Creation vs Evolution university debate   Leave a comment


English: "A Venerable Orang-outang",...

English: “A Venerable Orang-outang”, a caricature of Charles Darwin as an ape published in The Hornet, a satirical magazine Deutsch: Man sieht Darwin als Affen dargestellt, was eine Anspielung auf seine Evolutionstheorie sein soll. Seiner Meinung nach entwickelten sich die Menschen aus den Affen, was damals eine völlig neue Vorstellung war. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Creation vs Evolution university debate

Creation vs Evolution university debate


Ultimately the creation / evolution controversy is concerning whether theistic or atheistic mechanisms are responsible for the nature of our world. The debate is, therefore, between a naturalist and a super-naturalist. Despite this basis, it is often argued that the latter utilize only naturalistic explanations during such engagements. Many supernatural acts (creation, curses, etc) have shaped the history of our world, and these are an integral part of the creation perspective, therefore debates with rigid naturalists can have an immeasurable outcome.

Duane Gish PhotoNevertheless, many creationists engage in debate against evolutionists with regular success. The gentleman pictured at right is Duane Gish who is arguably the foremost debater of creation science in the world. Many of his debate transcripts among others can be found below. The NWCN provides an email discussion list which is moderated for civility, and there are numerous other publicly accessible email and bulletin board forums that provide arenas for debates on creation / evolution topics.

2 Timothy 2:23 “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

1Peter 3:15 But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.

Michael Kinsley (MK): Good evening. Is William F. Buckley, Jr. descended from monkeys? That’s one question we face in tonight’s special Firing Line debate. We come to you tonight from Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. At Seton Hall, as at all institutions of higher learning, the issue of Mr. Buckley’s parentage has been the subject of lively speculation for decades now. [audience laughs] But our official debate topic actually raises that issue only indirectly. The official wording is: “Resolved: The Evolutionists Should Acknowledge Creation.

Now those last two words “acknowledge creation” require some parsing. The word “creation” is shorthand for the proposition that humankind was created by God in His own image as it says in the Bible. Some creationists believe the theory of evolution is simply wrong. While others believe that the theories of evolution and creation are compatible. The word “acknowledge” here can mean a couple of things as well. It could mean that evolutionists should accept the truth of creation theory. Or it just may mean that the theory of creationism is entitled to be treated as an open question, especially in the teaching of biology in high school. We shall see which of these interpretations tonight’s debaters have in mind.

The theory of evolution was first enunciated of course by Charles Darwin almost a century and a half ago in his book The Origin of the Species. In recent years, Darwin’s proposition has been subject to two opposite trends. On the one hand, there has been explosive growth in a field called evolutionary psychology, which applies the theory of evolution not just to physical attributes, but to a wide assortment of human behavior. Your decision to come to this debate tonight in this auditorium was dictated by pressures on our shared human ancestors generations ago. That’s only a slight exaggeration of what the evolutionary psychologists believe. On the other hand, religious groups have had growing success in requiring creationism to be taught alongside evolutionary theory in the nation’s schools. Just last month, the National Association of Biology Teachers dropped two key words from its official statement on teaching evolution. The statement used to read: “The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable, and natural process.” Those words “unsupervised” and “impersonal” are now gone.

Is the teaching of evolution another example of political correctness where dissident views are being censored? Or are the creationists trying to pass off theology as science? That’s more or less the debate. Let’s welcome tonight’s debaters.

[audience applause while the debaters walk in and sit down on opposite sides of a table]

MK: Captain of the affirmative team is William F. Buckley, Jr. Founder and maximum leader of both Firing Line and the National Review. Mr. Buckley’s latest book is titled Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith. His conviction that he is the creation of God is complicated only by his suspicion that he is God. [audience laughs] Phillip Johnson is a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of a book entitled Darwin on Trial, published several years ago, and another book published just this year called Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University. He is the author of Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, which was chosen as the 1997 book of the year by the magazine Christianity Today. David Berlinski has had an eclectic career as a college professor, management consultant, writer of fiction and non-fiction. His fields of expertise according to his biography include systems analysis, differential topology, whatever that is [laughs], biology, and the philosophy of mathematics. His most recent book is called A Tour of the Calculus. More to the point though, he is also the author of an article published last year in Commentary entitled “The Deniable Darwin.”

