Refusal to debate…reinforced


After that last post, I realized there is another problem I have with doing debates with creationists. For a proper debate, you have to respect your opponent, and in fact, there should be mutual respect.

I don’t respect creationists at all. Not one bit. Rather than debating, I should be spitting in their face, throwing them out of the lecture hall, and presenting the honest truth to the audience, because creationists won’t.

And now I have to ask my good colleagues who still debate people like Ham, or Hovind, or Comfort, or Craig: Why? Do you respect these liars for Jesus? How can you stand on a stage with them and not throw a lectern? Where the fuck is your self-respect? (I say this as someone who used to debate creationists, too.) How can we continue to dignify these frauds with the right to stand on an equal footing with real scientists?

Comments

  1. says

    Do you respect these liars for Jesus? How can you stand on a stage with them and not throw a lectern? Where the fuck is your self-respect?

    Where are your impulse control skills and at least basic manners?

    The fact that I am polite to some person does not mean that I respect or like them. I might sound old-fashioned, but I do value politeness and good manners.

    The fact that I don’t behave like Donald Trump does not mean that I don’t have any self-respect. Throwing around lecterns, being rude, and behaving like a spoiled child who is yet to learn even basic manners does not necessarily correlate with self-respect the way how you assume.

  2. says

    If you want to be civil, the time to do it is when you’re asked to debate an incompetent on a subject they are not qualified to discuss — that’s when you politely shut them down and say “NO.” If you aren’t going to throw a lectern at them, why are you finding yourself privileging them with a podium?

  3. foolishleader says

    And those of us that are not in the position to be asked to debate should not go to the ones that do take place. If no one shows up, because they are a farce, then maybe they will stop having them.

  4. DonDueed says

    I imagine that Warren (or whoever wins the Dem nomination) will debate the Orange One, and I doubt very much that she respects him.

    Unless, of course, he refuses to debate, which I think is very likely indeed.

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    Andreas Avester @ 1

    The fact that I am polite to some person does not mean that I respect or like them. I might sound old-fashioned, but I do value politeness and good manners.

    Awwwwwww… A religious huckster who is contributing to ignorance and the destruction of civilization by spreading cancerous ideas and demonstrably false was rudely treated.

    Boo hoo. My heart fucking bleeds for them.

    There needs to be consequences holding stupid and/or evil beliefs. If protecting civilization requires incivility toward those who’d ruin it, so be it. Just spare us your smug moralizing.

  6. kome says

    I wouldn’t debate a creationist about evolution for the same reason I wouldn’t debate a Nazi about whether Jews deserve to live.

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    Andreas @1: We all (I think) have our lines in the sand, beyond which civility is impossible and perhaps even useless. When someone repeats the same destructive lies I have already pointed out and debunked, they have lost any right to my respect and politeness. I wouldn’t spit in their face (that was almost certainly hyperbole anyway), but I would be rude. Likely very rude. Sometimes people need a short sharp shock. It’s certainly benefited me on occasion.

  8. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    The problem with debates is that in order to be at all interesting or informative, the participants have to play by the same set of rules and share a common goal for the debate. For Fundagelicals, antivaxers, climate denialists, glibertarians, alt-rightists, nazis and other shit stains on humanity, there are no rules. To them, every debate is Calvin ball.
    There is no goal–or rather, since they cannot win based on evidence, cogency of their arguments or logic, their entire goal is to negate the very idea of truth/evidence and logic. Their goal is to reduce us all to solipsism, as the only universe in which they could be right is one in which only they exist.

    I won’t spit on them–hell, I wouldn’t even piss on them if they were on fire–but booting their butts out of the auditorium sounds fun.

  9. mamba says

    The problem is a simple one…

    If you DO debate them, they will not actually debate anything, they will just take the time and preach. They won’t try to counter your points, they will only loudly and emotionally hijack the whole thing. In the end you’ll be objectively right, but not given a proper chance to speak reasonably. To them this is a victory.

    If you DON’T debate them, they will declare loudly that their points are just SO true that you clearly don’t want to embarrass yourself by being shot down. Hence to them THAT’S why you refused to debate…and hence to them this is also a victory.

