• Damned if you don’t – debating creationists


    I have to admit I’m actually a bit excited about the upcoming evolution/creation debate featuring Bill Nye and Ken Ham.  (I’m also a bit shocked that I just linked to an Answers In Genesis page.)


    Many people are not happy the debate is taking place.  Google “Why I won’t debate creationists”, and you’ll find thousands of hits, with the top few linking to a famous article written by Richard Dawkins.  Dawkins’ main reason to avoid such debates (a reason shared by many others) is that a debate could give the illusion of an equal footing between creationists and professional scientists.  Interestingly enough, this sentiment is expressed very well in one of my favourite Bible verses:

    Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.  (Proverbs 26:4, ESV)

    There is also the risk that the existence of a public debate (ie, an event where people stand up arguing with each other) could give the illusion of the existence of a scientific debate (where scientists of differing viewpoints are publishing legitimate scientific articles for and against evolution).

    Many people, including Dawkins in the above article, have made these points very eloquently, so I won’t say any more about that perspective.  I completely get it, and think it is a very valid point.  Here, rather, I want to give some reasons for considering the other viewpoint.  Again, the Bible has some wisdom on this:

    Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.  (Proverbs 26:5, ESV)

    You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.  It’s right there in the Bible.

    One of the biggest problems about refusing to debate creationists (or intelligent design theorists, climate change deniers, anti-vacciners, etc) is that the creationists will claim a victory from this – they’ll say the scientists are scared and don’t want to be shown up in public.  I don’t think the scientists are scared: certainly not of being wrong, and certainly not of evolution being shown up.  But everyone knows you can be right and still lose a debate (ie, an argument) if your opponent has polished debating skills.  And everyone also knows that creationists focus an enormous amount of attention on their debating tactics.

    Creationists have traditionally done well by using techniques such as the Gish Gallop, wherein the creationist “drown[s] the opponent in such a torrent of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood in real time”.  At the end, the creationist proudly counts the number of unanswered points he made, and claims victory.  The logic behind the technique is that it only takes a few seconds to declare “There are no transitional fossils, radiometric dating doesn’t work, Darwin converted to creationism on his deathbed, evolution is responsible for the Holocaust, evolution can’t explain the origin of life or the universe, all mutations are harmful”, while it would take ages to adequately explain why these assertions are misguided or just plain untrue.

    To beat a creationist in a debate, one would have to be well aware of all their techniques, and have solid plans for how to expose and combat them.  Strangely enough, most professional scientists simply don’t have the opportunity or inclination to spend years honing their debating techniques – they have experiments to perform, papers to write, grants to win, conferences to attend, students to teach, universities to run.  Creationists, on the other hand, are free to spend their lives sharpening their debating skills, and poring over journal articles trying to find a sentence they can twist to suit their purposes.

    With all that said, there have been a few good debates – including this somewhat informal one featuring Dawkins himself – and hopefully there will be plenty more, as I think there is actually a lot to be gained by engaging with the creationists.  For one thing, most people familiar with the evidence for evolution find the creationist arguments conducive to laughter – or tears in some cases.  For someone on the fence, if two equally skilled debaters squared off, it wouldn’t be too difficult to see the difference between a professional scientist and a professional charlatan.  So I don’t think there is too much risk of casualties on the side of science.  The real opportunities lie with the other segment of the crowd.

    I imagine most people interested in such debates will be creationists, hoping to see their hero demolish a God-hating atheist scientist.  Some creationists have their fingers so far in their ears it would be impossible to sway them.  And some of them are perfectly happy to admit this, as the infamous quote from Kurt Wise attests:

    [Even] if all the evidence in the universe turned against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.

    But many creationists would be surprised to hear about evolution from an actual real live evolutionary scientist.  They’d have heard so many straw men about radiometric dating techniques and canyon-forming flash floods, and be so familiar with mantras like “There are no transitional fossils” and “All mutations are harmful”, that it’d be a total shock to hear that what they’d been taught by their creationist heroes was total bollocks.  (I remember the feeling when I discovered that Christian apologists often distort the truth and even spread lies – it was a massive turning point.)  Simply discovering that evolutionists are not the evil fraudsters they are made out to be by creationists would make plenty of people think.  And so would the idea that it might be worth reading a book by Dawkins or Prothero or Coyne, instead of getting their information on evolution from the likes of Banana Man.

    I really hope Bill Nye does well in his debate.  A lot of good could come out of it.

    Category: CreationismEvolutionScienceSkepticism


    Article by: Reasonably Faithless

    Mathematician and former Christian
    • Daniel Lin

      I was a die hard creationist 7 years ago, when I first became a Christian.

      To this day, I am grateful that an atheist debated me in an internet discussion in 2007, and showed me why creationism is wrong.

    • Roy Soliman

      In all the Darwin vs non-Darwin debates I’ve heard, the Darwinist – despite the arrogance, flustering, and poisoning the well – couldn’t substantiate their claims that the Darwinistic mechanisms can explain the scope of the biological diversity nor the origin of the information required. With these gaping holes in Darwinistic evolution, even if the opposing theory is wrong, they’re still going to substantiate huge points against the scope of the Darwinistic mechanism.

