Atheists trounce Catholics in BBC debate, yesterday

Did anybody watch the Intelligence Squared debate, on the BBC News channel, yesterday? There's a video of Christopher Hitchens at the debate, below, at the bottom of this post. The Catholics got trounced by the atheists. I’ve been waiting for the transcript but, so far, none has materialized. So I gathered the stats instead.

Before I continue, I should describe the Intelligence Squared debate format. Each debate has a proposition. In this case, the proposition is: “The Catholic Church is a Force for Good in the World”. The attending audience votes on the proposition both before and after the debate. This particular debate had an amazing, first-ever, voting result. You’ll find the stats below, and my analysis of those stats.

Is the Catholic Church a Force for Good in the World?

The debate took place at: Methodist Central Hall Westminster. October 19, 2009.

Speakers for the motion:
Archbishop John Onaiyekan Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria.
Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe MP Conservative MP and Catholic convert.

Speakers against the motion:
Christopher Hitchens Writer, broadcaster and polemicist, author of the bestselling book "God is not Great".
Stephen Fry Actor, author, comedian and television presenter.

Zeinab Badawi BBC World News anchor.

The Catholic church is a force for good in the world

Vote #1 (before the debate, 2126 total votes)

Is the Catholic Church a force of good in the world?

Yes 678 (31.9%)
No 1102 (51.8%)
Undecided 346 (16.3%)

Vote #2 (after the debate, 2178 total votes)

Is the Catholic Church a force of good in the world?

Yes 268 (12.4%) Lost 410 votes
No 1876 (86.0%) Gained 774 votes
Undecided 34 (1.6%) Lost 312 votes

I did the math and found that if you combine the votes lost from the Yes and Undecided columns, you get 722 votes. But the No column gained 774 votes! How did that happen? What happened is that there were 52 people who arrived late and didn’t get to vote before the debate. There were 52 more votes after the debate (2178) than before (2126). If you add those 52 votes to the 722 changed votes, you get exactly 774 votes: the same number as the votes gained in the No column.

It would appear that ALL votes that changed, after the debate, went to the No column and all 52 additional (tardy) votes went to the No column as well. That is simply phenomenal and is a first for Intelligence Squared.

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Comment by Loren Miller on November 12, 2009 at 6:51pm
[sigh] It would seem that the Catholic Church is as petty and manipulative as the deity they worship.

Anyone really surprised at this? Didn't think so....
Comment by R. Daneel Olivaw on November 11, 2009 at 1:25am
I was dissaponted in that there were lots of handwavind, anecdotes and personal stories and no actual data or statistics. The Catholic side should have use real data of investments in charity work instead of just saying "We are good, we do charity". And the anti-catholic side should have brought up actual numbers on people tortured and killed in the hands of the church and should have challenged them on the issue of abortion with the example of the Brazilian girl (apparently, being victim of rape and having to have an abortion deserves excommunication but raping your 9 year old daughter is just fine).
Comment by Atheist Exile on November 11, 2009 at 1:09am
I agree, Loren. Pope Pious XII was well aware of the goings-on in the Third Reich. He hedged his bets, thinking the Germans could very well win the war. History shows him to be the coward he was. Even his own Catholics were slaughtered by the Germans.
Comment by Loren Miller on November 10, 2009 at 1:02pm
Any one who wants to compare a matter of a few thousand lives spared against the six million slaughtered with not one word from the Holy See condemning what was too well known to them at that time has their priorities so badly skewed as to not have any reasonable grasp of the reality of that day.

And as for the abuse of children, that story was covered on 60 Minutes at least 20 years before the church could develop the cojones to do something about it other than shuffle offending priests around in an effort to mask the problem. A coral reef has a faster reaction time than that!
Comment by Johnny on November 10, 2009 at 11:55am

These people were representatives of the Catholic church. They can not be there without the permission of the church to represent it. The church must have known that this would be a highly televised and scrutinized debate. It was the church's responsibility to pick good representatives. If those were the best they got, then you can't go on about how the debate wasn't fair. Both were clear authorities on the matter and their failure in the debate is a good enough representation of the failure of the Catholic church. The risk of losing face like they just did is just too great for the church to send amateurs.

I deem the debate fair, but wish it was more conclusive. They didn't finish the annihilation in my opinion and could have used more time.
Comment by Atheist Exile on November 9, 2009 at 10:36pm

They were wearing Depends.
Comment by Atheist Exile on November 9, 2009 at 10:31pm
I thought that Hitchens fell on his face when he spoke of the Pope dying. The thing about infallibility is a bit exaggerated. The Pope is only (allegedly) infallible in official pronouncements of faith or moral matters. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about papal infallibility:

"Papal infallibility is the dogma in Catholic theology that, by action of the Holy Spirit, the Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error when he solemnly declares or promulgates to the universal Church a dogmatic teaching on faith or morals as being contained in divine revelation, or at least being intimately connected to divine revelation. It is also taught that the Holy Spirit works in the body of the Church, as sensus fidelium, to ensure that dogmatic teachings proclaimed to be infallible will be received by all Catholics. This dogma, however, does not state either that the Pope cannot commit sin in his own personal life or that he is necessarily free of error, even when speaking in his official capacity, outside the specific contexts in which the dogma applies."
Comment by Atheist Exile on November 9, 2009 at 10:22pm
Oops . . . I replaced the video with one from YouTube. It works.
Comment by Atheist Exile on November 9, 2009 at 10:20pm
I've been reviewing replies to the debate at news sites and, so far, haven't found anybody who's done the math. The stats reveal just how thoroughly the Catholics lost the debate.
Comment by Johnny on November 9, 2009 at 1:21pm
oh my god. I was waitng for them to shit their pants. I now believe in God because it's a miracle that they didn't. Such a miraculous act of a theist controlling bowel functions in the heat of an intelligent debate can only prove that God exist.



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