I’m hoping it won’t be long before we can see this on video: last night’s debate between Jay Richards and Christopher HItchens on Intelligent Design. Stanford Daily Online reported on it, including this:
Hitchens then requested the chance to ask Richards a question.
“Do you believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin?” he asked when Richards assented. “Do you believe he was resurrected from the dead?”
Richards said that he did.
“I rest my case,” said Hitchens. “This is an honest guy, who has just made it very clear [that] science has nothing to do with his world view.”
Earlier Richards had pointed out the obvious: “a sneer is not an argument.” He could have said it again here. (As a debater, Hitchens is definitely quick with the smug sneer of superiority.)
Hitchens’s point seems to be that belief in miracles precludes science being a contributor to one’s worldview, and vice versa. What would have to be true in order for that to be the case? First, it would mean that Isaac Newton’s and Francis Collins’s worldviews have had nothing to do with science, to say nothing of hundreds of other eminent Christian scientists. Is that not just a bit unlikely?
Second, it would have to mean that the virgin birth of Christ is so contradictory to science that no person could accept both at the same time. But this distorts the Christian position regarding miracles in general, and the virgin birth and resurrection in particular. Christians believe the universe behaves regularly, according to natural law, reflecting the rational mind of God; but that God as a personal Being interrupts this regularity from time to time, for the sake of relationship with the people He created. Interventions of the clearly miraculous sort are rare, rare enough that science can successfully discover the regularities that do exist. There is no contradiction there.
Hitchens might argue that science has proved miracles are impossible; but this is a metaphysical assumption, not a scientific conclusion. Science studies regularities, that which usually happens. It does not know whether the usual always happens. If science says the usual must always happen, it is speaking outside its field. It can only study what is normal, regular, usual. How could it prove God never intervenes?
So Hitchens’s sneer is empty. We do not know how Jay Richards responded. According to the report, moderator Ben Stein got there first:
“Many people are deeply religious,” he said. “Are they just stupider than you?”
I wonder where he got the impression that Hitchens feels that way.