Debating Creationists

The big debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham was tonight. Click here for the video. The whole thing is close to three hours, so get comfortable if you want to watch it all.

I was watching it live, but about two-thirds of the way through I kept losing the signal. I would reload the page, but then I’d get an error message twenty seconds later. So I gave up. They were just starting the “questions from the audience” phase, and I was not optimistic that that would be worth wading through. P. Z. Myers has the live blog if you want the abridged version. I mostly agree with his comments.

Overall I thought it went well for the good guys. After five minute opening statements, each side gave a thirty-minute presentation with Ham going first. This was where Nye shined. He was excellent, both in style and in substance. In clear, eloquent language he pointed to fact after fact that spoke against young-Earth creationism and in favor of real science. I especially liked his section about the absurdity of taking the Noah story literally.

Against this litany of facts, Ham had little to offer. His own presentation mentioned a few scientific points at the beginning, and trotted out a handful of bona fide scientists who share his strange views, but mostly it was all religion and the Bible. He delivered a competent and polished presentation, but he faces a serious problem in a venue such as this. His standard talking points, which involve endlessly repeating, “Were you there?” and pointing over and over again to the Bible, just are not going to fly outside of his small community of fellow travelers. Even people who are not steeped in this issue can see that a person who constantly goes on about the Bible is not really interested in doing science. If you are forced to argue that somehow the natural laws we see operating in the present were magically different in the past, then you are not going to be persuasive to anyone who is not already in your camp.

At any rate, once they got away from their prepared remarks and got involved in rebuttals and counter-rebuttals, things went better for Ham. You really have to marinate in creationist BS for a while before you are prepared to refute it on the fly. Nye just didn’t have that background. At several points I found myself wishing it was, say, Ken Miller or Nick Matzke up there.

Nye was good, and I would not be surprised if even some in the creationist audience found food for thought. Ham spoke ably to the people who already support him, forthrightly expressed his views, and did not make a fool of himself, so I’d say he also had a good night.

But I do think there was a clear loser in the debate: the intelligent design crowd. This was the biggest event in the evolution vs. creationism battle in quite some time, and it was good ol’ young-Earth creationism that was on display. Once you factor in the extensive online audience and the other media coverage, the message everyone will have received is that anti-evolutionism is just equivalent to Bible-thumping obscurantism. This was precisely the notion ID was invented to dispel. Seeing Ham drone on and on about the Bible, to the point of defending the plausibility of Noah’s ark for heaven’s sake, must have had the ID folks seething. It’s one of the endearing features of YEC’s that they make no attempt to hide their religious motivations. This is why they drive the ID folks crazy.

Nye took a lot of flak for agreeing to this debate. As I understand it, this was basically a fundraiser for the Creation Museum, so I do fault Nye for participating under those terms. On the general question of debating creationists, however, I’m not as opposed to it as other folks on my side of this issue.

There are certainly a lot of good reasons for not debating creationists. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to prepare properly for such an event. It has to be remembered that most creationists are entirely unscrupulous in presenting utterly bogus arguments with nerve and confidence. (There was quite a bit of this in Ham’s presentation.) It is far easier to spout nonsense than it is to refute it. On top of that, debate is a difficult skill to master, and it is one that academics and scientists in particular are often not so good at. All of our training is directed towards making everything seem complex and nuanced. It goes against our natures to deliver oversimplified but basically correct responses to asinine creationist talking points. But that is what is needed in a debate format.

Those are all good reasons, but there is also a very commonly expressed bad reason. It is sometimes said that by debating creationists you legitimize them. The analogy is often made to holocaust denial. Just by standing on a stage with them you are suggesting that there is a serious point at issue. Creationism, like holocaust denial, is so indefensible on the merits and is so blatantly a cover for other unsavory views (fundamentalist religion in the case of creationism and anti-semitism in the case of holocaust denial) that you should not even acknowledge them as worthy opponents.

Point taken, but I am not convinced. I certainly agree that one should not debate with holocaust deniers, but you have to go to some pretty dark corners of the internet to find anyone who endorses that view. Holocaust denial is so publicly unacceptable that any serious scholar who engaged them really would be helping to legitimize something reprehensible.