      With vaccines … The science is nowhere near as stitched up as it’s made out to be. Nowhere near. I fear that you’ve been sucked into the marketed view or the common view rather than the evidenced view. Here’s a couple of soft-balls: can you point me to a .gov or equivalent site where they discuss vaccine adverse affects for 12 months or more? Most studies only look at effects for two-three weeks afterwards.

      Here’s another softball – why was the definition of polio changes from 24 hrs of residual paralysis to 60 days of residual paralysis around the time the vaccine was introduced?

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Trying to explain 150 years of evidence from dozens of scientific fields to people who may remember having taken high school biology cannot be done in a 45 minute debate.

        Roy, these are classic ‘gotcha’ type creationist questions. But I will try.

        1) The reason you don’t hear about the most basic claims of evolution is because science has moved so far past them that it’s just not discussed anymore. You don’t demand that an areospace engineer derive the formula for F=ma in his paper on hypermach aircraft do you? Of course not. F=ma is established science. And, whether you like it or not, evolution is established science. I wrote a blog entry just last week or so about an experiment in which digital organisms evolved, solely through mutation, not only the ability to move, but enhanced search patterns for resource gathering. Mutation only. One thing that I commonly here is that we don’t have any evidence for macroevolution. But we do, because macroevolution is only microevolution on a long time frame. I’ve discussed it several times. There re no ”gaping holes” in evolution. There are often gaping holes in the false version of evolution that is promoted on creationist websites, but you are wrong. ANY failure of a theory or notion does not in anyway substantiate any alternate theory or notion. Only positive supporting evidence can do that. Evolution has mountains of it… creationism has zero.

        2) There’s no side effects that last that long.. that are attributable to the vaccine. Again, whether you like it or not, this is established science. If YOU can describe a mechanism by which a vaccine can cause any problems, then I’ll be happy to explain to you that a vaccine is (generally) a damaged form of the disease and I would much rather have a damaged form of the disease than the full version.

        3) I don’t know. Do you have any references that show this… feel free to use peer-reviewed research. If you demand that we point to pee-reviewed research, then I expect the same from you.

        4) One word: Politics.

        • Roy Soliman

          1. Please link me to your blog and I’ll check it out. I assume
          you’re familiar with the Lenski experiments? The bacteria adapted
          through information deletion. As far as I know that’s the best data we
          have at the moment. I’m open to correction. So the best data tells us
          that information is being deleted, rather than created – which is what
          nature needs to evolve.

          Are you able to give an argument for the first information? (A separate but related question).

          Also, an aeronautical engineer would be able to find out how F=ma was derived and point me to it.

          From what I understand, these are significant gaps in the Darwinistic paradigm.

          2. No side affect – you’re completely mistaken. There are deaths
          associated with vaccines – that side affect lasts a long time. Google
          “h-b-vax ii product information” should be a PDF about 15 pages long.
          This is the mandated HepB Vaccine to be injected into newborns. Look at
          the risks associated.

          While you’re there you can also see what timeframe of adverse
          reactions the study took into account.

          The mechanism is easy. On a very basic level if antibodies are supposed
          to last a lifetime then presumably adverse affects could develop over a
          lifetime. On a more practical level, take aluminum and mercury deposit
          it in the muscle mass, let it get to the brain tissue – probably with
          some help from other ingredients and Bob’s your uncle.

          Check out this video of a tiny bit of mercury and it’s impact on mouse brain tissue.


          Another mechanism may be the DNA from aborted fetal cells.

          3. No, I don’t demand that. Actually, I don’t have hard evidence on
          the *why* (yet) but I certainly do have evidence of a change in definition.

          Here’s a YouTube presentation from an MD and nephrologist discussing her research on the polio vaccine:

          If you prefer to read a chapter from her book covering the same material (with references):

          Here’s the World Health Organisation’s Poliomyelitis Monograph from 1955:

          Look at p388 for a diagnosis of polio with 24 hrs of paralysis (and no mention of poo samples).

          Here’s the front cover of the monograph to prove it’s from 1955:

          can look at any current definition of polio from the CDC, WHO etc and
          it will say 60 days of residual paralysis + 2x poo samples.

          a link from a Morbidity, Mortality Weekly Report from the CDC where
          they refer to the new definition of “60 days” in 1962:

          a link from a Morbidity, Mortality Weekly Report from the CDC where the
          health commissioner’s report of ‘polio’ was changed to ‘aseptic
          meningitis’ in 1957:

          This is a modern description from the World Health Organisation of the
          different things that cause “Acute flaccid paralysis”, including polio.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Your understanding is wrong.

            • Roy Soliman

              Okay – when you have evidence to back up your statement, please let me know.

            • SmilodonsRetreat

              Feel free to look through EVERY POST I’VE WRITTEN! There’s a link on the side that will take you to Smilodon’s Retreat. There you will find peer-reviewed research that refutes everything you’ve said.

              Since you don’t support your claims with evidence, I’m not going to bother refuting anything. It’s all been refuted a thousand times by dozens of bloggers (many of who are evolutionary biologists), thousands of papers published each year (for the last 50-70 years), and the thousands of examples that actually exist… the ones that you never hear about from your creationist writers… until they have a way to confuse, misrepresent, or outright lie about it. And you will find evidence of those claims as well on my blog (click on the category “book review” and read all of the entries for Darwin’s Doubt).