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10/11/09

Will Richard Dawkins Debate Stephen Meyer?, part 1

Please note that this essay will now be housed in True Freethinker’s debate category

16 comments:

  1. Sometimes I wonder if it is even fair for Mariano to pick on Dawkins! He is so pathetic, so illogical, and so embarrassingly ignorant pointing out Dawkins' blundering errors and pitiful excuses is like taking candy from babies.

    No wonder Atheism is losing credibility and Creationism is growing.

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  2. It's overwhelming isn't it? If you can't see how absurd the idea of this being chance is I think that you may need to re-define your definition of intelligence, or simply open your eyes!

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  3. Meyer apparently defines creationism in terms of young-earth creationism only, whereas he's pretty obviously an old-earth creationist if he's one at all.

    As for the basis for his views on the origin of life, his dissertation on the subject was in 1991. In 1990 he co-founded the Discovery Institute partly based on the apologetics of C.S. Lewis, and before either one he studied and taught at one Christian university and one church-affiliated college.

    While all of this may be coincidence, you can see why Dawkins does not think Meyer's scientific work gave him his current position on evolution. Since Dawkins has addressed the DNA "code" and information arguments to his satisfaction in The Greatest Show On Earth, there is little remaining reason for him to debate Meyer.

    Incidentally, you've thought so hard about why Dawkins doesn't want to debate Meyer, but have you given anywhere near as much consideration to why Meyer wants so badly to debate Dawkins?

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  4. @smartLX
    Meyer wants to debate Dawkins because it will be like a walk in the park, and reach a wide number of people who put much stock in Dawkins' mistaken suppositions, biases, and conclusions

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  5. I'm with you on the wide audience at least, Marcus. If that's the case, though, why the hell would Dawkins want to let him?

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  6. At least Michael Shermer is debating Meyer on like Nov 20. Dick Dawk won't but others will. Given the quality of "Signature in the Cell" (I'm 1/3 of the way thru it and it's quite good), that debate with Shermer could be really good.

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  7. @SmartLX

    Because if Dawkins is as right as he claims in "The Greatest Show on Earth" then it should be a walk in the park for him as well. I disagree with this because I dont think he right, but Dawkins really doesnt have any real credible reason for not debating Meyer. Dawkins always has a flippant attitude about creationists with regards to debates yet he still spends considerable time talking about them. In fact, the first chapter of his latest book is spent talking about creationists and doubters and compares them to holocaust deniers and even says that doubting evolution is on par with doubting that ancient rome ever existed. Seriously, LOL @ Dawkins is about all I can say with that one. He wont debate creationists but at the same time, in his book, makes the claim that a lot of his time is spent having to deal with the naysayers. I guess I dont get that being as he seems to be trying to ignore them, except in his books. I also find it funny in Dawkin's book how he tries to speak so empirically about the evidence but when the evidence shows design, its suddenly labeled by Dawkins as an illusion. Thats one thing about Dawkins that always perplexes me. He actually believes that a great many things have the appearance of design but then flippantly ignores it as an illusion. Amazing, just amazing.

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  8. That Shermer debate should be good. Shermer is REALLY good about being a skeptic...............except for the things that support his worldview.

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  9. @Mark

    On scientific issues like evolution, the debate is best left to peer review. If the important part of debate is about comparing the strengths of ideas rather than staging a dramatic contest between individuals, then Dawkins has debated Meyer, in that he has addressed his key ideas. The Signature in the Cell may provide new material, but its arguments are the same. Meyer's arguments are based on Dembski's "specified complexity" and Behe's "irreducible complexity". Underneath it all is the basic argument: "complexity, complexity, complexity...therefore, design." These arguments have been addressed by biologists and philosophers, and until ID proponents come up with something new, what is there to say? Is there a specific argument of Meyer's that you'd like to hear Dawkins respond to? Is there a specific argument of Dawkins' that you'd like to hear Meyer respond to?

    Personally, I hope that scientists like Dawkins do not debate evolution/creationism in oral debates, because it gives the false impression that 1) there is a scientific debate about this issue; and 2) scientific questions are resolved through oral debate. There may be a legitimate philosophical debate about what should be considered science, and I think that people like Shermer and Hitchens are perfectly capable of arguing not to change the definition of science to include ID, astrology, etc. Dawkins should stick to what he does best, which is to write excellent books popularizing science and educating the public about biology.

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  10. It's an odd disconnect you've got going, Mark: "...he seems to be trying to ignore them, except in his books." If he were really trying to ignore them he'd leave them out of his books. By addressing their arguments in print he manages to do so without giving ID creationists like Meyer the publicity they're after.