That is not the case with creationism. It is already such a socially acceptable view, even socially dominant in some areas, that I’m not so worried about making it seem more legitimate. It is evolution, and science generally, that needs to get the word out. Creationists have no trouble injecting their poison into the public discourse, and they have a lot of superficially plausible arguments to make. Scientists willing to take on the grim task of offering folks an alternative view should not automatically be excoriated for doing so.

So I applaud Nye for taking on this challenge, even though I have some issues with the specific format of this event. An audience full of creationists, as this one was, is precisely the kind we want to address.

Comments

  1. #1 Shecky R
    February 5, 2014

    I actually didn’t think Ham did as well as I expected him to (except perhaps to his own choir), and did frequently look foolish… Nye did a commendable job, but missed some real opportunities also (I suspect he’s pinching himself afterwards for some of the things he could’ve, should’ve said… but, operating on-the-fly, it’s understandable).
    And I agree, such debates are not wasted time, though places and persons must be picked judiciously. The correct analogy is not to Holocaust denial, but (and some will be offended) to Nazi appeasement — Hitler didn’t go away or retreat by being ignored, and the underlying mentality Ham exemplifies is as scary to me as the mentality that brought the Nazis to power. It has to be challenged at some point.

  2. #2 Blaine
    February 5, 2014

    @1 Ditto

    Some children raised in fundamentalist homes rarely have the opportunity to hear another point of view. I think it’s important for that reason alone that these venues exist. It will help some find their way out of Plato’s cave of shadows into the light of day.

  3. […] Rosenhouse, no stranger to debating young-earth creationists, writes, “Nye was good, and I would not be surprised if even some in the creationist audience found some […]

  4. #4 Lenoxus
    February 5, 2014

    I haven’t seen it yet (I hope there’s a good non-AIG video out there, though it might not be possible to access legally). From what I’ve read, it seems Nye did very well. My own bit of Monday-Morning quarterbacking (having only seen the scores and not the plays, as it were) is that perhaps he could have made a couple of borader philosophical points in addition to all the details.

    For example: A defender of creationism can’t just go “Bible, Bible, Bible”. There has to be solid scientific edvidence for your claims. Otherwise, you’re basically admitting that the only basis you have is the book.

    “Were you there?” impllies that the only trustworthy evidence is human testimony. We humans find that a compelling idea, but not only is it bogus by virtue of the reliability of physical evidence, it’s practucally the opposite of true. Witnesses are helpful, but sometimes terrible. And if a witness’s claim strongly contradicts mountains of non-testimonial evidence, gues which one we should throw out?

    (A failure to properly weigh physical evidence is part of why that Italian court decided four years ago that two extra people had co-committed a murder in which only the third accompolice left DNA all over the place. Of course I’m not saying creation-debaters should bring up something as controversial as the Meredith Kercher case, and they probably shouldn’t get into human biases in general, because that makes people defensive. I just mean that it’s good to point out that we can in fact find something true even if no sentient being witnessed and reported it, and everyone agrees that’s true when it comes to, say, crime scenes.)

    In the Pharyngula comments, someone had a good idea: Show the creationist a picture of a non-famous ninety-year-old, and challenge them to disprove a claim that this person is just a couple months old. If they can’t personally find out who the photograph’s subject is, then they can’t find witnesses, and so you can just shout “Were you there? Where you there?” at them. They can talk about how we know what old people look like and what babies look like, and you can respond that we know how long tree rings take to form, as well as hundreds of processes that establish an old earth. In fact, their claim is far wilder than yours, because maybe the person in your picture is someone with a rare disorder like progeria (although the two don’t really look the same at all). Their claim is more like doing the same thing with a picture of hundreds of old people, suggesting that every single one of them aged in a different way than science establishes.

    A larger issue with creationism is that, while it’s great at picking cherries, it just can’t present a broader evidential picture in its favor. There’s no consilience. No creationist can explain why (with a few likely incorrectly-measured exceptions, like carbon-dating sometng millions of years old) radiometric dates all agree with each other, which means they’re not a crapshoot. They can’t explain why no one has been able to alter the rate of decay, with heat, pressure, etc — despite trying to do so ever since radioactivity was discovered (initially no one realized it involves one of the fundamental forces). Their only possible counterclaim is that the Flood (which apparently explains everything ever) actually accelerated decay to the tune of millions of years over the course of a few months. (This would have melted the Earth.)