    No matter what you do, they will walk away claiming victory. Because it was never really meant to be an honest debate to begin with. It was them giving a speech with lots of talking points to fellow believers, and you’re an invited prop to try and amke them look better.

    So yeah, given this mentality, why bother to give them ANY respect, as PZ says? You’re not entering this as equals…it’s no different than debating the ranting homeless drugged man on the street when he tells you why you need lots of tin foil!

  10. Sastra says

    I think it might come down to the venue, and whether or not you respect your audience.

    A debate held on their territory in front of people who’ve only been subject to propaganda isn’t granting a platform to your opponent: on the contrary, the opponent has given the platform to you. Instead of the creationist ( or anti-vaxxer or racist or whatever) telling their carefully sheltered followers “Here’s what THEY say, ain’t it stupid?” they’re saying “now be polite to the evolutionist (or whatever) and listen carefully to what they say.” If you can imagine it’s possible for at least one person in the audience to change their mind on one thing, then maybe you’ve got the assumption of mutual respect you need.

    But one done for a general audience in the spirit of scientific dispute? Probably not a good idea, for those reason in the post..

  11. PaulBC says

    While I think the whole “call for civility” is mostly a crock, the amount of verbiage above dedicated to the question of whether it is literally a good idea to spit in Ken Ham’s face (and here I go adding to it) suggests that the image is counterproductive.

    But I agree that debating creationists is a waste of time. Science is not determine by debate. Science progresses just fine on its own. There is a political question when it comes to public education, but that’s a different debate and requires skills that most scientists don’t possess.

  12. says

    Civility is possible when there is an enforced code of conduct and consequences when people don’t abide by it (i.e. students in a class or lab have to follow procedures and rules or their work will be rejected, or themselves expelled). Disingenous “debate” is every religious type’s intent, making it akin to nailing jelly to a cross.

    You’ll also notice they usually want verbal debate, and adamantly avoid written debate. Their dishonest tactics like bunny trails, non sequiturs and “I never said that” are much harder when you have a transcript and no time limit to review what they said previously. Interruption and their other stalling tactics don’t work.

  13. mnb0 says

    @1 asks: “Where are your impulse control skills and at least basic manners?”
    Gone as soon as I meet someone who thinks he/she’s morally superior – ie a pos like you.

  14. says

    It depends on the specific political issue and the ability to justify the reciprocity involved, but yeah, fuck civility. I don’t think the spitting works personally (I prefer to escalate to their level while stating precisely why).

    As an example my parents have been the kind of people to post outraged assertions about Hilary Clinton and crimes, shaming magazines for merely interviewing LGBT+people, and supporting bigoted behavior by political allies. In return I openly and publicly point out their bigotry, point out their incompetence with respect to demonstrating criminal activity, and describe their overt support of bigotry. They don’t post about politics much any more. It’s not ideal but I’ll take it as a temporary measure as I work on getting them to start actually trying to back their shit up so they can see it’s BS.

    In addition I openly describe my hatred for America in detail and am actively searching for other justifiable boundaries to obliterate, fuck the status quo. I’m currently considering how to best point out that since we elect murderers we can’t complain when our citizens get murdered, we’re responsable for the behavior of our leaders. If a family member of a drone strike victim killed Obama and/or GW Bush I’d shrug my shoulders and call it justice.

    There’s so much language they’re sensitive to, there’s no need to break physical boundaries until they do first. In fact that’s a whole strategy right there

  15. says

    Incidentally I don’t write about this yet because I seriously believe that nature (tourette syndrome + adhd + OCD tendencies) and nurture (white + male + military/conservative/protestant upbringing) made me into someone with a knack for fear/hate/disgust political language. Especially involving mirroring/repetition/obscenity. I’m not sure I’m ready to write about it yet. I don’t know how to separate the what is from what should be/happen.

  16. PaulBC says

    Brony, Social Justice Cenobite@18

    It’s not ideal but I’ll take it as a temporary measure as I work on getting them to start actually trying to back their shit up so they can see it’s BS.

