When an Atheist/Christian Debate Goes Horribly Wrong

There are many reasons why Richard Dawkins and several other prominent atheists refuse to participate in debates against Creationists.

It gives the other side equal footing and a legitimacy they don’t deserve.

The other side often celebrates the debate’s occurrence — arguments be damned; the fact that the debate happened at all means there’s a debate to be had!

Not all atheists shy away from debates — Dan Barker and Christopher Hitchens do them on a regular basis — but there are good reasons to avoid them.

Personally, I don’t do debates. Partly because I’m not an expert in science or philosophy, and partly because I don’t always see the point. But I’m happy to do dialogues with Christians — there’s no “winner” and the focus is on understanding the other side and breaking down stereotypes.

The Moody Church in Chicago recently held a religious debate that dealt with several God-related questions: Does God Exist? Is God Necessary for Morality? Is Christianity Detrimental for Society?

They invited Erwin Lutzer — Senior Pastor of the Moody Church — to defend the Christian perspective… and activist Rob Sherman to represent the atheists.

Ryne, an atheist, was looking forward to the exchange, but he wasn’t expecting to *facepalm* the whole way through it…

Knowing what Sherman has been involved with in the past, I fully acknowledged that he would probably be a bit of a dick. I hoped that he was respectful and polite, but I would not be surprised if insults and ridicule were a core part of his style. I also expected that Lutzer would be articulate and evoke creationist arguments and present them in a way that sounded believable. That was what Sherman was there for: to show that Lutzer’s arguments were unfounded. In this, I expected Sherman to know a few things about the atheistic viewpoint regarding science, philosophy, and ethics. I could not have been more wrong. This debate was a disaster.

You need to read the whole writeup to really get the full impact, but let me pick out one point in particular. When discussing the origin of life — how life could have arisen without a god — Sherman did something I’ve never seen in a debate:

He admitted that he did not know the science behind the arguments and talked about how his daughter was a more scientifically minded person. I was astounded that he had such a lack of evolutionary knowledge. If it had stopped there, I would have been a little disappointed at Sherman’s lack of preparedness, but he insisted on making it worse. He then called his daughter up to the stage to provide an explanation of how life could arise from nonlife. The moderators tried to stop this before it happened, but Sherman was insistent. His daughter Dawn got on the stage and tried as best she could to explain abiogenesis. Putting her on the spot like that was unfair to her and the audience. She clearly had some idea of what she was talking about, but her lack of preparedness made the whole idea sound flimsy. Sherman cut her off after about a minute, and simply said that this proved that life could have arisen without design.

Rob’s daughter is a senior in high school…

*Hemant shakes his head in disgust*

Even Ryne, an atheist who wants to convince his Christian girlfriend there’s something to our perspective, admits this was a lost cause from beginning to end:

In closing, I think this debate was damaging to the people present. There is no possibility that any Christian was even partly swayed to the atheistic view. In fact, the opposite occurred. I talked with my girlfriend about what happened, and she said that the night reaffirmed her faith in Christianity. I am sure this would be echoed by any questioning Christian there.

So thank you, Rob Sherman. Thank you for so misrepresenting atheism that I consider everyone at that event a lost cause. In the future, please keep your mouth shut.

So we now have a new reason not to debate Creationists: It’s possible that our side will come off looking even more ridiculous than their side.

  • http://anonatheist.wordpress.com/ Hieronymus Fortesque Lickspittle

    Rob Sherman is not a good representative of the atheist movement in America. He’s just a shameless self promoter who comes across as a loudmouth trying to get his name out there. Remember a few years ago when he declared himself “America’s best known atheist?” He’s harming our cause more than helping it.

  • AxeGrrl

    Well, at least the Ray Comfort/Matt Dillahunty debate from last weekend was more of a ‘success’ :) I never expected Comfort himself to describe one of his own arguments as ‘pathetic’ :)

  • Lucas

    Ugh, the worst thing about this is that Rob Sherman will likely be hired on for more of these debates, since Creationists now know that Sherman is a terrible debater who will only help their cause.

  • Bertram Cabot, Jr.

    I love the smell of atheists bashing each other in the morning! LOL!

    But maybe there is more to it.

    Maybe atheism is not as superior as you all pretend.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com/ Gretchen

    That’s a really lousy thing to do to your daughter.

    I thought the debate between Christopher Hitchens and William Dembski last November was pretty good, partially because they didn’t just discuss evolution vs. creationism but theism vs. atheism in general. Hitchens was terribly well-spoken at all points whereas Dembski came off as though he was simply reading off his notes throughout, presenting more of a (boring, irrelevant) lecture than participating in a debate.

