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Here is some very good, detailed advice for anyone who is considering debating Creationists or Young Earth Creationists. David Rice has made an exhaustive examination of Creationists tacticts and provides these important points to consider.


csmith@omnifest.uwm.edu:
I have been in touch with frice@skeptictank.org (Fredric L. Rice) concerning an event being planned in the Milwaukee area for August 2, and he suggested you in this way: "hit him up for advice."

So, if you have any advice at all, a debate is being planned by a Milwaukee - based org., Freethought Society and also First Amendment Teach-In (on omnifest.uwm.edu, c/o first@omnifest.uwm.edu or croth@omnifest.uwm.edu) which will involve a local radiologist from Medical College of Wisconsin (also biophysicist) who is representing the creationism school of thought.

David Rice:
It is generally a bad idea to agree to a debate with young-earth Creationists.

Since your proposed opponent is a radiologist and biophysicist, I would assume that she or he will probably discourse on biopoesis / biogenesis --- be aware that such topics are NOT in any way related to evolution and Evolutionary Theory.

If your opponent agreed to debate evolution, she or he will have to actually debate EVOLUTION, not what she or he claims is evolution and Evolutionary Theory. Creationists always, and deliberately, choose to confuse the start of life (biogenesis / biopoesis) with how life changes over time (evolution).

They also deliberately choose to confuse the fact of evolution (what is observed, i.e. evolution) with the Theory of Evolution (i.e. our best explanation for the evolution we observe).

Given the settings that these "debates" usually occur in (i.e. churches) and the extraordinary efforts creationists go through to stuff the audience with shills, I would bet on the Creationist winning the "debate" nearly every time.

The scientist / informed lay person debates within constraints that Creationists do not bother themselves with, i.e. sticking to the facts.

I think nearly all of the big-name Creationists who debate are aware of the fact that most of their claims are false. I think, with good reason, that Creationists believe their lies are for "the greater glory of god," and are thus justified --- they believe they are "saving sinners" (i.e. non-Fundamentalist Christians).

The "debates" that Creationists set up and run are not conducive to debate. When a scientists or informed lay individual is allowed to address every point the Creationists bring up (which is possible in written debates and in properly controlled debates, but never in the "debates" Creationists sponsor), the Creationists nearly always lose.

The solution is to set up a proper debate, where the Creationist cannot do The Gish Gallop. Such a debate would follow the general structure of:

Creationists will not agree to such a debate because it minimizes the possibility of The Gish Gallop: one MUST address, in the five minute sections, what the other person has said. And during the ten or fifteen minute sections, Creationists can only slip in a few falsehoods, which the opponents' five minute rebuttal and the opponents' next ten or fifteen minutes may address.

Also, Creationists will not agree to a fair moderator. They will not agree with granting a moderator the authority to interrupt a non-topical discourse.

Given these concerns, it is damn difficult to get a debate going. A scientists or informed lay person who does not EXPECT the lies and deciet Creationists =ALWAYS= (in my experience) rely upon will be eatten alive in a debate run by Creationists. Far better that such a debate never be accepted.

If the scientists or informed lay person still wants to accept the challenge, she or he must first read any books and pamphlets the Creationist opponent has written. It is a good thing that Creationists seldome come up with any new material: they generally stick to the same tired and tried song-and-dance trick-pony show. They'll bring up the already well-debunked "Second law of thermodynamics" bullshit, the "Evolution is religion not science" bullshit, the "Shrinking Sun" bullshit, the "Missing helium" bullshit, the "Not Enough Lunar Dust" bullshit, the "Salt In The Ocean Too Little" bullshit, the "Mount Saint Hellens" bullshit, and several dozen other non-topical, ill-informed, dazzle-them-with-bullshit claims.

So you're asking me for advice. :-) My advice is to:

Point 7 is most important. Too many previous debates have the scientists or informed lay person defending evolution and Evolutionary Theory against the false straw-man claims of the Creationists --- what a horrible, deliberate waste of time! The Creationists attack what is NOT evolution, nor Evolutionary Theory, and then the scientists or lay person must waste all of her or his time explaining to the audience that what the Creationists attacked was not evolution, nor was it what Evolutionary Theory states.

Not nearly enough times have the Creationists been forced to support their claims. Far better that the scientist or lay person go on the offensive.

And that's a big problem. Creationists have no moral or ethical scruples about being offensive --- they actually believe that they are doing the work of their god(s), and thus the social contract between people is null. The scientist or informed lay person, however, is generally polite and respectful. I've noticed that extremely often, Creationists will interrupt and insult their opponents, but seldome do their opponents interrupt or insult them.

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