Monday, November 29, 2010

Were the odds stacked against Tony Blair in his debate with Hitchens?

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, a few days ago, there was a debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens on whether religion was a force for good in the world or not.

I believe the odds were somewhat stacked against Blair in this debate for several reasons. However, despite these, I do think Blair did reasonably well.

Here are some reasons:

1) Most of the audience started out in favour of Hitchens.
According to a pre-debate poll, 57% of attendees were in favour of Hitchens' proposition that religion is not a force for good in the world. Only 22% agreed with Blair that religions is indeed a force for good. Right from the start the audience was more in favour of Hitchens. However, both gained around 10% by the end of the night, which was half each of the undecided watchers. But this represents a greater win for Blair, since it is about a 50% increase. For Hitchens, it represents around 20%.

2. More applause for Hitchens
Hitchens could hardly open his mouth without being met with applause from the audience. This is because after the opening remarks, the moderator allowed applause. Obviously part of the reason for this is that there were 3 times more fans of Hitchens than of Blair. Sometimes Hitchens had to tell the audience to stop clapping so much.

3. Blair had to defend all religion
This was a difficult task because no one claims to be an adherent to ALL religions. Therefore Hitchens could bring up very violent religious sects to try to prove that religion wasn't a force for good, and Blair was forced to defend those.

4. Blair has less experience in formal debates
I'm not sure if this debate is considered "formal", but what I mean is this particular debate type where two speakers address a particular issue in a certain order. Hitchens is well known for hundreds of debates, but I'm not sure the same can be said of Blair. Blair was prime minister of course, but the prime minister can use many techniques to appeal to people which do not necessarily involve logical debate. I think Hitchens has more debate experience plus this is really his area.

Given the circumstances, I think Blair did a good job.

1 comment:

  1. I think you're right, largely. While Blair is an intelligent guy, his profession is not debate or religious defense (apologetics). This is what Hitchens' does best. Though I disagree with him wholeheartedly, he is good at this kind of thing. Blair did fairly well considering his experience and the circumstances you mention.

    I blogged on Hitchens last month. I thought you might be interested: