Last weekend Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort debated some smug atheists over the existence of God. Kirk’s and Ray’s claim was, to paraphrase, that they could prove, 100%, scientifically, the existence of God, without invoking faith or the Bible. The atheists were to prove, not that God doesn’t exist, but that Kirk and Ray can’t prove otherwise. The debate took place on Saturday night and was taped to be streamed on abcnews.com the following Wednesday and Thursday, with select portions being televised on an episode of Nightline.
Here’s Slate on the subject:
First, I grew excited at this promise, then began to wonder why no theologian, philosopher, or sitcom star in recorded history had done it beforeâ€”Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, Tina Yothers, whoeverâ€”and realized I was in for a letdown. Comfort’s cadences were not even those of a preacher but of an infomercial host, and the God Squad had but three arguments on behalf of the big guy: All things have makers; the human conscience is evidence of a higher moral power; if you read the Gospel, then Christ will be revealed to you. For reasons too stupid to type, this was not an airtight case, and the atheists made quick work of it in tones of juvenile sarcasm.
They also threw in the first mover argument, which technically differs from the watchmaker argument. The content of the debate is of almost no interest, of course, as it closely parallels countless conversations that have taken place before it. But its being presented by ABC is significant, even unprecedented by recent standards of network television. Which isn’t to say that religion and God are never mentioned on TV, but that when they are, they are dismissed as irreconcilable, deeply personal things that don’t invite inspection beyond that of the effects they have on people’s behavior. They are approached as moral and cultural issues — never as metaphysical ones. And the idea that a large-ish portion of the American public might see people earnestly discussing the nature of infinity and causality, even if ineptly, only hours after Ugly Betty, fascinated me, despite my confidence that none of it would be illuminating, and that it was a ratings stunt.
I didn’t see the “distilled” version on Nightline, and the YouTube videos were removed before I could watch or save them, but I hear they did a pretty bad job with the material. At the moment, the entire debate is still available at the story’s ABC page, but, knowing that they probably won’t last, and with a tendency toward obsessive archivism and a disdain for ABC’s intractable flash player, I collected them myself. Altogether they’re about 97 minutes. If you’re short on time and have to be choosy, watch the “Mocking Darwin” segment, which contains the most lolz, and a guided, pictorial tour of an understanding of evolution so profoundly misinformed that even Lamarck is rolling his eyes. And he’s dead. As I watch this debate, I keep expecting Kirk to break character. Then I think, Ray must have some dangerously compromising photos of him.
We could go on, but why? Nightline felt no responsibility to take the issue seriously enough to include, say, a scientist or a theologian in the debate, so other than pointing out the dumbing down of the national conversation, we’ll just leave it at saying that we expect more of Nightline, and the American people deserve better than being forced to endure half-baked publicity stunts dressed up as news.
Thrown in at the end are some recent discussions Bill O’Reilly has had with Kirk Cameron and Richard Dawkins, in which Bill presents his own fucked version of an anthropic argument, expressing amazement that we could have “lucked out” by having such a habitable planet land on us, and plenty more frustratingly nebulous reasoning for your teeth-gnashing pleasure.
The videos were recorded using a years-old tool that I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. CamStudio records the activity in a selected portion of your screen, and spits out an .avi. Its current version is from 2003, but, thanks to its open-sourceness, is still being developed. It gives you the option to use different recording codecs and to tweak their parameters, but the only way I was able to get results was with enormous files, approaching 1GB for 15 minutes of 320×240 video. Which is a pain in the ass, but it works.