Discovery Institute Debate Frenzy

Something we find almost incomprehensible is occurring at the creationist blog of the Discovery Institute. Starting on 18 March, when they posted What to Watch for in Stephen Meyer v. Lawrence Krauss, Saturday at 4 PM, Here at Evolution News, they’ve posted an additional seven items about the same event, the last one (so far) was yesterday: Krauss v. Meyer: Computer Algorithms as a Fair Model of Darwinian Processes? That’s eight separate blog articles in four days about the same event!

What’s going on? For one thing, Lawrence Krauss is a respected theoretical physicist and cosmologist. We can’t imagine why he agreed to appear with Meyer, a Discoveroid vice-president who is probably best known for his role in the Sternberg peer review controversy. Yet somehow, a genuine scientist was willing to debate such a Discoveroid.

You already know we think such events — see Debating Creationists is Dumber Than Creationism. Also, in Discoveroids: “Why Won’t Anyone Debate Us?”, we presented the Curmudgeon’s Challenge Checklist (the CCC) for evaluating debate proposals. We said that if the challenger passes our simple tests, then go ahead and debate him. We repeat our checklist here:

1. Is the challenger knowledgeable, rational, and honorable? In our humble opinion, all creationists fail at least one prong of this test, and many fail them all; so there’s no more reason to debate such people than there is to debate someone who thinks he’s Napoleon.

2. Does the challenger agree on the subject to be debated? Creationist opponents usually argue from scripture, or from “creation science” which (even if they don’t admit it) is based on scripture. That’s fine for a theological debate, but that’s not your subject, is it? If you’re interested in science and your challenger’s approach to things is religious, you’ll be talking past each other. The result may be strangely entertaining, but a genuine science debate will never materialize. So why waste your time?

3. Related to the above — Is the proposed topic one that is worthy of a science debate? Creationism (which includes intelligent design), being a totally religious concept, is utterly unworthy of being treated as a scientific subject, so there is no reason for you to participate in such a debate. Religious doctrines should be debated by clergymen, because theology is their topic, not yours.

4. Will participating in the debate be anything other than a degrading experience? Actual science debates are both educational and stimulating, and scientists delight in them. But sharing a debate platform with a creationist offers nothing of scientific value, so why bother?

5. Is the proposed debate merely an attempt for the opponent to gain publicity for himself or his topic? One shouldn’t agree to a debate which, by its very existence, will be exploited for publicity and to claim intellectual legitimacy for an unworthy subject or opponent. All that you will accomplish is to raise them from the bowels of obscurity which is their natural habitat.

A good example of an unfortunate debate is the Bill Nye–Ken Ham debate. It was a grand waste of time, because nothing Nye could ever say would make any impression on ol’ Hambo, who now constantly refers to the event as if it were the greatest experience of his life. Well, in some sense it was, because Nye’s appearance on the same stage “legitimized” Hambo, and made it seem as if he had something of scientific value to say that was worth debating.

The same thing probably occurred with the Meyer-Krauss event. We didn’t watch it, and we doubt that we ever will, but the Discoveroids are promoting it as if they had accomplished done something of extra-ordinary scientific merit. Did they?

We don’t think we missed anything, but if you, dear reader, watched the debate, or know something about it, we’d like to hear from you.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “Discovery Institute Debate Frenzy

  1. Krauss shredded Meyer, who really made a fool of himself.

  2. Derek Freyberg

    I think the reviews elsewhere say that Krauss did OK and Meyer not very well; but Larry Moran, on “Sandwalk”, thinks that Krauss could have done better – or, more to the point, someone more experienced in evolutionary biology could have done better. See
    I agree that there is little point in debating out-and-out creationists, at least of the Ken Ham variety, because they’ll simply refer to the Bible as the source of all wisdom (and you get the “observational science”/”historical science” nonsense on top of it); but ID proponents have to try to argue in debate that they are debating science and not creationism, which constrains them, so it should be possible to have a rational debate. But evolutionary biologists, who are the people who should be debating IDers if anyone is to, seem not to want to waste their time, feeling (as I think most of us do) that ID is simply creationism in disguise.

  3. That might be quite worth watching. Krauss is a whole heck of a lot less polite than Nye or Dawkins.

  4. I agree: “Krauss is a whole heck of a lot less polite than Nye or Dawkins.”

    I would say that none of the Discoveroids deserve any politeness or deference. They are paid liars, and as such deserve only scorn or at best indifference. I think Krauss gave Meyer all the respect he deserves: none.

  5. I’m still amazed at how little the Discovery Institute has to offer. Instead, they simply promote their few in-house honchos, over, and over, and over. It must be dreadfully dull working in their PR department.

    Reminds me of the old story about the pastor who had one year’s worth of sermons. Each week he pulled out a sermon from the front of the file drawer, preached it, and re-filed it in the back of the drawer.

    Some folks never catch on.

  6. One thing about Bill Nye, it wasn’t a total waste of time. Hambo had to pay Bill Nye’s speaking fee estimated around $50,000 (which went to a science charity). Nye also made his case really well, and though no one changed their mind it did show Hambo as so absurd that even Pat Robertson dissed him.

  7. So why don’t Robertson and Ham “debate”?

  8. Why don’t Ham and Dembski debate? It would be creationism v. most-certainly-not-creationism, right?

  9. Derek Freyberg

    Mark Germano, that sounds like a great idea – pity it won’t happen. But they probably would disagree on the age of the earth, I don’t think the DiscoDudes are YECs. Still, I can just imagine Ham saying to Dumbski something along the lines of “Just let G*d into your heart and it will all be clear.”

  10. ID was founded on the principle of not addressing divisive questions such as “when”. Not even, officially, “who”. That meant that they could avoid alienating a significant base of support, as well as claiming not to be subject to US legal restrictions on state support of religion.

  11. At least Ham’s version gives us the “why.”

  12. Debating creationists may be dumb, but refusing to do so is worse: that lets them claim you’re afraid to take them on because you know you’d lose.

  13. @Eric Lipps

    Debating creationists may be dumb, but refusing to do so is worse: that lets them claim you’re afraid to take them on because you know you’d lose.

    I sort of hum and ha between the two positions. They can certainly make that claim, but is it possible the only people who’ll believe it are other creationists? I just don’t know.

  14. There is a recent article on the BBC webpage, “Why are people so incredibly gullible?”

    One of the things that it points out is that repeating the belief, even to refute it, reinforces it.

  15. Eric Lipps says: “Debating creationists may be dumb, but refusing to do so is worse: that lets them claim you’re afraid to take them on because you know you’d lose.”

    I don’t think that being taunted by someone who calls you a “scaredy-cat” is much of a reason to surrender to his wishes. If the mere accusation of fear were an effective tactic, then one could then say that “[name of favorite movie star] won’t date me because she’s afraid that she’ll find me irresistible.” Or how about “science journals won’t publish me because I show that their dogma is worthless.”

  16. One of the standard claims of crackpots is that their theories are too deep for the mainstream scientists: “They admit that they don’t understand what I am writing.”

  17. “They admit that they don’t understand what I am writing.”

    This is, of course, very often true.