    Has this ever worked? The response to seeing a belief refuted is more often denial and anger than a change in belief. And given that it’s your parents you’re talking about, they are old enough to be heavily invested in their current beliefs. (I’m not saying change is impossible, just unlikely.)

    This is another reason that debates generally strike me as pointless. They determine who is a better debater, but really don’t change anyone’s mind.

  17. Snarki, child of Loki says

    There’s something about “don’t wrestle a pig” about this, but you probably already know that saying.

  18. says

    Snarki, child of Loki: eing a pedantic bore,unwilling to bypass a potential teaching moment, I will, however, only mention in passing trying to teach a pigeon to play chess.

  19. says

    Before entering a debate with such colossal liars as the Hovinds, Ham, et al. I would want, in writing, a proviso, that I could have a buzzer that would be allowed to press whenever they uttered a fabrication. Of course, after the word “hello” I’d simply put my thumb on the buzzer and leave it there for the entirety of whenever their mouth was open. Somehow, I don’t think that would endear me to the bulk of the audience on either side.

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    PaulBC @15:

    Science is not determine by debate. Science progresses just fine on its own.

    That’s news to me. How does it “progress on its own” without debate? Do you really need to be provided a list of topics which have been hotly debated within science?

  21. ddtt says

    IDK. I watched a debate you did with an intelligent design person a few years ago. You got them to admit that they essentially had no theory. I think some commenter in the audience said something like he thought it was “game/set/match” at that point. I had to agree. I thought it was effective and devastating to your opponent.

  22. says

    @PaulBC 20
    It’s in progress, and skepticism is warranted given the reasons you cite.

    They don’t post much more than dog rescue stuff and my current assumption is that they don’t because they don’t want to look bad. At every point I’ve pointed out the reciprocity in me posting stuff that they feel bad about given the terrible things they post.

    I’ve in person told them we look like we’re becoming estranged and that I think we need a way to express the negative things we all feel about one another in a fair way, a serious discussion night.
    At the moment I’ve been waiting for responses in a 5-way chat about a night discussing the subject and I’ve given one reminder saying it was important to me. I said I was open to negotiation about the disposition I take. I’m willing to drop profanity. From my mother a question about taking it to email because of group message beeping, from my father and youngest brother silence. The middle brother is like me and said Saturday is good.

    I’m currently considering next steps. It’s about time to post another reminder. I imagine for such authoritarian people this feels pretty complicated.

    As white/male/cis/etc… people we can act like viruses in a network. We have a psychological advantage with people that put us in their group reguardless of our feelings. I want more than playing on their sense of political vulnerability but it can work. My ableism position is pretty air tight because aggressive people don’t like looking incompetent and it’s damn easy to demand specific evidence of competence. I’m looking for a similar lever with my family.

  23. PaulBC says

    Rob Grigjanis@24

    How does [science] “progress on its own” without debate?

    Uh, by formulating hypotheses and testing them? I realize that science as practiced professionally rarely fits into the shoehorned process of 5th grade science fairs, but debate is not a necessary part of the process.

    A lot of professional science consists purely of gathering data. You can get along fine doing this without a “debate” on the significance of the findings. Or maybe I don’t understand what you mean by debate. Maybe you can explain further.

    While hypothesis creation is an important part of the scientific method, often the hypothesis is already out there, and you can contribute simply by developing the instrumentation needed to test it. If you’re done and there is still a “debate” over whether this was a valid test, then you haven’t done conclusive science. An experiment should have fairly unambiguous significance.

    A disputed experiment can have value, but it still needs to be clarified with further experiments. When Michelson and Morley developed their interferometer, they did so with the expectation of confirming the existence of the ether. When the first test failed, they continued to work (Morley continued for years after) to account for the failure with ideas like the earth dragging the ether along with it and refined their methods to the point that they could be seen ultimately as a refutation of the existence of the ether.

    That’s a particularly striking example, but the point is that more was accomplished by two competent scientists following a method than would have been accomplished by a debate about the ether and relativity. So I stand with my initial statement. Science progresses on its own just fine without debate. It is not how scientific questions are ever answered.

