hurt something chronic

  • Matt Becker

    Wow, I must say that the school is pretty daring. I like how they are are bringing in a atheist that is skilled in debate, but oh do I pity them. I think they’ve bitten off a bit more than they can chew with this one.

    I plan to listen to the debate on the live stream and see just how badly this goes. Let’s hope at least a handful of kids are paying attention. I wish Hitchens came to my school…

  • Iason Ouabache

    artiofab Says:

    “The bottom line is that if evolution is true, we have no need for God”

    Wow. Well I guess that just about clears it up for God, eh?

    I can’t believe it! Christians actually made a falsifiable claim about God? That lapse of judgement will cost them dearly.

  • http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/ G*3

    Talk about leading questions.

    > Wouldn’t Maslow be correct — that the highest achievement in life would be simply self-actualization — being the best “you” you can be, whether that is a murderer or doctor, a train engineer or a window washer?

    Maslow was a psychologist. He was trying to describe what people do, not create a value system.

  • Hamilton Jacobi

    Does Dembski think he smells blood in the water? Is he moving in for the kill now that Hitchens is weakened by chemotherapy?

    I think he may be in for a rude awakening.

  • Colin

    I like how they set the tone by the two pictures they use. The Christian against a white background, Hitchens against a black background. I’d imagine that very few of these kids will ever read more than a couple of pages of this, though.

  • Richard Wade

    These are rhetorical, leading questions, trying to set up ad hominem attitudes against Hitchens beforehand. What a load of crap. This is the Academy of Dedicated Ignorance. If this is what awaits Hitchens, I’m surprised he’s even considering giving them any credibility with a debate. What a sad, futile waste of time and effort this will be.

    Oh Hitch will technically blow the guy out of the water, but nobody will actually pay attention to the technicalities of such things as logic and rationality in the debate.

    I doubt that even one single ignociple will be swayed.

  • kyrosion

    I know that even years ago, as a believing Catholic kid who loved to read, I would have made the same tl;dr decision that I made now over this pile of woo. A few paragraphs was enough for me to decide that anything in this pamphlet was most probably a waste of my valuable time.

    And thank you, G*3, for bringing up the point about Maslow; as a psych major, their claim struck me as rather irritating. Psychological constructs are not equivalent to moral suggestions.

  • Rich Wilson

    In his epic tale, The Brothers Karamozov, Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky penned one of his most famous lines – “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.” While atheists disagree with this concept, claiming that there is a foundation for morality absent God, their foundation is based on societal norms and agreed morality which has proven to be a less-than-desirable shifting sand morality over the centuries.

    I hope whoever wrote that isn’t wearing mixed fibers.

  • http://filipinofreethinkers.org/ Twin-Skies

    @Hamilton Jacobi

    To quote Metal Gear Solid 1:

    “A wounded fox is more dangerous than a jackal.”

  • Claudia

    This is pretty funny actually. Any one of us could beat these questions back pretty easily. Hitchens? He should dispense with the debate altogether, go up there with this guide and then reduce their arguments and the idiots that wrote them to dust. They think they can take on Hitch with elementary school level apologetics? I hope they record the event, because I would like to witness the monumental smackdown that Hitchens will give them.

    My only minor concern is that Hitchens is not usually known for dumbing down his speech and concepts. If he’s going to be speaking to a large room full of children whose minds have already been hobbled by a “Christian academy” he may end up speaking over their heads. Here’s hoping he can make his arguments understandable to the not-quite-Oxford-level crowd.

  • S-Y

    Trying to debate these people (at least those who wrote the guide) is going to be akin to either trying to play laser tag with someone who doesn’t have a blaster and sensor vest, or trying to play paintball with someone who only has a squirt gun. I can’t tell which.

  • Weemaryanne

    If he’s going to be speaking to a large room full of children whose minds have already been hobbled by a “Christian academy” he may end up speaking over their heads

    Don’t be too sure of that. In my schooldays an unfamiliar word meant a visit to the dictionary followed by at least one new thought in my empty little head. Language (as the sainted Orwell observed) is a tool for shaping thought, and new words have the effect of expanding one’s thinking.