Captain of the opposition team is an old Firing Line favorite, Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Mr. Lynn is both a lawyer and a minister in the United Church of Christ. I think we can all agree that when evolution starts producing ministers who are also lawyers it has gone too far and must be stopped. [audience laughs] Eugenie Scott is executive director of the National Center for Science Education, which describes itself as a pro-evolution, non-profit, science education organization. She holds a Ph.D. in physical anthropology and according to her bio has appeared on Geraldo and the Pat Buchanan Show, which ought to shake anyone’s belief in evolution I would think. Michael Ruse is a philosopher of biology, and a professor at the University of Guelph in Canada. He is the author of many books, some of them with titles like Darwinism Defended, Taking Darwin Seriously, and forthcoming, Can a Darwinian be a Christian? Evolutionary Theory and Religious Belief. Kenneth Miller is professor of biology at Brown University. He is the author of many books and articles, including a recent review of Darwin’s Black Box by Mr. Behe, which did not impress him.

I’m Mike Kinsley, editor of Slate the online magazine. I’m tonight’s moderator, and I’ll do my best, despite losing my voice to a cold, to keep this debate from evolving out of control. And [coughs], to begin, I call on Mr. Buckley to propose tonight’s motion. Mr. Buckley?

Opening Statement by Affirmative

William Buckley (WB): Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I retreat from any formulation of tonight’s exchange to suggest that everyone on the other side should embrace creation. Not everyone on the affirmative side embraces creation. What we contend is that everyone should acknowledge creation as an alternative explanation for cosmic and biological happenings now thought by so many as naturalist in providence and momentum. Why? Because my colleagues and I judge that the evidence for the naturalist theory of evolution is not merely insubstantial, it is fanciful. If it is so that life as we know it is the ongoing display of punctuated equilibriums, then we pause and ask, what is the theory of natural selection, how it explains macroevolutionary developments? If there is no theory on the grounds that you don’t need a theory to account for mere happenstance, then we give it as our judgment that such data as we have can’t come up with a plausible theory under the aegis of natural — of natural materialism, because what pops up here is chaotic there, contradictory. If chance is the progenitor of the human eye, then chance is so arresting in its stochastic formulations as to warrant something other than scientific complacency, something more like true reverence. But reverence is a swear word in button-down scientific circles, because it sounds too extra-natural. We don’t revere the Aurora Borealis, we simply take pleasure in it, as we do in the Goldberg Variations, happy that the cosmos happened to give us that stupendous constellation, happy that the genetic pool gave it — gave us the art of Johann Sebastian Bach.

I speak only for myself, though some of my confederates may wish to associate themselves with me on this matter, when I say that I am much taken by what goes by the name of the Anthropic view. What it says is that there are a handful of elements that make up the cosmos, and that the balance in which they co-exist has no explanation more plausible than that there’s only — than that’s the only way to make possible a human life, whence Anthropic design for man. The nuclear weak force formed is 10 to the 20th the strength of gravity. If it had been just a little bit weaker, the earth would have been without water. Uniquely among the molecules, water is lighter in its solid than in its liquid form. Ice therefore floats. If it weren’t so, the ocean would freeze from the bottom up, and the earth would be covered with solid ice. Such data aren’t the kind of things that make up my personal library, but how much science do we need to master to qualify as reasonably to affirm that there has to be a reason for you and me and the world we live in? A reason other than acts of raw nature driven by, driven by what?

I’m reminded of the reply by an elderly scientist a hundred years ago, when confronted by an exuberant young skeptic. He said to his student, “I gotta tell you, I find it more reasonable to believe in God, than to believe that Hamlet was deduced from the molecular structure of a mutton chop.” So I beg your attention to our resolution tonight, which is that the dogma of evolution should give way to a broader intelligence, which makes way for a First Mover. Thank you.

MK: Thank you, Mr. Buckley. [audience applause] Barry Lynn to propose tonight’s motion. Mr. Lynn?

