O'Reilly vs. Dawkins
I was a little disappointed to watch O'Reilly debate atheism with Richard Dawkins. O'Reilly's entire argument rested upon "throwing in with Jesus" (which is similar to the fallacious argument called Pascal's Wager). Bill's first argument makes Richard smile when he implies a magic-man must exist because "the tides come in the tides go out, the sun go up the sun go down." This is known as the argument from design that's been refuted over and over by philosophers and scientists. Soon after Bill concedes the fact that science explains "the 'physiology of it' if you will [e.g. the earth's rotation round the sun];" after all he must know that we no longer say "Thor thundered" to explain lightning. But O'Reilly clings to the God of the Gaps fallacy by saying, "it had to come from somewhere," and "that's the leap of faith that you guys make that it just happened." Saying scientists think the Big Bang just happened is a Straw Man fallacy. Saying it had to come from "somewhere" is also a false analogy. Time and space originated with the Big Bang so what happened before the origination of time and space is a nonquestion, like asking what is north of the North Pole. O'Reilly didn't mention the First Cause Argument but it is implied in his faulty reasoning. If everything must have a cause or has to come from somewhere what caused his deity? Positing a deity to answer how matter, force, and energy originated in the Big Bang merely begs the question, where did his deity come from, how did he get there? What was he doing before he created time and space? It's also the fallacy of an appeal to ignorance when he says you can't explain the origination of the Big Bang just yet therefore Jesus did it; that just doesn't follow. Why not say Allah or Brahman did it? Or a wholly natural explanation rather than a supernatural one?
This video clip here shows the silliness of O'Reilly's arguments.
When Dawkins lays the burden of proof on O'Reilly to prove his god, and why should we believe in his book's character rather than the thousands of other gods he could use to plug his gap in knowledge regarding the origination of the universe, Bill appeals to Jesus "as a real guy." First, historians are divided on whether or not we can be sure if there was a real Jesus. Second, O'Reilly admits he isn't "positive Jesus is God," that it's true for him alone, which is an appeal to emotion, another fallacy. Hindu's "throw in" with Vishnu and Muslim's "throw in" with Allah.
O'Reilly then goes back to scientists can't explain how everything got here; again this is an appeal to ignorance. When Dawkins says that scientists are working on it implying we may soon have an answer to the gap Bill is plugging with his deity, O'Reilly's leans back and his body posture appears to convey a boyish embarrassment as if he is leaning back to miss being further punched with logic, and says smugly, "well when you get it then maybe I'll listen." It looks as if Mr. O has just caught a right hook to the jaw, now stunned, he leans back and relents his whole case is founded on nothing and he will become a nontheist as soon as that gap is filled. Dawkins then pummels him with the history of science and how being humble and admitting we can't know everything is the key to discovering truth.
O'Reilly is up against the ropes now so he counters with a Red Herring fallacy saying, "you know humility is a Christian virtue," which was irrelevant to the topic. Bill then reiterates his appeal to the God of the Gaps argument and says when scientists figure it out to let him know but until then he would appeal to ignorance and stick with biblical Christianity. What if centuries ago a believer in Thor had said to the scientists of his day that when they can figure out what causes lightning he would give up his Thor-belief but until then he was throwing in with Thor as an explanation for why it thunders?
O'Reilly then says he is Christian because it helps him as a person. This means nothing since Islam, Buddhism, and Mormonism can help a person, which says nothing about the truthfulness of these religions. Is Bill saying he wouldn't be a good person without religion? Bill then says Catholicism (belief that Jesus is God) is true for him. Wait, didn't Bill say earlier he's not positive Jesus is God? Dawkins will have nothing of this "it's true for me subjectively" and argues for an objective epistemology to distinguish truth from falsehood. O'Reilly dodges this question and says "no, no, I can't prove to you that Jesus is God, so that truth is mine and mine alone, and you can't prove that Jesus is not [God]." This is the fallacy of shifting the burden of proof (refusing to back up your assertions) and a classic fallacy of an appeal to ignorance: like saying no one has conclusively proven that unicorns or the Hindu gods don't exist, so they must! It would be like a psych patient saying to the psychiatrist, "you can't prove that I'm not Jesus so why should I take this medication?" Dawkins says to O'Reilly, "you can't prove that Zeus is not [God]..." and if you listen carefully you can hear Bill sniffing in a large breath of air loudly as if he just took a punch to the stomach as Dawkins continues "you can't prove that Apollo is not [God]." At which point O'Reilly commits another beautifully orchestrated Red Herring saying, "We saw Apollo man, he's down there and he's not looking good." Bill knows he got hammered so he ignores the point by shifting focus with a silly joke.
It is strange to hear O'Reilly argue that Jesus is God since he rejects a literal interpretation of the Old Testament. We learned this when he was arguing with an Evangelical Christian, see here. So if Jesus is God, which God? Allah or Yahweh? If Jesus is Yahweh (the god of the O.T.) how does he deal with Jesus being the god that commits the acts contained in the O.T. that O'Reilly finds repugnant?
At this point O'Reilly erringly lumps Hitler in with Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, as an atheist when he clearly wasn't. Hitler was neither an atheist nor a traditional Christian, but perhaps a weird version of a Catholic. O'Reilly then invokes the Founding Fathers of the U.S.A, especially Thomas Jefferson. But Jefferson rejected biblical Christianity and was a Deist not a theist! When Dawkins makes the point that Stalin did what he did not because he was an atheist, O'Reilly laughs off his point. O'Reilly is committing the fallacy of Guilt by Association, as Dawkin's points out it would be like saying that since Hitler had a mustache therefore mustaches make people evil. Since O'Reilly invokes the Declaration of Independence isn't he aware that the author, Thomas Jefferson, once said "If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? . . . Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God." Bill O'Reilly should read, How Can an Atheist Be Moral? For Goodness Sake By Dan Barker. I wonder if Bill has seen the video here showing that most atheists are very moral people.
And last, O'Reilly admits there is no concrete proof that a deity exists in this audio clip here. In fact he tells his listeners to RUN from people who try and convince you of something without evidence!
O'Reilly comes off as a Deist in Catholic clothing. Both Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin admired "the philosophy of Jesus" and believed in a Creator but rejected biblical theism. This sounds like O'Reilly and since Bill endorsed John Spong's book The Sins of Scripture, perhaps when O'Reilly says Jesus is God, to him he is speaking of his divinity in the way Spong does, in a nontheistic sense?Signature