    It may not be immediately apparent, but Hitchens’ vocabulary may make quite an impression on these students.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    A nation once strong in its faith in God, once labeled a “Christian nation” and dubbed as the “city on a hill,” America has lost its spiritual moorings and is adrift in the relativistic sea of tolerance, equality, and affluence. (fm page 4)

    I don’t understand. Are they against “tolerance, equality, and affluence”? I mean, among seas to be adrift in, that one doesn’t sound so bad.

    (And the Academy itself looks awesome. Their World Religions and New Religious Movements course teaches all about the world’s religions, and how all but one are wrong. And don’t forget their “World History I” course, where “Emphasis is placed on the key moments in history from Creation to 1400 AD…”!)

  • Richard P.

    I just don’t see the need for any debate. Looks like they pretty much wrapped up all the answers in a 44 page booklet.

    It’s like there own version of the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.

  • Christophe Thill

    How do you think people might live differently if they believed that their actions have no eternal consequence

    For instance, if people don’t believe that they will be rewarded in heaven for persecuting or killing infidels?

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com David McNerney

    While Oprah is a wonderful talk show host, she is untrained and unqualified to speak thoughtfully and authoritatively on matters of theology.

    By what standard?

  • Cliff Morgan

    Though, it’s nice of them to lay out their entire “argument” so that Hitchens can read it ahead of time and rip it to shreds.

  • cypressgreen

    Matthew 5:22:

    But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

    There. Cleared that up for them.

  • http://vancouvermoose.livejournal.com/ VancouverMoose

    An atheist is a person who claims that God doesn’t exist. Psalm 14:1 says: A fool says in his heart, “There is no god.” How can a person really know something exists or not?

    If an atheist is a fool for “knowing” in their heart that God does not exist, wouldn’t a true believer also be a fool for “knowing” that God does exist?

    After all, How can a person really know something exists or not?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I have an active imagination and can easily make up all sorts of things about the supernatural. If I had lived 2000 years ago, there is a chance some of my imaginative ideas could have made it into scripture. But, of course, others back then also had active imaginations and their imaginative thoughts did get worked into scripture. People have a natural tendency to give special privilege to writings from long ago. When you extend this special privilege to imaginative ideas about the supernatural and believe that the ideas actually describe how the world works, then all sorts of mischief can follow. That pretty much sums up religion. I wonder if that made it into the pamphlet?

  • http://twitter.com/artiofab artiofab

    Iason Ouabache sez:

    I can’t believe it! Christians actually made a falsifiable claim about God? That lapse of judgement will cost them dearly.

    The good thing about moving goalposts is that you never actually make a falsifiable claim. Much like “Dr.” Kent Hovind I’m sure that their demands of what “evolution is true” means is so beyond proof that it resembles a religious statement.

    Which, of course, is the whole point. They view the world through faith in miracles so they expect atheists to do the same. Meanwhile we expect them to think critically and question authority… Oops.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I read the intro to the discussion guide and it is easy to immediately see the overriding false-dichotomy.

    Either Christianity is true (and there is a God and bla bla bla…)
    or Atheism is true and bla bla bla…

    As an atheist, I see no evidence for gods but I do recognize that if there is a God, that doesn’t mean that Christianity is true. It just means that there is a God. There could be an infinite number of possible theologies on starting with a God premise. Christianity is just one possible theology. The negation of atheism is not Christianity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    I don’t even know where to start taking this apart, but let me jump to the first of the “Student Questions” intended for “younger” kids:

    An atheist is a person who claims that God doesn’t exist. Psalm 14:1 says: A fool says in his heart, “There is no god.” How can a person really know something exists or not?

    Not sure why they felt the need to insert that second sentence…

    Well, obvioiusly, it’s the whole peer pressure idiocy of that verse. Don’t think for yourselves, kiddies, because if you dare to, you’re a fool. Implication: hell-bound fool. You can’t successfully brainwash without scaring the shit out of people.