    I am not a scientist, so I can’t speak from personal experience. I’m a software developer with a PhD in computer so-called science (which in my case was better described as a branch of applied math). I don’t always agree with people in my work, but the discussions, e.g. over a software design, do not correspond to debate but more of a consensus-building process. If there’s a debate, that probably indicates that the process has failed somewhere. In short, sometimes people discuss things and try to persuade others, but “debate” is a particular kind of performance that has limited utility.

    Now debate is useful in politics because the question is often not what is the “right” answer but whose interests will be served by a policy. In that case, the interests line up their champions to fight for an outcome. The adversarial system of justice is similar. I do not have any problem with debate as such, but (a) I am bad at it and (b) it is certainly the wrong way to arrive at a scientific understanding or any objective conclusion. It is an inherently biased method.

  24. PaulBC says

    Rob Grigjanis@24

    Do you really need to be provided a list of topics which have been hotly debated within science?

    And I don’t count hotly debated by scientists (and others) as hotly debated within the framework of science. Debate is not part of the framework of science. It may come up in policy questions of funding, etc. but should not come up with respect to what results are considered accurate.

  25. Rob Grigjanis says

    PaulBC @28:

    Or maybe I don’t understand what you mean by debate. Maybe you can explain further.

    I mean what most people mean: an exchange between two or more parties with differing views. This can include different interpretations of the same data, for example.

    Maybe you’re suggesting that the exchange between Bohr and Einstein (to give one example) wasn’t a debate? Or that it was somehow unnecessary and didn’t contribute anything to subsequent physics?

  26. PaulBC says

    Rob Grigjanis@30

    TL;DR: Public debate in the sense of displaying polished rhetorical skills against an opponent is counterproductive and does not belong in science.

    I would call Bohr vs. Einstein a “heated exchange”, which is weaselly I know, but work with me here. It wasn’t a debate. Obviously they did not hold their views dispassionately, and Bohr’s influence in establishing the Copenhagen interpretation said as much about his people skills and communication as it did about science as such. Also, I think his view of quantum was a lot closer to reality. So if there was a “debate” maybe we’re just lucky that Bohr “won.” However, it is actually all the experiments and applications that confirm quantum theory, not Bohr’s rhetorical skills.

    I interpret “debate” in this context as a public debate with an audience. You can do it, but it doesn’t really advance science. When scientists argue with each other, they may come away with new hypotheses to test, and I agree that this part is fruitful. For an audience to watch and judge them like a “Battle of the Bands” (also a crappy way to judge music) is not going to advance science. In fact, it is best avoided. Science progresses just fine without this. (To repeat.)

    I prefer restrictive uses of words. People mean a lot of things by “debate” just like they mean a lot of things by “theory.” Debate in the sense of doing what a high school debate club does, displaying rhetorical skills, earning points, persuading judges that you have presented the argument most effectively is most definitely not a healthy part of the the scientific process.

    Two scientists standing in front of a whiteboard saying “Here’s why you’re completely wrong.” is an excellent form of communication, but it’s not a debate, because if they’re both competent, the outcome will ultimately have to be consensus “Thanks. I see where I made this mistake.” or a realization that there is insufficient evidence to resolve the question either way.

    Scientists are human beings. I get that. But heated discussion is most useful in the hypothesis-forming process. It works well as raw interaction between people being honest with each other. Public debate in the sense of displaying polished rhetorical skills is counterproductive.

  27. PaulBC says

    To be clear, debate is an inherently dishonest form of communication, like apologetics. As a debater, your goal is to present your position in the best light and present your opponent’s in the worst light. You might avoid outright lies (but mostly because you might get called on them). However, you would rarely place any emphasis on the weak points of your own argument. (But debate is appropriate in some contexts, like politics).

    In honest communication, even heated dispute, you should be able to point out the potential objections to your position even to the point of opening them to attack with the understanding that you are still persuaded by available evidence and believe that you can meet those objections with more work. Scientists don’t always agree, but they shouldn’t be hiding their work from each other. Scientific communication is not debate even when it involves significant disagreement and persuasive expression. The key difference is the level of openness.

