The Validity of Debating Creationists

I’m very intrigued about tonight’s debate between Ham and Nye. The news and publicity that I am seeing about it is has been almost non-stop for the last couple of weeks. Though the mainstream media here in limeyland doesn’t appear to have picked up on it. I’m keen to see if it is reported at all tomorrow. I expect to see something in the morning news and later in the papers, I guess I’ll find out tomorrow. I’ll not be watching it live though, since it’ll be midnight here when it starts and goodness knows what time when it’s over. I expect I’ll check YouTube for videos tomorrow to see how it went. No doubt my feedly stream will be full of comment in the morning as well.

One of the hottest questions on the subject of the debate seems to be the validity of the debate rather than what the content is likely to be. The opinions here are almost as polarised as the subject itself.

I fully get the objections that vocal naysayers are raising. Debating Creationists does give undue validity to their opinions and making it this public, especially so. The Ham publicity machine has clearly been working very hard. The important point is, scientific truth is not decided by debate; it is dictated through evidence. Debating the validity of Creationism gives a platform to ideas which should have died out a long time ago and the debate format simply gives them life through the method of slippery rhetoric. Clever words do not truth make, regardless of how much the speaker believes it.

However, this does also give an opportunity for those creationists who are prepared to pay attention to the science to actually hear a science description from someone who is not trying to peddle religion off the back of it. When I look back at the science I read about in my creationist days, I can see how it was always shaped in a way that led to god. Creationists talking about science invariably frame the discussion to guide a god agenda and this is dishonest. When I read creationist comment on science now, I can see that clearly and it alarms me. Creationists who have relied on the likes of Ham and AiG to feed them these twisted versions of science now have a chance to hear it more clearly, if only they will have ears to hear.

I hope that Nye will rise to the challenge and give many creationists something serious and honest to think about and investigate. I hope he has good advisors and has had enough time to prepare because getting through to a creationist is not the same as explaining science to the secular layperson. If a scientific argument is seen as threatening to a Creationist, then it’ll be rejected. The science needs to be phrased in a way that invites (temps?) them to look deeper.

This event always springs to mind when thinking about discussions such as this: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/when-friends-are-unkind/

 

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Creationism on my doorstep

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a leaflet in our church advertising a discussion on origins that would be held at the local secondary school.

Curious, I read a bit more and a couple of points on it rang alarm bells for me.

Discussion on origins is Philosophical?

The heading on the leaflet bill it as a philosophical discussion. This bothered me because how we came about is surely in the realm of science. Granted the religious aspects of origins could arguably fall under the umbrella of philosophy. What concerned me was that billing it as philosophical and omitting reference to science immediately sets the tone as religious in nature, more specifically, creationist.

Reading further the noticed mentioned a UK creationism organisation and one of its key people by name.

I looked up the organisation to try and find some more detail on the specific discussion in question. The website listed a couple of events that they have representation at. What really grabbed my attention though was a note that said they will on occasion to talks or discussions at schools but that they will not be publicised on the site.

Flying Under the Radar?

The cynic in me wonders if the reason for this is so as to not attract too much attention from those who directly and actively oppose creationism through direct scientific argument.

Hosting such events at a school and having some local churches advertise it seem to me a safe way of getting enough doubt in science sown to impressionable people without having any credible argument or evidence shown.

Sadly for me, the event was a mid-week afternoon and I was unable to attend due to commitments in London.

After the event, my wife mentioned it to some friends we were entertaining for dinner and it turns out that one of the more elderly members of our church is very pro creationism and makes a good philosophical argument was very involved in this event, so maybe I’ll get an opportunity to challenge creationism directly in the future. Until then, I shall remain disappointed that this event happened and had very little publicity outside of a specific circle.

Countering Creationist Arguments

I have just found out about this page on the Rational Wiki (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/101_evidences_for_a_young_age_of_the_Earth_and_the_universe)

Its a point by point refutation of a post on creation.com giving, as the title suggests, 101 reasons for believing creationism.

I’ve not been through it all, there is a lot of stuff there if you read about all 101 points, but I am putting it here to add my little bit to the publicity machine.

The Coming Out Begins

I’ve mentioned that a conversation on membership at our new church will be had soon (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/two-things-that-happened-last-sunday/). Well, its happened.

My wife mentioned that she’d spoken to the pastor about prospective membership and that he was due to come round and have a preliminary chat with us. Well I couldn’t hold it off any longer, there was only one thing I could do and that was indicate my concerns.

So we had a discussion about how I was having doubts in my faith. That my increased scientific understanding had led me to doubt significant biblical events to the point where I now questioned the reliability of the bible.