    I kind of hope this is on-line after because it should be interesting to say the least. I don’t think it’s a waste of time because it’s like Nick Andrew and weemaryanne say. While they write it off as a win even after Hitchens annihilates, there’s bound to be a kid or two or three that starts thinking despite all efforts to prevent that.

    If there truly is no God, then why is one person’s life better than another’s? Wouldn’t Maslow be correct — that the highest achievement in life would be simply self-actualization — being the best “you” you can be, whether that is a murderer or doctor, a train engineer or a window washer?

    Um, I guess I’m seriously lacking in ambition then because I really don’t give a crap about being the best anything. Grandma maybe and I seriously stay out of the dumbass who’s the best grandma thing the grandson’s other two grandmothers (Dad’s got a mom and a stepmother) have going on. It’s so fucking stupid. He has three grandmothers, he loves us all, why the hell is that not good enough?

  • JaneL

    Hitchens has a 19 yo daughter so he has recently had some practice at discussing issues with a middle/high schooler. I don’t think he’ll be talking over the heads of the students he will be debating in front of today, in fact he may make an effort to give them an education in falacious arguments (special pleading, etc.).

  • Wendy

    Is anyone watching it? I’m not getting any feed

  • littlejohn

    Me too. Just a blank screen, although the crawler bar is moving.

  • JaneL

    Damn! I’m not getting any feed either. I’m hoping there’s just a time delay.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    The debate is supposed to be on, but instead all I see are their logo and the lyrics from praise songs. Hmm.

  • JaneL

    I just emailed the producer of the debate. I hope they can get the live feed fixed. I really want to hear this debate!

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    Yep, I keep refreshing…nada…nothing.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    If they do get the feed going someone who is technically able should capture the feed so it can be posted later on (YouTube) for others to see…

  • JaneL

    Here’s the email address: producer@PCAwebcast.com

    Maybe if we drown them with emails they’ll get the feed fixed or, failing that, feel embarrassed enough to make the effort to record the debate so that we can see it.

  • Jessica

    there it goes it seems to be fixed

  • JaneL

    Never mind, it’s on! Yeah!

  • Wendy

    it’s on now and I’m already pissed off

  • Joost

    Some introduction is playing right now

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    Running now…

  • HumanistGuy

    Just saw an opening segment that looked pre-recorded, so hopefully it’s about to start soon.

  • http://sesoron.blogspot.com/ Sesoron

    That’ll teach us to get our hopes up.

    Edit: That’s more like it…

  • Robert W.

    I am familiar with this church and school. Just to give you a little perspective, they were picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church for being too liberal.

    They are still very conservative but mainstream.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    fuck…now not running. I emailed them.

  • Sheila

    Feed doesn’t work for me either. It’s probably Satan, causing the effing technical difficulties. Or perhaps it is Jeebus, performing a miracle in order to save all the Xtians from Hitchens (aka Satan).

    Now I’ve confused myself…

  • HumanistGuy

    It’s def up now.

  • ihedenius

    Hitchens on, running fine …

  • Wendy

    FSM he looks horrible. Wendy is sad panda

    /but sounds strong

  • JaneL

    I was wrong. Hitchens is talking waaaay above the heads of middle schoolers and probably most of the high schoolers too.
    Now Dembsky is speaking and he is making the same mistake.

    By the way, I thought the intro was pretty fair and balanced.

  • Robert W.

    Even though I don’t agree with his conclusions, Hitchens is a really great speaker. He would have made a great preacher.

  • Jessica

    I think Hitchens will reach the high school students but Dembsky is turning this into an anti biology lecture

  • Wendy

    uh damn Dembsky is condescending as hell

  • Claudia

    Ahh now I remember why I despise Dembski so much. His a dishonest little shit. Every single argument he spits out has been explained and refuted time and again. Were he an honest person, he would try different arguments, but since he’s a dishonest hack, he disregards all explanations and lays the exact same arguments on a new audience. Of course, every claim of a creationist can be made in 10 seconds but take time and training to refute, because unlike these assholes we can’t just make shit up.

    You know, it’s one thing to think about lying to children in theory, but I’m a little shocked at how angry witnessing it in real time makes me. He’s knowingly lying to young people in a purposful attempt to lead them away from science in favor of his religion. I want to reach through my computer screen and hit him over the head with a fossil.

