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Opinion: Confronting Creationism

Five reasons why scientists should stay out of debates over evolution.

By | February 7, 2014

WIKIMEDIA, SOMEDRIFTWOODAn estimated 3 million people recently watched Ken Ham, the dour Australian expatriate and evangelical entrepreneur who runs the creationist ministry Answers in Genesis in northern Kentucky, try to argue the scientific viability of his form of creationism against Bill Nye, the beloved “Science Guy” of children’s television fame. While it’s unlikely the live-streamed event changed many minds, it was arguably the most prominent debate concerning creationism and evolution to date.

Among the most probable outcomes of this event is widespread renewed interest in debating evolution. Scientists may increasingly find themselves challenged to debate creationist evangelists, and perhaps threatened to be added to a “debate dodger” list should they hesitate. Worse yet, either because they admired Nye’s performance and wish to emulate it, or because they fault his performance and wish to surpass it, scientists may be tempted to challenge creationists to debate.

Scientists should decline such challenges and resist this temptation. Why? Decades of experience suggest that formal oral debates between scientists and creationists are by and large counterproductive—at least if the goal is to improve the public’s understanding of evolution and the nature of science, and to increase the level of support for the teaching of evolution uncompromised by religious dogma.

  1. Such debates confer unearned legitimacy on the creationist position. When a scientist debates a creationist about evolution, he or she is conveying the message that the creationist has a scientific case to make, even though creationists explicitly or implicitly prioritize scripture over science. Revealingly, creationists do not argue—nor even attempt to argue—for their views how scientists argue for their scientific positions.
     
  2. Such debates tend to mislead the audience about the nature of scientific practice. Scientists argue with each other, sometimes fiercely, but they do not argue in the service of a religious ideology. Rather, they argue in the service of a common goal: ascertaining how the natural world works. And they do so in venues that reward the objective assessment of evidence rather than oratorical prowess, such as research publications and professional conferences.
     
  3. Most debate formats allow the creationist participant to engage in the Gish gallop, so named for the late stalwart creationist debater Duane T. Gish, who was notorious for his breakneck recital of half-truths, out-of-context quotations, and quibbles, presented in such swift succession that the opposing scientist was oftens unable to track, let alone refute, every point. As a result, the audience is left with the misapprehension that the points left unrefuted by the scientific debater are valid.
     
  4. Such debates are often presented, explicitly or implicitly, as debates over religion, with the creationist happily assuming the role of defender of faith, God, and the Bible, and the scientist cast, willingly or unwillingly, in the opposite role. Because evolution is accepted on the basis of the overwhelming evidence by scientists of all faiths and of none, it is inaccurate and unhelpful for it to be presented as distinctively and inextricably connected with any position on religion.
     
  5. Such debates help to stimulate the base and swell the coffers of their creationist sponsors. What’s worse, they fuel local enthusiasm for creationism, contributing to pressure on local teachers to teach creationism or downplay evolution. A survey conducted in 2007 revealed the dismal fact that one in eight public high-school biology teachers in the United States already present creationism as scientifically credible, and that six in 10 already downplay evolution.

Still, Nye’s performance may not have hurt science. He researched his opponent’s views, consulted with experts, and prepared thoroughly, as would any careful debater. But he enjoyed a crucial advantage that the average scientist is unlikely to share. Nye is a brilliant and admired science communicator, with a professional entertainer’s stage presence and the ability to connect with a general audience. Debates are performances, and Nye is a splendid performer.

We applaud scientists who are concerned about the precarious state of evolution education in the United States and want to confront creationism. But participating in formal oral debates with creationists is far from the best—and certainly not the only—way to do so. By all means, confront creationism, but do so in ways that advance, rather than hinder, the goal of a scientifically literate public that supports the teaching of evolution.

Ann Reid is the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, a not-for-profit organization that defends the teaching of evolution and climate science, where Glenn Branch is deputy director.

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Avatar of: Sensei

Sensei

Posts: 1

February 8, 2014

Ken is “dour”?  Watch the ABC TV Nightline program and see what he’s really like: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/bill-nye-ken-ham-scenes-great-creation-debate-22404825

Avatar of: Doug Easton

Doug Easton

Posts: 6

February 8, 2014

I have to agree with Ann Reid. As a scientist I would say, sure I will debate you, but since this is to be a scientific debate, only if you make no reference to God or the Bible.

Avatar of: Michael Tigges

Michael Tigges

Posts: 8

Replied to a comment from Doug Easton made on February 8, 2014

February 10, 2014

That is a problem Doug.  I am a Creationist because I, like Wolfgang Pauli, Fred Hoyle, Raymond Damadian, Richard Smalley, Johnathan Sarfati, Wernher Von Braun and countless other scientist and engineers, the Darwinian explanation for macro-evolution remains entirely insufficient to explain the creation and diversity of life forms we see today.  From a purely mathematical and information theory perspective, the impossibility of the non-directed specific accumulation of information contained within the DNA molecule for even the simplest of life forms has been shown to be theoretically  impossible.  Until scientist can demonstrate an undirected naturalistic pathway to life, Darwininan theory is non-supportable and critical thinking scientist will be forced to consider alternatives.  I don't have enough faith to be a Darwinian scientist ...

Avatar of: Grinningthorn

Grinningthorn

Posts: 1

February 10, 2014

I completely agree with the authors of this excellent bit of advice.  Part of my career I spent in academic science and I have an advanced degree in philosophy as well.  I am very comfortable taking scientific concepts and framing them for the public. However, I have always found debating the Creationists fruitless.

I think the assertion that Creationists are not even speaking about observation bound statements regarding nature (they are revelation based first and foremost) is the key here.  Science is all about the observable universe and its description and understanding.  That has nothing to do with what Creationists are speaking about.  There is no ground for a conversation, let alone a valid debate.