We talked around a few things and my wife mentioned that at least I hadn’t rejected it all completely and gone atheist on her. Ouch. I guess that was my cue to fess up completely, but I couldn’t do it. She did confirm that she had strongly suspected the situation for a while.

My justification for not going the full confession with her is that, the news is still new to her and that to go straight to the end point would be a bit much. I know its dishonest, but I think its better than full disclosure at the moment. My journey to atheism was not short and I think exposing it as a short journey might not be that helpful. So there is more to discuss.

Membership won’t happen for me

So upshot of the discussion is that my wife suggested that I don’t go for membership of the church, but that she still will.

There were other things she said too. She expressed a desire for us to continue to have conversations on religion. She also said she wanted us to continue to go to church as a family and it was important to her that I supported what she wants to do within the church, especially as I do know what it is like to be committed to the church as a Christian. This is all fine with me. I can’t expect support for my position if I can’t support hers.

The next day, the pastor came round to chat about membership and before he chatted to my wife, I went for a short walk with him to explain my position. He understood and took it on board, he thanked me for my honesty and explained that given that information there is no way he could accept me into membership. The conversation ended positively and we continue to build what I think is going to be a good friendship.

The pastor has lent me a book called, “Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?” I think its clear from the title that the conclusion will be acceptance of evolution, likely to be guided with a divine hand. I have started reading it and the opening chapter makes it clear that its primarily aimed at Christians who wish to answer further questions on evolution. Maybe this isn’t the right sort of book for me, but I’m going to read it anyway and see where it goes.

Where next?

Given the open and honest conversations we’ve had, I am positive for the future for my wife and I. I had built up a lot of fear in myself on how I could tell her and what would happen. It turns out that fear was unfounded.

Creationism is just denialism

Its easy to say this now that I have stepped away from my creationist beliefs, but that doesn’t stop it being true. All that creationism does is look for things in science that are not clearly defined and try to punch holes in them in an effort to create doubt and therefore, by association, add credence to creationism.

I acknowledge that I’ve just been very negative about creationism and so now sound like every other sceptic or atheist on the internet. The thing is, I’ve been there and I know its true.

When I think about the things convinced me that the world was created in 7 days, its things like the falsehood known as Piltdown Man that had me believing that evolutionary science was misguided at best and fraudulent at worst.

The trouble with creationism is that it starts with an assumption; that the world (and therefore the universe) was created in 7 days and then looks for the evidence to support that. This active searching for supporting evidence means that there is an already agenda, this is very bad science and its cynical religion.

When you are that person, as I was for many years, you just don’t see it. People brought up in church hear time and time again of the changeless God, the same, yesterday, today and forever. For me, this unchanging mindset was a problem because it created in me an assumption that the world was created as described in Genesis and had not changed since.

This made it very easy to be critical of the scientific method.

Science revels in change, science loves the hard to explain, science even likes to be wrong. Without any of these things, scientific knowledge would never advance. In science, assumptions are only made when there is a conclusion to be drawn from the gathered evidence.

Creationism never has and never will do that.

As a creationist I scoffed at what I described as the mind changing that scientists did in trying to explain our existence. As if arrogant little me knew any better. When I peruse creationist posts I see in them the same attitude I had, the looking for the small thing that could make the scientific description even slightly questionable and then exclaim ‘Aha! See, its all wrong’.

The thing is, when all you do is look for the tiny imperfections, you miss the much bigger picture. Just because science can’t absolutely explain how the Hippo and the Whale descended from the same ancestor, doesn’t mean its not true. It is true because DNA profiling shows the relationship and anatomical similarities help with the evidence. We know the end result with certainty, even if we don’t know exactly how.

Yet as a creationist I would not and could not accept that. The dynamic world of science with new discoveries and evolving theories did not fit with my creationist worldview of a static and unchanging world where we already knew how it happened because the good book said so.

When I look back on those days I genuinely shudder with embarrassment; yet I also empathise with those who still hold that view, because I understand why they do. If only they too would open their eyes and realise that their hole picking will get harder and harder as the scientific community discovers more and more about the wonderful world in which we live.

Wow, just wow. Is he for real or is it a spoof?

I think I must be dreaming because I have just experienced a most surreal exchange with a creationist. I certainly hope that I never came across this angry or foolish during the years that I spent as a creationist.

To see what I am talking about, hop over here and have a read: http://eternian.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/evolution-didnt-survive/

I have to admit, I actually burst out laughing when I read that second response to me. The poster actually accused me of babbling! Given the brevity of my post and the verboseness of his, its hilariously amusing.

My first thought, is wow, what a hate filled monster, is this really the work of a Christian? Would (or could) a Christian, no matter how misguided behave like this on the internet?

Well, sadly yes it is possible but there is something else that bothers me. Its the language used, the pickyness and the set formula in the replies. Something rings my ‘not quite right’ bell on this one.