    I’m more familiar with the way mathematicians talk to each other than the way experimental scientists talk to each other, but there is at least a common understanding of whether something is adequately demonstrated, and pointing out a potential flaw is met with gratitude, ideally, not opposition. One of my favorite books is Lakatos’ “Proofs and Refutations”. While it is not a realistic portrayal of how mathematicians talk to each other, it is a very good illustration of how you get some something that is plausible, argued with flawed reasoning to an established mathematical theorem, and how this process involves continually making and addressing objections. This is almost the opposite of debate, though it might superficially look like one.

  28. DanDare says

    They don’t do debates to explore ideas or prove a point or gain understanding. They do debates to insert themselves in the mind of your audience and to reinforce their image with their audience.
    If you appear in the same r oom as them the only goal is to fight back at the level of the audience instead of merely the content.

  29. katahdin says

    @5. “And those of us that are not in the position to be asked to debate should not go to the ones that do take place. If no one shows up, because they are a farce, then maybe they will stop having them.”
    But if the audience is all creationists they will then be even more convinced they are right if the other side didn’t dare to show up.
    Also if you are rude in your debating won’t this count against your arguments?
    Also there are some very nice sincere creationists( not necessarily any famous ones). being very rude can only hurt your position with the creationist audience, I think.

  30. PaulBC says

    John Morales@38

    Well, yes, but an assertion that sounds impressive but is vacuous and unsupported (first panel) doesn’t leave much to rebut. This comic is written in such a way to suggest that the creationist has presented a strong case (conveniently absent from the comic) and all the “evolutionist” has to offer is an insult. In context, the reply “That is utter claptrap. You haven’t proved anything like that.” would be fitting (though possibly unpersuasive). “You are stupid” admittedly assumes too much. Alternatively, the creationist might be lying or might be skilled at self-deception.

    Anyway, what I like about this comic is that the creationist who drew it clearly meant for the bearded debater to look bad, but I look at the first panel and think “What a pompous ass. I can understand the frustration.”

  31. starskeptic says

    A debate coach once told me to ‘assume the best intentions of your opponent’ – I don’t see how that’s even possible with a creationist…

  32. John Morales says

    PaulBC, sorry, I’m in a mood.

    … an assertion that sounds impressive but is vacuous and unsupported (first panel) doesn’t leave much to rebut.

    Heh. You’ve just executed a proper (if unsupported) rebuttal, rather than merely be derisive.

    This comic is written in such a way to suggest that the creationist has presented a strong case (conveniently absent from the comic) and all the “evolutionist” has to offer is an insult.

    Nah. Philosophically, this comic is (ahem) written in such a way that it suggests that mere derision is not an actual rebuttal. Even the weakest case holds up against mere derision.

    “You are stupid” admittedly assumes too much. Alternatively, the creationist might be lying or might be skilled at self-deception.

    Your original claim was ““Neener neener neener. You are stupid!” is a pretty powerful to-the-point rebuttal”, but now you’re blathering. Evidently, its power has waned for you.

    Anyway, what I like about this comic is that the creationist who drew it clearly meant for the bearded debater to look bad …

    By offering a pretty powerful to-the-point rebuttal, according to you.

    … but I look at the first panel and think “What a pompous ass. I can understand the frustration.”

    Pomposity is not antithetical to coherence or cogency or accuracy. It is but a stance.

    (And, more often than not, it is a perception rather than a veridical observation)

  33. John Morales says

    starskeptic:

    A debate coach once told me to ‘assume the best intentions of your opponent’

    In a debate, the intention is to win. No more, no less.

    Genuineness has nothing to do with it.

    (Perhaps he referred to rebutting the ‘steel man’ argument? That’s a good strategy)

  34. PaulBC says

    John Morales@41

    Your original claim was ““Neener neener neener. You are stupid!” is a pretty powerful to-the-point rebuttal”, but now you’re blathering. Evidently, its power has waned for you.

    Can I defend myself by pointing out it was not a claim, but a joke? I realize this defense has become very weak with overuse.