    And of course radiometic dating it just part of the picture. There’s the forty-time shifting of the magnetic poles, the piles of microscopic shells, etc. There are so many avenues of disproof that Bill Nye couldn’t have had time to go through them all.

    But getting back to non-scientific arguments: One of my favorite points is that there are no young-Earth Hindus or atheists or whatever, which, if the Earth really were young and the evidene said so, we would expect. A young earth wouldn’t be “purely Biblical”, it would just be. I accept the existence of Egypt “even though” it’s in the Bible, and if the Earth appeared to be young, so be it. (Arguably, it creates real trouble for evolution, so that’s a possible counterargument — “Any sudden appearence of animals would imply God, and a young Earth implies sudden appearence, so in order to keep denying God you have to believe the Earth is old”. However, there’s nothing about atheism that prohibits a one-time worldwide flood; we already accept the fact of major mass extinctions. Likewise with humans and other animals having gone through one or two major tiny population bottlenecks — it’s estimated from genetic evidence that at one point thousands of years ago there were only a handful of cheetahs.)
    That point might not have worked with this audience.

  5. #5 eric
    February 5, 2014

    Lenoxus,
    Alex Jones has the whole thing up in four parts on you tube. (Hopefully that gives you enough info to find it.)

  6. […] was worth it. John Loftus thinks it was and would like to see many more debates of this sort. Jason Rosenhouse explains why he thinks that young-earth creationism has to be approached differently than […]

  7. […] biggest loser based on Jason Rosenhouse’s critique of the night. Rosenhouse said in his blog, “Seeing Ham drone on and on about the Bible, to the point of defending the plausibility of […]

  8. #8 Reginald Selkirk
    February 5, 2014

    Link love from John Farrell of Forbes. Not just a link, but a complete paragraph.

    Jason Rosenhouse, no stranger to debating young-earth creationists, writes, “Nye was good, and I would not be surprised if even some in the creationist audience found some food for thought. Ham spoke ably to the people who already support him, forthrightly expressed his views, and did not make a fool of himself, so I’d say he also had a good night.”

  9. #9 Reginald Selkirk
    February 5, 2014

    But getting back to non-scientific arguments: One of my favorite points is that there are no young-Earth Hindus or atheists or whatever, which, if the Earth really were young and the evidene said so, we would expect.

    I have met a Hindu creationist. You have a point in that Hindu creationists tend not to be of the young earth variety; Hindu cosmology has no problem with hundreds of billions of years.

  10. #10 colnago80
    February 5, 2014

    Actually, a much better rejoinder to the were you there question is the trial of O. J. Simpson. No one saw the crime take place and, with one controversial exception, no one saw Simpson away from his house between 9:35PM and 11:00PM when the crime took place. Therefore, by Ham’s claim, the jury was right to acquit Simpson of the crime.

  11. #11 Lenoxus
    February 5, 2014

    Eric: thanks for the pointer. I was going to say that I didn’t feel like supporting a right-wing conspiracy theorist like Alex Jones, but curiosity about his position on creationism got the better of me and I started to watch one of his videos on the subject, a recording of his radio show.

    At the beginning he says that he doesn’t believe in evolution or in the “hundred-year version of creationism”, which almost made me laugh because (while I’m sure he didn’t know it) that’s a variation of a headline from The Onion stating that creationists had fixed a math error and now estimate the Earth’s age to be 60 years.

    But in general he’s just another creationist (I couldn’t get past the part where he called Charles Darwin the “father of eugenics”) and he probably felt more kinship (so to speak) with Ham than with Nye.

  12. […] biggest loser based on Jason Rosenhouse’s critique of the night. Rosenhouse said in his blog, “Seeing Ham drone on and on about the Bible, to the point of defending the plausibility of […]

  13. #13 Lenoxus
    February 5, 2014

    Hang on, this video of the beginning, and the rest of the videos, don’t seem to be hosted by the official Alex Jones channel at all, given that the logo is Alex Jones with that classic “scary Joker makeup”. Huh.

  14. […] Rosenhouse, no stranger to debating young-earth creationists, writes, “Nye was good, and I would not be surprised if even some in the creationist audience found some […]

  15. #15 JimR.
    February 5, 2014

    2 items on the ark.
    1. There is a Babylonian tablet describing the are as a coracle:
    http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/jan/24/babylonian-tablet-noah-ark-constructed-british-museum

    2. Russell Crowe stars in the movie, “Noah”, premiering in March. Should be interesting to see a fictional movie about a fictional legend.

