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Apr 01 2014

All these debate invitations, suddenly

I just mentioned on twitter this curious phenomenon that lately I’ve seen a major upsurge in requests to do debates — four in just the last two weeks. It started happening right after the Nye/Ham debate, in which Ham got clobbered thoroughly, but still bragged right afterwards that it had brought in enough attention and money to fund the preliminary work on the Ark Park.

Hmmm. Debate. Lose. Profit! Wonder why they’re suddenly more interested in debates?

Anyway, as I said, I mentioned this on twitter, and then moments later I check my email, and here’s this very polite, very nice letter.

Dear P.Z Myers

My name is Imran Hussein and I work for an Islamic outreach charity called IERA. You are most likely aware of our activities as some of our members engaged with you out side the atheist world convention a few years ago.

We have been undergoing some strategic changes in the way we have been engaging with academics and thinkers such as yourself. For instance Hamza Andreas Tzortzis recently had a very friendly nuanced discussion with Professor Peter Simons on consciousness. You can see how much we have changed and improved here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77J6g04UeY0.

In this light we would like to invite you to the UK (flights, accommodation etc. paid for) to engage in a discussion on “Is Consciousness Evidence for God’s Existence?”

We are very flexible concerning dates. If you are interested I would be grateful if you can send me a range of dates that suits you.

I would like to inform you that it will be a great honour to have you as although we carry different world views you have positively influenced the way we work and we hope that a future interaction with yourself can further improve the way we connect with others.

Warmest Regards,

Imran Hussein

You know, it’s so tempting…how often do you get an offer for an all-expenses paid trip to Europe? All it would take is an hour or two of work on the stage, and selling out my integrity to help promote Islamist bullshit. It’s friendly nuanced bullshit, but still bullshit.

I think my answer will be…

FUCK NO! Politely.

52 comments

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  1. 1
    moarscienceplz

    Hmmm, I wonder if these guys have been reading The Mouse That Roared?
    A microscopic country has financial problems, so it decides to declare war on the USA, lose, and then collect millions in reconstruction aid.

  2. 2
    janiceintoronto

    The movie was brilliant. Peter Sellers, you know.

  3. 3
    vaiyt

    Hmmm, I wonder if these guys have been reading The Mouse That Roared?
    A microscopic country has financial problems, so it decides to declare war on the USA, lose, and then collect millions in reconstruction aid.

    And then they win.

    It was the basis for my favorite Pinky & The Brain episode.

  4. 4
    Chris J

    I was going to express my interest in how they could possibly link self-awareness to the existence of an omnipotent super-being, but then I googled it. Apparently its just another Argument from Ignorance; we don’t know how consciousness arises out of the matter that is our brains, therefore God must have made us conscious.

    Bullet dodged, PZ.

  5. 5
    gussnarp

    Always the right answer to these clowns. The debate has been had, it’s over, they lost, it’s just that many people aren’t all that interested in evidence, reason, and science or have intentionally ignored the fact that this has all been covered and not one theologian, apologist, or rhetorician on the religious side has offered anything new in centuries.

    Plus, isn’t that a debate topic more up the alley of a neuroscientist?

  6. 6
    PZ Myers

    Well, yeah. Shockingly, my ph.d is from the institute of neurosci, u of Oregon, & I’m actually trained as a developmental neuroscientist.

  7. 7
    gussnarp

    I always forget that. Somehow I don’t think they were thinking about that when they extended the invitation….

    Still and all, while I’m sure you’re more than prepared to wipe the floor with these idiots, when I use words like neuroscientist, scientist, biologist, chemist, geologist, etc. I almost always mean someone who is actively working in the field. I doubt there’s really anything you don’t either already know or couldn’t adequately review the current literature to be prepared for, but someone actively working in human neuroscience is more likely to be quick on their feet with regard to any obscure reference to the latest literature. Of course, the other qualification is to be skilled at debating religious dissemblers and the first sign of someone with that skill is the refusal to debate religious dissemblers ;-)

  8. 8
    steve oberski

    So in your experience do you find that zebra fish or creotards are more neurologically developed ?

  9. 9
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Steve:

    So in your experience do you find that zebra fish or creotards are more neurologically developed ?

    Please don’t use bigoted slurs, or variations of them.

  10. 10
    Kevin Kehres

    I’ll go…but my performance will probably be a disappointment.

    I’d have one slide — “You can’t prove it wasn’t aliens”

    And that would be that.

  11. 11
    anteprepro

    Steve Oberski, avoid using slurs related to mental disability, m’kay?

    And yeah, gotta love the consciousness “debate”. “I don’t know how consciousness works, therefore it is magic, and therefore there must be a wizard to create that magic, therefore Trickle Down Psychologic Jeeezus!!!”