  35. John Morales says

    [one more; I don’t refer to straw man, I refer to straw dummy, for obvious reasons. But, alas, neologisms lag]

  36. hillaryrettig says

    When the fabulous @AOC came to prominence, the unfabulous Ben Shapiro kept calling for her to agree to debate him. She refused, saying his demands were akin to “cat-calling.” She was right, too!

  37. PaulBC says

    John Morales@46

    Let me explain my stance, all joking aside. (I thought my saying it was a “powerful to-the-point rebuttal” to stick your tongue out at an opponent was obviously intended as humor, though I realize people say lots of things and sometimes they’re serious.)

    What I find interesting is my subjective reaction to that 3-panel comic compared to what I believe is intended for the target audience of creationists. The clear intent is that the “winner” is the debater who delivered a calm, capsule summary of his compelling argument (conveniently omitted) and the “loser” is the debater who lost his cool and had an outburst, erroneously believing himself (3rd panel) to have “won.”

    OK, when I look at this (creationist vs. evolution aside) my reaction is: I am personally offended at the smugness of the first debater’s reply. Science doesn’t work like that. I can well understand how someone who had to face this could be driven to an outburst. Even in the 3rd panel, I’m still with him, happy he didn’t sweat his outburst. That’s about all the reply the other guy deserved anyway (since I can infer the absence of any real support of his summary assertion).

    So it’s clear where my sympathies lie. Debating skills are besides the point. If something is well-supported by evidence, then support should shine through in the worst display of rhetoric, while a false claim presented with superior rhetorical skills should still be seen to be false (i.e. a sufficiently discerning listener should see how the weak claims were bolstered using persuasive devices).

    Honesty check: it’s likely I would have a different visceral reaction if the first-panel text were changed to begin with: In summary, “Biologists consider it to be a scientific fact that evolution has occurred in that modern organisms differ from past forms, and evolution is still occurring with discernible differences between organisms and their descendants. There is such strong quantitative support for the second that scientists regard common descent as being as factual as the understanding that in the Solar System the Earth orbits the Sun, although the examination of the fundamentals of these processes is still in progress.”

    So what do I make of this? Well, I agree with what I just quoted, but it does not stand up merely because it was asserted by a clean-cut fellow in a very calm manner. If I really want to understand what I just wrote, I have a lot of studying to do. (Creationists could counter that I ought to study the Bible, but that’s a false equivalence.)

    The only thing I really make of this is that debate is simply the wrong forum for discussing science. The best way is some variation of the scientific method, but in the interest of admitting it is partly about human beings forming hypotheses, I believe Socratic dialogue is a superior approach. Also, shouting matches between scientists in a private room are fine too, but they need to be driven by honest explication not persuasive device.

    Debate is useful in adversarial situations, and those are real. I want to cut down a heritage tree to extend my driveway. You like trees and want to stop me from getting that permit. There’s a fight here that somebody is going to lose and not because either is wrong or a bad person, but just because what they want is incompatible with what the other person wants. Any non-violent resolution is superior to a violent one (I would hope, in this case), but the outcome is not truth or consensus. Debate is a contest. Scientific facts are not determined by contest. (Notwithstanding that prizes and grant awarding, etc. are contests.)

  38. Rob Grigjanis says

    PaulBC @31:

    I would call Bohr vs. Einstein a “heated exchange”, which is weaselly I know, but work with me here. It wasn’t a debate.

    It wasn’t heated, and yes, it’s weaselly. Their exchanges have been called debates for as long as I can remember (I’m nearly 65) and I see no reason to stop calling them that simply because you want to make (poorly, I think) a point about the uselessness of formal debates.

    And I think you have a ridiculously simplistic view on how science works. It’s not mathematics.

  39. says

    Artor @#4
    Akira MacKenzie @#7
    Rob Grigjanis @#9
    mnb0 @#17

    All of you are welcome to be as rude as you wish. I don’t care about your vocabulary preferences. I have no interest in tone policing, instead I simply prefer to ignore all the people who are incapable of behaving like adults and abstain from throwing around lecterns. While you might be free to demonstrate the richness of your insult-related vocabulary, I am just as free to ignore your insults and not listen to some rude crap.

