Bergman gave the argument FOR Intelligent Design, and Myers gave the argument AGAINST.
I have never seen an argument against Intelligent design so well made. It would seem that Intelligent Design is a point of view rather than a coherent theory, one that emerges as a socio political side-effect of the struggle between atheism and religion, one that has many proponents but no valid scientific published research to support it. Intelligent design, according to what I saw argued, makes little internal coherent sense. It is based on a two step process of reasoning: Irreducible complexity, which is shown in the argument to be a trivial redefinition of how the world works, and a second step that there must be a designer, but this second step can neither be described nor disproved. In the end Intelligent design is a useless, senseless puddle of piddle with no merit or value of any kind whatsoever.
And THAT, dear reader, was Bergman’s argument!
PZ Myers response was, essentially, to take his carefully compiled stack of index cards that he had brought in preparation for a vigorous debate and toss them over his shoulder into a heap, as they clearly would have no use. But really, the debate was won for the evolutionists half way through Bergman’s bizarre opening presentation. The first third of his opening remarks were biographical, and he attempted to make the argument that because he was a Jehovah’s Witness, then an Atheist, then a Theist, and because people treated him badly, that he must therefore be right. The middle of his argument was that everything but leptons was irreducibly complex. A carbon atom, for instance, can not be taken apart and still be a carbon atom. The last part of his argument was … oh, really, who cares. Just more senseless yammering as far as I could tell.
There were four or five of us, variously, standing in the back of the room and honestly, we were trying to behave. Amanda was the best behaved. She mostly glowered (and passed a few notes) but could not avoid the occasional face-palm. Eventually, since she is ten months pregnant, she had to go and sit down somewhere. My Facebook friend, scientist Jafsica reminded me of a person who is really really bothered by someone scratching their fingers on a black board standing in a room where a thousand people were scratching their fingers on the blackboard. Bergman would not stop saying truly idiotic things (“Something is irreducibly complex if it has irreducible complexity” and “A person made of just a lepton would not function as a person”) and Jafsica was eventually reduced to a quivering mass of wince. Steven rolled his eyes so many times I thought he had gone bowling. My friend Kammy was studiously incensed at Bergman’s truly over the top self aggrandizing victim hood, and after we heard for the fifth or sixth time how he was repeatedly ostracized because of his “scientific” beliefs, Kammy leaned over to me and whispered “Maybe he’s just a dick? ‘think he ever thought of that?”
PZ’s main arguments were succinct: None of this yammering about Intelligent Design argued for it being taught in the schools. Science needs good theory and methods, and data to test the theories, that is the bread and butter of a science curriculum, and ID has none of that. ID has been around for quite some time and has produced nothing. The science standards have adopted the consensus of the scientific community, and anything that is part of that consensus should be considered for school curriculum. Intelligent Design is not part of that consensus. PZ also made numerous more specific arguments regarding Intelligent Design’s bankruptcy and Evolution’s supremacy. He pointed out that carbon atoms might be irreducibly complex but we know how they are made (they are being made in stars as we speak). He pointed out that Bergman’s constant harping about “vestigial organs” (he wrote a book about it, you know!) was totally wrong … “vestigial” does not mean “no function.” It means that an organ once had a different, generally much expanded function, but now has a reduced function. Like a tail for balance and signaling becoming a coccyx that has a few muscles attached to it. And so on.
Mark Borrello did an excellent job as moderator, ruthlessly keeping the speakers in line (who truthfully were pretty well behaved most of the time) and controlling audience questions politely but firmly. Well, firmly.
(Only kidding, he was polite as well.)
There was one very very low moment in the debate that has to be mentioned and for which we await Dr. Bergman’s apology. Long after it was clear that Myers had trounced Bergman and Evolution had won the day, near the end of the evening, as the very last questions were being asked, Bergman played the Holocaust card. He actually made the statement that it had been well proven that Evolution (and atheism, by his model) had caused the Holocaust. Never mind 600 years of Christian powered antisemitism. Never mind the inquisition. Never mind the thousands of pages of 18th, 19th and early 20th century writings by mainly Christian authors on the evil and untrustworthy nature of the Jewish People. Never mind the role of the church. Never mind the work of both evolutionists and creationists in 19th and early 20th century England, the US and Europe against racism and antisemitism.
Evolution (and by his model atheism) caused the holocaust, stated Dr. Bergman quite plainly and clearly. This drew cat calls and jeers from the up-’till-then perfectly behaved audience, and caused Borrello to step in and say a word or two. Bergman’s teabagger-esque invoking of the Holocaust was utterly incorrect, wrong, and despicable, and tells us one thing that was not entirely clear up until that point: Not only is Bergman a moron (which was clear from the moment he opened his mouth at the beginning of the evening), but he is also an ass and not worthy of the meanest podium. I intend to write a letter to the organizers of this debate suggesting that he not be invited back and that an apology be demanded, acquired, and forwarded.