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Upcoming debate…Nye vs Ham on creationism
Posted: 05 February 2014 05:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Pat Robertson tells Ken Ham to STFU!

Pat Robertson responded to the recent debate between Young Earth creationist Ken Ham and Bill Nye, a.k.a. “The Science Guy,” by reiterating his disagreement with Ham’s form of creationism.

“Let’s face it,” Robertson said, “there was a Bishop [Ussher] who added up the dates listed in Genesis and he came up with the world had been around for 6,000 years.”

“There ain’t no way that’s possible,” he continued. “To say that it all came about in 6,000 years is just nonsense and I think it’s time we come off of that stuff and say this isn’t possible.”


“Let’s be real, let’s not make a joke of ourselves.”

“We’ve got to be realistic,” he concluded, and admit “that the dating of Bishop Ussher just doesn’t comport with anything that is found in science and you can’t just totally deny the geological formations that are out there.”

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Posted: 05 February 2014 09:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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macgyver - 04 February 2014 09:17 PM

As much as I respect Bill Nye and all of his accomplishments in science education I hate to admit that his message was somewhat disjointed compared to Hams. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that you can have all the right answers and still lose the debate.

A good debater has to know his audience. Nye is giving his talk to simple people who believe in creation but the larger audience is made up of non-scientists who may be on the fence. Those are the people he needs to convince. To convince them you need a simple narrative with a few convincing examples.

Ham had a simple narrative with a common thread that he kept repeating like a drumbeat. Scientists are monopolizing the discussion and being hypocritical. The creationists have valid competing theories and in his view the evidence supports their explanation better than it does the standard scientific theories. He supported his ideas with flawed examples but in the mind of the average listener that wont matter. They will come away with the idea that science is being closed minded and there is good reason to look at both sides of the debate.

Nye should have done a better job explaining the flaws in Hams arguments ( and there were many - like the whole historical science dichotomy stupidity) and then given a few simple examples that even an 8 year old could understand. He rambled and gave far too many examples. Some of them were excellent, but others were ambiguous and for many in his audience the connection to the overall argument was probably difficult to make.

A simple narrative is easy when you are talking about Adam an Eve, or any parable. It’s not so simple if you are talking about science and the scientific method. There is no way a debater could turn evolutiinary theory into a simple story for simple people. It would be like trying make a young child understand why Santa Claus is impossible. I don’t think there is any way Nye could have made it simple enough for that audience, which is one good reason for rationalists not to get involved in debates of this nature. It creates an impossible task for anyone supporting evolution or just plain common sense, or science over fantasy. I don’t agree that “creationists have valid competing theories.” They have fantasies, which it’s impossible to talk people out of, no matter how simple one might make it. Stephen Jay Gould gave up on debating Creationists because, he said, it was waste of time and an impossible task. It’s like debating a child. You simply can’t make it simple enough for them to get the merest inkling of what you’re talking about. It is a losing game for rational people.

Gould gave Richard Dawkins this advice when Dawkins planned to debate a creationist. Gould said,

“Don’t do it.” The point is not, he said, whether or not you would ‘win’ the debate. Winning is not what the creationists realistically aspire to. For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at all. They need the publicity. We don’t. To the gullible public which is their natural constituency, it is enough that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist. “There must be something in creationism, or Dr So-and-So would not have agreed to debate it on equal terms.” Inevitably, when you turn down the invitation you will be accused of cowardice, or of inability to defend your own beliefs. But that is better than supplying the creationists with what they crave: the oxygen of respectability in the world of real science.

See more, here:

http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/119-why-i-won-39-t-debate-creationists

Lois

[ Edited: 05 February 2014 09:16 PM by Lois ]
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Posted: 05 February 2014 09:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Lois I agree with you that there is a danger in doing these debates. It does elevate the creationist to a level of respect that they do not deserve. On the other hand there are lots of people who are on the fence on this issue and millions have visited the creationist museum. To the untrained mind Ham’s arguments might seem compelling so there is certainly an argument to be made for presenting a coherent explanation so people can understand why creationism is not science.

The key I think is in avoiding the trap that creationist set when they try to make this look like a debate between world views and two equally valid opinions which it is not. Nye should have spent more time explaining the scientific method and why creationism is not science.

I disagree that evolution and science can not be simplified into basic concepts that people can understand. I do it every day with topics as or more complex than those involved in evolution when I talk to patients. The key is to break down the concepts into simple ideas that a child can understand and then build on those concepts.

Good debaters of course have to do more than just explain things in a way people can understand. They have to find ways to help their audience relate to what they are saying. Using analogies from everyday life often makes an idea more relateable and therefor more acceptable to people. Nye did this but the relevance of his examples were not always obvious. As unfair as it may be, humor also helps. How many political debates have been “won” with a brilliant quip delivered at the right time. Nye attempted this but stumbled more often than he succeeded. Those sorts of things may be meaningless from a scientific standpoint but they do win people over.

It also helps to know your opponent, anticipate their arguments, and be well prepared with counter arguments. Nye did a particularly poor job for example when the question from the audience came up about the second law of thermodynamics. He rambled about converting mechanical energy to heat when he should have explained why the question had been asked in the first place and then discussed entropy and why that does not apply to an open system like the earth. Not an easy thing to do with a non-science audience but something that a science popularizer and educator like Nye could have sailed through if he had been well prepared in advance. He rambled far too much and I think he lost his audience more than once.

[ Edited: 05 February 2014 09:38 PM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 06 February 2014 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Just finished watching it. I thought it went well. Nye went off on a few tangents, but he generally stayed on message that science makes predictions, it embraces questions and “it is unsettling” that we would abandon all the facts gathered over the centuries as well as the method used to acquire them.

Ham had a bit of advantage during the rebuttals when he was listing scientific claims and saying they were bad interpretations. But even then, he was giving people lists of things that they could simply look up and verify. Many will only look at evidence given by other creationists, but some will look elsewhere. That’s the best we can hope for.

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Posted: 06 February 2014 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Lausten - 06 February 2014 09:12 AM

Just finished watching it. I thought it went well. Nye went off on a few tangents, but he generally stayed on message that science makes predictions, it embraces questions and “it is unsettling” that we would abandon all the facts gathered over the centuries as well as the method used to acquire them.

Ham had a bit of advantage during the rebuttals when he was listing scientific claims and saying they were bad interpretations. But even then, he was giving people lists of things that they could simply look up and verify. Many will only look at evidence given by other creationists, but some will look elsewhere. That’s the best we can hope for.

I think everyone listening to a debate listens selectively. We hear what we want to hear and dismiss what we don’t want to hear. It’s as if the rationalist and the Christian Fundamentalist were hearing two different debates.  The same thing happens in political debates. Everyone goes in with the idea that he is going to listen openly to both sides, but nobody does. Everyone hears only what he wants to hear and is intently listening for the person they don’t favor to make a mistake or a foolish statement so he can jump on it later. It’s human nature and it happens on both sides, but each side insists it has listened with an open mind. IMO, there are no open minds in a contentious debate. If anybody is swayed by either side, it’s extremely rare and nobody changes his stance immediately. The best anyone can hope for is that some seeds are planted, but both sides hope for that. And either side has the same chance of having people come out of the debate shouting, “Hallelujah! I’ve been saved!”

I don’t think polarizing debates accomplish anything. It’s pure entertainment for both sides.. If anyone switches sides it’s because he was thinking along those lines long before the debate.

Lois

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Posted: 06 February 2014 04:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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PLa;

I disagree, respectfully, but emphatically. The least effective thing to do is try to meet these characters on their turf.

Thanks PLa; let me try to explain a little further.  IMO debating about “Creation Science” is a waste of time and we should instead be laughing it off and pointing out that the Creation Museum is no more than an amusement park and profit center.

What we should be debating is how the Bible Library read and misused by these fundies.  i.e. We should be pointing out things like The story of the of Octavius recorded in the first quarter of the second century by Suetonius in his Lives of the Caesars.

When Atia had come in the middle of the night to the solemn service of Apollo, she had her litter set down in the temple and fell asleep, while the rest of the matrons also slept.  A serpent glided up to her and shortly went away.  When she awoke, she purified herself, as if after the embraces of her husband, and at once there appeared on her body a mark in colors like a serpent, and she could never get rid of it: so that presently she ceased ever to go to public baths.  In the tenth month after Augustus was born and was therefore regarded as the son of Apollo.

Taken from the “Birth of Christianity” by John Dominic Crossan Pg. 28 { Note 1: Octavius changed his name to Augustus when he became emperor;  Note; 2 I left out part of the quote that is an apparent misprint, it does not change the meaning of the text.}

The point I am attempting to make is what we should be making is that many of the what the fundies call historical facts in the Bible are no more than commonly accepted social memes of the time and should be accepted as such. As Crossan points out on the next page:

.

. . the earliest Christian lived in a world not yet bedeviled by either direct or indirect rationalism, a world where divine conceptions were quite acceptable.  . . . They could have never have argues that Jesus was uniquely singular because divine conception had happened to him alone in all the world.  They could not and did not.

  BTW; Crossan is a practicing Roman Catholic.

This is just one example their are many more.  We who do not believe in Jesus as a divine being or in any other supernatural spirits should be using this type of historical knowledge to debunk the fundies.  By debunking their “literal” and self-serving interpretation of the this great library we call the Bible, undercut their absurd influence in today’s society.

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Posted: 06 February 2014 05:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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NM duplicate post.

[ Edited: 06 February 2014 06:02 PM by Coldheart Tucker ]
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Posted: 06 February 2014 06:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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What people like Nye and Dawkins are effectively trying to do is debunk creationism which can be very difficult for many of the reasons Lois talks about in post #17. Even with the best intentions it’s often counter-productive to give an opposing view a prominent forum.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/docs/Debunking_Handbook.pdf

Debunking myths is problematic. Unless great care is taken, any effort to debunk
misinformation can inadvertently reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct. To
avoid these “backfire effects”, an effective debunking requires three major elements.
First, the refutation must focus on core facts rather than the myth to avoid the
misinformation becoming more familiar. Second, any mention of a myth should be
preceded by explicit warnings to notify the reader that the upcoming information is
false. Finally, the refutation should include an alternative explanation that accounts
for important qualities in the original misinformation.

And having been on the other side of the debate I can say that at least in some cases the intent isn’t for the creationist to have a open and fair discussion… it’s to score points with followers of the faith. Often this just turns into another opportunity to bolster a belief system that if left to rational exchange would simply evaporate.

Because it’s based in faith and not reason.

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Posted: 06 February 2014 07:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Lois - 06 February 2014 12:44 PM

I don’t think polarizing debates accomplish anything. It’s pure entertainment for both sides.. If anyone switches sides it’s because he was thinking along those lines long before the debate.

Lois

What I was commenting on was the quality of Nye’s approach. There is a lot complaining about Hitchen’s style, okay, I get that. Even Dawkins is called arrogant, I really don’t get that, I think he is quite the gentleman. Nye presented himself well. He made a couple geeky jokes, which may have bombed for some and endeared others. But he didn’t do some weird Biblical interpretation or get sucked into Ham’s gish gallop. He emphasized the positive side of science, the wonder and the need for it in the economic landscape. These aren’t things that I’ve the big 4 do in debates. I was an adult believer for 15 years and my conversion was slow, I think I can be pretty objective about these things.

Ham made some points as a presenter too, but his bottom line was “there’s a book” and “nothing will change my mind”. Just like us, believers watch these things to pick up talking points. Ham didn’t give them much, a few experts, some bad science, anyone who tries to emulate him will find their cognitive dissonance challenged.

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Posted: 07 February 2014 04:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I agree with Lausten. Your point is a good one, Gary, and many have made it: don’t dignify Ham and his monument to ignorance with a debate. Only Nye didn’t go there to debate creationism, even though formally that was the topic. He went there to teach science, and show how science renders creationism untenable.