Wise advice.

Avatar of: LeeH

LeeH

Posts: 29

February 10, 2014

THere is no debate.  Creationism is religion period and no amount of B.S. is going to change that fact.

Avatar of: LeeH

LeeH

Posts: 29

Replied to a comment from Michael Tigges made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

Evolution is a fact...get over it.

Avatar of: jobardu

jobardu

Posts: 2

February 10, 2014

There is a sixth reason why scientists should stay out of debates on creationism. That is to avoid looking dumb by not getting in the middle of a metaphoric debate. For many people, this isn't about science, it is an issue regarding communication on any and all issues, scientific, political, spiritual, sexual etc etc.

In the US, if not the UK, the politically correct left answers any disagreements with their positions with personal insults and disdain, refusing to discuss issues directly. Any further argument is met by repetition, in a louder voice. People on the other side of this sociopathic behavior pattern end up getting frustrated and sometimes upset, especially since the politically correct left dominates the media only covers or presents one side of any story.

The result of this is that many scientists who know better and who would never state some creationist opinions in public, or argue for intelligent design, intelligent falling, and other such opinions, will do so under a different name or in polls. The point being to point out just how mindless and disrespectful the political left has become and to return some aggravation to them. For example, A recent review by a respected polling organization found that the left has no idea what the right is thinking and doesn't care, while people identified as right or conservative do understand the liberal left.

This has been going on for decades now, and needling the left is the latest attempt by people who hold other opinions to get them to get their heads out of their caves and join the rest of humanity.

Avatar of: vmaldia

vmaldia

Posts: 26

Replied to a comment from Michael Tigges made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

\\the impossibility of the non-directed specific accumulation of information contained within the DNA molecule for even the simplest of life forms has been shown to be theoretically  impossible.\\


but evolution is not entirely random or non directed. There is natural selection which is naturally directed

Avatar of: NM

NM

Posts: 1

Replied to a comment from Michael Tigges made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

But Michael, therein lies the fault with your own argument. It is about "faith" within the creationist movement. Where scientist would say that there's not yet enough data to explain the "impossibility of ht enon-directed specific accumulation of information contained within the DNA molecule...", creationists would explain it as divine intervention. Evolution science is an accumulation of proven hypothesis which in turn forms the whole theory. While you can try to poke holes, the Theory or model remains pretty consistent and has yet stood the test of time.

Avatar of: W. Boernke

W. Boernke

Posts: 12

Replied to a comment from Michael Tigges made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

"Until scientist can demonstrate an undirected naturalistic pathway to life"

This has already been done.  We know that when there is an energy source and an energy sink, entropy decreases.  We know that biological molecules can form in a reducing environment with an enegry source (the Miller/Urey experiments).  And we know that biological molecules can self-associate (e.g., amphipathic lipid molecules will form bilayers in aqueous environments; the lipid bilayer is the basis for cell membranes).  Protein molecules fold in cells with no direction and natural selection provides an explanation for why only certain protein conformations are retained in the cells.

So, the burden is on you to falsify the materialist, evolutionary/reductionist hypothesis for the formation of life.  Science must be materialistic (no explanation that involves the supernatural or direction is allowed).

Since faith is belief in the absence of evidence, then it is understandable that you do not have enough faith to be a Darwinian scientist.  The question for me is that since you cannot falsify Darwin, why do you still reject Darwin?

You illustrate the major problem nonscientists face.  Most people think that scientists prove things to be true.  But only mathematicians and lawyers prove things.  If you feel Darwin has not proved evolution by natural selection, then it must not be true.  But it is also a non sequitur to argue that if evolution cannot be proved, then there must have been a creator.  But this is not how science works.  Scientists test hypotheses and either confirm them or falsify them.  Karl Popper opined that you can never be sure that you have confirmed a hypothesis because some future experiment may falsify it.  But you can be certain a hypothesis is not true if you can falsify it (e.g., Galileo falsified the Aristotelian notion that the earth is at the center of the universe and the sun, moon, planets, and stars all revovle around the earth in perfect circles; at least he got the moon right). The reason almost all biologists accept Darwininian evolution by natural selection is that there is abundant evidence confirming it, and after 150 years or so, nobody has falsified it

With regard to macro-evolution (speciation), are you aware that a large number of plant species arose rapidly because of introgressive hybridization?  If two separate plant species form a hybrid that cannot interbreed with either parental species (because of polyploidy: different numbers of chromosomes), this is an example of macro-evolution (speciation) that occurs in one generation.

Avatar of: RobertE

RobertE

Posts: 12

February 10, 2014


I agree that scientists should not debate creationists for the reasons given, but that does not mean that we should avoid public dialog. Scientists tend to fall into one or more of several traps. First, scientists fail to understand that the point of confronting creationists is not to debate them; instead it is to convince the audience. Thus, scientists attempt to refute their points, which are all based on using the incompleteness in scientific theories against the scientific explanation. Instead, scientists should confron creationists on the most fundamental level, which is that no matter what creationism is or is not, it is not scientific because it is not falsifiable. Science is a way of thinking and analyzing the universe by proposing hypotheses in such a way that they are testable, i.e. they can be refuted, or falsified. I also maintain that many scientists fail to understand this philosophical point. Science does not discover absolute Truth with a capital T; it is restricted by definition to those truths that are empirically testable. Every now and then we sweep everything off the table when a new test comes along and shows that explanations that we thought had survived an unbiased test failed a more sophisticated one, and at the least our earlier theories were incomplete. So, in the end whether some supernatural being created the universe is totally irrelevant. All the little inconsistencies siezed upon by creationists prove is that our theories may not be complete, yet. Anyone remember when we thought DNA led irreversibly to RNA, which in turn led irreversibly to protein?

Creationism has no place in the science classroom precisely because it is not scientific and fails to adhere to the scientific paradigm of testable reality. End of debate because creationism cannot be falsified. I have found this to be a mostly successful approach with people of faith. I take what is essentially the post-modernist approach. As scientists, we do not challenge their faith. They are free to believe anything they wish, but we do reserve the right to teach the scientific paradigm as such and exclude supernatural explanations as a ground rule.

Avatar of: W. Boernke

W. Boernke

Posts: 12

February 10, 2014

Science/religion debates are interminable for a very good reason.  The late paleontologist Stephen Gould argued that science and religion occupy different domains of authority (Gould called these domains of authority magisteria and said the magisteria to not overlap, meaning the authority of one can't be used to critique the other, and vice versa).

Wittgenstein made a similar point when he said that science uses a logical language of facts that is not available to aesthetics and ethics because they are values, not facts.  (The old fact/value distinciton of David Hume.)  I would simply add theology to Aesthetics and ethics.

Why shouldn't scientists debate creationists?   Because it is no differnt than Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill only to have it roll down so that Sisyphus must begin again.  Camus imagined Sisyphus happy.  I am a retired biologist who never was happy when people asked me about science and religion.

Avatar of: JoeDavis

JoeDavis

Posts: 2

Replied to a comment from W. Boernke made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

Yes! Note that some of these exchanges will recall interrogations of highly political, “bioactivism” in other secular milieus, including the arts. So, while we are out there avoiding arguments, watch out for coalitions of the under-informed.

Avatar of: Michael Tigges

Michael Tigges

Posts: 8

Replied to a comment from vmaldia made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

Natural selection is great.  However, I am talking abiogenesis, before life began and cellular replication was operational.  It is here that the problem arises.  Without natural selection, there is no process to drive the accumulation of the information necessary to begin life.  Information does not naturally arise.  How did the original information in DNA arise?  The primordial soup explanation does not work and experiements like Miller-Urey fall way short.  Order is there in non-living processes, as in crystal formation and basic chemistry, but information does not self arise...

Avatar of: ACFL

ACFL

Posts: 1

February 10, 2014

Problem is the distance between science and religion. We spiritualists see the world as a crowded existence of spirits crossing the space and time continuously. Like voyagers, indeed they take or assume personalities when reincarnated here or elsewhere. Religion as form of comunication between existence plans of life is an way to maintain that comunication process. People confuse religion and churches. The last ones are particularizations of the religion, and normally tend to distort the comunication process. It is not possible to see the world as a cahotic phenomena. Brain is the hard drive of the spirit (with more complex functions) and retrieves informations downloaded from it. Spirit must grow up, evolve and needs to "flow" through species to get this. Furthermore, this evolution process never stops.

Creationism is only one step of the entire process. As said before, the spirit must pass through species as an evolutionary requirement. As old clothes we need to depart from on specie to another one until we can reach the human stage. The next step is out of the body, when the spirit will not need a body, like ours, to continue his evolution. Free will is the mutation point from animal kingdom to human kingdom. It s like to wake up from dream.

The science is too important to make clear the natural universal processes. The man spirit is designed to map the universe laws understand it through formulas and equations. Nowadays this process has been too quick and I have no doubt that science and the true religion are in a convergent highway.

The great hindrance has been the religious representatives which insist in wanting to be the owners of the truth.

Avatar of: Mounthell

Mounthell

Posts: 14

February 10, 2014

As is evident here, promotions of evolution fail to distinguish between Darwin's rather ecumenical view of evolution and the later, committee design variously called "modern evolutionary synthesis" (MES) and neo-darwinism.

Darwin left the details of the origin of novelty in evolution rather open and instead focused on the selection of the novelty-bearing (and susceptible) organism's by its environment of ecosystem and conspecifics (as signalled by successfully reproducing generations) and, wiser than most acknowledge, was prescient in doing so. The modern synthesis, in contrast, declares that the spontaneous mutations of DNA sequences, called "random" because they are defined as not specifically provident to the organism, are the primary source of innovation (selection itself potentially can be viewed as offering variation to the population of conspecifics). Except for the self-described evolutionists who live under rocks, this dependence upon DNA changes presents us with a problem.

The problem is that organism development must therefore be (centrally) controlled by DNA. Yet, as we now know, all biological systems adapt to their environments or else become extinct (along with 99.9% of ancestors). Adapting is merely the system self-optimizing to its local environment, whether it is components in a cell or ecosystem members and so on. All biological disciplines recognize this self-optimization of systems except for those of evolution and development. The latter disciplines would have us believe that the organization of teratogenic organisms, such as cats with two-heads that are often seamlessly integrated, occurs as programmed by the animals' DNA and that each of our trillions of cells are dictated by and located according to our paltry gigabase DNA.

Part of the perception problem is NCSE which has too long served as an echo chamber for Dawkin's grotesque, crypto-religious selfish-gene spasm and elevation of the (arguably nonexistent) "gene" to academic sainthood: Any variant view of evolution is to be categorized as "creationist," regardless of its details. Thanks to tribal mavens, such as the above, all but a few biologists are not only ignorant of the dynamics of evolution, they don't understand the obvious problem with the MES.

Although comically/tragically wrong in their solution(s), creationists at least sense that there is a problem, despite the protests of the hordes of Horatios being paid by the public.

Avatar of: Michael Tigges

Michael Tigges

Posts: 8

Replied to a comment from W. Boernke made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

Mathematically Darwin has already been disproven as it relates to abiogenesis.  The equations are there.  From an information theory perspective the case is well defined against Darwin's evolution.  Miller/Urey have long been disproven as providing credibility to a logical pathway to abiogenesis.  Without a foundation, no theory can stand.  Darwinian theory stands upon a foundation of spontaneous generation of information over great periods of time.