Opening Statement by Opposition

Barry Lynn (BL): Thank you. Thank you, very much. The French philosopher Renee Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.” Although I am neither French nor a philosopher, I say I have somehow ended up once again on the set of Firing Line, therefore I must have been created somehow. In fact, none of us on this team have any doubt that we have all been created somehow. Where we disagree with Mr. Buckley and his colleagues is on the relationship between evolution and our current situation. On this team we differ on our answers to some of these great and literally cosmic questions: Is there a God? Is there purpose in the universe? But we all agree that evolution is indeed the only logically coherent and useful explanation for the development of life. Evolution is an explanation of a natural process, it is not an ideology, and nor, Mr. Buckley, is it at all fanciful. Like the theory of gravity or the theory of electromagnetism, evolutionary theory continues to be refined, year by year and month by month. Yet in each case, there has been no fundamental challenge that has been made to any of these scientific doctrines since they were developed.

Tonight you will hear claims asserting fundamental scientific flaws in the notion of evolution. We’ll examine such assertions and try to show how those are themselves illogical. More importantly though we’ll demonstrate that the arguments made by the other side are based on fundamentalist religious beliefs or discredited philosophical constructs, or what we sometimes refer to as just plain nonsense.

We can’t afford, ladies and gentlemen, for this to become too abstract a debate. Because creation science advocates from California to Alabama have already duped school boards and thus required schoolchildren to believe that evolution can somehow be debunked by alternative theories. In so doing, schools are being asked to elevate pseudo-science to the level of genuine science. What’s next? Will we find the casting of astrological charts replacing telescope observations in high schools? I hope not, but I think that’s the direction we might end up going. And indeed if our children are not as prepared as those in Japan and Europe to understand what science is, to recognize the difference between a scientific question and a religious question, then they frankly will not be able to compete in the extraordinarily well-developing world of the future.

Now there is that ever-so-slim possibility that in the next two hours we may not put to rest conclusively the debate over evolution and creation. [laughs] But I hope our team does make you consider the implications of this debate. If you’re persuaded at a minimum that speculation is much less useful than rigorous scientific analysis, and also that you can even choose to be faithful to theism, to a belief in God, and still accept the biological theory of evolution for what it is. Finally, we’re going to insist that Mr. Buckley’s team that doesn’t believe that evolution is viable, explain then what in the world did happen to bring us to Seton Hall University tonight? As Martin Gardner once put it: “If you claim the world is not round, you are obliged to tell us what shape you think it really is.” Thank you.

Phil Johnson vs. Eugenie Scott

MK: Thank you Mr. Lynn. [audience applause] Professor Johnson — Professor Johnson and Ms. Scott. And Professor Johnson will make an opening statement.

Phillip Johnson (PJ): The issue before the house is essentially simple. Evolutionary science takes its starting point from a philosophical position known as naturalism or materialism. Evolutionary scientists assume that nature is all there is, and that nature is composed of material entities, the particles that physicists study. It follows logically, that science must and can explain the origin of complex living organisms solely by natural causes, meaning unintelligent causes. God may not create directly, nor may God direct evolution, because God is an intelligent Being, and evolution is by definition a mindless process.

And yet, even according to the leading Darwinist Richard Dawkins, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Is it possible that they appear that way because they actually were designed and there really is a Designer? Evolutionary biologists emphatically answer No, not because of the evidence, but because their philosophy effectively excludes that Designer from reality. They insist, against the evidence, that unguided chemical processes can produce living organisms from non-living chemicals, and that a combination of random mutations and natural selection can, given enough time, produce complex plants and animals from single-celled ancestors through a mindless process.

These far-reaching claims loaded with religious implications are not supported by the scientific evidence. My colleagues and I want to separate the real science from the materialist philosophy that provides the only real support for this Darwinist theory.

MK: Thank you Professor Johnson. An opening statement from Ms. Scott.

Eugenie Scott (ES): Now hearing Phil define evolution is a little bit like having Madalyn Murray O’Hair define Christianity. Let me define evolution the way scientists define evolution, the way we’re going to use it on our side of the table. Evolution is used two ways: one, is a bigger idea, that the present is different from the past, that the universe has had a history, that stars, galaxies, the planet earth, plants and animals on it have changed through time. Biological evolution is a subset of the idea of change through time, saying that living things, plants and animals, have shared common ancestors, and have descended with modification from those ancestors.

Now notice in this definition, I talked about what happened. I didn’t talk about “who done it,” and I didn’t talk about “how.” Because those are separate issues. Scientists are very much united on what happened. Evolution happened — to modify a bumper sticker. But how it happened is something that we argue about a lot in science — how important is natural selection, how important are other mechanisms. “Who done it” is something that as scientists we can’t comment on as scientists. We can put on our philosopher’s hat and comment as individuals, but as scientists we can’t deal with ultimate cause. So I think we have to be very clear about what we mean by evolution, what they mean by evolution is some sort of a metaphysical system that we do not recognize.

