Re: [asa] D'Souza vs. Hitchens - Surrending the debate epistemologically by subjecting revealed knowledge to science

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Sun Oct 28 2007 - 11:14:44 EDT

This debate occurred last Monday and was aired on C-SPAN2 last night. I happened to see it while searching for the Red Sox game. I ended up seeing the debate and missing the start of the Red Sox game. Maybe I have to work on my priorities.
You can see and hear the debate in its entirety at
The section to which Groothius objects is at 1 hr 26 minutes. A couple of minutes later, Hitchens repeats his bashing of Francis Collins but Dinesh doesn't bite on that one.

My own reaction to this was quite different from Groothius but I may have misunderstood both of them. It seemed to me that D'Souza was drawing a distinction between empirical knowledge and faith-based knowledge. On this point, I am very concerned about Groothuis's position. He seems to feel that our knowledge/belief in God needs to be based on empirical knowledge. Isn't this going in the wrong direction? He may be concerned that D'Souza has sold the farm but I'm concerned that Groothius has handed the scepter to scientism, conceding that scientific knowledge is the only legitimate form of knowledge.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: John Walley
  Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2007 3:50 AM
  Subject: [asa] D'Souza vs. Hitchens - Surrending the debate epistemologically by subjecting revealed knowledge to science

  Below is an excerpt of a blog posting of a review of a recent debate between Dinesh D'Souza and Christopher Hitchens at King's College by philosopher and professor Douglas Groothuis.

  I am curious to get any comments from the list on his observations because he charges Dinesh with selling the farm "epistemologically and apologetically" because he concedes faith beliefs are not valid knowledge and knowledge can only be what is empirically proven. This is very similar to the recent discussion on the philosophical foundation from Rom. 20 of God having revealed real knowledge (and not just faith) in his creation. And in fact from this scripture that says that those that reject this knowledge are "without excuse", it is clear God considers this revealed knowledge to be valid and binding and manifest to all and not some subjective idea that is subject to interpretation or the approval of science.

  I think Groothius may have articulated it here better than I but I think we are in agreement that as soon as we surrender this revealed "knowledge" as not being valid and instead replacing it with only "science" then we have already lost the debate. And this does appear to be the strategy of atheists and therefore the danger in siding with them too strongly in their marginalizing the arguments from ID.



  Debate: Christianity and Atheism
  Dinesh D'Souza (author of What's So Great About Christianity) and Christopher Hitchens (author of God is Not Great) recently debated at King's College. I will not give a point by point commentary, but limit myself to three comments, the first of which is the most important.

  1. At 1.26 D'Souza completely sells the farm epistemologically and apologetically--despite the many fine points he made throughout the debate. He claims that his religious belief is not knowledge. He does not know it to be true; he only believes it. In so doing, he seems to restrict knowledge to what is empirically verifiable. But there is no reason to do. We know many things apart from empirical evidence (such as basic moral claims). Moreover, we can infer the existence the supernatural from the natural (the project of natural theology; see In Defense of Natural Theology, which I co-edited and to which I contributed a chapter.) D'Souza goes on to say that while he leaps toward God, Hitchens leaps toward atheism. I groaned loudly to myself when I heard it (although my wife probably heard me). Many in the crowd applauded.

  This is tragic. We must enter the public square making knowledge claims, not mere faith claims that are allowable, just as allowable as theism or some other worldview. We need to try to out argue the opposition by marshalling the strongest possible arguments for Christianity and against atheism. In fact, D'Souza gave some strong arguments not adequately rebutted by Hitchens by the time he sold the farm. There was no need to do so; and in so doing, he sets a terrible example for Christian persuasion in the public realm (despite the virtues he exhibited in the debate).

  2. The form of the debate was poor. Neither speaker has enough time for opening comments or for rebuttal. The supposed "cross examination" devolved into haranguing at time, with the moderator (Marvin O'laski) failing to intervene to keep order. Serious debates should have strict rules.

  3. Both speakers issued cheap shots by insulting the other speaker in ways not required by their arguments. This may get applause, but makes no logical point.

  Apparently, D'Souza has come to a more mature Christian conviction recently. He is not known as a philosopher, but as a social critic and political writer. I never detected an overt Christian worldview in the several books I've read by him over the years. At that crucial time of 1:26 this weakness showed. I have not yet finished his book, however. Perhaps I'll say more then.

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Received on Sun Oct 28 11:16:07 2007

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