OK, so rather unexpectedly a genuine Cambridge academic has just been elevated to the list - until now mostly composed of pseudoscientists and hand-wringing moral relativists - of people I'd like to punch quite hard in the face if I met them (top is still Alister McGrath. He's no more deluded and dishonest than most of them, but for sheer creepy, smug unloveliness he wins hands down). Roger Scruton holds a PhD from Cambridge in philosophy, and is a prolific author on various related subjects. Ordinarily philosophers don't figure much in my thinking except as the occasional mildly annoying pedant making a living out of complicating beyond all reason what usually turns out to be quite simple... but this evening I finally sat down to watch the 2007 Intelligence Squared debate in its entirety (I know, how behind the times am I? If you haven't seen it either, the link to the first segment is below and you can follow the series through from there) and the guy's just pulled the DIRTIEST bloody trick!
All the speakers take turns to make their arguments for or against the motion "the world would be better off without religion". I won't go into the details except to say that the pro-religious side - predictably - found admirably imaginative ways to miss the point, traded entirely in non sequiturs and outraged sensibilities, redefined "religion" every thirty seconds to suit whatever pithy defense they were trying to make, and sidestepped every attempt to ask them a question; they lost, anyway. Presumably by chance, Scruton was the last of all the speakers, and after a rather lacklustre and pithy performance throughout the debate he seized this advantage in the most shameless manner to try and play on the ignorance of his audience in an attempt to claw a few extra last minutes votes. Hitch - who'd been interrupting, contradicting and generally irritating his opposition throughout - was not on camera at the time, but I can just imagine his outraged indignation at the cowardly and dishonest move!
Basically, as you'll be able to see in part seventeen of the series as linked below, Scruton has the final closing statement, the last word. After saying nothing much of any note through the entire debate (except for a couple of bizarrely venomous and apparently unprovoked attacks on Dawkins) , he waits until he knows his opponents cannot correct him and says:
"I don't think anybody here has wished to deny the atrocities committed in the name of faith, though if we are to reduce this argument to that kind of - er, headcounting, we ought at least to acknowledge the atrocities committed in the name of atheism, in the last century especially. Er, Mao Tse-Tung, er, Stalin, Lenin, Hitler and a few others are pretty impressive on this - in this regard. But these are very vulgar and - er, unimportant arguments for us, we know that nobody in this room is remotely tempted in that direction."
Now, I'm not even going to address the phenomenal stupidity with which one must condescendingly credit one's audience in order to try the old "say an argument's beneath you twelve seconds after you've used it" trick, but this guy, with his fantastic education, must know - must know - that the crimes of the Nazis were inspired in part by religious hatred. For everything else that's wrong with the whole "atheists atrocities" argument (and reason suggests he's probably well aware of these too), see my recent post here:
For someone of this man's academic calibre to debase himself in this petty, cowardly, dishonest manner is only indicative of the fact that religion has no better crutch upon which to rest. If this man, of all people, is reduced to simple lies to defend religion... well, doesn't that tell you all you need to know about its validity and value?