As for introgressive hybridization, the information is already there.  Compatible sharing of existing information between two species to produce fertile hybrids, in my opinion, is akin to butterfly mimicry.  Nothing new is created.  No new information.  The information is shared but not created.  IH is not opening any new evolutionary concepts that I am aware.

Avatar of: RJR8222

RJR8222

Posts: 3

February 10, 2014

It is possible for a scientist to engage in a very effective debate with a creationist, but the trick is to debate the merits of the arguments for creationism, not the argument against evolution. This requires that the scientist take the time to become intimately acquainted with all of the so-called arguments against evolution and their logical flaws.

Many years ago I saw such a debate happen at Michigan State University. The debate was formal, with the question being, "Should creationism be taught as an alternative to evolution in schools?" The biologist opened his presentation with "Creationism should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution because creationism is not science at all. Rather it is a politically motivated fraud, and tonight I will prove that to you."

The approach was stunning in its effectiveness and included things like showing (photograph of the text, on a slide) a quote from a prominent creationist, using an argument from thermodynamics to "refute" evolution. Then he showed (again, using a photograph of the text to prove that he was not misquoting) a quote from a thermodynamics textbook that made it clear that the supposed thermodynamic refutation of evolution was in fact a profound misrepresentation of the actual laws of thermodynamics. After noting that the source of the creationist quote was in fact the chairman of a department of engineering, he turned to the audience and boomed, with great theatrical effect, "Ladies and gentlemen, how could the chairman of a department of engineering so thoroughly misrepresent the laws of thermodynamics, except through fraud?"

And so it went.

Every one of the creationists' "arguments" against evolution were presented, then disassembled and thoroughly discredited. At one point he quoted his opponent in the debate (without showing the quote on a slide) and demolished the position, leaving his opponent to lamely claim that he had been misquoted. It was a trap. The biologist responded, "Misquoted? Hmmm. I am pretty sure I got it right. Let's see," and he reached into his pocket and produced a copy of the book he had just quoted. He opened the book, looked in, then back at his opponent. "Nope. I got it right. That is exactly what you wrote." Then, holding up the book, he offered it to his opponent, "Here. This is your book, right? Would you like to check where I have marked your quote? Apparently your memory has failed you."

Far from stimulating the creationist base, this debate left them demoralized.

 

Avatar of: JoeDavis

JoeDavis

Posts: 2

February 10, 2014

 

As Jesus would say, “Oh, brother!” Consider the widely accepted tenents of thermodynamics: 1) you can’t win 2) you can’t break even 3) you can’t get out of the game. There may be some simple wisdom for us in the zeroth law too.

Avatar of: FD

FD

Posts: 8

Replied to a comment from Michael Tigges made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

Ah, an information theory argument... I'd never heard it before, and you have convinced me! I'm cured of my obsession with darwinian evolution! Thank you so much!

Now that I too know that a Creator must have created life, let us debate his nature and attributes. Since you are so rational, logical and scientifically-minded, you will have to admit, here and now, that, as a metaphysical and thus scientifically untestable being, it is equally probable that he/she/it is the paranoid misogynistic bully described in the bible, or Horus, or Vishnu, or a magical flying teapot orbiting the Sun, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster dreamt up by those pesky pesky darwinists to mock us Creationists, or--I just had me a mystical revelation--a gay Jamaican woman who smokes pot all day. Teach the controversy!

Thanks again.

Avatar of: Salticidologist

Salticidologist

Posts: 12

February 10, 2014

I just can't agree with the thesis here.  Certainly the persuasion of 'Christians' toward a scientific perspective is needed to keep us from moving back into the Dark Ages.  Someone who debates from science just needs to know what science really is.  Here are the ground rules:

1.  Arguments from authority are not permitted on either side.  This also means that Charles Darwin cannot be cited as an authority.

2.  Each hypothesis must be stated clearly by one of the debate participants.

3.  Each hypothesis must be capable of being disproved by objective observations.  Thus, the person who proposed the hypothesis must state what evidence can be used refute this hypothesis.  If it cannot be tested in this manner, then the hypothesis must be thrown out.

4.  The discussion must then proceed to evidence bearing on the hypothesis.

I can imagine that a 'creationist' would propose that the entire physical universe, including all fossils, DNA, species, etc. was created at one point in time by an all-powerful entity.  But, since arguments from authority are not permitted, that 'creationist' would also no be able to propose any way to disprove this hypothesis, and it would have to be set aside.

Next, the scientist would propose that the genome of one generation is recombined from the genome of each parent, and also includes additional changes or mutations.

I've never found a 'creationist' willing to debate me on this subject for long.  I have had some accuse me of trying to humiliate them when it became apparent that they knew nothing of relevant history, biochemistry, microbes, animal breeding, gene sequencing, etc.  I think the point is, only debate within a scientific framework, and not within a framework that permits arguments from authority.  If the framework is violated by the creationist, don't regress to their rules, but address and resolve their violation before you continue.  If another hypothesis is used as evidence, require that to be tested before you proceed.

Avatar of: Salticidologist

Salticidologist

Posts: 12

Replied to a comment from Michael Tigges made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

Why the name dropping?  Science permits no argument by authority.  Wernher von Braun's opinion carries no weight whatsoever.  I can easily prove that 'non directed accumulation of information' is quite possible in a simple computer simulation.  Are you aware of related work, or have you ever been interested in it?

Avatar of: retiredguy

retiredguy

Posts: 1

February 10, 2014

Sadly, many adults, including Ham, aren't able to overcome their childhood indoctrination with the Genesis' myths.  Worse, churches continue to indoctrinate impressionable children with these myths.

