Analyzing: Christian Bill O'Reilly vs Atheist Richard Dawkins

Thursday, April 17, 2008 | Labels: , , , | |

If individuals have not had a chance to view the short debate between Atheist Richard Dawkins and Christian Bill O'Reilly between belief or simple dis-belief they can view it here. There are some interesting conclusions one can draw from the short discussion these two individuals had.

Bill O'Reilly held his own in this discussion with who is known as one of the biggest names in atheism Richard Dawkins. In fact, both did quite well. It is important to take a closer look into this discussion as it went by quicker than the average person could possibly absorb and it is a huge issue that merits far more than only five minutes of air time.

(0:41 O'Reilly) "I think it takes more faith to be like you an Atheist than like me a believer and its because of nature. You know, I just don't think we could have lucked out to have the tides come in, the tides come out, the sun go up, the sun go down... Don't think it could have happened."

(0:54 Dawkins) "We have a very full understanding of why the "tides go in, the tides go out", about why the continents drift about, of why life is there. Science is evermore piling on the evidence, piling on the understanding."

Commentary: O'Reilly's point here is not clear - he does clarify it after Dawkins responds. It appears that O'Reilly takes the position that sheer 'chance' as the creator and designer of man is unlikely - but he parallels it with an awkward illustration of tides and the sun, leaving him at a position of needing to correct himself when Dawkins illustrates that we clearly understand why tides go in and tides go out. While it is true that science is piling on information and understanding, his response was to a poorly executed argument made by O'Reilly.

(1:07 O'Reilly) "But how did it get there? I understand... the physiology of it if you will... but it had to come from somewhere and that is the leap of faith you guys make, that it just happened.

(1:21 Dawkins) "Well, a leap of faith, you don't actually need a leap of faith, you're the one who needs a leap of faith because ... the [requirement] is on you to say why you believe in something. There is an infinite number of Gods you could believe in. I take it you don't believe in Zeus or Apollo or Thor, you believe in presumably the Christian God, Jesus."

Commentary: O'Reilly's position here is now clarified. What he is suggesting is that it doesn't quite make much sense as to how intelligence and all the beauty of nature could have come into existence by sheer chance. Everything appears to have a designer behind it, and suggesting that the universe, as complex as it is, just simply came to be is not a convincing argument. He then posits that Dawkin's must have much larger faith to believe that the sophistication of the world came by sheer chance than by a designer. Now this point does hold logically and evidently true, after all, any engineer or software designer will tell you design and sophisticated systems cannot just simply come into existence without some form of intelligent intercessor there to formulate and establish the necessary coherence to make it function. There has yet to be any evidence of an intelligent system simply being established from sheer chance, it goes against the first two laws of thermodynamics to suggest as such.

Dawkin's response here suggests that O'Reilly requires proof of the existence of God to establish what he believes in. This is an uninformed argument, as Christianity possesses one of the most powerful backgrounds of legal-historical proof of all the faiths in existence. Suggesting there are not evidences of both the existence of Christ and his miracles is simply an irresponsible statement to make and it illustrates Dawkin's lack of historical understanding of the Christian faith.

(1:40 O'Reilly) "Jesus was a real guy, I could see him. You know I know what he did and so I am not positive that Jesus is God but I'm throwing in with Jesus rather than throwing in with you guys because you guys can't tell me how it all got here. You guys don't know."

(1:54 Dawkins) "We're working on it physicists are..."

(1:56 O'Reilly) "Well when you get it then maybe I'll listen"

(1:57 Dawkins) "Yes well, I mean if you look at the history of science over the centuries, the amount that's gained in knowledge each century is stupendous. In the beginning of the 21st century we don't know everything, we have to be humble, we have to in humility say that there is a lot we still don't know."

(2:12 O'Reilly) "You know, being humble is a Christian virtue."

(2:15 Dawkins) "Well, I suppose it is."

(2:17 O'Reilly) "Alright, when you guys figure it out come back here and tell me because until that time I'm sticking with Judeo-Christian philosophy and my religion of Roman Catholicism because it helps me as a person."

