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A devolving debate

by Brad A. Greenberg

October 26, 2007 | 3:28 pm

Pharyngula is a fairly popular science blog by a biologist at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Today he has this take on the perils of evolutionists debating creationists:

Last night, Jeffrey Shallit debated a creationist. We must now shun him for violating the code of the evilutionist. No, not really. But it’s another case where the best tactics aren’t clear and simple. On the one hand, we do want to engage the public in a discussion of the ideas, and sometimes a debate is a good way to do that; but on the other, it’s giving the anti-science opponent a platform and a good deal more credibility than he deserves. I’m confident that Shallit mopped the floor with the twerp, but that’s not the point — it’s that a creationist was given equal standing with science, which is not a good result. Another concern is that if Shallit had a bad day and did not clobber his opponent, the creationist will have much to crow about. This is a game where the science has nothing to gain and everything to lose.

This is not an uncommon belief. Frankly, it’s true. The father of the intelligent-design movement, Phillip E. Johnson, laid it out in “Darwin on Trial.” Johnson, a UC Berkeley law professor, realized that the way to win the debate against evolution was to convince people the debate existed. Read “Monkey Girl” and you’ll see what success that theory has had. It should be mentioned that believing in evolution does not mean dismissing the divine hand of God in creation. Francis Collins will vouch for that.
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