  16. #16 eric
    February 5, 2014

    Eric: thanks for the pointer. I was going to say that I didn’t feel like supporting a right-wing conspiracy theorist like Alex Jones,

    No problem. CNN also has a link to it on it’s front page and on it’s US page (but I didn’t see those until later).

  17. #17 Michael Fugate
    February 5, 2014

    Do you think Russell Crowe will end up drunk and naked?

  18. #18 John
    February 5, 2014

    Nye got the prediction part of science well enough.
    He could have used the “usefulness” part to cover where he uses “joy of discovery”, “assumptions”, “what you want to know”, and the “you weren’t there” counter. The joy of discovery is an evolved trait. “usefulness” also sets the stage for we don’t know it all yet but we are learning.

    Science is about the models of today. Nye could have lectured/corrected (a point) on the idea of prediction and to do science we make assumptions. If these assumptions (about the past) help make predictions – it s good science. We don’t need to be there. Also counters the historical science (false science) thrust.

    Prediction is publishing a forecast that has not yet been observed. Then later the thing is observed. Ham’s “predictions” were known when the bible was written. Therefore, not a prediction.

    I disagree with Jason. Nye did a really good job all the way through. His later pushing prediction, the impact on the children of the future, the impact on the future of the US, and who sets the standards was to the point of ID in schools.

    However, we see the new face of ID which is much more dangerous than the face presented in the debate with Jason. We also see the goal is the same – indroctinate in schools.

  19. #19 dean
    February 5, 2014

    Do you think Russell Crowe will end up drunk and naked?

    In the tabloids or in the Noah movie?

    I was teaching so couldn’t watch the debate so don’t have first hand comments. However, my great niece posted a message today and said “I think Mr. Ham had a poor showing tonight. For some reason he wasn’t able to counter Mr. Nye’s comments very convincingly. I also think he missed the mark about science – it is a good way of learning things and there is no need for him to continue to say everything about science is wrong if it disagrees with our Bible.”

    She is, as you may tell, quite quite religious, but this is the first time I’ve heard her make (well, observed that she’s written) comments like these. Apparently “Mr.” Ham’s performance didn’t impress everyone in his base.

  20. #20 Bob Carlson
    February 5, 2014

    I was watching it live, but about two-thirds of the way through I kept losing the signal. I would reload the page, but then I’d get an error message twenty seconds later. So I gave up.

    I had a very similar experience. My first error message came not long after Nye had gotten into his response to Ham’s presentation. I later started hitting the reload button and managed to see a bit of the question and answer portion, but gave up well before that was over. Not having seen any comments from others having problems, I was inclined to blame the Comcast service in the part of Virginia where I live.

  21. #21 William Wallace
    Earth
    February 6, 2014

    Any honest assessment of this debate will conclude Nye lost the debate.

    By the way, full disclosure, I am on the mount saint Helen’s board? What the heck was that about? Grandpa had his bow tie tied by an undertaker? That supposedly funny anecdote was poorly delivered and whatever point there was behind it was clouded by the poor delivery.

    Nye needs a professionally honed script, a director, special effects, and several takes to seem interesting.

    The reason most of you didn’t want Nye to debate in the first place is you hate having to claim victory after these debates when you know none was had. Creationists almost win debates because Darwinists are ideological fools.

    Nye did not respond to the point about the YEC inventor of the MRI machine, and instead continued to make ridiculous intimations that we cannot obtain the engineers we need if we don’t teach Darwinism. He did faulty and off topic research on nuclear medicine programs in Kentucky.

    Nye was probably paid to do this debate, and it looks like he was over paid.

    Get a scientifically trained lawyer to debate next time and you won’t have to feign victory next time.

  22. #22 eric
    February 6, 2014

    Re: WW’s post. The only thing better than winning in the field of politics/rhetoric is realizing that your opponent will keep using their losing strategy because they don’t yet realize they lost. It’s like a double victory: you get yesterday’s and tomorrow’s.

  23. #23 Lenoxus
    United States
    February 6, 2014

    eric: Agreed here. Even over at Uncommon Descent, there is a general consensus (see the comments here and here) that Ham lost.