  12. 12
    Gregory in Seattle

    Not that anyone would ever make such an offer to me, but if they did, I would accept with these stipulations:

    1. Send me the money and I will make my own travel arrangements. (No cancelling my reservation and leaving me stuck in a foreign country.)

    2. Send me the money and I will make my own lodging arrangements. (No cancelling my reservation and leaving me without a room and stuck with a hotel bill.)

    3. I get to argue the side, “Which God, and why that one out of all of the gods in current use?” (When a True Believer starts babbling “Unknown therefore my god didit!” it is quite amusing to ask, “But what about God B? God C? D? E? F?”)

    4. A written contract, enforceable in the UK, binding both parties to our agreements (I show up, you pay me, etc. British contract law can be pretty brutal.)

    I doubt very, very much that they would agree to these stipulations, which makes them look like the party avoiding meaningful dialog.

  13. 13
    anuran

    Hey, if they’ll abide by actual debate rules, let you say what you want to, pay your expenses up front and aren’t complete horse’s asses like the usual American creationists it might be worth it.

  14. 14
    davehooke

    Ah IERA. Debate at UCL in spring last year. Crowd segregated by gender. They are now banned from UK universities, IIRC.

  15. 15
    ragarth

    Is it bad that I’m now thinking: “Quantum Muhammad”?

  16. 16
    irisvanderpluym

    In case anyone missed it, that was a nuanced “FUCK NO.”

  17. 17
    Adam Nasser

    See this recent undercover video to see what’s behind this:

    iERA, Hamza Tzortzis & Dawahman concerned about the Counter-Dawahganda Movement
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_rZW0do85Q

    Even in their prosthelysing training seminars they are fretting about being debunked over the embryology thing, which you originally started and others wonderfully completed (see what they say in video). They want to get away from the whole science in the Qur’an thing as a result, and re-establish themselves as philosophical debaters.

  18. 18
    monad

    @ Kevin Kehres:
    That just gives you more time to style your hair like the Ancient Aliens host, to complete the effect.

  19. 19
    Kevin Kehres

    Sadly, the question of “styling my hair” has been moot for several decades now.

  20. 20
    coleslaw

    Apparently its just another Argument from Ignorance; we don’t know how consciousness arises out of the matter that is our brains, therefore God must have made us conscious.

    Yeah, this is weird. We don’t know how consciousness arises out of the matter that is our brains, but we do know that it does arise out of the matter that is our brains, and we know from interacting with various animal species that the more elaborate the cortex, the greater the chance of some degree of consciousness, so obviously consciousness must be the invention of a disembodied spirit.

    Makes sense.

  21. 21
    JohnnieCanuck

    Ah, so you could be one of those ‘greys’ that are always abducting gullible people. They are often portrayed as being follicularly challenged.

  22. 22
    sigurd jorsalfar

    The repetitive misuse of the word ‘yourself’ is itself grounds for ignoring them.

  23. 23
    opposablethumbs

    Hey, if they’ll abide by actual debate rules, let you say what you want to, pay your expenses up front and aren’t complete horse’s asses like the usual American creationists

    I wouldn’t give acceptable odds on any of those, let alone all of them together.

  24. 24
    praestans

    Shud the reply ever be “£$*% Yes!”….

    Then ask if the following is proof positiv of islam’s moral superiority…

    Nafi’e narrated that whenever Ibn Umar wanted to buy a slave-girl, he would ‘inspect’ her by analysing her legs and placing his hands between her breasts and on her buttocks” (Sunnan Al-Kubra, by Imam Bayhaqi)

    ‘Mujahid reported that ibn Umar placed his hand between (a slave-girl’s) breasts and shook them’ (Musannnaf Abdur Razaq, Vol. 7)

    ‘Nafi’e reported that when Ibn Umar wanted to buy a slave-girl he would place his hand on her buttocks, between her thighs, and may uncover her legs’ (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba)

    But I suspect this is like caveat emptor….

    The Qur’an, surah 65:4, talking about waiting time before being able to divorce one’s spouse states… ‘and if they haven’t started their menses yet…’

    This is implicit in allowing child marriage, the licitness of which is agreed upon by the four Sunni jurisprudential schools…

  25. 25
    Rich Woods

    We have been undergoing some strategic changes in the way we have been engaging with academics and thinkers such as yourself.

    Translation: We’ve been shat on in the past and are looking for new ways to be shat on in the future (but we can’t quite admit the difference to ourselves just yet).

  26. 26
    Tommy Capitalist

    @Adam Nasser
    I think Christians have been refuting the embryology claims for years before PZ got to it. If I recall there was one book that originated the claims the muslim apologists use that Christian apologists had been refuting.
    Also they pretty extensively plaigarise William lane craig.

  27. 27
    Tommy Capitalist

    I would do it. Screw public opinion and get paid!

  28. 28
    Tommy Capitalist

    @vaiyt
    Which episode?

