Thursday, July 26, 2007

You SHOULD debate Creationists! Maybe.

I meant to write a post on this earlier, but the Great Puppy Adventure came up, and I never got around to it. Luckily, PZ just brought it up again. Heres the deal: I think you SHOULD debate Creationists... IF you are a student.

It is an excellent learning opportunity. Oh god, not for learning Creationist Claims-- That will make you go retarded. I mean a learning opportunity for your own studies. A challenge to synthesize information youre learning in all of your classes, not just lame memorization for tests. And then you have to turn around and be able to present that information to your friends!

A student can safely disarm the problems a PhD would have debating a Creationist, with the added advantage of not having anything to lose. Students can mess up all they want-- theyre still learning! But a Professional Creationist cannot lose one point debating a kid-- theyre supposed to be the professionals. Puts a lot of pressure on the Creationist.

For instance:

It pits oratory against science in a venue where you'll be judged on your rhetoric.
I think here a student would have an advantage (especially on a college campus).

  • Creationists are old white men with the humor of old white men. Attempts to appeal to younger audience members looks forced and pathetic.
  • A debate between a grown man and a student makes the old man look even more pathetic.
  • Student bumbles some words, messes up a little, its okay. Professional Creationist bumbles, messes up, again, is pathetic.
  • Student wins a point, makes the Professional Creationist look even more pathetic.
  • Student learns how to give a better presentation.

It gives publicity to creationists.

"Cranky Old Man picks on local Student"
"Professional Creationist Whomped by local Student"
I dont mind either of those headlines!

Creationists can generate more lies more quickly than you can refute.
Good time to win points with rhetoric-- Student can ask his/her classmates (in the audience) which arguments they find most convincing and address only those.
Those are the claims that matter.

Debates artificially give equal time to two sides, falsely elevating creationist trivia to equality with scientific substance.

Again-- Old Man vs Student throws this off balance. If anything, it degrades the Creationist appropriately. Creationism can be refuted by a high school/undergrad/grad student, so a kid deals with it.

The debates are often used to recruit members to fundamentalist Christian organizations.

They use barbecues to recruit people too, but Im not going to stop grilling. But once again, a Professional agreeing to debate a student does not put Creationism or its proponents in a good light.

I dont think kids have anything to lose by debating a Creationist. I say they should go for it.


Chris Harrison said...

"Professional Creationist"



If anyone tried to tell me they were a "professional creationist", I think i would just drop to the floor in a fit of laughter. The situation would be overwhelming.

Ian said...

I really hadn't thought about it that way. Great job. It's funny really - it turns the creationist playbook on its head.

(By the way, any idea what happened to Dustin's blog?)

Bob O'H said...

Ah, but the creationists will respond by sending a high school student to debate instead. So we'll have to respond....

I think you can see where this arms race is going. But thanks to our atheistic lack of morals, we'll be able to use three genetically engineered stem cells to win the debate for us.


Hume's Ghost said...

A lot depends on the audience, too.

We know that Creationists like to debate people in a forum where they'll have a sympathetic audience.

I remember watching Michael Shermer debate Jonathan Wells, author of a Politically Incorrect Guide to Evolution book (another Orwellian attack on reality from Regnery publishing) ... after they got done they took questions, and several people pointed out to Wells that he had made egregiously false claims during his talk.

Yet a standard debate audience would be unlikely to realize just how many untruths can be pacted into a debate and go without rebuttal.

Aaron Kinney said...

I like your optimism. Thats the winning attitude! And thats hwat will get you far in life.

You should debate creationists about evolution whenever possible. Similarly, I debate theists on the possibility of God (or lack thereof) whenever possible. It definitely makes a difference! :)

Aaron Kinney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Z said...

In regards to Hume's Ghost's post, when I was an undergrad in Evolution and Ecology at UC-Davis we had a famous creationist come and give a talk to a packed auditorium.

Unfortunately, many biologists were unable to get in for a couple reasons/tactics used by the creationist's on-campus sympathizers. First was they barred Evolution and Ecology faculty form entering, saying that students had priority since the speaker was invited by a student group. Fair enough, I guess. But the other thing they did that emphasizes their double standards was to bus in attendees from nearby rural communities, as well as Sacramento. These were of course not students, and especially not tuition-paying UCD students! So basically the audience was stacked by the organizers to be in the significant majority creationist sympathizers. Of course myself and several other biology majors attended to listen to him espouse how the flagella and the eye disproves evolution and the "what scientists don't want you to know" crap. Its obviously a conspiracy that every upperclassman biology major at public universities learns and gets in on.

Sorry for rambling, but I've noticed another trend now I am a grad student at Penn State. the muslim student union here keeps inviting creationist speakers to come out and give talks. This was especially true during the Dover days. And of course we have Phil Skell here who always sits in the front row of every public seminar involving evolution and/or creationism, but will never attend a regular biology seminar where some aspect of evolution is nealy always discussed...

Shawn Wilkinson said...

Interesting view on why to debate. I don't think a graduate student should debate, though. An undergraduate, sure, but not someone who already earned their bachelors and has some credibility.

I do plan on going to my campus' CreSci forums this coming fall when they have them, though.