Swedish University Lends Creationist Credibility

The Department of Archaeology at the University of Lund is organising a panel debate about creationism on 30 August under the heading "Archaeology, the Bible and Charles Darwin -- a debate about evolution, creationism and archaeological evidence". On the panel are Neolithic scholar Kristina Jennbert, liberal ex-arch-bishop Karl. G.H. Hammar, author and polyglot philologist Ola Wikander and young-Earth creationist Mats Molén. I am not happy at all with this. The university shouldn't lend credibility to pseudoscientists like Molén by inviting them to public debates. He is in no way commensurable as a scholar to Jennbert, Hammar or Wikander. And regardless of the venue, you certainly do not need to throw a senior archaeologist, a senior liberal theologian and a hot-shot Bible philologist at him to win the debate.

Who are they going to invite next? Bob Lind?

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Just where do the disciplines of archaeology and evolutionary biology overlap, anyway?

Any one of the actual scholars surely outweighs this creationist intellectually, but are any of them prepared with the background to confront the (mis)statements he's likely to make?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 22 Aug 2009 #permalink

Archaeology overlaps with evo-bio in the field of early hominid studies. The oldest stone tools are attributed to Homo habilis. But the great majority of the world's archaeologists work with the past ten millennia.

I don't think the real scholars they've invited are familiar with the Gish gallop and other creationist tactics. But the main problem is that Molén will now be able to claim acceptance by the University of Lund as a viable discussion partner.

I agree, it's over the top nonsense. Trying to debunk creationists with scientific reasoning is like trying to put out a house fire with a good talking to.

Creationists are not creationists for the most part because they feel scientifically justified in believing in creationism, they are creationists because their culture tells them that creationism is central to their identity. And when you get into cultural identities, you enter the realm of psychology and emotion.

Maybe it's a serious discussion where the odd man out is just thrown in for comic relief.

... Molén will now be able to claim acceptance by the University of Lund as a viable discussion partner.

Well, he just won't be lying quite as much as the various US creationists who rent halls or wangle student-club invitations on some campus, only to later say, "As I told them at ..."

And if the other three aren't doing their homework on creo "debate" tactics, 30 August may be remembered at UL as "Bloody Sunday". Is there enough of an anti-creo network up there among the fjords that somebody more experienced will kindly but firmly sit them down and make them watch a few videos?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 22 Aug 2009 #permalink

I've mailed the other debaters some links and asked them to please get familiar with the concept of Gish Gallop beforehand.

I'm very surprised this is happening in Sweden. There are some loonies that should just be ignored. I'd always thought that these sorts of "debates" only occured in the U.S. because we've got so many scientific illiterates and a media always looking for drama. I honestly can't believe it would happen in a country with a decent educational system and especially can't believe it would happen at a university. I am thoroughly shocked. I get that everyone's voice should be heard, but somethings can simply be dismissed out of hand. I understand your concern.

By Mike Olson (not verified) on 22 Aug 2009 #permalink

A discussion about evolution with no biologists??!! They should be able to invite someone from the science department...

I've mailed the other debaters some links and asked them to please get familiar with the concept of Gish Gallop beforehand.

I hope they're aware of just how much they owe you for doing that...

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 23 Aug 2009 #permalink

While it's true that you can't convince a dyed-in-the wool creationist of the value of studying either science in general or evolution in particular (or even archeology as opposed to finding-proof-of-the-Bible), there is some value in holding this sort of debate. The value lies in showing one's stuff to an audience of uncommitted, ordinary folks who aren't dyed in the wool on these subjects. When I was a kid, usually nobody in science bothered to stand up for evolution (much less archeology) in the face of creationism. They thought they didn't need to. Nowadays, the creationists have pretty much won over my generation, to my dismay.

By DianaGainer (not verified) on 23 Aug 2009 #permalink

It doesn't do much good to enter a live-action debate with someone who isn't actually willing to have any dialogue with you. Creationists just use these events to spout disinformation unilaterally. They don't hear one word you say. It's like one of those interviews in the media where the person doesn't answer the journalist's questions, just repeats three preselected soundbites.