    In my comment @#1 I only objected to the ludicrous idea that my own choice to be polite towards people I dislike somehow indicates that I have no self-esteem. There exists no correlation between rudeness and self-esteem.

    By the way, I think debates with creationists are pointless. Humanity already knows that pretty much everything in the Bible is factually wrong. We also know that evolution is true. There’s no point debating this question any further. If a creationist offered me to debate against them, I’d just say “no.” But I wouldn’t act like a man-child and throw a tantrum (or a lectern).

    Incidentally, I do think that there are some rare situations in which raising my voice or using rude words is beneficial and I may choose to do so, but for me it’s always a deliberate choice. The problem is that by choosing to be rude, I am further antagonizing the person who disagrees with me. If that person happens to be a Christian, they will just pretend to be a martyr (and Christians love martyrdom, they will pretend to be victims at every opportunity). Never mind that claiming that “atheists are rude and arrogant” is already a common trope among Christians.

    Akira MacKenzie @#7

    Just spare us your smug moralizing.

    So, you are complaining about me being smug towards you while simultaneously defending your own “right” to be smug towards Christians?

    Rob Grigjanis @#9

    Sometimes people need a short sharp shock. It’s certainly benefited me on occasion.

    I’m not sure about how many people are realistically going to improve their opinions/behavior because another person was rude towards them. Most of the time people react with hostility whenever they are treated without respect. In my own life, whenever I changed some of my opinions/attitudes, it was because another person politely explained why I was wrong. Whenever somebody is nasty towards me, I don’t think “they must be upset because I did something wrong,” instead I’m thinking “what an asshole, I hate them.” If you say to somebody “you are a piece of shit,” then the only possible response is “no, you are the only piece of shit here.” Some people (like me) will consciously rein the impulse the respond in kind and engage in the insult exchange, but everybody reacts negatively to rudeness.

    mnb0 @#17

    Gone as soon as I meet someone who thinks he/she’s morally superior – ie a pos like you.

    From the wording of your comment it is pretty clear that you are looking down on me and you consider yourself morally superior to me. Simultaneously, you are criticizing me for being arrogant. I just love the irony.

    By the way, I concede that your insult-related vocabulary truly is better than my own—I had to look up what “pos” means as I hadn’t heard that one before. Keep the insults coming, I promise I won’t snap. After all, I did say that I personally choose to remain polite even when communicating with a person I dislike.

  40. Rob Grigjanis says

    Further to my #49: You seem to think that the debates were a victory for the “Copenhagen interpretation”, whichever flavour of that you might mean. They weren’t. Einstein’s view (local realism) wasn’t really put to rest until the 1960s, and even then interpretation remained (and remains) undecided.

  41. says

    PaulBC @#48

    I believe Socratic dialogue is a superior approach.

    And here I am, thinking that Socratic dialogue is even worse than the worst debate format. Let’s start with the fact that in my opinion, the word “dialogue” doesn’t correctly describe what Socrates did there. Instead I’d call it “a manipulative monologue where one person (let’s call them ‘the demagogue’) leads the conversation and tricks the other partner (let’s call them “the clueless victim”) to say whatever the demagogue wants.” Socratic dialogues are just monologues that are periodically interrupted with the clueless victim saying “yes, I agree” every few lines. Socrates is leading the conversation, he asks leading and manipulative questions that force the clueless victim to answer exactly as Socrates predicted the victim would answer. The victim is manipulated, he is deceived and may imagine that he participated in a dialogue, while in reality Socrates was leading the conversation exactly where he wanted it to go in order to come to whatever conclusion Socrates had pre-planned. For me these dialogues didn’t sound like two people genuinely seeking truth, in reality they sounded like one person tricking his victim to say a series of pre-planned responses in order to reach whatever conclusion Socrates had pre-planned. If Socratic dialogues were instead written as monologues, I would just accept them. After all, that’s how philosophic texts are commonly written. But calling such manipulative conversations “dialogues” feels insulting to me, because the clueless victim was merely manipulated and used as a prop in order to demonstrate Socrates’ intellectual superiority.

