Why Debates are Dubious

In the evolution/creationism controversy, there is a sub-debate about public debates: should scientists and science fans engage in oral public debates with creationists? Sometimes it is said that the answer is always “no” – debates are sport, not serious discussion, and creationists can employ the “Gish Gallop” to rattle off hundreds of bogus claims, each of which would take minutes or hours to debunk in the fashion done on talk.origins. But the real answer is “it depends”, because there are circumstances when it is appropriate – neutral forums, a setup that allows individual topics to be discussed in depth, you are an expert debater like Kenneth Miller, etc. On the other hand, if you are being invited to a debate set up by creationists for the purpose of promoting creationism, with their rules, press, etc., and their audience bussed in from fundamentalist churches, and when they are planning to record, broadcast, and sell recordings of the event to promote creationism/ID – then you should think twice about whether or not you are being “set up,” and whether or not your participation is helping or hurting the cause of science education.

Here is another situation in which you should think twice. On the web, I just stumbled on this announcement of a series of upcoming ID events in Florida, called “Darwin of Design?” See the line I bolded:

Darwin or Design?

Part I: Sept 29-30

Sponsored by Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity (PSSI) * USF’s Sun Dome Friday night, Sept 29, at 7:00 p.m. Dr. Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box Dr. Ralph Seelke, research scientist in microbiology Dr. Jonathan Wells, author of Icons of Evolution

Note: High school and college faculty and students will be admitted free of charge with appropriate ID. The admission fee for all others is $5. For more information, call (813) 974-3111.

* Radisson Hotel Ballroom, Lectures with Open Forum Saturday, Sept 30, 10:00 a.m. until noon* Drs. Michael Behe, Ralph Seelke and Jonathan Wells * 12600 Roosevelt Blvd., St. Petersburg - www.radisson.com/stpetersburgfl Note: Complimentary coffee and tea served. A free-will donation will be requested to help with expenses.

Part II: November 3-4

Co-Sponsors: PSSI and The Campus Humanistic Society * The Great Debate: Darwin or Design? Friday evening, Nov 3, at 7:30 p.m. Grace Family Church in Tampa** Featuring: Dr. Stephen Meyer, Ph.D. in philosophy of science, Cambridge University and Dr. Donald Duh, professor (emeritus) at Whatever State University ** 5101 Van Dyke Rd, Lutz, FL – www.gracefamilychurch.org

* Exploring the Evidence of Design, Saturday, Nov. 4 Calvary Baptist Church, 9:00 a.m.-noon Christ Community Church, 1:30-4:30 p.m.*** Featuring: Dr. Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute, Dr. Walter Bradley, Dean of Engineering at Baylor University and co-author of The Mystery of Life’s Origin, and Dr. Thomas Woodward, professor at Trinity College and author of Doubts about Darwin and Darwin Strikes Back *** Calvary Baptist, 110 N. McMullen Booth Rd, Clearwater – www.calvarybaptist.org; Christ Community, 6202 N Himes Ave, Tampa, (813) 879-2077 – www.tampaccc.org

It looks like the promoters accidentally sent out the draft announcement, and then at least one recipient, WTBN, “Tampa Bay’s Christian Talk” radio station put it up without reading it. I haven’t looked for other instances posted at church websites etc., but they may exist.

Anyhoo, if the announcement for the creationism/ID debate, before you are even signed up, describes you as “Dr. Donald Duh, professor (emeritus) at Whatever State University”, then maybe, just maybe, this is a debate you should refrain from participating in.