    I would suggest, by the way, that Smith either accept that his girlfriend is going to stay a Christian (especially the kind who thinks that poor performance in a debate by a non-believer lends credence to supernatural beliefs) or break up with her. Trying to overhaul your significant other’s belief system is not just a rather crummy thing to do but almost certainly a losing prospect.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com/ Gretchen

    That must be it, Bertram, because religious believers never bash each other. Disagreement amongst people who share a viewpoint clearly shows that the viewpoint is worthless.

    *rolls eyes*

  • Brian-sama

    Nothing of the sort, Bertram. This is merely the unfortunate case of a debater who has no idea what he’s talking about. It can (and does) happen to people all the time, but it has no bearing on the veracity of a viewpoint.

  • Tina in Houston

    @Bertram, we aren’t pretending. Religionists are the ones pretending. (See, it sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it?)

    *rolls eyes too*

  • http://www.yagottamoo.com Matt

    @bertram We don’t pretend that atheism is superior. We just reject theist claims that we find logically fallacious or factually wrong. To this point, that includes all theist claims as far as I know. If you have a superior claim, I’d love to hear it. Just be sure to do a bit of research on it to see what the historical arguments have been. I hear claims from theists all the time that they think are new and sure to convince us atheists, but I have yet to hear any new arguments for the existence of any gods or the truth of any religion that haven’t been debunked decades, if not centuries ago.

    Live debates are terrible venues for arguing the truth or non-truth of any claim, much less religion. The skill and preparedness of the participants is far more compelling than most people realize, and the “winner” is almost always the one who has the better debating skills, regardless of which side of the argument they’re on. In fact, if you were on a debate team in high school or college, you were almost certainly required to learn to debate both sides of an issue and win regardless of which side you took.

  • mcbender

    This is depressing, and does a very good job of highlighting exactly what is wrong with the debate format.

  • http://twitter.com/artiofab artiofab

    So… wait.

    Rob Sherman stumbles at being able to explain the science behind abiogenesis. Therefore he is a bad debater.

    Was Erwin Lutzer asked to explain the science behind abiogenesis? I don’t know if he believes in an old or a young Earth, but was he asked how science supports his ideas? According to the writer he just regurgitated ID and creationist arguments. That’s about as idiotic as making your daughter talk about abiogenesis.

    Science, while useful to know about, is not usually able to convince people that atheism is a more valid worldview. If it was, there would be no theist scientists.

  • ckitching

    I don’t know why he just didn’t say that he didn’t know, and that if they want to know, they should ask a scientist in the field.

  • anonABC

    I think it makes a significant difference how the debate is framed. A debate framed IDC vs. ToE lends legitimacy to the creationists. A debate framed theism vs. atheism lends legitimacy to atheists because they are in the minority. Obviously in such a debate the topic of evolution/abiogenesis can potentially come up so you should be prepared.

  • Danielle

    Don’t get a freakin’ atheist to answer that question, get a freakin’ scientist.

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    The other side often celebrates the debate’s occurrence — arguments be damned; the fact that the debate happened at all means there’s a debate to be had!

    Personally, I don’t do debates. Partly because I’m not an expert in science or philosophy, and partly because I don’t always see the point. But I’m happy to do dialogues with Christians — there’s no “winner” and the focus is on understanding the other side and breaking down stereotypes.

    I’m not really sure how a dialogue is any better than a debate in this regard. What is the point of a dialogue? The main difference is that just about anyone can do dialogue. To do a debate well, you should know something about science, or biblical scholarship, or philosophy. To me that makes a debate more interesting; you might actually learn something from the participants. The flip side is that it requires some skill, though. Maybe Sherman should stick to the dialogues and let those who know what they’re talking about do the debates.

    For an analogy, imagine a public relations person from an energy company ‘dialoguing’ with some anti-Nuke activist. To me that’s much less interesting than two physicists debating the merits of nuclear power. Any passionate advocate can duke it out with an opposing advocate. But only the experts are the ones really worth lending your ear.

    The problem with atheist speakers is that all you have to do is want to talk and not believe in God to be an atheist representative. To be an effective debater you really need to know something. You might get the girl next door to do a dialogue on crime, but you’d want a forensics expert or statistician or sociologist to do a debate on crime.

  • Alex

    I usually enjoy Hitchens debates if only because he isn’t a biologist and doesn’t talk about evolution vs. creation, he talks about ethics. I especially loved the debate where he was partnered with Stephen Fry, excellent stuff.