Err....if Creationism is bunk surely this is a great way of debunking it?

Sticking your fingers in your ears, or trying to silence the Creationists by blocking debate on the issue doesn't seem like a very objective, or dare I say it "scientific" approach.

Let them debate and let the truth be seen by all.

I'm a Christian. Are you an idiot? Look, debate is a great thing. But, should we debate the theory of gravity next? Should we debate atomic theory? I know my intro sounds harsh and I'm really not that upset. It is simply that just because someone wishes to ignore a reality doesn't mean you've got to debate them. Debating the moon landing because some folks think it is a hoax makes no sense either.

I just don't understand why more scientists don't answer it that way. Creationists are simply burying their head in the sand and rather than trying to provide an alternative explanation they simply look for areas of possible contention in existing theory. There is no debate amongst credible scientists...only in educated fundies reaching out of their field, and hoping to create a doubt amongst the uneducated. This whole thing is stupid.

By Mike Olson (not verified) on 23 Aug 2009 #permalink

As one of the initiators of the debate, I feel it is necessary to explain the beackground for inviting Mats Molén. The archaeological community in Sweden has been largely unaware of the extent to which archaeology is used in theological debate in this country. Christian groups frequently give credibility to their outrageous claims by using archaeological "evidence" and by discrediting archaeological methods. This is done on a very "popular" level and is directed towards the public. I started researching these methods earlier this year and the staggering amount of christian propaganda using archaeology in Sweden shocked me and many of my peers at Lund University.

The reason for this debate is to create awareness of the christian uses of archaeology in propaganda and to discuss ways for scholars to deal with this issue. Inviting Mats Molén is a part of this awareness process. We as archaeologists are somewhat responsible for the ways our interpretations of history are mediated to the public and by staying silent with our head in the sands we open the playing field for all kinds of wacky manipulations from various interest groups. We need to face these groups head on before they manage to manipulate the public even further.

I welcome you all to participate in the debate this Sunday!
Ingrid Berg, MA in archaeology.

By Ingrid Berg (not verified) on 24 Aug 2009 #permalink

Yes, archaeology departments should teach about misuses of archaeology. But they should not invite the misusers and let them teach. You got it wrong.

It seems as if many of you overrate the effect of so-called 'Gish Gallop'. This kind of debating technique can only ever effect those uninformed of the matters discussed, so why worry? Academic controversies are ultimately settled in prose, and in this format all incoherent or fallible arguments tend to crumble. This is amply demontrated by Gish, Hitchens, Craig Lane, Dawkins and all other scholars primarily preaching to their respective groups of already-converted followers by appeal of demonstrated personal passion.

/ Mattias

I don't see what K.G. Hammar and Ola Wikander add to the subject. Hammar is a bit postmodern, but hopefully dislikes the Christian right so much he won't use his postmodernism against science. Is Wikander to discuss theology and politics or linguistics?

Also, I can confirm that the Christian newspaper Dagen (dagen.se) now and then has archeological articles that seem to confirm the Bible.

By devadatta (not verified) on 27 Aug 2009 #permalink

I noticed your comment, something like "who are they to invite next? Bob Lind?" As a reader of swedish newspapers I've come across Bob Lind's name quite frequently lately. What's the big issue really? He seems to have quite an interesting theory about Ale's stenar. Why are established researchers so hostile to his ideas?

By Joakim S. (not verified) on 28 Aug 2009 #permalink

The problem with Bob Lind is that his radical interpretations have no base in the archaeological record, he is completely unwilling to take part in any rational argument, and he's highly aggressive. No professional archaeologist has been convinced by any of his claims.

How can they debate evolution without a single biologist in the discussion?

By Per Edman (not verified) on 29 Aug 2009 #permalink

I take it they only want to discuss the chronological aspect of Young Earth creationism. A creationist who believes that the world was made more than 2.5 million years ago has no problem with archaeology. Our discipline starts with the first artefacts, i.e. Oldowan stone tools.