The Science Avenger explains why evolutionary biologists are right to be afraid of debating creationists and that professors Rulon and Myers are right in advising them to shirk debate, as, apparently, does their hero, Richard Dawkins:
1. Debate is a skill like any other, and it correlates far more with the ability to think and speak quickly, than it does with being accurate. This is, in fact, why creationists insist on live spoken debates rather than written ones.
Translation: you’re going to get your ass kicked, so you don’t dare play. I note that there is copious evidence that creationists are willing to make their case in writing, in both book and debate form. Anyhow, I thought we were supposed to be the low IQ crowd, when did we suddenly become the side with the intellectual advantage?
Also, statistics would indicate that out of the hundreds of thousands of scientists, most of whom we are informed subscribe completely to evolutionary theory, there should be at least one or two rhetorically competent individuals capable of defending evolution from those wickedly sharp but wildly ignorant creationists.
2. What we on the scientific side of the debate say ad infinitum is not that the creationists are stupid, but that they are unscientific, and that they are wrong. Debating them as equals will give the impression to the casual observer that they ARE equals.
There is no shortage of evidence proving that those on the self-proclaimed scientific side of the debate do indeed say that creationists are stupid, one need only look at Pharyngula’s site to find far more examples of that than the cumulative total of transitionary fossils yet found. And the opposition must be presumed to be equals until you prove that you can defeat them on neutral ground; failing to debate them just gives the casual observer that they are not only your equals, but your betters.
3. Bullshit. “Archaeopteryx was a fake” takes 4 words to assert. Refuting it takes considerably more time, as refutations to most poor arguments do. Any logical fallacy takes longer to explain than to use. Also, repeating the point from earlier, being articulate is not a very valuable talent for a researcher.
Again, they’re incompetent and can’t win, so they won’t play. And it only takes twelve words to turn the burden of proof around entirely. “So you assert. Prove Archaeopteryx was a fake or retract the claim.”
4. You’ll notice there are almost never references to any real scientist talking like this.
Because, as we’ve been discussing, real scientists are afraid to debate and prefer to avoid it. It’s the non-scientists who are on the so-called scientific side of the debate who are willing to debate and who regularly argue like this. There are several examples in the comments to the post to which Science Avenger is referring.
5. Quite the contrary. The scientific playing field is very open. It is in the peer-reviewed literature.
Irrelevant change of subject. We’re talking about evolutionary biologists and their self-proclaimed fear of debate. OF COURSE they want to play on their home field, where they literally get to serve as the referees as well.
Now, I tend to prefer written debates myself, but in an increasingly post-literate, visually-oriented world, there is an increasing need for verbal debate. It is amusingly ironic that the evolutionists should find it hard to recognize how the modern world is evolving.
UPDATE: PZ tries to claim that he’s not afraid of debate on equal ground, it’s just that he would rather engage the public in a manner which lets him have the complete control, you know, like he does in his classroom:
The second attack is coming from wacky ol’ Vox Day who accuses me of cowardice for advocating that we don’t debate creationists. It’s a remarkably cowardly job on his part: he quotes the bit where I say that the ‘debate’ format is tactically poor and throws away the strengths of science, and then stops right were I start to make suggestions for actively engaging the public with substance and evidence and ideas. Is Day dishonest? Why, yes. But that kind of fraud and blatant twisting of words is Day’s specialty, right up there with his penchant for looney right-wing theocratic babble.
You’ll note that everything I wrote was completely accurate and that Dr. Myers isn’t denying that he would prefer to engage in a format that doesn’t throw away the strengths of science. Even though other scientists, such as physicists and economists, seem to be able to survive and even thrive in that format.
As for cowardice, I note first that I’m not the one running away from debates, that’s for the likes of Michelle Malkin, Dr. Myers and Prof. Rulon. Second, I wasn’t interested in the part of the post where PZ writes about HOW he is going to avoid debates, I was only interested in WHY he wishes to do so. Third, I never copy the entire contents of someone else’s post unless it’s very short, my understanding is that it is bad Internet etiquette, the link is there so that readers can visit the original blog and read the post in its entirety.