Commentary: This is one of the most revealing portions of the discussion between the two gentlemen. Dawkins had stated above " don't actually need a leap of faith, you're the one who needs a leap of faith because ... the [requirement] is on you to say why you believe in something. There is an infinite number of Gods you could believe in." As one can see, Dawkin's contradicted himself - on one hand he is saying that Christians must provide the evidences necessary to establish the validity of their faith in what they believe, on the other hand when confronted with the reality that science cannot answer such a profound question of the origins of the universe his response is simply "We are working on it." Well, if it is being worked on then until the evidences are found, belief in the idea of intelligent systems coming into existence by sheer chance without the evidences necessary to establish how it occurred requires a leap of faith.

Dawkins cannot in one hand demand that Christians provide evidences for what they believe in and on the other dodge the reality that science lacks the evidences necessary to defend what he believes in. Using his test of the validity of faith, his own standing on the origins of the universe requires just as much of a leap of faith as any other. Actually, given the strength of the legal-historical evidences of the Christian faith as well as the lack of any intelligent systems spawning from non-intelligence by sheer chance, it possibly requires more faith to believe Dawkin's position than the Christians.

(2:29 Dawkins) "Now that's different, if it helps you as a person that doesn't mean it's true."

(2:31 O'Reilly) "Well it's true for me, see I believe it."

(2:33 Dawkins) "You mean true for you is different from true for anyone else. How can something be true for you, something has either got to be true or not.

(2:40 O'Reilly) "No no, I can't prove to you that Jesus is God so that truth is mine and mine alone, but you can't prove to me that Jesus is not. So you have to stay in your little belief system."

(2:50 Dawkins) "You cannot prove that Zeus is not, you cannot prove that Apollo is not -"

Commentary: This was one of the most disappointing positions O'Reilly took in this entire debate. Dawkin's holds a much more valid argument, if truth is absolute then it must hold true to all people not just the individual. It is likely that O'Reilly simply wasn't prepared for this type of debate and intermixed an argument of 'perspectives' of truths with 'absolute' truths. When dealing with perspectives O'Reilly makes the point that he will likely not be able to convince Dawkin's that his position is correct - but convincing someone of the truth and the existence of absolute truth are two different things entirely.

The reality is that if O'Reilly embraces the Christian faith he must embrace that it is the absolute truth and that Jesus Christ is God. If Jesus Christ is really God then it cannot be true to only O'Reilly, it must be a universal truth that applies to all men. Truth cannot be relative, it must be absolute - and this is a position one ought to agree with Dawkin's on.

Dawkins again, however, discusses that there is no difference between the 'evidences' of Zeus and Jesus. This is a blatantly irresponsible argument - the legal-historical evidences of the existence of Christ and his works are so well documented that they hold more validity than many other historical documents. In fact, the New Testament was even used as an accurate historical perspective when looking into the History of the Roman Empire and many other A.D. historical documents. Archeologists use it as one of the primary tools in referencing historical contexts as well. Christianity is not a faith based upon no "evidences" and it possess quite a strong foothold in both philosophical and historical contexts.

(2:54 O'Reilly) "I saw Apollo man, and he was down there and he was not looking good. Now, we also differ in the sense that you feel that religion has been a bane... to civilization and I feel atheism has. I will point to the worst mass murderer in... modern times: Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Palpot, all confirmed atheists. All people who wanted to wipe out religion. Now I know you can point to the crusades and you can point to Al'qaeda right now. I mean it's there, theres no question but I say, I'm throwing in with the founding fathers of the United States [who] saw religion and spirituality as a moderating influence, as a good thing if people embrace the true tenants"

(3:35 Dawkins) "The Founding Fathers of the United States were secularists above all, some of them were religious, some of them were not but they were above all secularists who believed in keeping church and state separate."

(3:44 O'Reilly) "They had too because of the oppression in Europe."

(3:45 Dawkins) "... Precisely, I mean but - "

(3:48 O'Reilly) "Almost all of them, they all said a prayer before their deliberations. In their letters, and I have almost all their letters they all reference the Deity, our declaration of Independence references heavily but they saw it as a moderating influence because the federal government at that point couldn't control the country - "

(4:04 Dawkins) "Yeah."

