Bill O’Reilly vs. Richard Dawkins: O’Reilly Shows Why He’s a Wedge, The Simplest of Tools
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 14, 2009
Bill O’Reilly is a wedge, the simplest of the tools. Here’s why…
A video from a FOX News interview of Bill O’Reilly & Dr. Richard Dawkins discussing evolutionary science, God, and religious belief is now making the rounds on the Internet, and I wanted to share both it and my thoughts on it here. First off, here’s the video…
In addition, here’s the full transcript of the obviously edited video (just watch it closely and you can catch the numerous cuts which probably left out most of Dawkins’ best arguments), and a careful read will expose a number of flaws in O’Reilly’s muddled thinking.
Allow me to point out just a few of the biggest loser arguments made by O’Reilly in this exchange:
1. Argument from Ignorance: Essentially, O’Reilly is arguing from ignorance – in this case using the famous “god-of-the-gaps” logical fallacy – when he states that because science hasn’t yet produced an answer on the question of life’s origins then Christianity must be correct…
O’REILLY: Tell me where I’m going wrong here. I believe in creative design. I believe in evolution, but I think it was overseen by a higher power, because as we just stated and you acknowledged, you guys still haven’t figured out how it all began.
Btw, I really like how O’Reilly tries to slip that phrasing in there… creative design. It’s not intelligent design – which has become synonymous with creationism – it’s now creative design. Makes me think that O’Reilly’s hypothetical god is like some kind of basket-weaver or something similarly silly. I might also point out that one could just as easily use this kind of argument to justify that space aliens or a Flying Spaghetti Monster made the universe via creative design 🙂
2. False Dichotomy: O’Reilly very clearly implies through his arguments that this is a question of science versus God, specifically Christianity. Of course, the fact that he has Dawkins, who is a staunch atheist, on the show plays into this false dichotomy. O’Reilly completely neglects to mention that numerous religious scientists, including evangelical Christian Dr. Francis Collins, have come out publicly and stated quite clearly that intelligent – oops, I mean creative – design, or creationism, is a bunch of pseudoscientific baloney.
The folks at FOX were cutting out parts of the interview, but they missed a piece, because Dawkins (however briefly) did indeed catch O’Reilly on this particular point:
DAWKINS: Why would you muddle up the question of giving you a moral compass for life, which is important, with the other question, which is explaining the nature of the world, the nature of life, the nature of the universe? That’s what science is about.
Bottom line: you can both accept modern evolutionary science and garner specific moral teachings from your religion (or non-religion, for that matter). The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, as O’Reilly would have the viewer believe.
3. Moving the Goalposts: Notice how O’Reilly not-so-cleverly attempts to change the conditions of “success” on Dawkins in the interview…
O’REILLY: I’m throwing in with Jesus rather than be thrown in with you guys, because you guys can’t tell me how it all got here. You guys don’t know.
RICHARD DAWKINS, AUTHOR, “THE GOD DELUSION”: We’re working on it. Physicists…
O’REILLY: When you get it, then maybe I’ll listen.
DAWKINS: Well, if you look at the history of science over the centuries, the amount that’s gained in knowledge each century is stupendous. In the beginning of the 21st century, we don’t know everything.
O’REILLY: All right. When you guys figure it out, then you come back here and tell me, because until that time I’m sticking with Judeo-Christian philosophy.
Notice that O’Reilly keeps on saying, “When you guys get it, I’ll listen” but he never – on purpose, I think – states exactly what “it” is. Many creationists & pseudoscientists perform the same logically fallacious sleight-of-hand when attempting to cast doubt upon science – they state that they’ll accept the evidence that science presents, yet they never tell what the nature of that evidence may be. This allows them to use a tactic called moving the goalposts of the argument, which means that when evidence challenging their beliefs actually is presented to them they can deny the evidence or simply state that “it’s not enough”. And when more evidence is presented, they simply move the goalposts again, and so on…
4. Present “All” Views: Another trick that O’Reilly pulls out of the creationist hat is that old standby, present “all” views…
O’REILLY: No. You present in the science classroom all the alternatives that are legitimate. Now, Adam and Eve, you don’t have to do that, all right. That’s for the Biblical portion of a theology class. But, as I said, there are more believers than nonbelievers, and that should be presented. I’ll give you the last word.
This is an argument designed to appeal to the notion of fairness inherent in most people in the Western democracies. In our society, it seems just plain unfair to not allow all sides of a debate to present their point of view, but this particular argument is easily countered. Note that when discussing science, one must abide by very specific rules – such as following the scientific method and being able to test & potentially falsify your ideas. However, the O’Reillys of the world would much rather circumvent the requirements of science yet still call their religious ideology science, which is unfairly stacking the deck in their favor.
In addition, another thing to note is that when this argument is presented, it is always presented in the context of a specific religious belief vs. evolution – in this case O’Reilly’s view of Christianity vs. evolution. If they truly do mean teach “all” alternative views, then why don’t they ever advocate for things like Raelianism, $cientology, or Islamic creationism? The point here is that they’re outright hypocrites, because they whine and moan about “fairness” and teaching “all” views when in reality all they wish to do is stack the deck and give disproportionate time to presenting their personal religious point of view.
5. Blatant Anti-Scientific Stance: In one section of the interview, O’Reilly stoops pretty low claiming that when Dawkins argues against allowing blatantly religious views into science classrooms he is taking a fascist stance. O’Reilly actually equates defending the teaching of science with fascism!
O’REILLY: Yes, for you to say you cannot, in a public school classroom, a science classroom, talk about brilliant men, and I know brilliant, smarter than you, who do believe in a higher power, who do believe that there was an overseer of the universe, and you insist you can’t even mention it, that is fascism, sir.
What a douchebag. This is clearly an attempt to make an ad hominem attack on anyone who, like Dawkins, opposes the teaching of religious ideology or pseudoscientific tripe masquerading as science. It is an extremely slimy and weaseling way of Godwinning the discussion by, in a roundabout way, of implying that your opponent is a Nazi.
I’ve seen this kind of argumentation before when actor Ben Stein made similar arguments and stated that “Science leads you to killing people” in the context of the Holocaust…
Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.Crouch: That’s right.
Stein: …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.
Crouch: Good word, good word.
Of course, the irony here is that O’Reilly’s career and lifestyle are wholly dependent upon the very science that he so disparages. I don’t recall any Bible stories talking about television, radio waves, or the Internet, do you? Last I saw in the history books, it took good old fashioned science to come up with those things 😉
This entry was posted on October 14, 2009 at 4:21 am and is filed under creationism. Tagged: aliens, atheism, atheist, Ben Stein, Bill O'Reilly, Christianity, creationism, creative design, evolution, fascism, flying spaghetti monster, Fox News, FSM, God, Godwin, ID, intelligent design, Islam, Nazi, O'Reilly Factor, Rael, Raelian, religion, Richard Dawkins, science, Scientology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.