    Of course, as Jason pointed out in this post, the old-Earthers aren’t happy with young-Earth taking the spotlight, but there was a specific criticism that Ham relied too much on the Bible, and a general sense that all Ham did was go through the motions of his everyday life, where he talks to fellow creationists for whom Biblical interpretation is a convincing argument. ID has been trying to detach itself from Biblical argument for a while now.

    You might say the YEC argument is: “Evolution is full of holes, nobody can know anything about anything, except, we have this great piece of authority called the Bible to provide much-needed objectivity”, whereas the ID argument is “Non-design explanations can be ruled out categorically, leaving only design.”

    An illustration of this difference is to imagine some alternative universe’s Bible which (if interpreted literally) described an entirely un-designed but non-evolutionary origin of lfie, as can be found in a number of myths around the world (Lamarckian just-so stories, etc). In that case, the YEC folks would argue that their Holy Book was the only grounding for truth in an otherwise quasi-postmodern world, while the ID folks (if we pretend for a moment that they didn’t ultimately originate from YEC) would totally disagree. As it is, both groups can borrow one another’s arguments, but that’s for reasons other than their core philosophical bases.

    (A side note: I did read one web article from an anti-creationist who thought Nye had lost. I think he was filtering things through a more-cynical-than-thou mindset, eg “Oh, crap, Ham’s talking about the Bible and Nye’s talking about a bunch of facts, and people are idiots who love Bibles and hate facts, so reason is screwed here.” Or like some woeful Democrat moaning that his party never wins elections because they just don’t have the wow-em-zow-em power of the opposition, and pointing to the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012 as examples. Well, like that but not objectively wrong, just subjectively.)

  24. #24 John
    February 6, 2014

    Dean @ 19
    You bring up a good point. The target is the religious people not the YEC and ID people. Science and religion exist and are useful side by side with each serving a useful purpose for humans. Science should appeal to the religious people and serving mankind in developing technology and religion serves mankind by providing morals. The hard line IDers are true believers.

    Others

    Ham presented a good case for ID – one of the best I’ve seen. BUT Nye won the debate. Ham didn’t loose, Nye won. The target of such a debate is the religious people who would naturally be swayed by a Bible argument. That Ham was targeting these folks seems obvious. It’s why he kept saying “Bible”. Given his target, he was not making a mistake in continually referring to the Bible as a source of everything.

    Nye

    Having said this, I would ask Nye about his response to the question about whether God created a universe with evolution rather than complexity. Did God create: (a) the universe in such a way that mankind would arise and complexity would increase. Or (b) the complexity and evolution couldn’t possibly do this – (the ID) case.
    Why did Nye not bring up God and case (a)? Remember the focus is religious people who need to understand science not the IDers. Perhaps scientists should not be so afraid of referring to God or religion’s usefulness to mankind.

    Nye also let Ham get away with the idea that evolution is toward increased complexity. Nye did start to get into it with the blind fish but lost his way. I think this ID thought will be seen in future debates. It needs to be countered. I suggest:
    One of the most common misunderstandings of MODERN evolution (label it as a misunderstanding in the debate) is that one species can be “more highly evolved” than another, that evolution is necessarily progressive and/or leads to greater “complexity”, or that its converse is “devolution”. Evolution provides no assurance that later generations are more intelligent, complex, or morally worthy than earlier generations. The claim that evolution results in progress is NOT part of modern evolutionary theory; it derives from earlier belief systems that were held around the time Darwin devised his theory of evolution.Natural selection will only favor an increased complexity “progression” if it increases chance of survival, i.e. the ability to live long enough to raise offspring to reproductive (note not sexual) maturity. The same mechanism can actually favor lower intelligence, lower complexity, and so on if those traits become a selective advantage in the organism’s environment. One way of understanding the apparent “progression” of lifeforms over time is to remember that the earliest life began as maximally simple forms. Evolution caused life to become more complex, because becoming simpler wasn’t advantageous. Once individual lineages have attained sufficient complexity, however, simplifications (specialization) are as likely as increased complexity. This can be seen in many parasite species, for example, which have evolved simpler forms from more complex ancestor. Being fit for the enironment rules not increased complexity.

    The 2LOT argument of IDers was raised as it usually is. I thought Nye was going to loose it but he recovered nicely and got the open system into the argument. I think the IDers got it but few others.

