Science Versus Bible: To Debate or Not to Debate?

9

The atheist community is deeply divided about religious fundamentalism and creationism, but not about whether such preposterous claims have any validity. They disagree on whether scientists should debate fundamentalists about the "science" of the Bible. I think both sides have reasonable arguments in the debate on whether to debate.

Here are arguments against debating: What's to debate? Evolution is–true! That a man named Noah put pairs of all species from a 6000-year-old earth in an ark he built when he was 600 years old is–false! Sharing a stage with creationists just lends them credibility. In any case, evidence will eventually win. Debates are often more about oratory skill than evidence. Preachers and pseudoscientists usually have more debating experience and skills than do scientists. Should we also debate Holocaust deniers or members of the Flat-Earth Society?

Here are arguments for debating: If scientists don't defend scientific theories, we will lose the battle of public opinion. Many fundamentalists have heard only the preacher's side and a debate might spark illumination for some who listen to a scientific theory explained by a real scientist.

My opinion is that the best way to counter bad speech is with good speech. I've debated on topics that include whether God exists, if we should have prayer in public schools, whether we are a Christian nation, if atheists should be allowed to hold public office, and whether we can be moral without God. My debates have often been against fundamentalist ministers in my home state of South Carolina, with most of the audience from the minister's flock. I've never worried about giving credibility to the ministers, who more likely might be worried about giving credibility to me.

Debates are never about changing the mind of the debate opponent. I hope to plant seeds of doubt with those in the audience who are open to new ideas. I think religious discussions and debates can be especially productive for atheists. A theist is more likely to hear something new from an atheist than the other way around.

Even so, many atheists, myself included, have been overly optimistic that a rational argument will be sufficient to change minds. I now think the best we can do is make good points in a reasonable and pleasant manner. I emphasize "pleasant" because in any debate many in the audience make unconscious judgments based more on personality than on arguments. That was difficult for me to understand at first, since it's so different from my academic world of mathematics. Smiling is effective in debates and useless in mathematics.

Here's another controversial statement: I think it's usually better for Herb Silverman to debate religious fundamentalists than for Richard Dawkins to do it. This is not because I'm a better debater than Dawkins (I'm not), but because of the instant credibility and fame a fundamentalist gets by simply appearing on the same stage as Richard Dawkins. Case in point: William Lane Craig, one of the best known Christian apologist debaters, has spent countless hours trying to get Richard Dawkins to debate him. Craig has even called Dawkins a coward and then debated an empty chair that he substituted for Dawkins.
 

Written By: Herb Silverman
continue to source article at huffingtonpost.com

9 COMMENTS

  1. Craig has even called Dawkins a coward and then debated an empty chair that he substituted for Dawkins.

    Two “intellectually empty” chairs on stage – with only one physically empty!

    • In reply to #1 by Alan4discussion:

      Craig has even called Dawkins a coward and then debated an empty chair that he substituted for Dawkins.

      Two “intellectually empty” chairs on stage – with only one physically empty!

      That’s quite offensive to Richard, don’t you think, Alan? He is a member of this site.

      • In reply to #2 by Katy Cordeth:

        In reply to #1 by Alan4discussion:

        Craig has even called Dawkins a coward and then debated an empty chair that he substituted for Dawkins.

        Two “intellectually empty” chairs on stage – with only one physically empty!

        That’s quite offensive to Richard, don’t you think, Alan? He is a member of this…

        Have I missed something or failed to understand?
        wasn’t there a ‘debate’ by Craig with an empty chair – supposed to represent Richard

  2. Those two examples fundies and creationists are not even under the scope of religions for me they are more like crazy cults…..and I would find it difficult to even debate religious people, unless they actually wanted to know some useful information…..what’s the point in debating their belief’s – there no goalposts then …You can only really debate with equally valid issues…..because they have nothing to teach us….

  3. Craig…debated an empty chair

    “Eastwooding”.

    For anyone not in the know, it is in reference to when Clint Eastwood “spoke with” (imagined) Obama’s empty chair. Lame Lane was a copycat.

    *humour on rye?

  4. Craig has even called Dawkins a coward and then debated an empty chair that he substituted for Dawkins.

    Any fair judge of the merit of arguments used in a debate after listening to William Lane Craig would have to conclude that the chair proxy won anyway.

  5. When I heard of this debate, I thought it wasn’t a good idea as it gave publicity and possible credibility to Ken Ham and his absurd religious views, masquerading as science.
    However watching the debate, I realised that providing Ham the opportunity to discuss his claims and the evidence for them for over two hours, instead of in sound bites, revealed how hollow his claims are. He couldn’t provide a shred of evidence except for the Bible, which had to say over and over. Nye did fine and really just had to some of the ludicrous events that would have had to occur if Ham’s views were correct.
    Even Christian coverage of the event, was overwhelmingly critical of Ham – even Pat Robertson has said Ham makes Christians look stupid. 92% of those polled in one leading Christian evangelical publication thought Nye had won the debate.

Leave a Reply