Should I Debate a Creationist?

A YEC youtube channel reach out to me with a kind (and public) comment:

I am YEC but I have seen many of your interviews and I respect your approach. I am also fascinated by your alternative view regarding Adam and Eve. I am going to order your book and read it with an open mind. God bless.

That is kind of them, and I look forward to hearing their thoughts on the book. I means a lot me that they respect my approach.

They informally floated the idea of hosting a debate between a creationist and me.

I host debates on my channel and I just recently had Dr. Kevin Anderson on for a debate. Hes interested in more future debates. I think you would be the right person for that debate. I’ve also got Kent Hovind who is interested in a debate on whether or not universal common ancestry is based on scientitic evidence. Regardless, I have some debate opportunities you may or may not be interested in.

Kevin Anderson is a YEC who has written for AIG (https://creationwiki.org/Kevin_L._Anderson), and Ken Hovind needs no introduction (Kent Hovind - Wikipedia). I wouldn’t be interested in debating universal common ancestry, because that is a straw man, but might be interested in the common descent of humans with the great apes (the “Descent of Man”).

But I also am not sure if I should or what my criteria should be. Should I debate a creationist? Which ones should I debate? Which ones should I avoid? What rules should I ask for?

Also, this creationist has treated me with respect. I expect everyone here to refer to him with respect too. Many of us are certain he is wrong, but he also could be a friend. The instinct it is dehumanize YECs, but I insist we humanize him.

3 Likes

I am unfamiliar with Kevin Anderson, but I do not think engaging with Kent Hovind is a good idea. Hovind is far too militant in his views and I doubt any sort of discourse will have a positive impact on him or his fans.

6 Likes

I’d say No. Possibly with more emphasis. Unless you want to completely ignore what Hovind says and just get your own message across, you’d be unable to address all his ridiculous claims in the time available.

1 Like

So was I. Here is a debate featuring him:

And his articles at AIG:

https://answersingenesis.org/bios/kevin-anderson/

Yes, I am aware of what a Gish Gallop is, and I’ve faced it many ways before. I have my own way of addressing it, and it has been effective in the context of public debates.

I don’t have any advice on whether to debate. Just keep in mind that a debate with a YEC is a theatrical performance. It is not a scientific discussion.

I don’t think I have ever tried to dehumanize. I try to treat people as humans.

3 Likes

Appearing with Hovind would damage your reputation and diminish PS. That doesn’t even depend on whether the appearance is a “debate.”

9 Likes

Why legitimize the YEC position by having a debate? That’s like debating a Flat Earther. Science has nothing to gain and can only lose credibility.

3 Likes

That is very well possible, and one reason I’m not sure I would. I’m not sure Hovind even has much of an audience at this point any ways. Chances are low I would agree to debate him.

But what about others. What about Ken Ham? Or Nathaniel Jeanson? Or others?

The only people who are going to watch it are people who already think the YEC position is legitimate. I’ve found that engaging in these contexts is to my benefit. I can often build bridges to their audience in these exchanges. The real reason why its important is because it can legitimize me to their audience, one that can be quite hostile to mainstream science.

If it’s not about science and just about you then why are you asking the opinion of others?

1 Like

Well, I am a person who affirms mainstream science. So legitimizing me means legitimizing someone who affirms mainstream science, including evolutionary science. That is important and valuable.

There are of course trade-offs. I’m asking for your honest (but respectful) advice.

It’s a tough call. From a scientific standpoint, I can certainly see TH’s argument:

But since you are engaging in a long-term (and I believe, worthwhile) goal of reaching out that portion of the population, I can also see why a conversation with a YEC contributor makes sense.

2 Likes

I think it depends on what’s being debated and on whether the person has a reputation for behaving professionally and respectfully. If the “debate” is about the evidence for common descent or about ongoing falsehoods by science deniers of any stripe, then the clear risk is to legitimize flat earth-level “scientific” claims with your presence. This should be the biggest concern. If the “debate” is about “theology” or what your gods think about evolution, then the stakes are lower IMO.

In short, “debating” scientific facts is hard to see as any kind of good thing. Debating gods is different. Neither is appropriate with a person who is not worthy of sharing a stage with you, by virtue of a pattern of public dishonesty or aggression.

2 Likes

My approach, often, is to present understandable and focused explanations of why I see evidence for common descent. I also frame the scientific debate within theology. Even if ID was correct, for example, that wouldn’t rule out common descent, because God could have been inspiring mutations.

This isn’t “debating scientific facts” and it doesn’t fall into the trap of a Gish Gallop. Where possible, also, I start from agreed upon scientific facts, and our common agreements about Jesus and the Bible. This approach capitalizes on the curiosity of the audience about the juxtapositions in my biography and identity, it builds on common ground, and it gives the audience a focused idea with reasoning they can understand rather than a morass of details and technobabble they will never remember or understand.

1 Like

My comments weren’t about what you can or should say in a public presentation. They are about participating in a “debate” about reality. This requires a level of justification far beyond good intentions.

I don’t think I made this clear enough: debating “theology” is a reasonable thing in principle. Debating scientific facts is not. If/when you participate in a “debate” with a creationist, I think you should take great pains to emphasize whether and when there are topics open to “debate.” The age of the earth is not. The temperaments of the gods are. More to the point, the question of whether your religion (and/or the religion you claim to share with an audience or a “debate” participant) is compatible with scientific facts (no matter what they are) is IMO a perfectly reasonable thing to debate. In fact, we unbelievers are often pretty deeply invested in such questions, since we have to live in societies with people who profess these religions.

But a “debate” about reality? Nope.

2 Likes

I do prefer calling it dialogue. In general, I’m not really going to “debate” these things, but I am willing to “explain” how I changed my mind on these things. Even in a so-called debate, my goal is education and explanation.

I’m not sure a debate about the science itself will be that useful. However a debate, or better yet a discussion around how to integrate science with the Christian faith might be a more useful framework. It allows discussion for a starting point with potentially more agreement.

I say this partly because I don’t believe it’s the science that has a hold on most YEC, it’s a belief on how to align the science with the Bible.

4 Likes

Your problem with these people really has nothing to do with the science where really there is little debate. If you want a meaningful debate with them the only one to have is theological. There’s no way you can bring them to begin to accept the science unless you can convince them that something more along the lines of your interpretation of the Bible is right and theirs, in reference to the Genesis narrative for creation, Adam and Eve and Noah’s flood, is wrong

As someone who has done this many times I would lean towards no and I’ll reiterate what others have said here in emphasizing there’s no real “debate” to begin with.