  25. #25 Sean T
    February 6, 2014

    @John,

    I’m not sure I’d even go as far as to say that simpler is not more advantageous. The most successful organisms on earth from an evolutionary point of view are bacteria. Bacteria are found in much larger numbers and in a far greater range of environmental niches than any other organism.

    There is a tendency to view the biological structures of modern organisms as somehow being optimized. We, by corrollary, tend to think that suboptimal organisms cannot possibly survive. Of course, that’s nonsense. Evolution does not produce optimality, and optimality is not required for survival. Evolution produces organisms that are sufficienty fit to survive and reproduce. A mutation, for example, that leads to a diminishment of survivability need not die off if that diminishment is small enough. For instance, the primate evolutionary line lost the ability to synthesize vitamin C. It’s hard to see how such a loss conferred any advantage on the primates. However, it was non-fatal; dietary adaptation could accommodate the need for vitamin C. Therefore, this loss of a metabolic pathway survived.

    To me, changes such as these are really the smoking gun in all of this. If a designer really did design life, why the heck would he/she/it leave out the vitamin C synthesizing pathway from a small group of organisms, but put it in the rest? It would be akin to an architect designing 50 skyscrapers, but leaving elevators out of two of them.

  26. #26 eric
    February 6, 2014

    Lenoxus:

    Of course, as Jason pointed out in this post, the old-Earthers aren’t happy with young-Earth taking the spotlight,

    Good. Maybe they’ll be unhappy enough to start actively defending securalism and a secular education in large numbers, rather than generally witholding criticism when another Christian makes anti-science statements. There’s many good exceptions – mainstream Christians that do speak out, like Ken Miller. But in general, it often feels like there’s a big group of Christians who support evolution education but aren’t willing to step into the fray. If Ken Ham
    making the entire religion look nutty is what it takes to get them to step in, I have to think that’s a good outcome. Yeah, I know surveys constantly show 40-50% acceptance of some form of creationism, but I continue to believe that social policy creationists (for lack of a better term) are a relatively small minority and that the majority of Christians want kids to get a solid education in mainstream science.

    John:

    Ham presented a good case for ID – one of the best I’ve seen.

    Well, given that Ham relied heavily on the bible as a source of authority and said than no evidence could change his mind, I’d say the “best you’ve ever seen” is a religious argument with no scientific merit.

    The target of such a debate is the religious people who would naturally be swayed by a Bible argument.

    I somewhat disagree, but I think maybe I can combine your statement with one of my own to come up with a conclusion about the debate that we might both agree with. How about this: Ham likely won the Christians who see the bible as the primary source of authority over earth history. Nye likely won the Christians who don’t see the bible this way, as well as people of other faiths who don’t recognize the Christian bible as a source of authority at all. Can we agree on that characterization of the debate’s outcome?

  27. #27 John
    February 6, 2014

    Sean T @25
    Simpler can be advantageous. More complex uses more energy. If keeping biologic structures uses energy, survival is enhanced if the energy consumption is lost.

  28. #28 John
    February 6, 2014

    Eric
    Pretty good.
    Remember one of the questions was about whether God created the process of evolution rather than the complexity. This interpretation is in keeping with the Bible. I think Nye won on both types of Christians. Where he didn’t win was the YEC and ID crowd. But they are lost anyway.

  29. #29 Sean T
    February 6, 2014

    eric,

    WRT poll numbers of people “supporting creationism”, I think we need to be careful. We tend to think of support for evolution or support for creationism as black and white things. I think there’s really a lot of grey involved here for many people, though. If asked whether someone believes God created living things, for instance, someone who believes in some type of old-earth, theistic evolution would likely answer yes and be lumped in as supporting creationism. That person might well at the same time believe that modern evolutionary theory is accurate. Should that person really be lumped in with the YEC crowd or the ID crowd, despite the fact that this person would accept modern scientific conclusions regarding the evolution of life?

  30. #30 Jack Foster III
    San Mateo, CA
    February 6, 2014

    “Where he didn’t win was the YEC and ID crowd.”

    While not a part of the ID crowd, I’m sympathetic with ID. ID at least tries to be Science, . . . and possibly could be eventually. And to remain rational, Science has to at least consider ID, I think.

