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.

Chair:
Zeinab Badawi BBC World News anchor.


Proposition:
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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Tags: BBC, Catholic, Christopher Hitchens, Intelligence Squared, Zeinab Badawi, debate, embarrassment

Comment by a7 on November 9, 2009 at 8:13pm
Yeah I watched this last night, however I must admit that I ff the holy man.

all round good stuff

take care man

george
Comment by Atheist Exile on November 9, 2009 at 9:05pm
@a7,

I don't know what ff is . . . but none of the possibilities, so far, are very nice :-)

Unless it means fast forward.
Comment by Atheist Exile on November 9, 2009 at 11:19pm
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 pat on November 9, 2009 at 11:28pm
It was priceless watching the unarmed attempt to defend the indefensible.
Comment by Atheist Exile on November 9, 2009 at 11:41pm
@Pat

Reminds me of a quote I once heard (paraphrased):

"I refuse to engage in an intellectual battle with an unarmed opponent."
Comment by Dave G on November 10, 2009 at 5:21pm
I'm just watching the last few minutes of it now, and I think that Stephen Fry drove home a particularly telling point when he was addressing the Catholic's church defense of 'Well, no one else knew better, so why pick on the Church?'

It went something like this:
"You say that no one else knew better so why should the Church have known better? Then WHAT ARE YOU FOR?" And yes, he did indeed nearly shout the last bit.

Christopher Hitchens has a way with words, but I'd say that Stephen Fry shone brightest that night.
Comment by Atheist Exile on November 11, 2009 at 12:05am
Yup, Fry had the most impact. He was more human than Hitchens.

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