75 of 83 people found the following review helpful
Provocative and Insightful: A great docudrama,
This review is from: COLLISION: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson (DVD)
Last week my wife and I were able to view the film Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson. As expected, we found both Hitchens and Wilson to be witty and intelligent, even charming. The movie is put together well, giving the viewer the highlights of a series of debates that Hitchens and Wilson held over the last year immediately after co-publishing Is Christianity Good for the World?.
Somewhat surprisingly to me, Hitchens' main arguments are that religion is not necessary for morality (in fact, he says, it degrades it, as it is more commendable to love one's neighbor in the absence of divine instruction rather than because of God's commandment) and that the doctrine of vicarious substitution is perverse and wicked (because of the idea that one person, an innocent person, can bear the blame for another). As expected, Hitchens repeatedly mentions the Old Testament slaughtering of whole nation-states (men, women, and children).
Wilson presses hard on the lack of any basis for morality in Hitchens' atheistic worldview. His accusation is not that Hitchens is himself overtly immoral but that Hitchens has no basis for morality. Thus Hitchens, in strenuously claiming certainty, precisely about ethical matters, is borrowing Christian concepts while denying the Christian framework which validates those concepts.
All in all, a great film. Just a teaser: The interaction at the end is very interesting and surprising. Watch the movie, and then check out this 15-minute conversation that John Piper and Doug Wilson had about it.
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Showing 1-10 of 28 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 28, 2009 1:27:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2009 1:30:09 PM PDT
"Wilson presses hard on the lack of any basis for morality in Hitchens' atheistic worldview. His accusation is not that Hitchens is himself overtly immoral but that Hitchens has no basis for morality. Thus Hitchens, in strenuously claiming certainty, precisely about ethical matters, is borrowing Christian concepts while denying the Christian framework which validates those concepts."
It bothers me that none of the media-savvy public intellectuals recently making the case for atheism seem to be familiar with Marc Hauser's work or the immense amount of research and interest lately into the neuroscientific basis of morality. Nevermind how offensive it is to non-Christians and indeed all nonbelievers to assert that morality owes its origin to Christian teaching, there is a burgeoning, active, exciting field of research into how elementary morality is "hard-wired" into our brains the same way language is, which is to say that it has an evolutionary basis and rationale. Robert Trivers is another researcher who has contributed hugely to the scientific examination of these phenomena. Check out Hauser's book "Moral Minds" for a mind-blowing, illuminating read.
Also thanks for your review! Very much looking forward to seeing this film.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2009 2:13:07 PM PDT
J. Owen says:
Thanks for the mention of Hauser. He doesn't come up in the debate, but I think the concept gets addressed. For the evolutionist, strictly, nothing is "hard-wired" because that means someone hard-wired it. Evolution is chance process of random mutations, and there is nothing to say that morality doesn't evolve over time, whatever the current "hard-wiring" may be. Wilson makes this argument, more or less. Hitchens appeals over and over to he "innate" existence of human morality and solidarity, but of course, he also admits an atheist can be moral or immoral and neither is inconsistent with his atheism.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2009 3:20:31 AM PST
JO: nothing is "hard-wired" because that means someone hard-wired it.
AW: Or some_thing_ ie natural selection.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2009 9:15:46 AM PST
J. Owen says:
Except by definition natural selection takes place in the midst of a process of random mutation. What is "hard-wired" one millennium is gone the next. If evolution means anything, it means constant change, and no morality or physicality is exempt.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2009 10:28:35 PM PST
"Evolution is a chance process of random mutations.." Evolution is the complete opposite of chance! Natural selection is NOT a chance process. You fail.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2009 9:21:26 AM PST
Hmm, so then by biological processes the entire human race arrives at the same moral code which is globally applicable? Over six billion people who've been separated by geography for millennia? Something tells me you haven't traveled much. I can go to the rainforest's of Indonesia and expect that a native there would know that it is immoral and unacceptable to kill me? Actually, there are some there who are more likely to put an arrow through my gut upon first sight. Is he wrong to do so? Am I wrong to expect him not to? If we bring that native to the West and plant him in some metropolis, can we then expect him to respect our moral code by his own inherent understanding, with or without instruction? (Why should we impose ourselves on him?) If he breaks it can we hold him responsible? By whose code? By whose morality? Is the Indonesian bushman defective in his evolutionary development? Is he racially inferior? Careful! You might just have to make a judgement upon a morality that you have come to embrace, that isn't universal and is based on your own subjective experiences...and thereby negate its authority entirely. What is it about our biological wiring that makes any system of morality binding? People have created their own morality within the criminal subculture, it is second nature to them, so how are we to judge? Francis Schaeffer would posit that man has value because God gave him value and God also has the freedom and right to remove that value, for we are his creation. He holds us to respect one another because we are created, here for his purposes, not to inflict our wills on one another by force, because we are not God. You might be interested to read "How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture." Your model of the biological god would be on par with that of the Roman Pantheon as illustrated by Schaeffer as a wobbly foundation on which to base any civilization.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2009 10:00:55 AM PST
Then what governs it?? What prodded life into existence in the first place?? What gave any organism the desire to propagate and survive? Why select at all? Why adapt? Why did the first organism not simply sit there and die alone? The failing of the theory of natural selection is that it assumes that survival and propagation is inherent to life, but why would that be? The whole of science has to do with the observation on why one entity acts on another, there is no explanation for motive in natural selection, let alone morals.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2009 10:04:49 AM PST
AW: You're attributing moral agency to nature, nature has no moral agency, no moral inclination, both activities that we would attribute good and bad to occur in nature, quite naturally. The idea that nature then gives us the inclination to judge between them is nonsense. The morality of nature would be more akin to that of Aleister Crowley: "Do what thou wilt, that is the whole Law.". And that is just what nature does, lions eat whatever they like, whatever they can overpower, insects and birds and fish do the same, they have no reason to pause in killing another, why do we? There is nothing binding about a natural, materialist morality. Nothing at all.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2009 3:12:31 PM PST
JM: Why did the first organism not simply sit there and die alone?
AW: Because natural selection has embedded that way of thinking into the organism as it evolved.
JM: The failing of the theory of natural selection is that it assumes that survival and propagation is inherent to life, but why would that be?
AW: Because if it were not, then that life would have died out, and thus organisms are removed if they have or are influenced by inclinations to not value life.
JM: there is no explanation for motive in natural selection, let alone morals.
AW: Natural selection does not have motivation, it is not conscious. It is just the name we give to the concept that things which are less likely to survive will not propagate, and things which are more likely to survive will.
JM: You're attributing moral agency to nature
AW: I am attributing moral agency to the mind. This is where it exists, without the subjective interpretation of the mind, morality disappears. All morality is relative, most morality exists because it is useful. Children are not brought into the world thinking it is wrong to steal, this is learned behaviour. If it does not take, the rest of us remove that person from the society by placing them in prison, and then teach our children the desired behaviour.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 11, 2009 2:57:22 PM PST
Victor Ferreira says:
Well said. They always do.