Commentary: An interesting bias shows from both gentlemen during these few statements. It is clear that both want to illustrate that the founding fathers were bias in one direction or another so it can verify the position they are going to take on what they really intended for society. What one may find interesting is that the founding fathers consisted of both secularists and believers - but what O'Reilly says here is indeed true, that the majority of them did hold a belief in a Diety of some form or another.

However, the perspectives of the founding fathers is a debate that has transcended and existed since they found the United States - and it is a debate that will likely continue. It would have been more interesting to see the debate continue in the actual discussion of belief as opposed to disbelief in God.

The purpose of O'Reilly bringing up the position of the founding fathers was to illustrate the importance of religion in society and that the founding fathers agreed with him on this issue. He is taking a critical view to Dawkin's perspective that religion has been more of a hindrance on society than a benefit. As as honest opinion, the idea of all religion being harmful and detrimental to society both historically and modernly is not only a ridiculous notion, but one that barely even merits acknowledgment. The amount of lives transformed for the better through faith in Jesus Christ alone are astounding - to suggest religion as a whole is detrimental is an irresponsible and uninformed position to take.

(4:04 O'Reilly) "- and they said you know if people follow Jesus, then the country is gonna be better."

(4:09 Dawkins) "It may well be a moderating influence, as for Hitler and Stalin I mean, of course. Hiter by the way was a Roman Catholic."

(4:15 O'Reilly) "No he never was, he was raised in that home, but he rejected it early on."

Commentary: Hitler a Roman Catholic? It would do Dawkins some good to read a history book or at least obtain a basic understanding of the requirements to be a Catholic and a Christian. One could be raised "Catholic" and never ever practice the faith, go to Church or accept the truths of Christ - does that mean they are a Catholic or Christian? Not by the definition of course. If people are considered Christians by association and not by their practicing of the Christian faith or their actual proclamation that they believe in the lord Jesus Christ then one could pretty much label anyone, including Dawkins, a Christian if they so much as had a conversation or some other association with one.

(4:18 Dawkins) "We can dispute that.. Stalin was an atheist, no question... but, Stalin did the bad things that he did not because he was an atheist. I mean, Hitler and Stalin both had mustaches but we don't say it was their mustaches that made them evil.

Commentary: Comparing mustaches to a philosophy that drives a moral framework is both irresponsible and reflective of Dawkin's lack of understanding of how philosophy, morality and ethics correlate. O'Reilly also did a poor job with his illustration that Hitler and Mao were both atheists. The reason this is important is because the atrocities that were performed by Hitler and Mao can be 'justified' because they were atheists. If there is no absolute judge of right and wrong then the deeds Hitler and Mao committed can be morally justified. One cannot tell them they were being evil if there is no absolute good that they had violated.

However, contrast that with the 'Crusades'. Those who had committed the atrocities under the banner of Christianity did so violating the very laws and moral rules set forth by Jesus Christ. Through atheism, genocide can be justified because each person can establish their own laws of moral right and wrong, it needs only be justified by the person committing the acts - through belief in a God, right and wrong must first be established by God and the acts performed by individuals must be judged by God's standard. As a result, the Crusades were horrid, yes, but they were acted out against the laws of Jesus Christ. The holocaust, however, if there is no God and no absolute right and wrong can be justified because Hitler believed it to be justified.

Dawkins then makes the statement that Hitler and his kin were evil. Well, if they were evil then they must have violated some form of absolute good. If they violated some form of absolute good then a law of good and evil must exist. If a law of good and evil must exist then there must be a governor of that law, it cannot simply come from nowhere. If there is a governer of that law then as the moral lawgiver and ultimate judge of right and wrong said judge must take the form of God - of whom Dawkin's adamantly disbelieves in.

(4:30 O'Reilly) "I don't think they had any moral foundation, any of those guys -"

(4:33 Dawkins) "I don't either."

(4:34 O'Reilly) "I will say, your book is fascinating and congratulations on your success and thanks for coming in here."

Craig Chamberlin

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