Avatar of: Michael Tigges

Michael Tigges

Posts: 8

Replied to a comment from FD made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

:)

Avatar of: Michael Tigges

Michael Tigges

Posts: 8

Replied to a comment from NM made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

I did not say anything about faith or lack of data in relation to abiogenesis.   To the contrary, the existing data proves to the highest degree of impartial certainty that Darwinian explanations are faulty.  And when the foundation fails....

Avatar of: Michael Tigges

Michael Tigges

Posts: 8

Replied to a comment from Salticidologist made on February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

So many times I read that no credible clear thinking scientists are Creationist.  The "name dropping" was reflexive.  Great scientist, engineers, mathematicians, and Nobel laureates are seeking a logical answer to the abiogenesis problem.   There is only one truth, no matter how inconvenient or challenging that truth may be.

Avatar of: MikeH

MikeH

Posts: 10

February 11, 2014

One of the jobs that NCSE excels at is being diplomatic.  What they really meant to say in this article is that the main reason scientists shouldn't have debates with creationists in front of audiences is that 99.5% of them are incredibly naive about the depth and diversity of duplicity and effort that has gone into anti-science education propaganda in the last 60 years.  Many of the comments here are an illustration of that.  The secondary reason, which is really just an extension of the first, is that the grand majority of the audience will be those who you would obviously expect to show up: creationists.  So who's going to "win"?  The scientist who believes he's won has an insane ego problem, and shouldn't be allowed out of the house let alone "debate" anyone.  

Avatar of: Al Eggers

Al Eggers

Posts: 1

February 11, 2014

I once began the first lecture of an introductory geology class by arriving 10 minutes late, and entering the lecture hall with a grand stocking foot slide across the floor of the hall. As I slid to a stop, I asked the class, "What stopped my slide?" The answer, "Friction". Me, "What's friction?" Students: "Has to do with interaction of matter & flow of energy." Me, "No, no.! Friction is caused by little demons that live in matter who are disturbed by the sliding, and therefore slow, and eventually stop the movement with their little fingers." Students, "But one can't see the little demons." Me, "They are invisible, undetectable, and can have any quality or property I choose to invent." Demons are like that, having any quality or power the inventor chooses. Their existence cannot be disproved. Science is not like that. Science is based on observation & analysis of physical phenomena that can be made by anyone. Debate, rational discussion with one invoking demons to explain physical phenomena is not possible.

Avatar of: Howard A, Doughty

Howard A, Doughty

Posts: 11

February 11, 2014

In the late 1980s, I edited a science magazine for secondary school teachers. As I recall, it was in response to a favourable review of Stephen Jay Gould's "Wonderful Life" that a creationist sent me a letter. Unlike most of his co-religionists, he was thoughtful and respectful though, of course, wrong on every point of fact and theory.

I contacted David Suzuki, the Canadian geneticist and celebrity environmentalist and asked him to reply to the letter. I had it in mind to run the letter and Suzuki's response in a "pro" and "con" format.

Suzuki's reply was swift and terse. He declined my invitation and asked why I would want to give any space to creationism at all.

I thought Suzuki was being a little harsh and offensive to my preternatural commitment to "academic freedom." In time, I came to see the wisdom of his opinion.

Giving "equal time" to creationism and evolution is like giving equal time to astrology and astronomy or, for the aspirant cooks in the audience, Hannibal Lecter and Julia Child.

 

Avatar of: Alexandru

Alexandru

Posts: 52

February 11, 2014

Thank you The Scientist!!! This is an excellent knowledge negotiation in "An-Open-Invitation"!!!

Because I discovered the biggest genetically errors produced by geneticists, the elimination of Adam mtDNA during in vitro fertilisation, I developed a new theory about Assisted Evolution inside the Creation and I ask to the scientists and to the creationists to listen carefully what I am talking about.

@ Mounthell - "The problem is that organism development must therefore be (centrally) controlled by DNA ... creationists at least sense that there is a problem."

@ RJR8222 - "It is possible for a scientist to engage in a very effective debate with a creationist, but the trick is to debate the merits of the arguments for creationism, not the argument against evolution."

@ MikeH - "One of the jobs that NCSE excels at is being diplomatic."

 

Please carefully read:

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/38366/title/An-Open-Invitation/

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/36098/title/Debating-Bioethics-Openly/

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/34857/title/Immune-System-Kills-Cancer/

http://the-scientist.com/2012/02/02/indiana-senate-backs-creationism-bill/

 

@ Doug Easton - "since this is to be a scientific debate - no reference to God or the Bible"

@ Grinningthorn - "speaking about observation bound statements regarding nature"

@ Salticidologist - "The discussion must then proceed to evidence bearing on the hypothesis ... If another hypothesis is used as evidence, require that to be tested before you proceed."

@ retiredguy - "indoctrination with the Genesis' myths"

OK! Please, explain how paternal mitochondria Adam mtDNA reappear at the puberty only in the sperm of the naturally borne boy and not exists in vitro made boy's sperm.

I look for the answer in the Bible and I found the paternal and the maternal mitochondria divine couple in the xiphoid process, called one of the man ribs.

Please, honourable recognise that this is evidence not hypothesis and genetically certify the Genesis' myths.

 

@ Michael Tigges - "I don't have enough faith to be a Darwinian scientist."

@ NM - "Theory or model remains pretty consistent and has yet stood the test of time"

@ W. Boernke - "you feel Darwin has not proved evolution by natural selection"

@ Mounthell - "promotions of evolution"

I found in the Bible enough Darwin's concepts certification: according to Daniel 7.2-4, Paul 1 Corinthians 15.45-47 and Solomon Proverbs 25.2, Charles Darwin is one of the honorable kings that scientifically explain what God conceals.

 

@ LeeH -"There is no debate - Evolution is a fact"

@ W. Boernke - "Why shouldn't scientists debate creationists?"