  • HumanistGuy

    Uh oh, Dembsky pulls out the “atheist agenda” card. Is there even such an agenda? Don’t atheist/humanists just live according to what can be proved to be true or not? Geez….

  • Edit

    Summary of Dembsky’s speech so far: Hitchens is wrong on everything! Atheists are so foolish! The actual truth can be found in my book… Big words, big words… I won’t be offended if you tune out and watch videos on YouTube right now…

  • Wendy

    Claudia I love you—marry me

    /crap I live in Texas

  • Robert W.

    Claudia,

    Every single argument he spits out has been explained and refuted time and again. Were he an honest person, he would try different arguments, but since he’s a dishonest hack, he disregards all explanations and lays the exact same arguments on a new audience.

    If this is true for Dembsky, the same can be said for Hitchens. I heard his same arguments many times before even though they have been refuted during numerous debates.

  • Claudia

    I heard his same arguments many times before even though they have been refuted during numerous debates.

    You must have seen a bunch of secret debates I have no access to, because I have yet to see Hitchens arguments properly addressed.

    Demsky is a creationist (actually, I don’t think he is, I think he’s smart enough to know he’s lying). He is arguing for an idea that is so scientifically bankrupt that it cannot survive even a passing understanding of scientific thought and biological science. Robert, I know we have our differences, but please tell me you’re not a creationist?

  • Wendy

    I do NOT like this format. Way too long to talk so it’s difficult to keep track of what’s being said to what

  • Jessica

    I think the debate format is just too short to properly address issues. They need to sit down and say this is what we agree on and go through the evidence.

  • Robert W.

    Claudia,

    There are quite a few debates by Hitchens on you tube. You may also find some at the Veritas Forum. He has had some very good debates with William Lane Craig.

    If you mean by a creationist that God created the earth and us then yes I am. If you mean a young earth creationist that he did it in 6 24 hour days, then no I’m not.

  • jose

    He just used the “it has a use so it’s not vestigial” line. O the humanity.

  • HumanistGuy

    I like how Dembsky claimed that the theory of evolution is basically an argument from ignorance simply because it cannot explain the origin of bacteria and other microscopic organisms. Never mind that biology is continually looking for those answers, while creationists claim to already have the answer, WITH NO CONCEIVABLE EVIDENCE. Just saying “gee, I have no idea how any of this can be possible. Let me just attribute it to god!” is not a logical argument. You sound like a 5 year old matter of fact. (no offense to any 5 year olds out there, lol)

  • Claudia

    If you mean by a creationist that God created the earth and us then yes I am. If you mean a young earth creationist that he did it in 6 24 hour days, then no I’m not.

    When you say “God created us” you mean that you don’t believe humans have an evolutionary origin? If that’s the case you should know that “Old Earth creationism” is only marginally less ridiculous than young Earth creationism. The evolutionary origin of humans is absolutely demonstrated. The history of our Earth is likewise well understood.

    If what you mean is “God guided evolution”, though there is no evidence in favor of that proposition, it does have the advantage of being less obviously absurd, as it recognizes the obvious fact of evolution itself.

  • Claudia

    Unless there are outside guests, the kids are applauding Hitchens’ arguments. If that’s the case, it’s very heartening to hear, because it means at least some of the kids are going to be OK :)

  • ACN

    Robert,

    If your claim is the former of claudia’s two, you are a fool.

    If it is the latter, it is unfalsifiable.

  • HumanistGuy

    OMG, Dembsky is killing me. He says that in ancients times there was theism, polytheism and the like all over the place. I wonder why? Maybe because we had no other way to explain things? And maybe now that science and technology have expanded to a point that we can now grasp concepts and phenomenon that we couldn’t before, maybe we really have no need for religion anymore? Ever thought of that?

  • Robert W.

    Claudia,

    The evolutionary origin of humans is absolutely demonstrated.

    That is a bold statement. There are quite a few folks who disagree with you on that.

  • Claudia

    That is a bold statement. There are quite a few folks who disagree with you on that.

