Thursday, August 5, 2010

Creationists and Debates

I was just browsing Conservapedia looking for something that would make me angry, and don't worry I found something on every single page that I looked at. I stumbled across a page called 'Creation scientists tend to win the creation vs. evolution win debates' and although I wasn't as angry at this page as some of the others (for example their page on atheism) I thought that it needed refuting.

It seemed rather appropriate that they had featured a picture of Duane Gish on this page, he virtually invented the debate style used by nearly every single creationist today. The debate style that I'm talking about is sometimes referred to as the Gish Gallop. Here is what RationalWiki says about the Gish Gallop:
  "The Gish Gallop is an informal name for a rhetorical technique in debates that involves drowning the opponent in half-truths, lies, straw men, and bullshit to such a degree that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood that has been raised, usually resulting in many involuntary twitches in frustration as the opponent struggles to decide where to start. It is named after creationism activist and professional debater Duane Gish."
 It should be fairly obvious to you that this kind of debate tactic is about as dishonest as you can possibly get. If the debate topic is evolution, which is already an enormous topic, creationists will draw upon things like astronomy, cosmology, physics, thermodynamics, abiogenesis, and many other fields of science within a short span of time. The creationists who use this pony-show debate tactic don't really seem to care that all their arguments have been thoroughly trounced by real scientists many times over, but that is the reason they use the Gish Gallop in the first place. I suspect that they actually realise that Creation-science and Intelligent design aren't scientific at all, otherwise they wouldn't have to resort to such pathetic tactics and could publish scientific papers instead.

Then they go on to criticize Richard Dawkins for refusing to debate creationists and ID proponents. Can you really blame him though? If you were debating someone, and instead of responding to your points and your rebuttals, they just start bringing up dozens of fallacies that are barely related to the original content matter, you would never debate them again right? On top of that, many prominent creationists such as William Lane Craig are professional public speakers and debaters, while many scientists are lab-recluses, or in Dawkins case, writers. Science doesn't make or break on the debate podium, it's done in the lab and published in journals. Winning a debate doesn't mean jack shit when it comes to the advancement of science, so while cretins like the Discovery Institute are beating their chests claiming victory over evolution because scientists won't debate them, science is progressing, leaving ID in the dust.


  1. Right, because Conservapedia is a bastion of facts and objectively verified statements. I'm honestly embarrassed to even have that web address in my browsing history. Time to clear some cookies...

  2. When I first saw conservapedia I thought it was satiric media. When I found out that it was for real my jaw hit the floor.

  3. Sadly, it's real. And have you seen their plans to re-write the Bible?

  4. Ah yes the Gish Gallop. Dawkins has made he's reasons for not arguing creationists clear. There's no chance he can change their minds, they're so caught up in their dogma, and they do everything they can to twist a scientists words.
    What's the point of trying to debate something like that.

  5. A conversation that doesn't resort to yelling and name calling is fine... a debate that is calm and steady fine also... But this is hard to have with most creationists, since they are so heavily defensive of their strongly held opinions and preconceptions.

    I had a really nice and friendly debate/conversation with my parents about this very topic one time. While they didn't change their core beliefs, I at least feel they came out of if with a better understanding of why Evolution is actually a fact. And I felt that I better understood their opinions and feelings on the topic. As people say, its generally an emotional topic, and religion ties directly into ones emotions and feelings. So to attack these things, is to tear down the person themselves. It is a hard thing to bear without reacting harshly.

    I think people have to come to it on their own terms, but they also need access to all the evidence/information. Religious communities breed contempt for a lot of science... The negativity directed at it feeds off itself. This is where it is difficult, because a large number of religious people are automatically resistant to any scientific evidence backing up evolution etc, because their whole community has bred a very real hatred for science.

    This is a very hard thing to overcome. Level headed reason, and a refusal to be drawn into pointless debates works well for most people. But as KJ says, debates about this are generally pointless, with the other side unwilling to listen to any of the evidence, and more likely to spew random content to merely confuse the opposition.

  6. Write a post on the Flat Earth Society!

  7. I know what you mean Mister Blag. I have discussions, like the one you had, with my wife. She absolutely knows the silliness of many biblical accounts, as well as the scientific background I give her to refute the stories (archaeology). But there is something that seems to scream from within her not to admit that it is all a lie. It is familial ties and real emotions. But those emotions need to be suspended while she looks at my explanations objectively. She has yet to do this.

  8. "Religion is the opiate of the masses" - Karl Marx

    It couldn't possibly be closer to the truth. For some people (like me) losing my faith was a very enlightening experience, but others seem to cling to religion like a crutch. To many of them, life has no meaning without their myths and superstitions. I am optimistic for the future, and hope some day that the intellectual poison that is rabid fundamentalism is eradicated completely, but at the same time I'm skeptical that I'll ever see it within my lifetime.