@ JoeDavis - "Note that some of these exchanges will recall interrogations"

@ ACFL - "Problem is the distance between science and religion ... science and the true religion are in a convergent highway"

I agree! There is no debate because the Evolution is described biblically and the Bible gives only the right orientation to the human knowledge. The science is certification and Bible is GPS.

@ jobardu - "sixth reason why scientists should stay out of debates on creationism"

@ RobertE - "restricted by definition to those truths that are empirically testable"

I give you one reason why scientists should stay inside debates on creationism: the scientists are involved in the artificial evolution without taking care on the future!

See the paternal mitochondria inheritance theory, which is certified only regarding the natural and the artificial fertilisation.

 

@ vmaldia - "There is natural selection which is naturally directed"

@ Michael Tigges - "Natural selection is great ... but information does not self arise."

Yes!!! However, the geneticists artificially redirected the selection!!!

Avatar of: Alexandru

Alexandru

Posts: 52

February 11, 2014

Because you are talking about "the ability of the brilliant and admired science communicator to connect with a general audience" (Ann Reid and Glenn Branch), I expose here my demonstration based on "Adam mtDNA inheritance theory" and "Gorilla vs. Guerrilla" marketing concept:

The Gold Triangle of the Human Decision (EQ / IQ+CQ = 0,618...) is obtained with the help of the information coming from the Nature (EQ = 38,2 % trough Eve mtDNA, a veritable bio log-periodic antenna, wireless information obtained by Eastern Religions - Buddhism and Hinduism), coming from God (CQ = 30,9 % trough Adam mtDNA, a veritable bio cascade-quantum-laser, wireless obtained by the big Abraham three: Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and rationally obtained by Man trough the brain (IQ = 30,9% a veritable bio-microprocessor).

Avatar of: factotum666

factotum666

Posts: 3

February 12, 2014

The debate should be done differently.  For example the scientist could ask the creationist to define truth without using the word truth.  When this fails, as it ultimately will, the scientist can then comment that scientists do not deal in truth.   In fact, they do not deal in "reproducability".   What they deal in is predictability.   The purpose of an experiment is not to reproduce a previous result but to demonstrate that a predicted result was achieved, and experiments are not always required to do this.  

For example, in cosmology, you can predict that if you look in certain places, in certain ways, that you will find X.   For example neutrinos that behave in certain ways. 

In many ways, one can show that creationists have no idea what science is or how it works.    Which is fine, as long as they do not wish to bring that kind of ignorance and stupidity into the world where the rest of us live.

Stephen Hawking said, science is not TRUE or not.  The value of science lies in its usefulness.   Creationism is not useful.  the concept of truth has no real use in the physical world.   It does have use in the worlds of logic and mathematics.

 

The other reason that creationists claim that their ideas have value is that the bible and its ideas set the ground for morality, and that evolution leads to immorality.   I believe that any person with a knowledge of history can show that Christians were behaving in an immoral fashion way before Darwin was born.   Just ask the Native Americans.   The nazis did not get their ideas from Darwin, but from how Americans, in particular Christians, delt with Indians, and that started, again, way before Darwin.

 

I could easily write another 1000 words along this line, but you get the idea.

Avatar of: lucaspa

lucaspa

Posts: 2

February 14, 2014

I think the only "debates" should be between scientists who are also Christian vs creationists.  Ken Ham isn't really discussing science; he is debating theism vs atheism.  An atheist scientist cannot engage in the religious aspects of creationism, but a scientist who is Christian can.

Creationism is terrible as Christianity.  I personally would love to discuss with Ham because I would be able to show how Ham is actually against God, not for Him.  It is easy to show how Ham's arguments undermine and contradict the major Christian beliefs.  But as long as Ham is allowed to frame this as "science atheistic, creationism for God" there is no way to reach that audience.  You must have someone who believes God exists and God created.  Then the argument is about how God created, and then it becomes Ham vs God.  For the creationist audience, Ham will lose that argument.

Avatar of: lucaspa

lucaspa

Posts: 2

Replied to a comment from factotum666 made on February 12, 2014

February 14, 2014

factotum66:  As a scientist, I will disagree that science does not deal in "truth".  We do.  The earth is not flat.  Do you have any doubt at all that this is a true statement?

I agree that science does deal in "predctions" of data we will find  But this is also tied to truth.  The predictions are a result of deductive logic:  If the statement is true, then we should find such and such data.  To take your example, if Big Bang theory is true, then there should be a cosmic background radiation with x,y,and z properties.  Finding CMBR with x, y, and z properties lends support to Big Bang being true! 

However, science is limited to what truth it can find.  Science cannot decide whether the statements "God exists" and "God created" are true.  However, science can look at statements about how God created and determine that some of them -- like creationism -- is not true.

I agree that creationists try to distort science. Ham's distortion between "operational" and "historical" science is a classic example of that.

I will go farther than you. You say "Creationism is not useful".  I say "creationism is false".  You see, creationism (Ham's young earth creationism with Flood Geology)  was the accepted scientific theory from about 1500 thru 1831.  Scientists showed it to be wrong.  They falsified it.  The problem becomes when you extrapolate from "creationism is false" to "God did not create".  That extrapolation is not valid.  For the Christian, it simply meand that God did not create by creationism.   

Avatar of: Ilyes

Ilyes

Posts: 1

February 14, 2014

Except Nye's debate did more to reveal Creationism as an intellectually bankrupt philosophy than anything I've ever seen.

Avatar of: ProfRandom

ProfRandom

Posts: 1

February 14, 2014

There is a sixth, very good reason, for scientists to avoid such debates: 

"Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time, and it annoys the pig." ~ Robert A. Heinlein

Avatar of: Cardinal Fang

Cardinal Fang

Posts: 1

February 14, 2014

Although I understand where the author is coming from, I disagree.