    Name a single academic institution dedicated to biology that casts doubt on the evolutionary origin of humans.

  • Jessica

    “God is not bound by our laws, he makes them”

    So is he saying rape and genocide is okay when god orders it?

  • Edit

    Does the webcast keep freezing and skipping ahead for anyone else, or is this just happening to me?

  • Robert W.

    Claudia,

    In order for evolution of humans to have taken place purely through evolution and thus only by chemical and natural processes, you have to go back to the beginning and show that living cells grew from non living matter and then grew from there.

    The probability of that has been doubted by the likes of Francis Crick, David Green from the University of Wisconsin and Robert Goldberger, National Institute of Health.

  • Jos

    Did I miss a memo somewhere? Wasn’t Dembski one of those people desperately trying to pretend that Intelligent Design has nothing to do with God at all, goodness no, it’s actual science?

    Why does he keep talking about the Christian worldview? Has he just dropped all pretense?

  • toth

    No, Robert, evolution and abiogenesis are entirely separate topics. You cannot tie them together. Evolution starts where life exists.

  • Myrmidon

    So much is revealed at the very end:

    Mr Hitchens would prefer to use his closing five minutes to answer another question from the audience.

    Mr Dembski would prefer to use his closing five minutes to deliver his prepared closing, “hoping it’s a zinger”.

  • ACN

    Someone at Pharyngula said it best:

    “And now, I’ll leave you with some rambling about Mother Teresa. Bizarre.”

  • Greg

    @Robert W.

    In order for evolution of humans to have taken place purely through evolution and thus only by chemical and natural processes, you have to go back to the beginning and show that living cells grew from non living matter and then grew from there.

    I’m no expert, but isn’t that confusing abiogenesis (the first origin of life) from evolution (how life diverged once started) ?

    My understanding is the theory of evolution has does not attempt to explain abiogenesis.

    The probability of that….

    Incredibly improbable things happen in the universe every day. It only HAD to happen once 😉

  • Samiimas

    you have to go back to the beginning and show that living cells grew from non living matter and then grew from there.

    And if we don’t know every single exact detail of an event that occurred billions of years ago the logical answer is to assume a magic pixie has been guiding life’s development.

  • ACN

    Robert,

    To leap from the premise that the precise origin of living things is not known, to the conclusion that it could not have happened naturally is called the “argument from incredulity”. All you’re saying is “I don’t think X came about naturally, therefore it was created ergo God!”.

    In contrast to your question, a GOOD question here would be: “Given that living things have existed on the Earth for around a billion years, how the hell do we think/know that humans are commonly descended from the rest of the living things?”

    29 Evidences of Common Descent.

  • Rich Wilson

    For those of you who think Hitchens and Dembski are talking over ‘the kids’, I think you underestimate. Sure, it’s over some of their heads, but it’s over some adults’ heads as well. The age of the audience isn’t the factor, it’s the individual in the seat.

  • littlejohn

    I can’t believe it. They invited Hitchens to debate, then ended with a preacher coming on stage and declaring him the loser. What an asshole.

  • Rich Wilson

    @Claudia

    Unless there are outside guests, the kids are applauding Hitchens’ arguments.

    It was open to the public. A number of people on Pharyngula indicated that they’d be attending.

  • Ken

    Anyone have a link to a recording of the debate? Thanks!

  • JaneL

    Hitchens is the one delivered the final Zinger. Earlier in the debate Dembsky said something about we (the Christian audience)know we are all dead until we’ve found the truth of Jesus or something like that. He got a applause. When Hitchens concluded by saying that that was “a TERRIBLE thing to tell chldren” and told the kids to never stop questioning and learning, etc., Hitchens got louder applause and cheers. Teenagers just love being told to question authority. So they should.

  • jose

    In order to explain how the dining room table was made, you must explain first the origin of wood. Then you have to explain the origin of trees. Then, life. Earth. Our galaxy. And finally, the universe. In fact, you couldn’t explain anything at all without going back to the origin of the universe. A pretty useful approach.

