I have to say I did not have much faith in yesterday’s interview between O’Reilly and Richard Dawkins. I was afraid that Richard was putting himself in quite a spot to be flamed, and indeed he was.
For one, the little subtitle above his name didn’t display “Biologist” or “Scientist” or “Reputable Academic Authority” but “Atheist”, which in the mind of the average American Bible carrier is tantamount to having “Child Molester” above one’s name.
Secondly, O’Reilly cut the interview short and on his own terms. Dawkins was left to babble something about the Greek Gods. He did not tackle the issue of Stalin and Hitler as directly (although the interchange: “Hitler was a Roman Catholic”; “No, he was brought up a Roman Catholic but he renounced his faith early on”; “Well, we can dispute that” was pretty damn good).
Dawkins also failed to come up with concrete example of the evidence he invokes, as if he expects the audience to know what he’s talking about. I noticed this as well in his brilliant video The Root Of All Evil which took great pains to tell you there was evidence but failed to actually invoke it. I don’t expect him to outline the history of creation since the Big Bang, but at least say something about carbon dating or fossil records or geology. Even if the audience does not understand any of it, it puts him above his opponent and it creates a “wow” factor.
Dawkins is certainly more adapted to a more academic, slow paced environment where he can expose his ideas more clearly. The only person I’ve ever witnessed standing up and successfully trouncing Bill at his own game was Geraldo Riviera, who effectively just won a shouting match against O’Reilly.
Richard’s arguments are devastatingly effective. The God Delusion is brilliant and acid and effective. In my humble opinion he only needs to bring up some select pieces of evidence to ‘shock and awe’ (heh) the listener and he needs just a little bit of time and he’s got the audience in the bag.
But perhaps atheism needs someone with the tenacity of O’Reilly to stand up to punks like him.