  29. 29
    lpetrich

    Here’s what I think is a good sort of debate: a written debate.

    Like this debate: NMSR/TCCSA Debate Home Page
    featuring
    Dave Thomas, New Mexicans for Science and Reason
    vs.
    Walter ReMine, Twin Cities Creation Science Association

  30. 30
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I would do it. Screw public opinion and get paid!

    Gee, ever consider honesty and integrity?

  31. 31
    anteprepro

    praestans: And? Judaism and Christianity aren’t exactly known for opposing sexual exploitation of children, and child brides were the norm in Christian Europe throughout the Middle Ages and prior. None of the Abrahamic religions are anywhere near moral in this regard. Which should be a surprise to literally no-one.

    Tomas C: Did you read the OP? Not only is PZ worried about “public opinion”, but is also worried because of Ham claiming that he made an excess of Pity Cash after losing a very public debate. That’s what PZ wants to avoid: accidentally benefiting these clowns by debating them.

  32. 32
    krubozumo

    As far as I can see the only workable policy in this context is to never debate creationists. It only lends them undeserved credibility as a opponent of un-magical thought. Why do that?

    Yes there is the argument that by refusing to debate there is an implication that the consensus opinion cannot be sustained under scrutiny, but that has to be born out. Scrutiny against a handful of made up
    stories cut from whole cloth?

    Bring some evidence or no debate.

  33. 33
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    What should happen with these “debate” challenges is that they are accepted as long as the debate takes place in the peer reviewed scientific literature, and that every claim is evidenced from the same literature…..

  34. 34
    yubal

    For the convicted tax dodger Kent Hovind you came up with a detailed proposal of how a debate could happen. For the Muslims in UK you just have a “Fuck No” in red all-caps letters.

    Why?

  35. 35
    grumpyoldfart

    #27 Tomas C: I would do it. Screw public opinion and get paid!

    #30 Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls: Gee, ever consider honesty and integrity?

    Gee Nerd, does that implication of dishonesty apply to everyone who debates Muslims, or only Tomas C?

  36. 36
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    yubal (#34),

    For the convicted tax dodger Kent Hovind you came up with a detailed proposal of how a debate could happen. For the Muslims in UK you just have a “Fuck No” in red all-caps letters.

    Why?

    In the previous case PZ was indeed prepared to devote some time to writing up a proposal, but I suspect that was to outline the general reason why such proposals aren’t usually productive – Hovind gratuitously ignored PZ’s suggestions. The demonstration of Hovind’s shiftiness showcased why debating a goal-post moving, Gish galloping charlatan like Hovind would look great on his CV, and not so great on PZ’s; and in any case, I rather doubt PZ would have seriously had the inclination to debate even if Hovind had met all of PZ’s conditions. Debates are not a method for getting at the truth of any given proposition. I think the general case has been made that these debates don’t achieve anything definitive with respect to the subject matter (the science of the Nye/Ham debate was ‘rock solid’, squarely on Nye’s side), as opposed to gaining popularity for fringe opinions like those espoused by Ken Ham.

    If we are considering variables such as PZ’s time and inclination for debate applied to the present case, it’s arguable PZ has definitely been inclined to engage in ad hoc, free-form debates with Muslims whenever time has permitted – Richard Dawkins, PZ, and Aron Ra were famously bailed up on a Dublin street corner by Hamza Tzortzis outide the World Atheist Conference in June 2011 (better known as the start of the Rebeccapocalypse). Why, it looks like it’s even the same people and group involved!

    However, since there’s been several posts denoting that PZ’s up to his eyeballs in grading, it seems a peremptory but polite ‘Fuck no!’ is about as much time as he has to devote to this inquiry at the present time beyond writing a few paragraphs. An all-expenses trip paid trip to Europe might be nice, but this isn’t the first time they’ve asked, and the last time PZ quoted Aron’s reasons for refusing to acquiesce to all possible requests:

    However I must remind anyone reading this that the iERA is headed by one Hamza Tzortzis who PZ and I met when he crashed the World Atheist Convention in Dublin Ireland. Hamza tried to convince PZ to get into an iERA car where they intended to take him to an undisclosed location for a private discussion. Sensing the insanity of that invitation, I altered the challenge to invite Hamza onto the Magic Sandwich Show instead.
    While on our show, DPR Jones asked Hamza what would be the appropriate and reasonable response to apostates, and Hamza Tsortzis, head of the iERA said non-believers should be decapitated. He said it was the only humane thing to do, as he believes sawing someone’s head off to be a merciful and painless way to correct opposing opinions.Aron Ra, 23 May 2013

  37. 37
    chigau (違う)

    Gee, grumpyoldfart
    Have you been reading Tomas C. on the other threads?

  38. 38
    Ing

    I would do it. Screw public opinion and get paid!