    Actually, you just have to go back in time until you see no humans around. Just 1 million years would do. In explaining how we get from a world without humans to a world with humans, you’ve just covered how humans came to be.

    By the way, still waiting for a single academic institution dedicated to biology that casts doubt on the evolutionary origin of humans.

  • Rich Wilson

    I was surprised that Hitchens didn’t bring up Teressa’s crisis of faith.

  • ACN

    The concluding prayer was a nice touch also…

  • Joe_No_Halo

    I emailed the producer, thanked them for offering the live stream (which I was able to see with no problem) and offered that I was an atheist. I signed off wishing them a Happy Winter Solstice, in advance.

    Mr Hitchens was fantastic!

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I chuckled with the comment by Dembski that Christianity is kind-of a package deal and you have to accept either all of it or none of it. I wonder how many Christians agree with that? I don’t personally know any Christians who believe that. Every Christian I know only believes bits and parts of the theology within their own particular faith tradition. And there are so many versions of Christianity… It makes Dembski’s comment really quite naive. I don’t think he even has his own theological house in order.

  • Amy C

    c. Animal Rights – man is no longer a steward of God’s creation; he is simply one of the beasts and has no greater right to life or to the natural resources of this planet than the grasshopper or the weasel. Efforts to protect animals are greeted with accolades from our culture, while efforts to protect the unborn are met with disdain and condemnation.

    Apparently this particular brand of Christians has something against animal rights…let the dog fights begin!

  • Smith Powell

    I was there. It was my second experience with a megachurch. That in itself was worth the trip and was educational.

    Mr. Hitchens started out slowly, but by the Q&A time, was on target and insightful. Dembski was dull, over the head, and flogging his dead horse of ID and complexity. IMHO, Hitchens should have noted that major universities, including Baylor (Baptist), Notre Dame (Catholic), Brigham Young (Mormom), and so on do NOT include ID or other creationist nonsense in their biology programs. But this was not the central question of the debate.

    Hitchens addressed the central question, “Does a Good God Exist?”, from the outset; but, I’m afraid, his early remarks sailed over the heads of many in his audience. During the Q&A, he launched many zingers that his audience could understand. He got Dembski into some wonderful theological knots such as God’s order to kill all but the virgins was the best that God could do given that the situation had no better solution. So Dembski believes in situational ethics?!!??

  • Claudia

    In order for evolution of humans to have taken place purely through evolution and thus only by chemical and natural processes, you have to go back to the beginning and show that living cells grew from non living matter and then grew from there.

    In this statement you demonstrate that you do not actually know what evolution is. Evolution only concerns itself with the change of life over time. It does seek to explain how life came from non-life, a process known as abiogenesis and for which we only have hypothesis for now. In any event your argument is no more to the point than saying “In order to claim that plants convert energy from light to chemical energy through fotosynthesis, you first have to explain where all those atoms come from and what the origin of the Universe is”. Essentially you are claiming that nothing is explained until everything is explained.

    Let me repeat, show me a single scientific institution dedicated to biology that casts doubt on the evolutionary origins of humans.

  • Robert W.

    Claudia,

    In this statement you demonstrate that you do not actually know what evolution is. Evolution only concerns itself with the change of life over time. It does seek to explain how life came from non-life, a process known as abiogenesis and for which we only have hypothesis for now.

    Actually I do know the difference and was taking evolution to what I would think you would agree is its logical end. For evolution is a completely natural and material approach to the origin of all life, not simply adaptation over time, unless you are limiting the discussion to micro-evolution of a species.

    Let me repeat, show me a single scientific institution dedicated to biology that casts doubt on the evolutionary origins of humans.

    By the parameters of your question i doubt there would be any. it would be like me asking you name me own Christian college that teaches that God didn’t create the Earth.

  • Claudia

    Actually I do know the difference and was taking evolution to what I would think you would agree is its logical end.

    No, it is not. It is no more it’s natural end as the formation of continents is the “logical end” of land plant evolution because without continents there are no land plants. Evolution is one process, abiogenesis is another process. The fact that we have not yet explained abiogenesis does absolutely nothing to refute evolution. Evolution happened and happens. Even if I were to accept, on the basis of no evidence at all, that some deity made the very first living organism, evolution would still be true.

