Wilson Punches Hitchens ~ BitterSweetLife

Friday, May 11, 2007

Wilson Punches Hitchens

The second round of the Douglas Wilson/Christopher Hitchens debate is up at Christianity Today. Wilson lands a blow:

So I am not saying you have to believe in the supernatural in order to live as a responsible citizen. I am saying you have to believe in the supernatural in order to be able to give a rational and coherent account of why you believe yourself obligated to live this way. In order to prove me wrong here, you must do more than employ words like "casuistry" or "evasions"—you simply need to provide that rational account. Given atheism, objective morality follows … how?

Highly recommended.

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Jamie said...

I read Wilson's book-length reply to Sam Harris (Letter From a Christian Citizen) last weekend, and I thought it was pretty good. Short, but hard-hitting (and funny too). That was the first in-depth exposure I'd had to Wilson, so I'm excited to read more of his stuff, including this debate.

Camille said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Camille said...

I read the part 1 and 2 of the debate on the CT website and I am mildly impressed with both of them, they seem to be well-matched. Hitchens, seems to have done some homework, and Wilson seems to be doing a great job of keeping his tone cordial and friendly. On the other hand, I get the impression that they are using similar words without figuring out what the other means by them. I read Hitchens, and what he says seems reasonable, and I read Wilson, and he seems reasonable, too. But their lines of reasoning don't actually appear to intersect. Of course, if they actually did intersect, maybe it would mean that they agree, which seems to be unlikely-- like two gentleman duelers dancing a tango. I'd love to see a debate where both participants are deeply interested in understanding where the other is coming from before they start the sloganeering.

My first exposure to Wilson was here and I was so turned off by his attitude that I carried a bit of prejudice into my reading of the debate. I do recall an article that Hitchens wrote ages ago, from Vanity Fair, where he unfairly criticizes Mother Teresa. Maybe I'd care more if the debaters were people I respected more.

Ariel said...

Hey Camille, I agree that the best debates occur when both people have encountered the opposing position sympathetically, grasped the fundamentals, and then moved to critique. (In reality, I'm not sure I've ever seen this happen, but that's another discussion.)

Given that, I would still rate the chances of Hitchens and Wilson actually agreeing "if they understood each other" at about -5%.

Hitchens strikes me as very intelligent but also sneering, and Richard Dawkins pretty much owns the whole sneering atheist act. I've already filled my quota.

I like Wilson's tone...he's not pulling punches, but I like the cordiality. Ultimately, he's probably a guy you love or hate. I don't have any major hang-ups with the article you linked. It's definitely not PC (and maybe I would have winced if I'd read it before getting married) but those questions are pertinent...and, as he mentions, they are pertinent "both ways."


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife