Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Richard Dawkins vs Ben Stein Death Match

Usually when you see Richard Dawkins arguing with a person of faith the cards are stacked decidedly in his favor.

It's, perhaps, to our discredit that most people of faith in the modern world aren't trained as thinkers or in the art of discourse.  These people, armed only with their dogma, generally fall like plastic ducks at a shooting gallery before Dawkins.

Ben Stein is another matter though.  Trained as a lawyer he confronts Dawkins for his film "Expelled".

I admit this clip is heavily weighted in Stein's favor since he has the power to edit out anything showing Dawkins taking the upper hand, but it's still good to finally see someone who can turn the argument back on Dawkins who's grown accustom to always winning these confrontations.

I would love to see these two go at it without either side editing the results.  So far I haven't been able to find a recording of it though.

Stein here pulls out all the stops of good lawyering, including arriving late to Dawkins' "deposition" to set him on edge.  The rest of "Expelled" offers far less to support Stein's argument for the scientific exploration of intelligent design.

In this clip, Stein argues not for the existence of God (for which he has no proof), but against Dawkins' claim there is no God (for which there is also no proof).  On the surface this may seem like equal arguments, but Stein forces Dawkins to try and prove a negative, which is impossible.

For example: I can say there is an absolute vacuum inside this jar on my desk.  My only proof for this is that you cannot show there is any matter inside the jar. 

Dawkins' argument is similar.  He says there is no God inside my jar, and challenges me to prove that there is, knowing I cannot.  Positing that there is no God inside my jar because I can't prove there is only proves that I haven't the means of detecting God, not that my jar is empty.

His argument is something of a bluff.  He can only posit my jar is empty so long as I am unable to prove anything in it.  Intellectually we're at a standoff and can go no further.

For some people that's enough though.  For them, not being able to show something exists means it doesn't.

The fallacy is obvious though.  A dark room seems completely empty until you trip over the couch you didn't see because the room was dark.  Because you couldn't see anything in the room only proved it was dark, not that the room was empty.


  1. I love Philosophical discussions....particularly in the realm of the existence or not of the "imaginary friends in the sky" as Bill Maher has called them. And really... this forum (virtual worlds) may well be the perfect place to find enough of and audience not set in dogmatic stone. Kudoes to you!

  2. I have to say boyd the O'Reilly interview is worth watching he really nails him..... not!

  3. I've never seen anybody nail Dawkins, but it's not the slam-dunk he's used to.


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