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The Great Debate:
Dinesh D’Souza v. Michael Shermer

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In this debate on what are arguably two of the most important questions in the culture wars today — Is Religion a Force for Good or Evil? and Can you be Good without God? — the conservative Christian author and cultural scholar Dinesh D’Souza and the libertarian skeptic writer and social scientist Michael Shermer, square off to resolve these and related issues, such as the relationship between science and religion and the nature and existence of God. This event was one of the liveliest ever hosted by the Skeptics Society at Caltech, mixing science, religion, politics, and culture.

Dinesh D’Souza is the Robert and Karen Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Investor’s Business Daily called him one of the “ top young public-policy makers in the country,” and the New York Times magazine named him one of America’s most influential conservative thinkers. Before joining the Hoover Institution, Mr. D’Souza was the John M. Olin Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In 1987–88 he served as senior policy analyst at the Reagan White House. From 1985–1987 he was managing editor of Policy Review. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth College in 1983. His books include the New York Times bestseller What’s So Great About America. His 1991 book Illiberal Education was the first study to publicize the phenomenon of political correctness. He is also the author of The Virtue of Prosperity: Finding Values in an Age of Techno Affluence. D’Souza’s articles have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, Vanity Fair, New Republic, and National Review. His latest book is titled What’s So Great About Christianity?

Part A

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Arguing for Atheism

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A review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion (Bantam Books, 2006, ISBN 0618680004). This review was originally published in Science, January 26, 2007.

There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me … that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are?

Such stirring words, spoken with such moral conviction, must surely come from an outraged liberal exasperated with the conservative climate of America today, and one can be forgiven for thinking that in a review of The God Delusion these are the words of Richard Dawkins himself, who is well known for not suffering religious fools gladly. But no. They were entered into the Congressional Record on 16 September 1981, by none other than Senator Barry Goldwater, the fountainhead of the modern conservative movement, the man whose failed 1964 run for the presidency was said to have been fulfilled in 1980 by Ronald Reagan, and the candidate whose campaign slogan was “In Your Heart You Know He’s Right.” (continue reading…)

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War & Peace

The evolution-creationism skirmishes that have periodically flared up throughout the past century embody the long historical tension between science and religion. It may surprise you, then, to learn that Charles Darwin matriculated at Cambridge University in theology, and throughout his five-year voyage around the world he was a creationist who regularly attended church services. It was only upon his return home that his loss of faith came about. (continue reading…)

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Point of Inquiry

Michael Shermer discusses evolution and Intelligent Design theory, Darwin’s impact on the world today, the conflict and the compatibility of science and religion, and the meaning of life without God.

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TVWashington

Michael Shermer reads from Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design at Town Hall in Seattle.

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