Sometime you need debate creationists just so that people don't just hear that one side of the argument. The creationists aren't going to shut up just because scientists aren't debating them - they'll just say "this proves we're right, that's why they won't debate us". Then people will start thinking that there genuinely is some issue with evolution because no-one is standing up for it.

We had the same issues about medical research using animals. For years the only side you heard was from the anti-vivisectionists. So most of the public thought got the impression that it was cruel and unhelpful. It's only been in recent years researchers have started defending it, and the whole debate has changed.

Avatar of: Jason Macdee

Jason Macdee

Posts: 1

February 14, 2014

All bogus. Here's the five reasons you should ignore this article:

1: DO NOT AVOID debates with creationists if you want to improve humanity.  

2: DO NOT AVOID debates with creationists if you want to improve understanding.  

3: DO NOT AVOID debates with creationists if you want to improve communication.  

4: DO NOT AVOID debates with creationists if you want to improve science.  

5: DO NOT AVOID debates with creationists if you want to improve education.

When's the last time you respected a die hard religious person for dodging debate on the viability of their position? If you can't defend it, it's not real.  

Also, can we seriously stop pretending science involves truth? Science chases usefulness, not truth. Truth is for philosophy and formal logic. The closest thing science has to "truth" is "probability of repeating results". The Nye-Ken debate should have highlighted this even more. Everyone ignores this when debating creationists.

They ignore that the creationists are often trying to answer "why" instead of "how", that their interpretation of the Bible is part of their axioms, that they think science hasn't discovered the laws that let the Bible be true yet, etc. There is hope there. There is genine skill. But we're talking past each other, neither side is listening to understand. These are common ground we can work from if put together, instead people want to take the easy road and make fun of them instead of trying to prove or disprove things in common terms.


If someone bases their life choices off their ideas, those ideas are legitmate. How dare you have the audacity and arrogance to belittle a person's beliefs like that? That's just as erroneous as pretending a child is suddenly magically mature on their 18th birthday, or 13th, or <insert culturally biased random date>, or confusing knowledge with intelligence, or asserting someone is inferior for liking/hating the color blue.

Avatar of: Smithy7

Smithy7

Posts: 1

Replied to a comment from Michael Tigges made on February 10, 2014

February 14, 2014

Michael, no one said anything about Darwinian theory! Only evolution!

Avatar of: Sam D

Sam D

Posts: 2

February 14, 2014

Articles like this are damaging to the scientific stance on the issue. Just in the introduction the article states "Decades of experience suggest that formal oral debates between scientists and creationists are by and large counterproductive." Although it seems to most scientists (such as myself) that this is due to an inability to consider counterpoints, basically stubborness, by creationists, this phrasing can easily be used against the scientific community. 

One element that made Bill Nye much more effective in his recent debate was his reserve against accusations and frustration. What would be ideal, for both positions, is to encourage discussion and avoid direct confrontations. Ken Ham, in my opinion, attempted to provoke Bill Nye into a heated debate in his initial video response calling for the debate, but because Nye maintained such a reserved attitude towards the debate, and was careful to simply point out facts and fallacies where he could.

The goal needs to be simple: encourage creationists to evaluate their fundamentalist beliefs from a factual and skeptical point of view, and reform their understanding of the Bible or other "inspired" document that forms the basis of their religion. Science and Religion can coexist, as long as religious participants in science are willing to avoid fundamentalism when scientific fact clearly contradicts religious "history."

Perhaps this article should have stated that scientists should not debate creationists unless they are thoroughly up to date on the science that is going to be called into questions.

That is all.

Avatar of: Sam D

Sam D

Posts: 2

Replied to a comment from Howard A, Doughty made on February 11, 2014

February 14, 2014

At one point in history, there were more astrologists than astronomers. It was only by active skepticism that it has been relegated appropriately to the realm of superstition.

And (on a purely comical note) Hannibal Lecter has interesting taste, perhaps if he were restricted from cooking with human meat he might have been a wonderful chef!

Avatar of: Observer

Observer

Posts: 1

February 14, 2014

After reading all of this it boils down to the old chant "my invisible friend is better than your in usable friend". Science is a religion with its own set of rules, creationism is its own religion with its own set of rules. I do not think you can convince either side that the other is wrong. I believe we are here now and will never truly know where we come from. 

Avatar of: Icabod

Icabod

Posts: 1

February 14, 2014

creationism is best discribed as "It's totally imaginary and so cannot be disproven."

Trigges demonstrates many of the creationist dogma. First is bandwagon (see how many scientists are creationists) then is misdirection ( no it's not natural selection,that's the issue, it's something else). Thats a variation of the Gish gallop. Then there's "Mathematically Darwin has already been disproven as it relates to abiogenesis.  The equations are there" OK. Fine. Which scientific publication did that peer reviewed paper appear. There is such a paper isn't there?

creationism spends it's time trying to poke holes in science. It's "watchmaker" red herring avoids the question of "Who is the father of the watchmaker?"

Avatar of: Alexandru

Alexandru

Posts: 52

February 14, 2014

@ Jason Macdee - "science hasn't discovered the laws that let the Bible be true yet"

@ Sam D - "What would be ideal, for both positions, is to encourage discussion and avoid direct confrontations."

@ Observer - "Science is a religion with its own set of rules, creationism is its own religion with its own set of rules."

 

According to the Bible (Numbers, Solomon, Daniel, John, Paul, Revelation and so on), SCIENCE is "the seventh and the last divine candle", "the Spirit of truth" equipped with a "double-edged sword" that drive the humanity to the truth "knowing good and evil" and to separate them.