    Jason says the IDists were the true losers; I’m not sure about that, but I see his point. ID was on the sidelines, and to the extent that ID is lumped in with Creationism . . . ID loses. But IDists don’t see themselves as Creationists:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/02/in_the_ham-nye081931.html

    “ID filters out intelligent causes from non-intelligent causes. Some designers are certainly human, as with the crop circles once attributed by some to aliens or tornadoes. Since design inferences are routinely made in practicing sciences like cryptology, archaeology and SETI, the same scientific methods can be used, in the same way, to evaluate the causes of other phenomena, like the DNA code.
    When applied to the origin of the universe or life, ID is a high-level question, the answer to which will have many downstream ramifications, but it does not depend on downstream premises. Ken Ham and Bill Nye were way downstream. More light would have been shed on the downstream questions by coming to grips with the high-level question first.”

  31. #31 Max
    February 6, 2014

    Jack Foster said: “While not a part of the ID crowd, I’m sympathetic with ID. ID at least tries to be Science, . . . and possibly could be eventually. And to remain rational, Science has to at least consider ID, I think.”

    No, it doesn’t try to be science. It performs no research, offers no mechanism for how it might work, has yet to come up with any way of testing, and basically gives no information at all. Zero. Science DID consider ID and gave it the entire five seconds of consideration that it deserved. Then it threw it out.

  32. #32 John
    February 6, 2014

    JRosenhouse
    You may remember after your debate I mentioned how I debated ID 10+ years ago. the method Nye used was very similiar stressing prediction and usefulness and schools. It worked then against a different type of ID arguement. It worked for Nye against an appeal to the Bible oriented Christians.

  33. #33 Jack Foster III
    February 6, 2014

    “Then it threw it out.”

    Again, Science CAN’T throw out ID and remain rational. Currently no origin-of-life hypothesis rises above the level of speculation. Do you know how life came to be? I don’t. Life may have been designed and seeded. If it was, then “throwing out” ID forces Science to be irrational. But Science cannot be irrational. So Science cannot throw out ID.

    Now. I agree that the ID movement hasn’t gotten anywhere. “Life is so complicated! It must have been designed!” That’s a non-starter. At this point, ID is philosophical argument, not a scientific one. For ID to become viable, it must develop falsifiable hypotheses, and I agree that it hasn’t. (Well . . . except maybe this guy:

    http://designmatrix.wordpress.com/ )

  34. #34 William Wallace
    Earth
    February 7, 2014

    Dancing over non existent evolutionist victories aside, the pattern has been the same since Eugenie Scott watched in horror as her mentor got stomped by Duane Gish. Some evolutionist drone gets suckered into debating. Aethiest leaders wring their hands crying, “Don’t do it, we have nothing to gain and everything to lose.”. Debate proceeds anyway. Creationist who is much better prepared, more polished, and more knowledable about science than the scientist (or “scientist” in the case of Mr. Bow Tie TV personality). Scientist or evolutionist shill gets his arse handed to him. Aethist evolutionist fanboys claim victory. As far as I can tell, the only time your side won a debate was when PZ Myers debated some guy on the radio. The others were usually so loop sided it was almost difficult to watch people who claim to be objective pretend that their guy won the debate.

    You should get Mr. sneaking into a movie theater after RSVPing to a an invite he did not receive (all verifiable if you ask how he got the RSVP) to debate. At least he has won one. I’d pay to see PZ v. Crarles Jackson debate.

  35. #36 William Wallace
    Earth
    February 7, 2014

    Or, I might sneak in.

  36. #37 Jack Foster III
    February 7, 2014

    I actually agree with you Cubist; that’s kind of what I said! BUT . . . we know for an absolute fact that “somehow, somewhere, somewhen, . . .” . . . Three initials:

    GMO (genetically modified organisms!)

    Craig Venter has talked about creating life de novo. I’m not sure if he’ll succeed, but when someone does someday, . . . and we seed a planet . . . then 4 Billion years later when scientists put forward hypotheses about how their life arose, . . .if they don’t include ID in the list to be considered, then they won’t be able to come up with the correct inference.

    Yeah, a lot of ifs!

    One point in the debate that Ham won (in my opinion . . . Nye clearly won the debate) was that there is indeed a differentiation between observational science and historical science. Nye denied that there was any difference! He’s wrong, I think. Of course, Ham insinuated that historical science wasn’t science, which is complete balderdash! I wish Nye had discussed the role of inference in Science.

