Debating pseudoscientific nonsense

May 10, 2007

I’ve managed to scrape up some footage of the debate to scientifically prove god’s existence between two members of the Rational Response Squad and the dynamic duo behind Way Of The Master, Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort.

Here is video posted by the Rational Responders – they’ve edited it, so it’s not entirely unbiased:

You can also view a clip on the ABC website.

From what I can see Ray and Kirk just trotted out the same old painting/painter argument from design and their very own ten commandments version of Pascal’s Wager (which incidentally violated their own premise that their proof could be made without referring to the bible).

The Rational responders didn’t do too badly, but Ray is a polished speaker and can talk complete crap without flinching, so every time they stumble over a point it looks like they don’t know their material – and unfortunately appearances count for a lot in this kind of show-trial format.

Ray and Kirk’s arguments are completely devoid of anything resembling logic, reason or perception of reality. I mean seriously, that argument from design gets refuted every damn time ray says it (changing the analogy from a watch to a coke can to a painting to whatever, does not make this a better argument) and he still uses it. Is he is stupid or wilfully disingenuous? You can’t argue with these people, because they just ignore your explanations or refutations and repeat their same old debunked argument as though repetition makes their argument less stupid.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sold on the whole debate concept. I have long thought that it is generally bad policy to debate creationists (or other flavours of pseudo scientific lunatic for that matter). It gives the loonies a legitimacy that they don’t deserve and I think that the debate format contributes little to the understanding of an issue (and can actually trivialise the enormous weight of methodology and review that corroborates a legitimate scientific theory – victory in debate is generally more reflective of the winners skill at debate that the actual information presented). A theory like Darwinian evolution has survived 200 years of scientific critique and it is undignified and wrong to have to defend it adversarially against a guy who’s main argument is based on biblical literalism.

(Having said that, I’m going to completely contradict myself by saying that there are a couple of people I’ve heard debate whom I consider exceptions to the rule. Dr Steven Novella of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast is a clear and precise speaker who knows his material and is adept at not allowing logically dubious assertaions to go unchallenged. You can hear him here defending the scientific legitimacy of the field of Psychiatry against Dr. Fred Baughman.
When it comes to debating evolution, I don’t think I have heard anyone better than Dr Massimo Pigliucci. He is brilliant, charming, articulate and funny, grinding creationists to make his bread. More Infidel Guy audio with Dr Pigliucci debating Robert Allen here and “Dr” Kent Hovind here.)


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