    For evolution is a completely natural and material approach to the origin of all life, not simply adaptation over time,

    One again, no it is not. Evolution is the divergence of life over time due to variation accompanied by natural selection. Life is a prerequisite for evolution. There can be a reasonable discussion had about the possibility of natural selection acting on pre-life forms based on some rather arcane topics I’m not going to get into, but you can’t explain the origin of life from evolution because evolution is not about the origin of life. It’s also not about the formation of continents, or soccer.

    unless you are limiting the discussion to micro-evolution of a species.

    “Microevolution” is largely a creationist invention. It exists because the variability of species, in particular pathogens, is so overwhelmingly obvious that they know they can’t get away with pretending no evolution happens. So they made up “microevolution” admitting that evolution does happen sure, but it can’t lead to speciation. This is akin to saying it’s possible for me to walk to the corner of my block, but I could never walk to the next city. There is no such barrier in biology.

    By the parameters of your question i doubt there would be any.

    My only parameter is that it be a credible institution of science. You said I was “bold” in saying humans were evolved because “quite a few people disagree” and my only challenge is for you to find an institution of people trained in the field we are discussing that disagree with my position, since it is so “bold”.

  • ACN

    Actually I do know the difference and was taking evolution to what I would think you would agree is its logical end. For evolution is a completely natural and material approach to the origin of all life, not simply adaptation over time, unless you are limiting the discussion to micro-evolution of a species.

    I’ll defer to talkorigins here:

    A)This makes about as much sense as saying that umbrellas don’t work without a theory of meteorology.

    B)Abiogenesis is a fact. Regardless of how you imagine it happened (note that creation is a theory of abiogenesis!), it is a fact that there once was no life on earth and that now there is. Thus, even if evolution needs abiogenesis, it has it!

    Now, if what you are asking for from evolution is a cohesive theory of abiogenesis, sorry, there isn’t one. But guess what, this doesn’t particularly affect scientists. There are things that we don’t know. Maybe we’ll know them later, maybe someday someone will figure them out, human history has shown us indisputably that things that were once thought to be the province of deities and supernatural forces are in fact natural phenomena.

    Proving that there is a gap in human knowledge is trivial. That DOES NOT mean that the gap is filled by “goddidit”.

    The theory of evolution tells us about how populations change, separate, speciate, descend with modification etc with time through the mechanism of natural selection. It does not purport to be a theory of abiogensis.

  • Querty

    Jose. keep waiting as ID isn’t a viable theory. It’s just warmed over creationism.

    I read most of the phamplet or argument from authority. It’s funny that they mention the banana as being designed. Someone reads Ray Comfort. It seems the author doesn’t realize the modern banana was a man-made creation by breeding.

    Another duh moment for creationists.

  • littlejohn

    For those who missed the debate, it will be archived here:
    http://www.pcawebcast.com
    At least that’s what the school told me.

  • David

    It was a bloodbath. Dumbski just read from his pre-written notes and delivered them without an ounce of charisma. He sputtered through with totally ignorant claims. He kept on bringing up the origins of life when slamming evolution. We’ve been through this a million fucking times.

    Hitchens on the other hand was very gracious and graceful, never looking down at any notes, and was very fluid and nimble in his insights. The crowd was surprisingly accommodating. I do not know how many atheists were there, but it seemed as though the crowd was smitten with Hitchens. The outcome was as one might expect in this case. A one sided intellectual drubbing.

  • Amanda

    Dembski got Hitch-slapped. Hitchens adjusted his speach to accommodate the age group represented and said some things that I think may have opened a few eyes. Dembski just kept reading from his notes up until closing. I’m not even he understood what he was reading. At one point when he actually was not using notes he said ‘Richard Hitchens’.

    Spoke with the reporter after and he did not get a soundbite from Dembski until almost 2 hours into the debate. He commented ‘off the record’ that he was disappointed their ‘biggest’ could not bring anything.

    The ‘debate’ will be available on Monday on the link someone listed above.

    As the debate went on, I watched the clapping from students and it did increase for Hitchens near the end. This happened when Dan Barker debated Dinesh there last year. Sad thing is though that this church continues for 3 more days with ‘religious teaching’ lectures.

  • http://flash-fox.com Jennifer

    I received an email back after the discussion on how to BUY this “discussion guide” for $35. $35! I told them that a major problem I have is that these people prey upon the superstitious to peddle their opinions for profit. I then found that I could buy BOTH Dembski’s and Hitchen’s books on Amazon and still have enough money left over to buy 3 homeless people lunch!! What are they doing with the money? Well judging by how nice their facilities are I bet it’s not going toward charity.

  • Samiimas

    By the parameters of your question i doubt there would be any. it would be like me asking you name me own Christian college that teaches that God didn’t create the Earth.

    Translation: I have absolutely no proof of my claims and I’m now going to run away from this thread with my tail between my legs.

  • Joe Baron

    This is a great question. The issue of causality of evil is certainly a difficult issue. For most Christians, we cannot always answer the “why” God did something if it is not clearly expressed in scripture. We know that God is good. Therefore, he did not cause evil to happen even if he made Eve with no sinful nature. Sin is a violation, and breaking of the command of God. Some would say that He made Eve to respond in a free will manner in order for Him to receive genuine worship because of her free will response of love, but that is over generalizing all Christian’s responses.

  • Robert W.

    Samiimas,

    Translation: I have absolutely no proof of my claims and I’m now going to run away from this thread with my tail between my legs.

    Actually my answer was accurate. Biologists in institutions that only study biology are predominantly of the opinion that humans evolved from other species. So the parameters of her question set up that response.

    The real question though, which I jumped to before we ended up there because that was where this was headed, is that does evolution disprove the existence of God?

    Of course I believe that it does not.

  • hipopotamo

    Oh, I love how they set up the picture of Dembski to look like that of an erudite scholar, while they choose to depict Hitchens with a hunchbacked, quasi-evil look on him!

    Too bad I missed the debate, but it was more important to me to be heathenly celebrating my birthday with friends, a pretty girl and some good wine and japanese coctails (insert wink here)

    @Claudia Tnx for keeping this comment thread intelligent and amusing. I would ask you to marry me but I’m shy at it for being a relatively newcomer at this forum.

    @robert

    …does evolution disprove the existence of God?

    Of course not, since the non-existence of god (or invisible pink unicorns) is basically non-falsifiable. But, by the same token, being unable to disprove something is not automatically proof of its existence!
    Nonetheless, evolution is a nice, sound theory that explains the differentiation and adaptation of species (human included). And it does so without requiring an external “designer” hypothesis.

    Cheers to all from the Birthday Hippo

  • Drew

    I attended the debate at this mega-church, a testament to the materialism of the Dallas area. The vast majority of the enormous sanctuary was cordoned off for ‘visiting pastors’, or the students from the church school and neighboring church schools (understandable, as they were the focus). That left the rear balcony-like section for the ‘general public’, primarily those on the atheist side of the debate. Two observations: Firstly, in 20 years living in Dallas, I’ve never had the experience of sitting around so many unbelievers, who I knew to be so – very refreshing. Secondly, it was a small taste of what it would have been like for the ‘colored’ in 1950 Dallas, sitting in the back of a movie theater.
    On the debate, Dembski ignored the topic, talking about ID mostly. Hitchens was in fine form, and clearly dominated. Hitchens sometimes went over the heads of the students, but at time made a compelling appeal to them that was both rational an heartfelt. I was more impressed with him than I have ever been before.
    No doubt this church wanted to serve CH up as a sacrificial lamb. He would have none of it, and I would not be surprised if he did indeed reach a child or two.
    Best wishes CH, and thank you.

  • http://MERESKEPTICISM.BLOGSPOT.COM STACY

    I’m glad you read the PDF. The debate was amazing. Hitch was amazing. I wish I could have been in his seat to see all the youth and their reactions to his final statement. I urge everyone to watch the online debate. You can see it on youtube in 10 parts, or at the PBC website: http://www.pcawebcast.com/2010debate/