Monday, April 23, 2007

O'Reilly vs Dawkins

I know, I know, this reads like "Bambi vs Godzilla". But hey, Bambi was on his own turf, ready to turn off that mike if Godzilla got too fiery on the set. So I tuned in with restrained enthusiasm to Bill O'Reilly's conversation with Richard Dawkins.

I wasn't encouraged when O'Reilly couldn't quite pronounce "agnosticism". It got worse when O'Reilly's entire argument for Christianity was "you can't prove Jesus wasn't God", to which Dawkins easily responded that O'Reilly couldn't disprove Zeus or Apollo. O'Reilly's brilliant retort? Something sarcastic along the lines of "I just saw Apollo, he doesn't look too good".

That gave me my favorite moment of the discussion. Dawkins just leaned back and gave O'Reilly a classic "OK, you're not even serious about trying to defend your position" smirk.

O'Reilly also fell back on the "why are we here?" question, and of course declared science ignorant. It amazes me that someone can live as long as O'Reilly has, see us go to the moon, discover nuclear power, create computers, clone a sheep, cure so many diseases, and all of the other advancements of science, and still think "Aw, those dumb scientists don't know anything".

Obviously O'Reilly hasn't been paying much attention to history. He trotted out the lame argument that Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao were atheists, as if somehow the existence of evil people who share your position makes your position wrong. They were all male too, does that make men evil or wrong? The position also doesn't follow logically when one looks at what these men actually believed and did. Hitler was a Catholic to the end, and often spoke of doing God's work. The others were atheists, but what gave them the means to do the evil they did was a pseudoreligious state, or virtual lack of one in Pol Pot's case. In short, they made themselves into gods, making it a very strange atheism.

It was a lame effort from O'Reilly for sure. I don't watch O'Reilly regularly, but I found this performance very similar to his interview with Colbert. There too, O'Reilly put up the very lamest of arguments, and resorted to poor jokes when they were demolished. It was as if he knew he could not hope to win a fair fight with either man, and so tried to hide that fact under levity. It seemed pained and ineffective, and similar to what I've seen Tucker Carlson do as well to a lesser extent. It would be nice to see these guys address atheism seriously for a change. It is telling that O'Reilly spent considerably more time talking about Alec Baldwin's parental rant than he did talking to Dawkins. Will someone please tell O'Reilly he is only funny when he isn't trying to be?

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