    I just strongly dislike Socratic dialogue as a teaching method. I prefer somebody to just read a lecture to me. I don’t want another person to manipulate me and force me to give pre-planned answers in order to demonstrate how clueless I am compared to the person who’s teaching me.

  42. PaulBC says

    Rob Grigjanis@49

    And I think you have a ridiculously simplistic view on how science works. It’s not mathematics.

    I agree that I’m referring to an ideal, and said that. I also made it clear that I understand science is not mathematics. However, there is a very useful kind of discussion involving objections and clarifications that is not debate. I’m familiar with it, e.g., from working with my advisor back in grad school, presenting an idea which would ultimately become a lemma or theorem, initially met with skepticism and refining it until there is (usually) agreement on the conclusion, (which may or may not be the one I entered the room with). I don’t presume to know how it works in experimental sciences.

    Their exchanges have been called debates for as long as I can remember (I’m nearly 65) and I see no reason to stop calling them that simply because you want to make (poorly, I think) a point about the uselessness of formal debates.

    Look, it is entirely clear that PZ is referring to public debates in front of an audience (whether formal or not, whether judged like a high school debate or some other way). E.g.:

    And now I have to ask my good colleagues who still debate people like Ham, or Hovind, or Comfort, or Craig: Why?

    Is PZ saying we should not have an ongoing “debate” at all, or more specifically that it’s counterproductive to appear on stage with these people? I believe the latter.

    Here’s your point of contention. I wrote:

    Science is not determine [sic] by debate. Science progresses just fine on its own.

    “Debate” in some general sense exists in science. I do not believe science is “determined” in any sense of the word by debate. The determining factor is an accumulation of evidence and a shared understanding of some explanation consistent with all that evidence.

    However, I’ll concede that I probably meant something more general than debate as a public performance when I wrote the above. (I don’t have a good enough memory to be certain of what I was thinking.)

    “Science progresses just fine on its own.” is a sort of vacuous flourish that I’ll gladly retract. The thought foremost in my mind was simply:

    Yes, PZ is correct. Debates about evolution as public performances are counterproductive to science.

    (Curious now if you’ll accept the weakest form of my claim above.)

    I would add that you are pulling a fast one by analogizing to to Einstein and Bohr, because both of them had sufficient understanding of theory and experiment to engage in fruitful debate (if you insist on the term) and establish a way of thinking about quantum physics.

    However, “debate” with the likes of Ken Ham is a losing proposition, and while it may be needed for some reason of advocacy, it certainly isn’t going to add to the understanding of evolution.

    because you want to make (poorly, I think) a point

    As to whether my point was poorly made, have I eventually gotten it across? To generalize my overall point:

    Debates about science conducted as public performances with non-scientists whose conclusions are driven by prior biases are not fruitful to the advancement of science.

    You can say this is so qualified as to be meaningless, but if so, why do these performances occur? If not, do you agree or disagree with my weak assertion?

    As for Niels Bohr, what I know about him and the Copenhagen interpretation comes mostly from a few years reading biographies of physicists, on and off, particularly those connected directly or indirectly with the Manhattan Project. My understanding (and it’s been a long time) is that whatever the popular understanding of quantum physics, Bohr was successful in building a school (in the general sense) of up and coming physicists who worked with his interpretation. Einstein was less successful in this regard and did not really have a competing “school” at a time when Bohr was active, though clearly he had a large public presence (more than Bohr).

    Please correct me if I’m wrong about the above.

  43. PaulBC says

    Andreas Avester@53

    I’m not really prepared to defend the Socratic method. I believe in informal communication with the aim of exposing and addressing possible objections before reaching consensus. There are many ways to carry this out, but it has to be conducted honesty. If it’s manipulative, it is counterproductive to reaching an unbiased outcome.

    (And if anyone really wants to object to this anodyne comment, I’m at a loss. Communication is hard. I do my best.)

  44. iordanus says

    “And now I have to ask my good colleagues who still debate people like Ham, or Hovind, or Comfort, or Craig: Why?”

    I think the answer is not to do with Ham or Hovind and everything to do with their audience. There may be people watching who may never have been exposed to the science and who may not have seen the creationist properly challenged.

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