    Name a debate between an creationist or ID proponent and an evolutionist where the evolutionist got the upper hand, and it actually changed the position of a creationist or ID proponent who watched or listened to it. Does it happen? I remember the exchange between PZ Myers and Geoffrey Simmons, sponsored by Uncommon Descent. Even on the UD forum most people thought PZ won. The forum and the debate itself were immediately taken down and Simmons was given an hour to himself the next week to hold forth unopposed.

    Given what Dawkins wants, therefore, is it worth doing?

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  11. Ah, my mistake, UD put the debate back. Not the discussion thread though. And even the anti-evolutionists who thought PZ won didn't come around.

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  12. @SmartLX
    "If he were really trying to ignore them he'd leave them out of his books"

    I didnt say he was completely trying to ignore them which is why I put in the exception. I was correlating his unwillingness to debate and flippant attitude towards them with his obsession with writing about them by making unfair comparisons with holocaust and history deniers. Its just not accurate and is a bad argument/comparison. On one hand he says they arent worth his time, but on the other he spends a considerable amount of time addressing them/criticizing them(more of the latter). Its odd that he spends a lot of time criticizing but then when asked to actually back it up and do a debate he cowers and says something about them not being worth it or the like. Well, if they arent worth it, then shutup about it. Or better yet, SHUT THEM UP with your mountains of evidence versus ID's lack of ANY. It should be easy to win and if he does win in a landslide then that does NOTHING but bring more credit to his worldview and theory. I also havent really heard Dawkins do a lot of actual "addressing" Meyer's arguments. Its more a condescending your an idiot and thats why your wrong type of tone that I typically hear when reading his opinion on Meyer and others like him.

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  13. "On scientific issues like evolution, the debate is best left to peer review"

    Not if all or most peers start from the starting point of an evolutionary secular worldview. This idea that peer review somehow keeps unbiased and faulty research from getting through is laughable. I cant imagine any scientist who is doubtful of evolution writing anything supporting ID or creationism, regardless of the scientific support of it in ANY of the major scientific journals. Its called career suicide and if you dont believe me there are countless paper trails that attest to this suppression of academic freedom. I dont think a debate would solve it, but it would certainly be nice to see some of this big mouths stand up and present their side versus the side of the some ID proponent.

    "These arguments have been addressed by biologists and philosophers, and until ID proponents come up with something new, what is there to say?"

    Just because theyve addressed them doesnt mean that their conclusions are accurate or that it is the best interpretation of the data. There are plenty of those that disagree with them still. Theres A LOT to say and there are a lot of people saying. Evolutionist cant ignore or put off this idea forever. They will eventually have to confront it head because it will not go away.

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  14. There are plenty of those that disagree with them still. Theres A LOT to say and there are a lot of people saying. Evolutionist cant ignore or put off this idea forever. They will eventually have to confront it head because it will not go away.

    Yes, there are people who disagree and I expect there always will be. It's not the people that matter, it's the ideas. What are the ideas that defenders of evolution have failed to confront?

    I can find you very nice critiques of "irreducible complexity" and "specified complexity" if you'd like. If I'm wrong and Meyer has presented more than just rehash in his latest book, then I hope and expect that a qualified defender of modern biology will respond to those new points. But I don't give a rat's behind if it's Dawkins who responds or if it is someone else. And I hope that whoever responds, does so in writing with careful citation of sources, instead of in an oral debate. If you cared about truth instead of theatrics, you'd feel the same way.

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  15. It's not that they're not worth Dawkins' time, Mark. I doubt he's ever said that. He declines debates with creationists whether he thinks he would win or not, for three reasons:

    1. Just standing on the same stage as one of them gives any variant of the creationist position an apparent comparability with acceptance of evolution which it does not deserve on a scientific level, and creates a mountain of publicity. This is invaluable when the primary goal of most or all creationists, including those in the Discovery Institute, is to persuade the general public before the scientific community.

    2. The evidence for evolution, according to Dawkins, takes up a whole book. He thinks so because he just wrote it. There isn't time in a debate to put across a "mountain" of anything, unless you're doing a Gish Gallop. Besides, after his encounter with Wendy Wright, he doubts much of it would sink in if the evidence weren't there with him in the room.

    3. As with the PZ Myers debacle, winning debates with creationists achieves little or nothing, even if it's on their own turf.

    Your Expelled! talking points on academic freedom and persecution of ID proponents (as opposed to mere believers in a designer, like Miller or Collins) add little to the discussion without verification.

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