Dawkins’ guide, due to the forthcoming Bill Nye V Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis) debate taking place at the Creation Museum in the USA, can be found in full further down. If this was a straight science debate this would be a slam dunk with Richard’s advice.
It will not be – having seen first hand Ken Ham talk this will instead be about how evolution challenges God and needs to be rejected on that basis, not least for a better society based on Christian ethics. Ken knows how to reach those people who are not scientifically literate but are bible literalists.
Ken Ham himself mentioned that Genesis was the foundation for the Christian message, and that evolution was wrong in the common descent because of it. In short, the literal interpretation of Genesis was essential not only to Christianity but also to moral virtual because secularism by not being based on God’s Word would lead to evil like abortion, pornography and gay marriage – even racism.
The display for this was two battle ships fighting one another. A recurrent theme was that secularism was not about being neutral – it was open hostility to God’s Word. It misses the crucial point that secularism is not based on whether you believe in evolution or not, faith or not, abortion or not. The principle is that the state does not use it’s power to enforce religion on it’s citizens, allowing them the right to their consciences in this regard but not to have dominion over another over a faith claim. But no, apparently morality is not something that atheists can have.
I passed on the opportunity to contact the local Answers in Genesis office – an offer to debate did not appeal to me in the slightest. If you are going to do it I would suggest knowledge of creationism, it’s biases and circular reasoning together with thorough grounding in science and ability to articulate to a mass audience.
But do not think it will be about science – you either get side tracked on the social issues Ken Ham knows his target audience is against – or you get bogged down in explaining technical details when Ken says that’s your opinion without God, mine is with the God of the bible using the same facts that sees them for what they are. Ken knows the snares and hooks to say when you explain things for example on evolutionary time “Time is your God, it solves all your problems.” He will not let you play to your strengths because you will be talking at cross purposes, while he throws in banana skins.
Be ready for them – or else what the hell are you doing there? Frankly I do not see a win but much to lose. Maybe water under the bridge now debate is agreed, but understand Ken was more than prepared for this in 2008 when I heard him talk. He is so ready – Bill hope you are too. Bring your A game plus.
- I agree that to do this on Ham’s home turf was a mistake, and indeed it is almost always a mistake to give wingnuts the oxygen of publicity, and the respectability of being seen on a platform with a real scientist, anywhere. However, Bill Nye’s decision is taken, and a good rule in life is, “Always start from here, not from some hypothetical point in the past.” Here are a few suggestions for anyone who, for one reason or another, finds him/herself debating one of these idiots:-
Physical scientists (such as Bill Nye) should play to their strengths in physical science and call the wingnut out on the age of fossils, and cosmological evidence on the age of the universe. Radiometric dating of rocks is solid, irrefutable science. The agreement between different isotopes with overlapping time spans is so strong, it is impossible for anyone to wriggle out of the conclusion that the world is billions of years old, not thousands. Astronomical evidence of the expanding universe agrees.
There are of course gaps in the fossil record. In the case of the Turbellaria, a large, flourishing and beautiful group of free-living flatworms, the fossil record is one big gap – there are no fossils – and not even a Young Earth Creationist thinks they were created yesterday. But although there are gaps in the fossil record, it is a very telling fact that not a single fossil has ever been found in the wrong place in the time sequence. To paraphrase JBS Haldane, not a single fossil rabbit has ever been found in the Precambrian.
Even if there were not a single fossil anywhere in the world, the fact of evolution would be established beyond any doubt by the evidence from comparing modern creatures with other modern creatures. Comparative anatomy was highly convincing evidence in Darwin’s time. Today we can add comparative molecular sequences (DNA and proteins) which are even more convincing, by orders of magnitude. Whichever molecule you look at, and whichever bone system etc you look at, the pattern of animal resemblances turns out to be the same branching tree (given normal, expected margins of error). What could that branching tree be but a pedigree, a family tree, a tree of descent with modification?
The pattern of geographical distribution of animals and plants is exactly as it should be, on the assumption that slow, gradual evolution has taken place on slowly drifting (plate tectonics) continents and islands. Archipelagoes such as Galapagos and Hawaii are textbook examples, but the same kind of pattern is seen the world over. Species are distributed exactly where evolutionists would expect them to be (the pattern of distribution is not what you’d expect if they had dispersed from Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat!)
It’s never ideal to argue from authority, but the fact is that the VAST majority of scientists working in relevant fields accept the fact of evolution and the fact that the universe is billions of years old. The mutually corroborating evidence spans zoology, botany, microbiology, bacteriology, genetics, geology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, anthropology, geography . . . the list goes on. As for Ken Ham’s biblical alternative, Genesis is not accepted as literally true by any reputable theologian or ancient historian. And that is hardly surprising when you consider the obscurity of its authorship, and its obvious status as just one of thousands of origin myths from all around the world..
All these points, and more, can be found in books such as The Greatest Show on Earth and Why Evolution is True.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog