The Benefits of Debate
This is just some thoughts I’ve had after watching some youtube debates (specifically watching Hitchens and Dawkins, in two different videos, debate John Lennox). If you’re reading this, you likely know who Hitchens and Dawkins are, but perhaps not so much as to who Lennox is: he is a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, as well as having some other high honors, and is an Apologist.
One thing I notice, when criticism is leveled against religion in general, or christianity in particular, is that Lennox will reply with something similar to “I, too, disbelieve in that God.” I’ve seen that response in several other places and from many people. To a degree it is frustrating to have that brought back to you in a debate, because it smells of the No True Scotsman logical fallacy, though I don’t think it really is.
Instead, I’m beginning to think that facing some opposition from skeptics and atheists has refined modern belief in a positive light. Most modern, mainstream christians would tell you that if they heard a voice from the sky telling them to sacrifice their child, that they would seek psychiatric help rather than assume it was God and thus obey. This is often a defense against the claim that “faith is bad because it can lead you to kill your children because you hear voices in your head”. That may not be the best example, but I believe it serves the purpose.
So, as with most human endeavours, if we are unchallenged, it is easy to become lazy, sloppy, satisfied with mediocrity. However, when challenged in almost any way, we step up our game–make it (a product, a design, an argument) stronger, lighter, faster, cheaper…better. In this sense I feel that skeptics debating believers has forced the believers to really look at their beliefs and see what parts of their belief structure they accept, or what interpretations of their holy book they accept. Except with Bible Literalists (fundamentalist types), this generally forces the believer to accept a view of their belief system that conforms well to modern society and modern morals.
It does not, necessarily, make their faith any less, but I think it drives them further and further from any kind of Literalist interpretation. And that, to me, makes the world a better, safer place. Why? Because the bible tells us to kill witches. But in today’s “modern” “scientific” society, nobody takes it seriously, not least because very few people actually believe witches exist; thus apologetics are used, things are reinterpreted, and voila, no more Witch Hunts!
That is but one example.
Obviously, debate is good for all those involved, for poor arguments and poor reasoning is filtered out from both sides by a very Darwinian “survival of the fittest” mechanism.
That’s it. No real “point” I’m trying to make…just some observations.
Anybody want to debate it? 😉