Debate with Rabbi David Wolpe

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Joined  04-12-2007
05 December 2007 14:45

Here is the video of Sam’s debate at the American Jewish University

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05 December 2007 14:48

There is no link.

Jack's Smirking Revenge
Jack's Smirking Revenge
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05 December 2007 15:49

google won’t bite you…


(Jesus Christ… 2 minutes in, the godiot’s already obfuscating by attacking science.)

Jack's Smirking Revenge
Jack's Smirking Revenge
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Joined  31-07-2007
05 December 2007 15:54

6 minutes in, godiot continues obfuscation by attacking Marxism… moves back to attacking science…

My dog is less predictable.

Traces Elk
Traces Elk
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06 December 2007 10:36

Wolpe tried every trick in the book, just like any meat packer defending his factory job might.

He tried:

The ad populam fallacy: 98 percent of all human beings experience transcendent feelings

Accusing “atheist” dictatorships of committing unspeakable horror in the service of “atheism”

The historical fallacy: We can’t judge primitive goat herders by our standards

The moderates’ argument: Only moderate believers are going to be able to influence the fundies positively

The argument from insistence: I don’t care what you say, God really exists. I mean it.

Non-overlapping magisteria: Science does not tell us the meaning of life; but I know what it is.

The list goes on, but one can easily see that theists are being channeled into easily-predictable rhetorical tricks. You don’t really have to know that much to know what to expect from them.

Sam knows this in the core of his being, and I have to admire his calm in dealing with idiots that I would show the back of my verbal hand to in an instant. Still, I have to say, Wolpe is no Alastair McGrath. And I mean that in a nice way. He’s a love-hungry clergyman in search of job security, but he’s no McGrath.

Doubting John
Doubting John
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06 December 2007 16:22

If you don’t like the answer, just get louder and repeat yourself a lot. That will seal the argument in your favor.
Good job Sam.

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Joined  07-12-2007
07 December 2007 16:31

why doesnt the video work for me??

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09 December 2007 12:57

I find it interesting that the administrator says heres a video and provides no link or comment.

Lapin Diabolique
Lapin Diabolique
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09 December 2007 21:07
Salt Creek - 06 December 2007 03:36 PM

Sam knows this in the core of his being, and I have to admire his calm in dealing with idiots that I would show the back of my verbal hand to in an instant. Still, I have to say, Wolpe is no Alastair McGrath. And I mean that in a nice way. He’s a love-hungry clergyman in search of job security, but he’s no McGrath.

Doesn’t this guy Wolpe look like a young Harry Dean Stanton ?

I agree that he did much better than McGrath against Hitchens, but then again, Sam is not like Hitchens.

I would pay good money to see Salt Creek debate this numbnuts. Especially since I don’t think he would ever be invited back on that venue or any other, making it a unique event.

Come on Salt Creek, get your ass on a televised debate with a believer and represent.

You will get your 15 minutes and we get the joy of witnessing a bloodbath.

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10 December 2007 18:27

In the debate with Rabbi Wolpe, I noticed he seemed quick to lay the groundwork for his argument not for a personal, detailed account of God as we see in the holy texts, but instead he made an argument for the existence of supernatural beings and the reason why philosophical principals like reason, logic, or the notions of the sciences are inadequate for humans to comprehend this realm of gods or other beings. 

If the human mind isn’t capable of understanding or comprehending this omnipotent being, if God exists outside the realm of science and reason and proper philosophical principals, how are there many thousands of religions that, at some point or another, have made identical metaphysical claims in terms of form and function as Christianity…to the point that any holy leader defending them as Rabbi Wolpe did in this discussion…how then are ALL those other religions wrong in what they profess?  They all stake claims on divinity.  But if all of them aren’t divine, then invariably one must accept the fact that these other theologies and their supernatural claims must be falsifiable and threatened by reason itself. 

Once one segregates the argument into epistemological sectors, you MUST break the line between items that can be comprehended and explained by the human consciousness and items which cannot be understood by our primitive understanding of the concepts of such supernatural planes of existence.  Therefore, if reason and sound philosophy and science cannot permeate and probe the existence of such realms, who is Rabbi Wolpe or anyone else to say their personal religious doctrine is set on any sort of superior foundation than the other doctrines? 

I suspect a believer would respond by saying that these other religions are often based on silly superstitions or whatnot.  But they are only to be considered silly by conventional, REASONABLE standards.  To say one doesn’t believe the theological claims of the multiple Greek Deities because some ancient text that they subscribe to every Sunday says there is only one God is, by necessity, to apply reason to said claims and dismiss those other deities on such a basis.  In this case, the reason applied is simple mathematics [1 god vs multiple gods].  So how can someone like the good Rabbi possibly choose to only set his preferred theology outside the realm of philosophy, science, reason, and coincidentally, outside the realm of scrutiny?  Either all claims to the supernatural are true or none are.  He noted that the Celestial Teacup wasn’t eh same argument as fits with his diety of choice due to the physical nature in which one can observe said teacup.  A good and very valid point. 

It does ignore the crucial framework that the original teacup or spaghetti monster concept was framed in however.  That being that you can’t see the spaghetti monster because he is so powerful and omnipotent he hides from all human observation by cuddling neatly away behind the dark side of whatever celestial body he orbits.  Same goes for the pink unicorn. 

For the teacup it is such that this object would be so small that we couldn’t hope to find it floating in orbit in 100 yrs of searching whatever planet/moon is was orbiting.  So the crucial note is that these things are beyond human observation.  And to say the analogy Sam made on that point doesn’t hold up is debatable at its very best.  However, to take it a step further and avoid this altogether, we can negate the physical form of the teacup et al and simply say they are there in spirit form just like the Rabbi’s God character. 

But under what possible circumstances can Mr. Wolpe suggest that these items are any less likely to truly exist than his personal version of God?  There is an interesting fallacy here it seems, for even if he imagined reasonable standards for deciding why the teacup et al are inferior to his God, the man must STILL make judgments on the these items professed to be in the realm of both the unknown and incomprehensible!  And possibly more of a problem is the fact he must make those judgments based on reason, which by his own terms cannot permeate anything within that realm of existence! 

The simple truth is that these religions are very likely man made concepts invented to aid in the understanding of the world around us.  It is a sort of Delusional Darwinism in that sometimes to survive emotionally and stay productive as a species, maybe ancient ppl needed to have delusions about how the stars moved across the sky and thus religion was born.  Perhaps they needed to stave off depression before their minds were mature enough to find ways to pull oneself out of that deteriorating state of consciousness. 

It is obvious that in order to function in life and to evolve as a species, humans has to have a social order to our relationships.  One aspect of that order is certainly management of our individual emotional states.  Maybe that is why groups of animals often form communities based on their similar behavioral mechanics.  Maybe Natural Selection works on a level that isn’t just chemical or physical, but also takes place in forming moral progression. 

As an aside to this note, I feel compelled to note in jest that if man can’t comprehend or hope to understand the nature of God, why do men like Rabbi Wolpe get paid to do just that?  Isn’t that a formal admission that he hasn’t the slightest ideas what he is talking about?  And if so, he likely lied on his resume regarding his abilities, let alone capacity, to represent the ideas of God to the general congregations and, as is the case in his sect, should be stoned as a consequence.  raspberry

In all honesty, the best way for Sam to end the discussion on that topic would be to ask Mr. Wolpe to kindly convert to his impromptu religion on the spot.  If the Rabbi truly was interested in using religion as a way to form a better world, and if others felt the same way, Sam’s mock religion would almost immediately dominate the populace of any nation. 

I’m also curious as to what the Gallup poll results for the things such as moral behavior and sense of community and how happy ppl are in their day to day life would be in a place like Sweden or Norway etc.  I’d suspect when 80% of the population is agnostic or atheistic, the sense of community is very high and as a result of that, the sense that the ppl there are doing the “right thing” and thus are happy shows up as well.  Furthermore, I can guarantee you that if you did the same set of polls in ANY region where you have one group of any ideology or social connection dominating the polls; you would get the exact same type of data. 

Merely saying that just because religion is popular doesn’t mean it is some form of universal truth.  Feelings of happiness do tend to come largely from two social aspects: a) the idea that you are adhering to ideas that others around you also believe in [in other words, you feel you are doing the “right thing” often based on the social construction of what that seems to mean]...b) the idea that your shared ideas among your community has given you viable relationships that you might become attached to.  Ask hermit religious zealot if they are happy.  I’d bet the explanation for the polling the Rabbi cited is based squarely on socially constructed terms and not at all on the inherent validity of the moral codes found in the holy texts themselves. 

As proof of this, look no further than the texts themselves and consider how incredibly tempered modern religion has become purely as a result of social reformations over the last 2000 yrs.  It seems to be the case that it is the social framework that has more to do with what is seen as “right and wrong” at any point in history than the holy origin of the doctrine, which as we can easily note, is NOT at all being upheld today by anyone other than dogmatic, schizophrenic extremists.

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14 December 2007 01:20

Sam has truly honed his debate skill.  In almost every debate with an atheist vs theist, I always find myself yelling at my monitor at the atheist for not using a better rebuttal (especially with Hitchens).  Not this time.  There were a few parts where I started to feel that way, but the proper rebuttal eventually came through.  Sam’s thorough knowledge of the three abrahamic religions (actually his thorough knowledge in general), his signature ultra calm approach, his ability with the English language, his impeccable delivery, and his massive experience make him the best debater on the topic today.  This is the second debate I’ve seen where the audience is found giggling in anticipation for Sam’s turn to talk.

Also I’d like to commend the moderator for doing a good job.

[ Edited: 14 December 2007 12:47 by mintcheerios]
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20 December 2007 17:13

Several thoughts come to mind after listening to the debate between Harris and Wolpe.

First, the moderator was superb.  He understood the correct role and importance of objectively moderating.

Second, both debaters were civil and respectful.  This was one of the few forums where the opposition—-Wolpe—- did not insinuate Harris is arrogant, ignorant or uninformed to make his point.  I was impressed.

Third, Mr. Harris, as usual held his own very well.  I am fascinated with his ability to mesh art with science. He artfully displays his speaking agility, mannerism, body language,  emotional calmness, sense of humor, wit, and well…for lack of better words, charm and charisma.  Likewise, he incorporates a scientific edge to the discussion with his vast wealth of knowledge, experience and perceptions.  Harris is the embodiment of art as a passion with discipline, and science as a discipline with passion.

Mr. Harris:  From one who dwells in a “red” state, you keep me sane, over and over again.

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Joined  09-02-2007
25 December 2007 20:11

A few minutes after the Q & A (which was getting interesting) started, the player stopped working. I didn’t want to load the whole 1h44m video again. Does anyone know how to put it on Google Video (or YouTube), etc?

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25 December 2007 23:16


[ Edited: 07 March 2011 15:49 by J.C.]
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26 December 2007 06:17

Joel Armstrong:

I agree with your comment about Sam Harris’  use of “bs.”  While I understand his desire to use it to place emphasis on his views about religious superstition, and his probable frustration in having to defend his views from often ignoramus theologists,  I think it only serves to add fuel to the raging fire stoked against him. One of his many strengths in all of the debates I have watched is his ability to stay above the fray, with stoic calmness and admirable degrees of dignity,  while many of his opponents fire inflammatory and personal missiles at him. I have witnessed his use of expletives so rarely, that hearing the words pass through his lips does seem a bit out of character.

Regardless, thanks for pointing out this small scar on Mr. Harris’ otherwise exemplary resume.  It is something I have thought about but never brought to the conversational surface.

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Joined  28-12-2007
28 December 2007 18:56

Not to so say I would be a better debater than Harris, but when discussing one point I thought he could’ve done better:

When the Rabbi explained Judaism’s repudiation of the barbaric laws of the Torah (child stoning, for instance), he failed to distinguish rabbinical interpretation from what was originally written in the Torah. This simply shows that the morals of Maimonides’ time (the rabbi quotes Maimonides to defend the passage in the torah) evolved since the time of the Torah, and that the Torah is confusing and contradictory enough to be re-interpreted. This is not a testament to the infinite wisdom of the torah.