Monday, 3 February 2014

I'm Disappointed with the Attitude Preceding the Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate.

Preceding the debate tomorrow, there have been many articles and opinion columns from various blogs and news sources and I think I've only read one or two that see the debate in a positive light. The atheist and scientist bloggers say it's a bad idea because it "legitimizes creationism" in the public's eye. The Christians who accept evolution say it's a bad idea because it entrenches Christianity in a literal interpretation of Genesis. Other commentators say creationists are too stupid to understand or too indoctrinated to accept evolutionary theory. Many creationists wish a more scientific person (from the Discovery Institute for example) would debate for the creationist side.

Let's put this debate into perspective. This isn't a debate for the scientific community.
-Paleontologists aren't going to stop using their evolutionary knowledge to classify fossils when they place them in evolutionary order.
-Geneticists aren't going to stop using the evolutionary model to assess gene mutation when they place someone on a family tree or when they research genetic defects.
-Doctors won't stop making vaccines because they no longer accept that viruses evolve.

This battle is over public understanding. The latest poll (Dec. 2013) puts the percentage of people who believe humans have always existed in their present form at 33%. That's a lower number than usual, but it's been stagnant between one-third and half of the population for almost a century.

I was a creationist or "intelligent design" proponent back in high school and early college. I wasn't "too stupid" to understand evolution. I was never exposed to it. My high school biology teacher, Mrs. Moore, told us that (macro) evolution wasn't true because nature can never have a positive mutation, only neutral or negative mutations. She even told us Archeopteryx was a hoax! Beyond high school, I only ever read books on the subject of evolution that were written by religious people. (I read the back cover to see how they approached the subject) Books like "The Science of God" always tried to harmonize 6 days of creation with scientific evidence. I know now that it cherry picked data and ideas that gave the illusion of support from science. It wasn't until I watched a documentary on evolution that my horizons expanded. It had no religious bias or preconceived notions to conform to or harmonize with. Here's the theory, here's the evidence. Mind. Blown. I started reading books by actual scientists who produce peer-reviewed papers, and I stopped rejecting evolution immediately

What can be taken from my story is the creationist perspective. The point of the debate is to expose people, and especially children to the uncensored, unbiased perspective of evolution. I've never talked to a creationist who understood evolution well enough to reject it. You can't blame them either. The teachers and parents in their lives have given them what they know and put them on a set course. Bill Nye knows this isn't a debate to be won as much as it's an educational experience to be had. In between Ken Ham's performances of misrepresentations and "argument from ignorance" logical fallacies, kids being raised in creationist science classrooms will hear for the first time an inkling of the grandeur of nature.

People don't seek or accept other answers if they believe they already know the truth, but children are an exception to this rule. Their minds are too open to be trapped yet. We can break them free, and Bill has been doing it for decades.

Then there will be a fantastic follow-up: The Cosmos coming March 9th!

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