Russell and Duenes

The Perfect Technique for Winning Every Argument

with 3 comments

The fact that God gives good gifts to His creatures knowing they will use them against Him is truly astounding. An example of this is seen in the atheist author Christopher Hitchens, who is currently fighting cancer and is being stubborn to the end. I was made aware of this by Doug Wilson, author of the creatively named Blog & Mablog.

Mr. Hitchens has clearly been given a writing gift, but unfortunately has used it to rage against God and religion. In spite of this fact he has no lack of “religious” friends, many of whom are praying for him during this time, a fact that seems to bother Mr. Hitchens enough that he wrote about it in Vanity Fair.

My main point here is not to discuss Mr. Hitchens’ cancer, but rather to focus on a rhetorical technique he uses in his article while making a comment about evolution. He mentions many different religious “leaders” of different faiths and finally comes to Dr. Francis Collins, a Christian he genuinely respects. Dr. Collins has written a book, The Language of God, which apparently tries to “make science compatible with religion”. (I have not read the book, just repeating Mr. Hitchens description.)  About the book Mr. Hitchens says the following,

“(This small volume contains an admirably terse chapter informing fundamentalists that the argument about evolution is over, mainly because there is no argument.)”

This comment is almost an after-thought in his first-person feature article. It is simply a weak jab at “fundamentalists”, whom he clearly dislikes and disrespects.

The comment is a brilliantly evil (think Austin Powers) arguing technique. How wonderful that all I have to do to close an argument is to find an “expert” and say that he says there is no argument.

Let’s try this…

Rick Warren is the pastor of a mega-church that filled Angels’ Stadium for two Easter services. He says the argument about whether there is a God is over, mainly because there is no argument. [Note: I just made the second sentence up, but Dr. Warren would probably say it if he knew that it would solve the whole debate on God and atheism, of course that is if there were a debate which there is not because Rick said there is not (or will say it soon).]

Pick a creation scientist… He says the argument about creation is over, mainly because there is no argument.

This technique would also work great for teenagers in trying to convince their parents of whatever they want…

“Mom and dad, I just wanted to let you know that the argument as to whether I’m going out on Friday is over, mainly because there is no argument.”

I can think of so many great uses of this technique. I’m sure if I asked you to add your own, we could fill up the comment section of this blog for miles.

But, of course, this technique is not designed to answer anything but rather to force the other side to kowtow. Instead of feeling disrespected, we “should” understand that the argument/dialogue/conversation we thought we were having was decided when we left the room to get coffee, and we need to get with the program.

As an atheist, Mr. Hitchens’ disrespect is not a surprise. He cannot be expected to have an ethic of turn to the other cheek or love of enemies. But as followers of Jesus we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. May we respect our opponents, address the issues, and repent when we fall short of this. May those who are opposed to us be treated in such a loving way that they find that being a Christian’s enemy is, in fact, a good place to be.

I agree with Doug Wilson that we should be praying for Mr. Hitchens in spite of his wishes. But let’s not fall for his rhetorical techniques or use them, for that matter.

How about you… Have you seen other techniques used that are designed to avoid dealing with the issues? Have I used any above?

-DD (This has been a guest post by Duke Dillard, who is currently living in Turkey. You can follow Duke’s Twitter posts, mainly links to news about honor killings and his favorite blogs, at @DashDill.)


Written by Michael Duenes

September 14, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Posted in Guest, Reflections

3 Responses

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  1. 1. It could be that he simply sees no data on the other side. In that case, he means there is “no argument” in the same way that I have “no argument” with you about whether my leg hurts. You have no data with which to contest the very notion.

    2. It could also be that there is “no argument” because he sees the argument as a scientific one. If one defines ‘science’ as “a method of experimentation used to theorize and/or validate naturalistic causes to phenomena,” then, by definition, creation science is not science because it poses a supernatural force (even if logically so). And, because it is not science, there is “no [scientific] argument.”

    I realize that, if one thinks there is evidence for creation science, the first point might be appealing to Hitchens’ ignorance and using it to defend him. I also realize that the second one is using a specific definition of science (I gleaned it from the oxford dictionary). But, as much as I find revolting Hitchens’ inane pseudoscience and pseudophilosophy, I can’t help but assume the best of his words. And, assuming the best, I tend to agree with his point.

    Joshua House

    September 15, 2010 at 7:48 am

    • Dear Joshua,
      Please forgive me for taking so long to reply to your thoughtful comment. I wish we could be in the same room talking about these things; I’m sure it would be enjoyable.
      As I understand your comment, your main point is that we should “assume the best” of Mr. Hitchens. I understand your point, but your other comments indicating that his reasoning is bogus makes clear that he is wrong and therefore, even if sincere, he should not use this kind of language to try and make a point.
      Besides this, I have two reasons for not assuming the best of him in this case…
      1. His article has nothing to do with evolution. Throwing in this parenthetical comment does not fit with what he is writing. Take it out and the article loses none of its meaning and intention. I find it hard to believe that he is trying to help “misguided fundamentalists” out of the kindness of his heart.
      2. The language he uses, a word like “informing”, comes across as arrogant. He could have said something like, “…making the case to those fundamentalists…” To me the difference is tangible.
      Your comment makes this clear. You are disagreeing with me, but I in no way feel demeaned in your comment. You do not make any unnecessary jibes.
      In the end however, I do not desire to argue back and forth. I recognize that I do not know Mr. Hitchens personally and have not read much of his writing. I do understand that he is British, and perhaps I am inferring attitudes that he is not implying due to cultural differences. I am fine with being gracious in this case.
      Even with this I still think that we should not deal with those with whom we disagree in the manner Mr. Hitchens does.


      September 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm

      • Well said.

        Joshua House

        September 19, 2010 at 4:36 pm

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