MK: Thank you Ms. Scott. You have five minutes to question Ms. Scott, Professor.

PJ: Yes, do you say that Darwinian evolution does not have a profound religious implication of discouraging belief that there is an intelligent Creator who brought about our existence for a purpose?

ES: I think that to some people, yes. Natural selection — “Darwinism” is evolution through natural selection — does cause problems. If your theology requires you to interpret the Bible literally, six 24-hour days, 10000 years ago, and so forth, you’re going to have a problem —

PJ: But only for biblical literalists. Not for the proposition that I asked about, which is that a Creator brought about our existence for a purpose.

ES: I don’t think so, in the broader sense.  Because, for example, there was a survey done not too long ago, of American men and women of science. And one of the questions that they asked was something on the order of — Evolution occurred — human beings were — human beings evolved, but God directed the process. 40% of scientists agreed with that, which is the same as the general public. So clearly the idea of evolution can’t be totally —

PJ: Well — we don’t know whether they were evolutionary biologists, do we? They weren’t — we aren’t talking about Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin, in that poll, are we?

ES: There are evolutionary biologists who have made something of a philosophical statement out of evolution. You and I both agree with that. But I think you have to be careful about not tarring all evolutionary biologists with that brush.

PJ: Let’s get to that statement. Are you familiar with this kind of a symbol, that —

ES: I am indeed.

PJ: — the fish here that says “Jesus” in it. You see it on cars. And then you’re familiar with this one too?

ES: I am indeed.

PJ: And is it your view that the relationship — the resemblance between these two is not coincidental? [audience laughs]

ES: Oh, not at all. Not at all.

PJ: Uh, this is what we call “evidence of intelligent design.” [laughs]

ES: You might consider it an evolution of the fish. But —

PJ:  Yes, and — now so in fact this is put out to mock the Christian fish symbol, isn’t it? With Darwin there right in the place of Jesus.

ES: I suspect some people consider it a form of mockery. I have also, driving around Berkeley, I don’t know how unusual Berkeley is from other cities in the country but — I have seen the Darwin fish and the Christian fish facing each other on bumpers. So obviously not everybody — that’s a rather ecumenical car there I think. [laughs]

PJ: Well, I notice here I have a letter from the National Center for Science Education, signed by you, and I notice Professor Ruse and Professor Miller are on the letterhead. And it says — your letter says, “quite a few NCSE members sport the Darwin fish on their cars, and for a $50 donation I’d be delighted to send you something new, a sturdy Darwin fish refrigerator magnet, also good for keeping things in your filing cabinet.” So you rather thought that would have quite an appeal to the members of your organization, didn’t you?

ES: I sort of wish I was Gerry Brown and I could hold up an 800 number here so you could all call and donate to the National Center for Science Education but — Yeah, a lot of our members are people who are very concerned about the teaching of evolution in the public schools, so therefore they find the Darwin fish attractive. You’ll notice as a member of NCSE and somebody who receives our newsletter, we don’t advertise it in the newsletter. We don’t make a big point of sort of trying to —

PJ: That’s just for the members.

ES: Because some people are offended by it. We’re not in the business of offending Christians.

PJ: Now, you are aware, and I think you’re quite willing to agree with me on this, that whatever may be the ultimate truth of this, many people do use Darwinian evolution as an argument for atheism.

ES: Correct.

PJ: Uh, and in fact the impression is widely around that this is done with the approval of — tacit approval at least of the scientific establishment. Richard Dawkins goes around the world arguing this, without being criticized by authoritative sources. And Carl Sagan who did that famous Cosmos series, saying “the cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be” — was honored with a public welfare medal by the National Academy of Sciences. So there is some reason for people to think this. And I think your participation in changing the National Association of Biology Teacher’s statement also indicated that. Now —

ES: Wait, wait a minute. The statement was changed in the way that you —

PJ: Yes, I understand that but I mean that there was some reason for concern in the —

ES: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

PJ: — final version of the statement. Yes, I wasn’t — I was just trying to agree with you there.

ES: Correct.

