Intelligence Squared is a televised social event that takes place in London in the form of a panel debate. The organization decides on a motion for the debate, then they select a panel comprised of experts who support or oppose the motion. Then people buy tickets (you can actually purchase season tickets to these events – how cool is that?), show up, and watch (and sometimes participate) in the debate. This has been going on in London since it was created by two businessmen in 2002 and it has been so popular that different sects of International Squared are showing up in countries around the world. I’ve read summaries of what has transcribed at these debates in the past, but I never watched one until today, when I saw the motion that was to be debated:
The Catholic church is a force for good in the world.
Oh my lucky stars. Even more exciting than the very premise of the debate itself is that the opposing panel was comprised of renowned journalist, political activist, and atheist intellectual Christopher Hitchens, a man I admire quite a bit, as well as actor, comedian, and author Stephen Fry. On the side supporting the motion was Nigerian-based Archbishop John Onaiyekan and the conservative British MP Anne Widdecombe.
As one might expect just by glancing at the participants, the debate was a rout. The two Catholic church supporters were embarrassing in their arguments. The voting numbers of those in attendance speak for themselves:
For:678 – Against: 1102 – Don’t know: 346.
For: 268 – Against: 1876 – Don’t know: 34.
Why these two were chosen to defend the motion is beyond me. Then again, there isn’t much of a debate to support the motion, which more than likely makes the more intellectual Catholics – is that an oxymoron? – who could do more than simply recite a few facts opposed to tarnishing their image and pride in such a public forum.
I’ve embedded all five parts of the video below. It it well worth the watch. In the comments, feel free to chime in with any thoughts on the debate that took place or on the motion that they discussed.