Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sophisticated Courtier's Reply

The internet is an extraordinary blessing. We can watch or listen to people talk and debate while doing something else simultaneously. Due to this, I have now listened to the Sam Harris Vs. Reza Aslan debate twice. Debates are like books or songs or anything else. When you go over them twice or more they become three dimensional. You are not trying to piece together the words as they come, but since you know what words are coming you pull everything together in greater context. The internet allows us to do this.

This debate is extremely important because it showcases the very problem that Sam Harris talks about again and again. Harris is surrounded in this one and by Aslan- a religious moderate apologist, specifically of the Islamic bent, and the moderator who is a Jewish moderate of some sort who teams up with Aslan to take on the mighty nude emperor proclaimer- Harris.

I first saw Aslan on Bill Maher one night a couple months ago. Funny, it struck me as I watched him make some sort of defense of religion that it would be cool to see him debate Sam Harris. Looks like Harris will end up debating all comers.

Aslan is a good talker, and he paints one of the most sophisticated "Courtier's Replies" you'll find anywhere. Aslan is able to make accomodations for the most inane doctrines trying to paint them with a delusional modernist brush. He is an optimist like George Bush is an optimist- he believes that Islam is undergoing a reformation. I love how Harris says that Aslan's religious moderation is "infinitely elastic". It just bends and absorbs all conceivable hogwash and protects it.

Aslans only notable argument here is that Harris has a naive view of the intracacies of Islam. Sound familiar? You'll hear him make ad hominem statements that Harris' description of the problem of Islamic 'religion is naive. This reaches its pinnacle when Aslan says that bin Laden's motives were not religious but political and this is where Sam misses the point. See how ridiculous this is? Sam continues to come back to the big picture of religion and how it distorts sane discourse. Aslan continues to pull back to the curfuffles of semantics and never-ending apologies for religious beliefs. In my second viewing it was completely and readily obvious that Aslan was not addressing Sam's arguments and was merely trying desperately to claim that Harris didn't understand the nuanced details of vermillion dyes and silk garments to possibly hold the right to say that the emperor is naked. I was delighted to see that the youtube watchers - a somewhat random sampling I guess- agreed. This is a must watch. Harris is subdued, surrounded, relaxed, and resigned to merely impeccable and irrefutable logic and facts.

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