PJ: Now, I’m trying to help you with this credibility problem. [laughs] And what I wonder is, wouldn’t it be a good idea at this point if the National Academy of Sciences which so vigorously addressed these issues when it was fighting the legal battle against creation science — took the issue up again. And developed a panel — the last time they appointed seven scientists and four lawyers to this panel, so Mr. Lynn and I could both be there — to address the question what is the message they want to send to the public. Do they want to send the public the message that evolution is an unsupervised, unintelligent, impersonal process? Do they want to send a message that is so effectively used for promotion of atheistic materialism? Or do they want to criticize that as non-science? Wouldn’t it be a good idea —

MK: You can answer that question —

PJ: Yes, wouldn’t it be a good idea, to take that up? 

ES: There are about nine questions —

PJ: Would you agree with me that they should take it up?

ES: Okay, well, I said — there are things you said that I agree with, and things you said that I don’t agree with.  Let’s start with the places where we agree. I agree that many scientists have been very sloppy about how they use terms like natural selection, purpose, etc — and I for one, as Phil has kindly pointed out, have criticized this, I’ve criticized Dawkins. Many other scientists have at all. I am not a believer. I would agree philosophically with Richard Dawkins. But I don’t think that he should be confusing his philosophical views with science. He shouldn’t be passing his philosophical views about materialism off as if they’re inevitably arising from evolution. So I think that, in order to encourage you, I think we are going to see more things like the NABT statement. We’re going to see more recognition on the part of the science and education communities, that indeed we have to be more careful with how we use terms. And I accept that.

MK: You can — you can ask —

ES: The good news is that the National Academy of Science is re-writing the “Science and Creationism” booklet and I am on the committee that’s advising —

PJ: Yes, I know. It’s a very one-sided movement.

ES: Well, one-sided in the sense we’re all in favor of the teaching of evolution. That’s doesn’t sound too strange.

MK: Take this opportunity to ask some questions.

ES: Yes, sir. In my reading of your materials, Phil, I see that you have argued three things. Evolution, which I have just defined as “descent with modification” — doesn’t happen. A second thing that you argue is that Darwinism which is natural selection — evolution by natural selection — Darwin — natural selection is not a powerful enough mechanism to produce descent with modification. A third thing I see in your writings, is that science and especially evolution, is inherently a metaphysical belief system. Now, lawyers are used to hypothetical questions, so if you don’t mind my asking you a hypothetical question?

PJ: Don’t mind at all.

ES: If you could wave a wand over this audience, and make everyone here in this audience, agree with one of those points. Which is your most important one? What really grabs you?

PJ: There’s no doubt about what the key point is. By the way, of course I don’t deny there is such a thing as descent with modification, the question is how much it explains, this descent. But the key question, and the only really important one from a philosophical and cultural standpoint is the mechanism. Can you make those things that look as if they were designed for a purpose, those extremely complicated, irreducibly complex biological organisms through a mindless, material process? Specifically, the accumulation of micro-mutations through natural selection. The mechanism is the big issue.

ES: Number two in other words. If I could follow up with that. Are you aware of the arguments that are going on in evolutionary biology today in which the role of natural selection is debated. There already is quite a conversation —

PJ: I am very aware —

ES: — as to how much natural selection explains. Uh, what about the other mechanisms that are suggested to produce evolutionary change?

PJ: There aren’t really any other mechanisms, that’s why natural selection remains. And you can see this whenever the criticism comes up —

ES: Well —

PJ: It’s very effective criticism from Stephen Jay Gould and others. But there is no alternative to do the adaptation-building process. And Gould himself says that in his recent article “Darwinian Fundamentalism.”

ES: But even you agree that natural selection is adequate for producing microevolutionary processes?

Finches from the Galapagos islandsPJ: Well, microevolution is misnamed. Natural selection as in, for example, the Finch beak variation example, brings out the variation already present in the gene pool in a fundamentally stable population, it doesn’t create anything —

MK: How, how about explaining that?

PJ: Yes, Finch beaks? In a population of birds on an island —

ES: Well, breeds of dogs.

PJ: — the Finch beaks are a little larger sometimes, a little smaller sometimes, on the average the population is essentially stable, it isn’t going anywhere and isn’t changing into anything.

ES: What do you — what is your unit of change that microevolution applies to?

PJ: The question —

ES: What is a “kind” in other words?

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