The Great Debate

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For discussions about religion, but not specifically Christianity. Christians and members of any faith or of no faith are welcome, provided they treat others with respect at all times. Remember that detailed discussion about the beliefs of a particular faith will be difficult if no member of that faith is available to take part.

The Great Debate

Postby Bev » January 31st, 2013, 11:44 pm

This morning, someone (actually a friend of Bobby's who's been a part of an ongoing discussion we've been having with a few others every once in a while here at our house) sent me links to four youtube videos that cover a debate hosted by CalTech between Dinesh D'Souza (Director of the film 2016**, and prize-winning author) and Michael Shermer (Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, and columnist for Scientific American.)

I've seen all of the first three, and up to the Q&A in four. It took me all day, going back to the videos after interruptions (which are usually many.) In summary, D'Souza defends Christianity as the main religion responsible for introducing morality and ethics to a world that history has shown did not as prominently exist before Christ. He makes some interesting points, but I found myself at odds with his aligning "Christianity" with the teachings of Christ (the latter of which he merely mentions once, almost in passing.) This was especially troublesome for me, because the topic of the debate is the question of whether "religion" is the "force" behind good or evil.

Shermer seems to do a better job of aligning both religion and non-religion as "xenophobic" in nature, a point with which I agree. From that perspective, he does a better job of aligning "religion" with "evil." But, had D'Souza separated "religion" from the teachings of Christ, I believe D'Souza's entire argument would have more powerfully refuted Shermer's argument.

What do you think?

Part 1 D'Souza

Part 2 Shermer

Part 3 Both revisit points made in 1 & 2

Part 4 Discussion followed by Q&A

** I have also seen D'Souza's '2016' and I did not agree with just about every assertion he made in that film. And so, my trust in his "history" has been affected by this. If anyone is interested in discussing the film, please start a new thread, and I'll be happy to share specifically (in detail) my own issues with it.
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Re: The Great Debate

Postby GregB » February 1st, 2013, 9:32 pm

Well, I've just watched the first three parts and a goodly part of the fourth, though feeling rather sleepy, I nodded off a few times during it. The problem with these debates is that they rarely remain centred on the main point(s) and frequently stray off into other areas, only returning briefly, if at all, to the core arguments. Good points often go unanswered or end up getting mishandled or misconstrued. Also, we should remember that these are really public performances and the debaters are, to a great extent, 'playing to the gallery' (hence the attempts to lighten things up with a few wisecracks.) Really, to get the full gist of someone's argument, there's nothing like a solo lecture, preferably with extended Q&A afterwards, or a book or an article in which an entire thesis can be expounded at leisure and without some arbitrator waving a stopwatch over the participants like the sword of Damocles.

D'Sousa is clearly highly intelligent but he comes across to me as rather obnoxious, wearing his certainties like a judo black belt. Shermer was more engaging although somewhat weaker at getting his thoughts across, though perhaps a sceptic cannot be too assertive by definition. I really don't think either of them made a convincing case from their respective positions and never really touched on the profounder aspects of the question of the origins of morality and ethics or whether religion has been a force for good or evil (the simple answer is that it has been both, Christianity included.

Anyway, I'll get back to the topic tomorrow, but at the moment I'm somewhat brain dead after spending some time translating some material in Spanish from a friend from church who has been invited to contribute a chapter in a new book to be published shortly in English called 'Why I Am Not An Atheist' (the title based on Russell's book 'Why I Am Not A Christian'.) I still have a fair amount to do, but the rest of February to do it in (though, dammit, it's not even a leap year...)
Last edited by GregB on February 1st, 2013, 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Great Debate

Postby Bev » February 1st, 2013, 9:39 pm

I agree with your assessment, and it closely mirrors my own. I am interested in D'Souza's claim that ethics and morality improved significantly in the Christian West. He doesn't explain how, just that it is. His points about the changes in slavery were interesting too.

Thanks for taking the time to view the videos. I know they are long.

I'm going to open another thread, for a later time when you're up for it. The same kid sent me a followup to the CalTech lectures, another lecture given at the end by author Sam Harris. It too is long. The way I got through it was to break it up over two days.
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Re: The Great Debate

Postby GregB » February 1st, 2013, 9:41 pm

I've just added a paragraph to my post, Bev, which you'll have missed.
"The war of peoples will be more terrible than those of kings."
- Winston Churchill (1901)
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Re: The Great Debate

Postby GregB » February 2nd, 2013, 2:14 pm

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. This section of the forum - Talking Stick - has so little activity that we're accustomed to one thread at a time, which is why I suspect that this thread hasn't been seen by those who have looked in and posted on the newer 'free will' thread. So, I suggest we exhaust what else can be said about this subject first before jumping around. (Incidentally, I've actually watched the Sam Harris video on the other thread, but one thing at a time, eh...?)
"The war of peoples will be more terrible than those of kings."
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Re: The Great Debate

Postby Bev » February 2nd, 2013, 4:21 pm

Just now saw this. For some reason I don't always get an email notification (or maybe it's in the spam folder. That does happen sometimes.)

Anyway, I created the different thread because the two subjects are different. I have very good reasons for wanting the focus to be only on the free-will debate. If you've seen the Harris lecture, I would really like your intellectual response to it, if you are willing.
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Re: The Great Debate

Postby Lyn » February 7th, 2013, 4:11 pm

Bev, I just wanted to let you know that with the best will in the world, I cannot get any sound, or even subtitles, and I really want to. When John comes home at the weekend (unfortunately David is off again), I will ask him to fix it. It is not just the links you provided but everything else. I've recently had this laptop repaired so it should be OK, I am probably doing something wrong. The main (big) computer upstairs never has sound but that's because the speakers are knackered. This Mac laptop is usually pretty good.
Just so you know you are not ignored,I am interested (more than you would realise) and may copy the links to see if anything is different elsewhere. x
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Re: The Great Debate

Postby Bev » February 7th, 2013, 4:34 pm

Looking forward to your response once you've been able to listen to it, Vix.
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