Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Thursday, January 31, 2008

    Hitchen's Logical Blunders

    Jay Richards and Christopher Hitchens recently debated "intelligent design" at Stanford. Here is a sample of the exchange.

    Hitchens then requested the chance to ask Richards a question.

    “Do you believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin?” he asked when Richards assented. “Do you believe he was resurrected from the dead?”

    Richards said that he did.

    “I rest my case,” said Hitchens. “This is an honest guy, who has just made it very clear [that] science has nothing to do with his world view.”

    Who can point out the logical error(s) here?


    swordbearer said...

    1. He falsely presupposes faith and science are opposed to one another. He falsely presupposes that faith and reason are opposed to one another. (We hear this all the time as "faith VS. reason".

    2. He then uses circular reasoning to suggest that since science and faith are opposed to each other, then "science has nothing to do with one's worldview" if one exrcises faith and trusts in the substance of the faith.

    3. One can presume that Hitchens is arguing the impossibility of a virgin birth and the resurrection. This clearly is unsubstantiated and impossible to prove given the limitations of science (especially in regard to the metaphysical) unless one uses circular reasoning and presupposes a secular worldview.
    Not only this specific argument, but the collective position of today's atheist leaders to not only take this position but assume it's merit ... shows their arrogance, ignorance, and irrational thinking. David Robertson put it well in his letter when he said: "Given that the subject you are so vehement about is the whole question of supernaturalism and whether there is a God or not, do you not think it is kind of loading the dice to only discuss with those who already share your presuppositions?"

    Puritan Lad said...

    I would add, among many others, Non Sequitur. What do Richards's views on the virgin birth or the resurrection have to do with intelligent design, or for that matter, Science as the basis for his worldview?

    Now if Hitchens were to scientifically prove that the virgin birth or the resurrection were false, his argument may have some merit.

    Since this was supposed to be a scientific debate, I'll grant Hitchens a pass concerning the problems of induction in an atheist worldview. It is Hitchens argument, however, that was not scientific.

    swordbearer said...

    Puritan Lad,

    1. I concur with your assessment! We're in agreement. It's a huge (logically fallacious) jump from one's siding with faith to assuming science has indisputably proven the impossibility of the virgin birth and resurrection.

    You state: "Now if Hitchens were to scientifically prove that the virgin birth or the resurrection were false, his argument may have some merit." ... This he cannot do unless he either (1) disproves the existence of God, or (2) limits the power and works of God to that of man.

    ncultra said...

    Hitchen's assumes that the state of scientific knowledge is static. i.e., that science will never be able to resurrect a dead person, that science will never enable a virgin to concieve a child. (Hmm, I think science already proved that can happen...).

    And further, Hitchen's assumes that a scientist who leaves questions open in hope that scientific knowledge will progress is not a scientist. Fortunately actual science works on the (faith?) principle that new discovery will occur, and that new learning is not only possible but is the overall goal of science. Can you imagine if science did not hold out the hope of new knowledge? All scientific research is based on the hope that experimentation will prove a hypothesis. And the hypothesis is a belief in something that is not yet proved scientifically.

    Therefore Hitchens in resting his case discounts science itself.

    Religious faith is different from science because knowledge comes through spiritual means. But just as Hitchens is wrong that scientific knowledge is static, so he too is wrong that a scientist will only accumulate knowledge through science and empiricism. And he is wrong that one who believes things not proved is not a scientist.