One of my favorite writers is Christopher Hitchens. I came to know him through his latest book on religion, titled “God Is Not Great“. His writing in that book is purely spectacular; I’ve never seen anyone with such a firm mastery of English.
Anyway, Hitchens is a character. He recently attained his American citizenship and is, and think this is fair to say, a hardcore anti-fundamentalist. Given current world events this usually materializes as an anti-Islamist.
So one of his main arguments has been the fact that there’s a line between extreme interrogation and torture. Specifically he has argued that waterboarding, which is the act of forcible simulated drowning, is not torture. He has had many critics on this point and he finally agreed to solve the matter.
He agreed to be waterboarded. And he now agrees that it’s torture.
From the Guardian article:
The “official lie” about waterboarding, Hitchens says, is that it “simulates the feeling of drowning”. In fact, “you are drowning – or rather, being drowned”.
He rehearses the intellectual arguments, both for (“It’s nothing compared to what they do to us”) and against (“It opens a door that can’t be closed”). But the Hitch’s thoroughly empirical conclusion is simple. As Vanity Fair’s title puts it: “Believe me, it’s torture.”
I respect this change of heart tremendously, especially given what he was willing to do to convince both him and himself of the correctness of his position.
This is how I like to debate as well. Be forceful in your arguments, but be willing to throw it all away if you encounter better information. As I’ve always said, being wrong at the end of the argument is much more important to me than having my before and after positions match each other.
So, yes, three cheers for Christopher Hitchens.: