Saturday, August 20, 2011

Never Again Will I Debate a Creationist

As of yesterday I've decided that I will no longer engage with Creationists on any science subject. I wasted several hours of my day yesterday in an online debate with a Creatard that I know through University. I'll give the outline of how it went down. This is going to be long, and if you're not interested in hearing about it I suggest you stop now.
-He made the initial post claiming that evolutionary thinking is a cult.
-I responded saying that it's an established scientific fact, and that you would encounter the same resistance if you went around questioning gravity or germ theory.
-He made some irrelevant points relating to the cult idea, then claimed that evolutionists never give evidence.
-I responded appropriately and compiled a short list of evidence (probably about 1.5 A4 pages worth).
-He admitted to not reading any of it and asked me to pick one example to discuss.
-After some deliberation we settled on discussing Endogenous Retroviruses (ERVs)

This is where it started

-He made a whole bunch of unsupported claims in an almost incoherent post, and then linked to two scientific papers he claimed backed up his assertions.
-I read the papers (which he hadn't done), and informed him that one of them wasn't actually about ERVs, the title of the paper specifically said 'ERV-like Elements'. Even if the paper had been about ordinary ERVs, the article did not support what he was saying. The other paper (which he only read the abstract of I think) was not understood by him. I tried to explain but he kept saying the same things.
-He came back making claims about what the articles had said, but they hadn't said those things.
-He then linked to an article about the discovery of ERVs, claiming that "ERV infections that are identical accross numerous species - which pretty much kills the idea of taxonomical classification using infections".
-When I called him out on using the word 'identical' when the article had talked about 'closely related' ERVs in different species and explained that the terms are not interchangeable, he went to a massive rant telling me I didn't understand ERVs. In this barely coherent rant he strawmanned the simple criticism against him into oblivion. It is difficult to explain just how misguided his grandstanding was.
-During his rant he referred back to his arguments that the first two articles had supposedly proved, then told me to concede the debate. His words: "conceed that ERV infections are *NOT* taxonomical constants Good on your for enterin the debate though! most people wont"

At this point I expressed my dissatisfaction with his incoherent replies, his arrogance, his strawmanning, his misappropriation of words and his condescension.

-I replied to his rant point for point (where there was one)
-He did not reply to what I had said but merely babbled some (again) barely coherent nonsense in which he used the same arguments as he had initially. Numerous times in his textual diarrhoea he insulted my intelligence, told me I was unscientific, biased and talking on a subject that I knew nothing about, which he said displayed "extreme arrogance".
-I once again responded to him point by point, explaining why his postings were incoherent, and where he had misused words like 'phylogeny', 'transcription', 'taxonomy'. I also explained how his arguments confused the evolution of the viruses with the evolution of the host, and their various phylogenies. I asked him for sources for his very specific claims (he gave numbers!). I finished by criticising his attitude again.
-He responded purely with insults, telling me to get a grip, that I'm a dick, that I got "spanked ideological", that I'm not smarter, that I'm biased and that I was being emotional. He had the courtesy to be mildly incoherent too.

At this point I was mad. I flamed him back and tried to explain why his tactics were so dishonest. I told him that he hadn't responded to a single one of my arguments, while I had responded point for point to every single one of his.

-He then comes back telling me that he gave me 59 comments worth of points to critique (hint: that was the total number of comments and half of them were mine). He then told me that it was my fault that I couldn't understand him half the time. He said that I made arguments that I hadn't actually made and told me I didn't understand the science behind ERVs. He then said he knows more about biology and that he would make me "look like a punk". What threw me over the edge and made me quit the discussion and vow to never discuss science with Creatards again was this:

"you have not made a single point. Tell me what you don't understand - and then we will try and move forward"

I simply responded with a good old "Fuck you" and left.


  1. The problem is, we go on the defensive when we should go on the offensive. They believe a fairy tale because they find it comforting, and they will use any rationalization or tactic to continue to feel comfortable.

    Let's hope some onlookers found your posts interesting and followed the links. You never really know who is watching when you debate online.

  2. Unfortunately it was on a very small facebook group.

  3. There's no point in trying to debate a committed creationist. From the very fact that he is one, you know he's not basing his beliefs on following the evidence, but rather takes the preferred belief as the starting point and casts around for justifications for it.

    In fact, someone strongly committed to a point of view almost never changes it (not in response to a single round of debate, anyway). The sole value of such debates is the chance to make an impression on onlookers who are not strongly committed to one view or the other. They're the ones who are reachable.

    I wouldn't debate creationists either, though I sometimes post about evolutionary biology simply because it's an interesting subject. Having an interest in geography wouldn't obligate you to try to argue seriously with every fool who thinks the Earth is flat.

  4. Yeah I agree completely. I think I'm possibly more prone to debating with them because I used to be one myself not so long (3 years) ago.

  5. Whoa buddy...epic long, and satisfying. You're a much better person than I,I would never have engaged that person (I'm not very engage-y). Funny thing, i didn't know ya had a blog until today. be back soon homie.


  6. Thanks Kriss, I appreciate the support. It was rather demoralizing coming to the end of the debate realizing that he had no intention of actually trying to comprehend or respond to anything that I had said.