Apparently Christopher Hitchens, that suave barbarian, is going to go toe-to-toe with the Galactic Habitable Zone's own Jay Richards, Discovery Institute fellow and co-author of The Privileged Planet. The specifics are detailed here. This debate is (provisionally?) titled "Atheism vs. Theism and the Scientific Evidence of Intelligent Design." And who is the debate's 'host'? Why, that paragon of neutrality in science, character actor and former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein, the voice of that soon-to-be-perpetrated fraud, Expelled.

PZ, reporting these events, remarks that Hitchens has 'big brass ones' for taking the bait from the faithful, but implies that perhaps a skilled rhetorician (or comedian) can be successful in such a setting.

You know, I love a good debate. I've done them, sometimes against the advice of other science types, but I feel I've been successful because I was able to define the terms of debate. If you can do that, and you know your stuff, you should be able to carry the day, as Ken Miller has proved over and over.

But I would shrink from this invitation, because it's not about science. The debate topic legitimizes, in fact proceeds from a dichotomy between atheism and theism, the latter of which is tied to ID. The presumption is that anti-ID = atheism. So, instead of pushing a scientific, evidence-based argument against non-science, you're going to have a competition between different brands of non-science (atheism and theism). No matter how much evidence you present to buttress arguments against ID, it will be presumed to be in behalf of a belief system. Which, if I recall, pretty much plays into the true believer's hands.

So, PZ, I agree. Hitchens' equipment must be coated in an alloy of copper and zinc, for he presumes to debate creationists not from the high ground of science, but within the catacombs of belief.

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