If some creationists watched the debate never having heard about how ice coring has revealed 680,000 layers of ice, or not appreciating how scientists calculate the distance of objects from Earth - just as two examples - those are vital pieces of information that could well open and change their minds. When I was in high school, I argued to a classmate that radiocarbon dating methods cannot necessarily be extended out for millions of years - the same argument as Ham makes. My friend asked “then why does it work for everything else?” That’s all it took to change my mind. Many of these people are sheltered in a cocoon of ignorance. Nye provided them information they can use to escape.

[ Edited: 07 February 2014 04:52 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 07 February 2014 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Since Rodin opened this topic, I for one would be interested in his take on it.  Come on, Rodin, how do you think the debate went?  I didn’t see it myself, but from what everyone saids Mr. Ham essentially threw in the towel when he kept saying it was all about “faith”, since the debate was framed as a question of whether Creationism was a viable scientific theory.

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Posted: 07 February 2014 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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PLaClair - 07 February 2014 04:20 AM

I agree with Lausten. Your point is a good one, Gary, and many have made it: don’t dignify Ham and his monument to ignorance with a debate. Only Nye didn’t go there to debate creationism, even though formally that was the topic. He went there to teach science, and show how science renders creationism untenable.

If some creationists watched the debate never having heard about how ice coring has revealed 680,000 layers of ice, or not appreciating how scientists calculate the distance of objects from Earth - just as two examples - those are vital pieces of information that could well open and change their minds. When I was in high school, I argued to a classmate that radiocarbon dating methods cannot necessarily be extended out for millions of years - the same argument as Ham makes. My friend asked “then why does it work for everything else?” That’s all it took to change my mind. Many of these people are sheltered in a cocoon of ignorance. Nye provided them information they can use to escape.

Well said, Paul.

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Posted: 07 February 2014 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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advocatus - 07 February 2014 09:51 AM

Since Rodin opened this topic, I for one would be interested in his take on it.  Come on, Rodin, how do you think the debate went?  I didn’t see it myself, but from what everyone saids Mr. Ham essentially threw in the towel when he kept saying it was all about “faith”, since the debate was framed as a question of whether Creationism was a viable scientific theory.

If you haven’t seen the debate you can watch it here: http://debatelive.org/. Its a bit long but definitely worth watching.

For what its worth, check out some of the posts on twitter about the debate. While a lot of the post back up what people are saying here ( ie. that people are entrenched in their positions and wont change their minds) there were certainly a number of people who seemed to be on the fence and for them a debate like this could possibly be the thing that makes them see the light. My only concern is that those who are not scientifically literate could just as easily be convinced by the simple minded ideas that Ham put forward

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Posted: 07 February 2014 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Didn’t see the debate, not gonna. BUT I do think the only positive would be that Nye conducted himself (from what I’ve read in this thread) respectfully. You just KNOW the Christians in the audience looking for blood and a reason to hate. When this mild mannered, respectful guy comes out and doesn’t insult them, etc. whoa…they don’t know what to make of it. And THAT can be very positive.

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Posted: 07 February 2014 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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PLaClair - 07 February 2014 04:20 AM

I agree with Lausten. Your point is a good one, Gary, and many have made it: don’t dignify Ham and his monument to ignorance with a debate. Only Nye didn’t go there to debate creationism, even though formally that was the topic. He went there to teach science, and show how science renders creationism untenable.

If some creationists watched the debate never having heard about how ice coring has revealed 680,000 layers of ice, or not appreciating how scientists calculate the distance of objects from Earth - just as two examples - those are vital pieces of information that could well open and change their minds. When I was in high school, I argued to a classmate that radiocarbon dating methods cannot necessarily be extended out for millions of years - the same argument as Ham makes. My friend asked “then why does it work for everything else?” That’s all it took to change my mind. Many of these people are sheltered in a cocoon of ignorance. Nye provided them information they can use to escape.

The creationist’s last resort when faced with scientific evidence of an old earth (for one thing) is to fall back on the argument that God created that false evidence to test the faith of the chosen, just as they do with the fossil record. God just planted those things to make the earth appear old, but the truly faithful are not fooled. So how can you argue with that?

Lois

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