To Debate or Not To Debate ?

Evolution versus creationism has been a long standing debate in the society. This debate or ‘controversy’ made complete sense in the early period after the publication of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin in 1859. It made sense because it was a revolutionary new idea which fit. Still, there was no evidence of evolution and many concepts of biology (which we take for granted today) were inconceivable. Therefore, the debate was still valid and legitimate. But that was then. Over the last 150 years or so, irrefutable evidence has proven evolution to be a fact. Countless scientific techniques have tested the predictions made by Darwin, and they have stood the test of time. The fact that it is still debated today is incomprehensible.

This begs the question – should we be debating the creationists at all? Let us look at it in a pragmatic manner. In general, healthy debates should be encouraged because they allow an argument to stand criticism and helps in sharing of ideas. But it is hard to justify a debate between evolution and creationism because one argument is based on pure facts and evidence, while the other is based completely upon faith with no evidence whatsoever. Science cannot be debated against fairy tales. But these debates tend to occur at an alarming rate. A YouTube search for ‘evolution vs creationism debate’ alone results in about 256,000 results. It is to be expected (statistically, if nothing else) that not everyone who participates in any debate is a good orator, and these debates are no exception. However, unlike most other debates, these debates usually follow a specific pattern (based on watching hundreds of such debates on mainstream media), noted as follows.

  1. The creationist participant throws a volley of questions at his opponent and will not take “we don’t know that yet but scientists are working on it” response as a valid one.
  2. The creationist participant is always more well prepared than his opponent. This is not not because he is smarter, instead he knows exactly what he wants to argue. Creationists have been coached with the same arguments over a period of several decades. The evolutionist, however, actually bothers to read the recent peer-reviewed research and forms/changes his opinions accordingly. Science is complex and it takes time to explain science to laymen, and the evolutionists are usually not given uninterrupted time to be able to explain.
  3. When it is the turn of the evolutionist to ask questions, the creationist simply attributes everything to faith and some religious text. That’s it. No evidence, no facts.

These three things happen in these debates over and over in a number of permutations and combinations. It can therefore be argued that the structure of these debates is flawed. The topics should be pre-decided so both the parties can come prepared. The recent Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate was rather well structured, but most television debates on this topic are not.

However, that is not why debating creationists is being discouraged here. It is because of the fact that while one side is expected to produce hard evidence (as it should be), the other side gets away scot free by blaming it on the book and claiming (in the words of Bill O’Reilly) “you can’t explain that“. This sort of exchange does not constitute a debate. Moreover, through such platforms the creationists get the media exposure which, based on merit, they will probably never get. This is the reason that the creationists are always gunning for a debate with evolutionists. Recently, an Origin Summit was organized at the campus of Michigan State University, to give creationism a scientific touch. did a great story on it. Below are some interesting excerpts from it.

The summit initially pitched a debate between Pennock and Charles Jackson—a member of the “Creation Science Hall of Fame”—as the focal point of the conference. The summit’s website asks whether Pennock’s arguments can “withstand the scrutiny of debate” and suggests that he’s too cowardly to stand up for evolution.

The summit had one thing right: Pennock refused to respond to its request. But it wasn’t out of timorousness.

“Scientists have already shown that there is no substance worth debating in these old creationist challenges to evolution,” he told me. Evolution is fact, creation is fiction, and there’s just no point in pretending like there’s a real scientific debate between reality and fantasy. I asked Pennock whether he was alarmed by the conference.

“It’s a sign of how desperate creationists have become,” he said. “[T]hey have to make schoolyard bully taunts, blame evolution for Hitler, and raffle a free iPad (‘Must be present to win’) to try to create a controversy and draw an audience.”

The also reported that the conference attracted no more than 100 people and very few were students. This number is interesting because based on the website for the next year’s conference at University of Texas, the admission is free.

Evolution and creationism are not the two sides of the same coin. Facts which have so far not been explained by the evolutionary theory can certainly not be explained by creationism. Hence it is important that evolution should be dissociated from creationism in the public domain. It should be noted that the evolution, as a discipline of science, is not insulated from debate (as noted in the last post). If someone is genuinely seeking answers, there is more than enough resources available on the internet which can be accessed.

There is plenty left to be explored and proven in science, and proving creationists wrong is not one of them. It has already been done. Let’s move on and stop giving this fairy tale the importance it does not deserve in the first place.

But for now, enjoy this short video of Richard Dawkins being baffled by stupidity.




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