As you have heard a few times here, there’s going to be a major conference of the godless in Melbourne in March of 2010. The bottom-feeders see that as an opportunity, and the hucksters of the Australian creationist movement are begging for crumbs of attention. The biggest organization of these kooks over there is Creation Ministries International, headed by Carl Wieland, and they’ve been nagging the conference organizers to sponsor a panel debate on creationism. Here’s a bit from one of their first emails to David Nicholls of the Atheist Foundation of Australia.
I note that the public utterances of several of the planned speakers, particular Professor Dawkins, project a supreme confidence that the evidence most certainly does not support creation as per Genesis (recent creation of groups of fully-formed organisms, global flood, etc) but that the evidence overwhelmingly supports evolution (defined as non-living molecules evolving into all life forms, including man, over millions of years).
We find that a frankly bizarre proposition, and issue this invitation/challenge to a formal public debate in Melbourne on this matter (i.e. which position on origins, yours or ours, is better supported by the available evidence?). The exact wording can be finetuned between us, but the above should adequately clarify the nature of the subject matter with little room for misunderstanding.
We propose three speakers nominated from your array of atheist champions brought in for the purpose of this convention, vs three nominated from among our small group of CMI scientists and speakers. Since Dr Dawkins is by far the most vocal, this challenge should include him on your side, to “put up or shut up” in a sense. (Since it is a “panel debate”, i.e. “Atheists vs Creationists”, not “Dawkins vs X”, this will hopefully be able to outweigh his normal stated reasons for not participating.)
They find the science “bizarre”? Color me unsurprised.
The emails went back and forth a few times, and David Nicholls stood firm: no, they weren’t going to organize a debate for a bunch of grandstanding kooks, and no, they have no evidence to debate, so it would be an exercise in futility. Here’s his final dismissal:
I thought I made it very clear that if you wish to debate any of our guests, then you will have to organise it yourself. We do not impart private information about speakers or performers. Our exact program is not finalised but we have a full compliment of speakers and performers.
If you skirt the question about accredited articles, then it is no wonder you are having trouble finding people to debate. Debate is not science, it is playing upon the prejudices of the audience. Scientific conclusion is about peer reviewing work from accredited scientific journals. I really can’t see Professor Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers or any real scientist taking seriously or bothering to debate about alien abductions even though millions believe it to be true. There are just no credible studies on this as there are no credible scientific studies that support creationism.
I’ve learned my lesson on this. I’ve been in a few debates, and what I’ve discovered is that creationists will lie liberally on the podium — they are sometimes quite polished and slick, and sometimes disordered and unprofessional, but they are always in the business of building a rhetorical case on a foundation of ignorance and pseudoscience. What I’ve witnessed here in Minnesota is that even if they get their metaphorical butts kicked around the stage for an hour or two, they use it as a basis for claiming credibility in venues friendly to their ideology — they walk out of their public trouncing straight onto Christian talk radio to play the martyr and present their weak case unopposed. And of course what happens afterwards is that the loons plague me with more demands for more debates. There is no profit to be gained in sharing my reputation with a delusional lackwit; the case is much stronger for someone like Dawkins to turn these guys down.
So of course I have received an email request from Creation Ministries International to do a debate in Australia.
Dear Dr Myers
On 27 November, our organisation issued a challenge to the Global Atheist’s convention in Melbourne next year for a panel debate.
We sent the invitation to the organiser, Mr David Nicholls, who has declined to pass it on to delegates.
When we persisted, he suggested going to your and Richard Dawkins’ websites and passing it on by those means.
The web link below is to the exact wording of the invitation/challenge, and the subsequent email exchange that same day.
Please don’t hesitate to write back if any more information is required.
Scientist, Editor, Speaker
Creation Ministries International (Australia)
I thought long and hard about this request…I’m sure I spent hundreds of milliseconds wrestling over it. I also thought about how to respond appropriately, given that Creation Ministries International is a Christian organization. Here’s my answer to Carl Wieland.
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