  37. […] scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog: Jason Rosenhaus, Debating […]

  38. […] On his blog about evolution, mathematician Jason Rosenhouse addressed this very issue: […]

  39. #40 Shannon McCombie
    Morgantown. West Viginia
    February 7, 2014

    I think Science and Religion are two subjects that should not be compared. They are almost incomparable. Sure they both have analogies of how the world was formed and so forth but there is too big of a gap between the concepts of faith and fact. To argue scientific facts against bible verses is like comparing winter and summer. What’s the point of arguing about these unalike concepts if not everyone is going to convert to one side fully? Everyone has a different ideology of how the world works, no two people believe all the same things. People should be free of their beliefs, not criticized or debated against. Wikipedia states that there are people who say it would be against there “freedom of speech” to not share their beliefs freely. I too believe everyone is titled to their beliefs.
    No one was there when God formed the earth, that are still alive today to talk about it, we are only left with records from the bible. The same goes for when the earth was formed with scientific analogies, except we have fossils and so forth. So who are we to argue that one view is right over the other?
    I have gotten into several debates and it always ends the same, those who believed in evolution still believe it and those who believe in creationism still believe it. Its like a game of tug-of-war, one side might propose a valid point but soon after the other side raises a good counterargument. Its a never ending debate, that will…well…never end. Even Todd Stranberg (a webpage columnist) titles an article related to this topic “Evolution Vs. Creationism: A Pointless Debate,” and reflects about how people are one-sided thinkers and unopened to controversy.
    Unfortunately, this debate can go on forever and is like Todd said “pointless.”

  40. #41 Sarai
    February 12, 2014

    I watched parts of the debate between Nye and Ham. As a junior in college majoring in education with a focus in science, I don’t understand how anyone that has any understanding of the world can not believe in evolution. There is evidence that the earth is over 4 billion years old. When i hear that people only think the earth is thousands of years old makes me want to rip my hair out. I have taken anthropology, astronomy, and biology. It blows my mind how creationists can’t accept the scientific proof of the earth’s age and everything that goes along with that. If the Bible proved anything it claims about the age of Earth, people would be able to accept creationist views (but it doesn’t). Astronomy and physics show and prove how and why the earth is the way it is. Geography shows and proves the way the earth has changed throughout time. Anthropology shows and proves how we are related to primates and how we have EVOLVED into what we are today. Humans did not just appear on this earth. We are evolved from billions of years of trying to perfect our lives and existence… Natural selection, survival of the fittest, adaptation, etc.
    Now I’m not trying to shun all religious people, I am Catholic and went to Sunday school and I do believe in God. But I believe in science more.

  41. #42 Owlmirror
    February 15, 2014

    Show the creationist a picture of a non-famous ninety-year-old, and challenge them to disprove a claim that this person is just a couple months old.

    Hey, I resemble that remark!

    Although, as I recall, I didn’t write about making it a challenge; just something along the lines of asking “Would it make sense to say that this person was a 3-month-old baby?” — a rhetorical point for leading the way to further discussion.

    If they can’t personally find out who the photograph’s subject is, then they can’t find witnesses, and so you can just shout “Were you there? Where you there?” at them.

    *cough* And to continue the rhetorical point, to ask “Would it make sense to say that this is a three-month-old baby because you weren’t there?”

    They can talk about how we know what old people look like and what babies look like, and you can respond that we know how long tree rings take to form, as well as hundreds of processes that establish an old earth.

    Yes, this, of course.

    In fact, their claim is far wilder than yours, because maybe the person in your picture is someone with a rare disorder like progeria (although the two don’t really look the same at all).

    Actually, I have thought of that, and if it came up, I would point out that progeria results in some signs of age mixed with many signs of a more fundamental youth (facial and body proportions; lack of growth of facial cartilage (ears and nose)), etc.

    As much as the YECs might want to claim that science is somehow missing the Earth’s and the universe’s “signs of a more fundamental youth”, whenever those “signs” are examined, they turn out to be bogus.

    Indeed, I think one could argue that the most “fundamental” evidence we have is radiometric dating, which derives from the fundamental laws of physics operating in radioactive isotopes, and that fundamental evidence points firmly towards great age.

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