Blair v Hitchens: What’s the point?

The much publicised debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens took place a few days ago. For a review of the debate visit The Observer website. The review is, unsurprisingly given the paper, somewhat biased toward Hitchens although I can well believe that he did appear more intellectual than Blair.

What strikes me as pointless about this debate is the very thing that compelled most to attend. Were one looking for a debate between two famous names on an issue of some concern to them both then I am sure this would not have disappointed. However, the purpose of a debate is for two learned and qualified individuals to argue for and against a proposition in order to test its intellectual worth. What business do Tony Blair (a lawyer and politician) or Christopher Hitchens (a journalist) have in discussing the worth and impact of religion given their utter lack of qualification in this field? Surely such debates are for philosophers, sociologists, historians et al rather than journalists and politicians.

This leads us to a wider point. Richard Dawkins has commented openly about those who critique evolutionary theory without being qualified to do so, one of his more legitimate and reasonable arguments. Those who are not biologists should not be critiquing a theory within a subject in which they have no training. However, the New Atheists do not appear to follow their own advice. Dawkins routinely delves into philosophy despite his lack of training in the field and in his books, such as The God Delusion, his lack of philosophical study is evident. Christopher Hitchens has equally debated the existence of God and the value of religion despite his lack of training in any field which may be relevant to such debates.

So, despite the publicity, I question the value of a debate between a politcian and a journalist on a subject which neither is qualified to talk about. In reality, what do any of us stand to gain from that?