Its the insistence of picking out the tinniest incidental (like my putting something in parenthesis) and reading far too much into its meaning. Then there is the constant use of you’re instead of your.

I am left wondering if the whole blog is a spoof, the ranting, the overstated nonsense, the (relatively) well written prose, the single grammatical mistake repeated often, the similar breakdown to each of my short posts, the hypocritical irony in each of the accusations sent my way. If this was a genuine site, even from an angry and delusional creationist I’d have expected different.

So I’m going to call this one a spoof, its not real, its from someone imitating an angry delusional creationist for their own amusement; and mine too I guess, since I have already admitted to laughing at what had been written to me.

So take a gander over there and see if you agree with me.

Edit: It looks like the second comment, to which I refer has been removed, along with my original comments. Thankfully I saved a copy so here it is for your amusement.

NB: *** = my name, taken from my email address, which I have edited out.

“Wow. You certainly managed to read a whole lot into my short comment.”
Because you said so, and whatever you say is true is true because you said so. No: you’re wrong.
“Its almost as though you (think you) know more about what I meant than I did myself.”
Why did you put “think you” in brackets? You’re babbling; you’re not refuting anything I said. You’re pride is offended, and that is what is speaking your reply.
“Have you actually studied the theory of evolution from a scientific perspective?”
You could look, and READ the rest of what I’ve written. You know what reading is right? Or are you a lazy bigot who just enjoys resorting to mindless cheap shots? Have you actually noticed that I have by moving your eyes to the right a little? “Duh”? See those links ***? Apparently not Mr. Narrow Vision. You’re studying skills are clearly terrible. You’re so narrow-minded even your vision is narrow, or are you just someone who is stubborn and likes to argue? And was it really that hard to notice the poem? For example, didn’t you notice I pointed out Edward Blyth, who originated the theory of natural selection, and said that Darwin stole it and twisted it, and that it was twisted even further to survive? No: because you’re a quick to judge, arrogant, presumptuous careless person who takes no pleasure in understanding, but in airing his own opinions. You’re a recycler of hot air.
You’ve also committed four logical fallacies with that statement:
1) Bait and switch: because you’re not refuting anything I said, and going off topic by asking whether I do such and such.
2) You’re attacking me without evidence by simply posing a question that implies I’m not analyzing refuted DET scientifically.
3) You’ve committed the fallacy of method: which is that there is only one method to determine truth. That is a big fail right there.
4) Ad hominem: because you’ve made a “back handed” accusation, an implication, WITHOUT EVIDENCE, that I have not been scientific, which is despicable of you. That is the tactic of evil pride-devastated weasels. You might as well have said, “Nanny nanny boo boo, ur not scientific haha.”
“By study I don’t mean read about through the eyes is creationist bias.”
You’ve committed the logical fallacy of vilification with that statement: what is the evidence that the creationist perspective is biased? And again, you’ve committed ad hominem: attacking the person and going off topic by doing so. Aren’t you being a weasel?
Who said creationism wasn’t scientific ***? You’re biased self has and the Mainstream Science cult: http://vainstream.tk.
“I mean actual study of how it works and unbiased viewing of the evidence”
***: If you’re the one committing logical fallacies left and right up and down in front and behind all around with short pot shots, and I’m the one pointing them out clearly and not making any myself, none that you’ve pointed out with evidence, how is it then you’re asking me to not be biased? Have you actually studied creation science, intelligent design theory, the Bible, and Christianity, sincerely, with an evolutionist bias? Obviously not, since you prejudge anything against your feelings as “wrong”. With a biased attitude like that, you’re not going to learn much truth, and even if you do, you’re just rejecting it in hatred.
“and why its true.”
You’ve committed the fallacy of presumption by presuming it’s true. You’re also contradicting yourself by asking me to be unbiased and yet you’re telling me to draw the conclusion that it is true because having studied it. Aren’t you confused?
“The lie actually comes from you when you assert that evolution is a myth.”
That is the fallacy of begging the question: why is it true? You have no evidence for it.
You argue out of ignorance, that is why you’re arguments are full of fallacies, and empty.
That is enough of you, further replies will be marked as spam, since you are impulsive and rant with your replies.
And ***: I’m a Christian, not simply a “creationist”. And I wasn’t born a Christian, and was raised by narcissistic parents who neglected me often, and was put through a dismal Darwinist school system, that barely taught Darwinism. There is an About me page, and my journal is full of evidence against Darwinism, as if the rest of the Internet, bookstores, and libraries of the world. Darwinists are carrying around a propped up corpse, and puppeteer it. You’re not fooling those who can see clearly, if anyone: just the ignorant and gullible.
“Pride comes before a fall.” – God