Where I'd been, before the journey referred to here, was at Tuesday night's Intelligence Squared debate on the motion 'We should not be reluctant to assert the superiority of Western values'. At the beginning of the evening 313 people had indicated they were for the motion, 221 against, with 207 don't knows. After the debate, the vote was 465 in favour and 264 against, with 18 don't knows.
One confusion that obstructed clear discussion arose from the description of these values as 'Western'. The proposers of the motion themselves clearly regarded the values as universal and as having been fed historically by some non-Western influences as well as Western ones. Nonetheless, the greater hold that these values - democracy, the rule of law, equality before the law, human rights, freedom of speech and opinion, self-critical rationalism - had taken in the West was said by several people, including from the floor, to justify talking of them as Western.
The opponents of the motion made much of the supposed 'arrogance' of asserting the superiority of those values. There is nothing sinister in it. To assert the superiority of some values over others is no different from defending the former - a standard critical activity and unavoidable for anyone who doesn't think that all values are on a par. How could one think that? You'd have to believe that caring for the sick was no better than drowning them. The speakers against the motion also assimilated the assertion of the superiority of the relevant values to being willing to impose them by military force. That is not an innocent confusion, of course. But it is one of the very values that were under discussion in that debate that, within the limits of not doing harm to other people, differences in values have to be negotiated by persuasive argument rather than by violence and military might.
Anyway, you can listen to the whole debate by downloading the podcast here (see right-hand panel). Even if you don't have time to listen to it all, I recommend you listen to the first nine or ten minutes (after the three minutes of introduction). This was Ibn Warraq's opening contribution, and he doesn't mince his words.
He also closed the debate with a bit of a flourish:
Finally, I do not wish to live in a society where you are stoned for adultery; I prefer to live in a society where we get stoned first and then commit adultery.