 

"The word of the man who can see clearly, who can hear what God is saying and receive the knowledge that comes from the Most High. With staring eyes ... I look into the future." (Numbers 24.15-17)

"I will give you good advice and share my knowledge with you." (Proverbs 1.23) “We honour God for what He conceals; we honour kings for what they explain!” (Proverbs 25.2 The book of Solomon)

"But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge." (Daniel 12.4)

"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." (John 16.12-13)

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Paul, Romans 12.2)

The knowledge negotiation table: "In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God." (Revelation 4.5)

The seven churches: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islamism, Orthodoxy and Science (Revelation 1-3)

"Education enables children to hope for a life more strong ... I expressed an immovable opinion based on my belief in God." (Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope)

According to the management principles, this is the real orientation of the SCIENCE to drive us to the truth: searching for the TRUTH in all archive coming from the past.

 

Avatar of: vimy

vimy

Posts: 1

February 15, 2014

Rather unusual debate isnt it.

 

If a scientist is unwilling to be debated by all comers, can he really consider himself a scientist. 

I am not a creationist or even religous but

What if the creationist are correct? We will never know becuase our dogma refuses the debate.

Good science must always be open to debate, critique and review, even from controversial sources. By debating creationist, scientist may be feeding the creationist coffers in the short term. But it in the long term, the better arguement will win out. Refusing to debate on the other hand, will strengthen them and serve as moral victories for creationism.

Arrogant stance does not serve the scientific community well. It questions the legitimacy of peer review, if you choose to pick and choose the peer who gets to review.

Avatar of: LittleLuther64

LittleLuther64

Posts: 6

February 16, 2014

      Isn't evolution also a theory?  Why aren't more beings evolving; let alone towards sentience?  There was a fossil of a horse some millions of years ago.  Even though he was quite small he was still a horse...not a tadpole with a mane and tail.

      Survival of the fittest and adaptation?  Does this apply to humans?  We are the least adaptive animal and we are slower, weaker, and more disease prone than the earlier hunter-gatherers!  I would speculate we are not as physically attractive as they were.

       Could this be because of industrialization?  Hardly, we don't seem to be adapting to that considering carcinoma, other illnesses with more to come and short lives.  Could Neandrathals and Cro-Magnon be extinct apes?  Why is it chimpanzees are immune to strychnine?  Did they adapt and we didn't?

Avatar of: LittleLuther64

LittleLuther64

Posts: 6

Replied to a comment from factotum666 made on February 12, 2014

February 16, 2014

Few Americans are Christian, at least in thought, deed, and action.  Maybe the Nazis got machinations from us on how to implement genocide, but the thought that they had "ideas," let alone inspiration from Christians is laughable.  Towards the last days of the Holocaust Christians were gradually being sent to the camps.

        Hitler would've sent Darwin to the camps too.

     The idea that sentient beings started out as tadpoles from a pool of electricity is every bit as goofy and unfounded as Creationism.

Avatar of: Neurona

Neurona

Posts: 29

Replied to a comment from jobardu made on February 10, 2014

February 17, 2014

Nice job slamming "the left". As if "the right" has never stooped to the same childish behavior in an argument.  No matter.  Even "respected" polls are nothing more than opinion surveys, subject to all sorts of bias, and do not constitute data. 

Avatar of: PeterUetz

PeterUetz

Posts: 1

Replied to a comment from Michael Tigges made on February 10, 2014

February 18, 2014

Hi Michael Tigges,

You say your are a "...Creationist because I, like Wolfgang Pauli, Fred Hoyle, ... and countless other scientist and engineers, the Darwinian explanation for macro-evolution remains entirely insufficient to explain the creation and diversity of life forms we see today." note incorrect grammar!.

I would argue that you are a creationist because you are, like Wolfgang Pauli, etc. about 50 years behind the state of the art which includes things such as DNA, Pauli et al. hardly knew anything about (Pauli died in 1958). And, by the way, Hoyle, was not a creationist although he has skeptical about abiogenesis which is a different issue. He was also an atheist, according to Wikipedia.

Macro-evolution is perfectly well explained by, well, evolution. But that IS a detail you may not like :(

Avatar of: cmillholland

cmillholland

Posts: 2

Replied to a comment from Michael Tigges made on February 10, 2014

February 19, 2014

Wolfgang Pauli coined the phrase, "It's not even wrong." It referred to sloppy research and unprovable science.  It had no relationship to evolution or creationism.

 

Fred Hoyle, an atheist, rejected the the Big Bang theory and abiogenesis explanation of life on earth, but had nothing to say about creationism or intelligent design.

 

Raymond Vahan Damadian is the inventor of the first Magentic Resonance Scanning Machine, and young earth creationist. However, Damadian's beliefs were based only on faith.

 

Richard Smalley wrote, "God did create the universe about 13.7 billion years ago." and believed in an intelligent creator. He also said, "For whatever reason (emphasis mine), this planet was built specifically for us." He had no scientifc explantion for his beliefs.

 

Jonathan Sarfati, a staunch young Earth creationist and author of many articles and books about creation science, received a PhD in physical chemistry, not biology. He has many critics in the scientific community.

 

Wernher von Braun wrote, "One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be design and purpose behind it all." His field was chemistry and physics, not biology.

 

Science cannot provide an answer to faith-based beliefs; faith cannot disprove an idea based on science. Considering the infinite possiblities of this universe, nothing is "theoretically impossible." As to the idea that science must demostrate "an undirected naturalist pathway to life," as Pauli would say, "That is not only not right, it is not even wrong!"

 

Okay, Ms Reid, you are correct!

Avatar of: cmillholland

cmillholland

Posts: 2

Replied to a comment from jobardu made on February 10, 2014

February 19, 2014

"In the US, if not the UK, the politically correct left answers any disagreements with their positions with personal insults and disdain, refusing to discuss issues directly. " And yet pretty much every other comment here shows that to be wrong.

Avatar of: Michael Tigges

Michael Tigges

Posts: 8

Replied to a comment from Icabod made on February 14, 2014

March 24, 2014

Just a few references to be considered:

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