    I’m not sure what to do with this irony bomb other than just to highlight it

  39. 39
    rorschach

    For the convicted tax dodger Kent Hovind you came up with a detailed proposal of how a debate could happen. For the Muslims in UK you just have a “Fuck No” in red all-caps letters.

    Why?

    Simple. We’ve met them, and spoken to them, debated them if you want to call it that. It’s on YT if you want to have a look. They’re nuts and they’re extremists, they have rich backers, and the worst scenario for them is to be ignored and starved for attention. So that’s what we should do.

  40. 40
    opposablethumbs

    I would do it. Screw public opinion and get paid!

    Fuck, I just this minute posted a long appeal to Tomas over at the dome. An appeal to him to actually open his eyes and ears, look a bit further afield than his own immediate neighbourhood, and think. But I was probably wasting pixels …

  41. 41
    faehnrich

    had me in suspense with the answer after the “continue reading” link

  42. 42
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Gee Nerd, does that implication of dishonesty apply to everyone who debates Muslims, or only Tomas C?

    Tomas C is a liberturd without honesty and integrity. He can’t understand doing something like saying no to money for a moral principle.

  43. 43
    Athywren

    I think you should go for it. England’s lovely this time of year, it’s getting up to spring and it’s in that happy place between ARCTIC FREEZE!!! and SURFACE OF THE SUN!!! where you can sit still without turning into a block of ice, or walk three paces without sweating to death, it’s great! Still rainy, though.
    Besides, it wouldn’t be that much work – “Ladies and gentlemen, is consciousness evidence for the existence of a god? No. Good night. Drive safely. Try the shrimp!”

  44. 44
    Adam Nasser

    @Tomas C Very true, Christians and others have tackled the embryology thing for years, but regarding what caused this turnaround for iERA specifically, it was their confrontation with PZ in Dublin in which they had their asses handed to them, including a lot of self inflicted damage, that put them on this path.

    When they returned to England they wrote a long paper arguing for embryology in the Qur’an. Then some atheist bloggers (Captain Disguise and Martin Taverille) made a forenzic paper refuting it. It was so distructive to iERA’s arguments that it led to them abandoning this kind of prosthelytizing (they cited it as the trigger). They saw that not only had their arguments been debunked (in great detail, better than earlier work on the topic) and withdrew their paper, but that the skeptic reaction to the “scientific miracles” stuff in general, including this, was leading to people leaving Islam. iERA are just one prosthelytizing organisation, but they dominate the Islamic dawah scene in the UK, and maybe can influence others.

  45. 45
    David Marjanović

    prosthelytizing

    Proselytizing. :-) No connection to prosthetics!

  46. 46
    Adam Nasser

    Ha! Though I have sometimes wondered if Hamza Tzortzis is wearing a prosthetic beard! Com’on, that can’t be real!

  47. 47
    Tommy Capitalist

    Just to clarify , i wasn’t saying PZ should do anything dishonest or that I would. I think a trip would be fun and I don’t think a debate will necessarily benefit them a lot.

  48. 48
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Much as I’d like to see our esteemed overlord on this side of the pond, I’m in full agreement with his response.

    Which school of Islam is Hamza Tzortzis from? Sunni? Shia? Ahmadiyya? Something else? With regard to his enthusiasm for beheading, is he happy to put his own neck on the block should someone else from a different sect deem it applicable?

    That is a question I’d like to see answered, although I doubt anyone will ever put it to him. =^_^=

    Why? Because, as with Christians, Muslims are happy to pretend that they are all in complete agreement with others of their faith when fighting a different religious viewpoint – hey, they even join hands with people of different faiths if it suits their agenda, say when the very existence of God is questioned – but go right back to accusing other believers of heresy and apostacy as soon as the outside threat is diminished.

    (It reminds me of those Russian nesting dolls – which doll someone identifies with depends on which doll is under attack).

  49. 49
    Christoph Burschka

    I love how the FUCK NO is hidden just below the fold.

  50. 50
    yubal

    Xanthë & rorschach

    Well, thank you for the explanation(s). I remember watching that video years ago.

    I am still a little irritated why PZ reacted to Kent Hovind with an offer like that, I mean, it is KENT HOVIND after all, but then I don’t have to understand everything.

  51. 51
    Usernames are smart

    LET ME DO IT!!!

    I will bring my own holey book, which is a copy of the Qu’ran with the words “Allah”, “God” and “Creator” replaced with “Elmer Fudd”, and anything referring to the prophet replaced with “Bugs Bunny (PBUH)”!

    My premise: that consciousness is evidence of Elmer Fudd’s existence.

    Any argument they make, I make the same argument with my holey scriptures AND the fact that we have movies, pictures and sound of His Holiness Fudd, thus providing proof.

    CHECKMATE!!

  52. 52
    Gerard Farell

    Never wrestle with a pig. Both get muddy. The pig likes it.

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