  • asonge

    Non-Litigious Atheist:

    I’d say that dialogue does something completely different than debate. To participate in a good/interesting dialogue, the person does have to have extensive knowledge. Sure, you can have a dialogue with an idiot or a quack, but it wouldn’t be interesting. There’s lots to do in talking about atheists and atheism to congregants because congregants are largely ignorant.

    Also, I’d like to mention that there are all sorts of types of debates. In some debates, the participants come in to argue for their theories in an adversarial manner in an existing framework that they agree on. When you have this kind of common ground, you can actually have a productive debate. (Productive in that both sides can actually change their own mind when the argument is convincing enough). Debates on God’s existence (or even gods’ existences) just don’t have enough common ground for there to be anything to grapple over. The debate becomes entertainment, though some people are confronted with new information and they are “effective” in a way. But there’s one thing I’d say is that atheist/theist debates are just entertainment on the whole.

    That said, debate or discussion, you need to be aware of your final goal and then execute that. Most of my primary goals are best facilitated by dialogue, though sometimes I do debate folks for fun. Though I wouldn’t mind debating local pastors if my arguments with many of my old classmates (who are now seminary and bible college students) are any indicator. We’d both be able to show off in front of our respective audiences and a few people’s faith might be shaken…though this is mostly low-hanging fruit and it’s pure accident that I’ve struck their branch with a solid stick.

  • bill

    The debate really was absolutely terrible. I went with a couple of Christian friends, all of us hoping that the debate would at least be interesting or entertaining. From Rob Sherman’s website, it was pretty clear he wasn’t an intellectual, but I hoped that he might have some wit or clever responses. There was none of that. I literally facepalmed through the whole thing. Sherman was radically off topic on every question. He kept weirdly referring to his “perfect” wife and “perfect” daughter. For some mysterious reason, he decided to brag about his daughter (just like on his website) boasting about how she is in so many AP classes and has straight As. When he brought her up on stage to explain abiogenesis, the whole thing jumped the shark. The girl was put on the spot, and she just managed to fumble her way through an explanation of the Miller-Urey experiment. Of course, creationists love to misrepresent Miller-Urey, so it just made everything that much worse.

    Sherman made awkward jokes about the age of Lutzer, and some sexual references that were never going to work in a crowd that conservative. Lutzer just served up ridiculous, run of the mill creationist arguments, and they went unchallenged. (He claimed that if the tilt of the earth’s axis was a little bit different, then it wouldn’t be able to go around the Sun.) However, he was articulate and prepared.

    Sherman was a total hack. I think he realized at some point how bad he was doing, and started trying to appeal to the (assumed) conservative politics of the audience. He went on various rants about how he is strongly anti-abortion, anti-premarital sex, and pro-death penalty (though not in the context of the Illinois court system). After the first half, my friends and I unanimously agreed to leave and that our time was better spent discussing things amongst ourselves. I assume the second half was no better than the first. All parties were served poorly in the episode. Atheists got embarrassed by the worst debate performance I’ve ever seen, and Christians didn’t get challenged on any of their beliefs.

  • http://www.harvardhumanist.org Jonathan Figdor

    Why did people ever think he was a credible representative for Atheism? Didn’t they visit his website first?

  • PJB863

    Rob’s a little too full of himself many times. His wife and I have a mutual friend, so I’ve met him a few times. He’s great for garnering publicity, but beyond that, not so much for presenting an intelligent dialogue. Tact is defintely not a strong suit.

  • http://www.pbase.com/jfinite Justin Bonaparte

    Is it just me, or could they have not possibly made two more hideous caricatures of their images for the fliers?

  • Pureone

    I don’t understand why he/everyone who debates creationists doesn’t just lob the question back, as in: “I will tell you how non-theistic Abiogenisis happened if you tell me the scientific mechanism your god used to create something out of nothing, or ‘chaos’”

    They always just com back with the WHO, i.e. the deity. They never have the answer to the very question they are asking, which is the How. Who, Why and How are separate questions.

  • http://www.youtube.com/aajoeyjo Joe Zamecki

    Why were they talking about creationism, evolution and science, at a god-debate? The poster for the debate didn’t mention those other topics. The topic was religion, right?

    I would’ve felt put on the spot about a topic that wasn’t intended. That sometimes inspires a derailment of the norms in a debate. I sure wouldn’t do that, but did anyone talk about God at this thing?

    Again, this idea that Atheism = Science is just silly. They’re separate topics. Same with God. Separate from science. One need not be a scientist at all, in order to debate godism.

  • Kenny

    I’m not really buying the premise behind this blog post. I haven’t listened to this debate but competent atheist debater will always expose the creationist guy no matter what he says.

  • Lesa

    This situation is my WORST nightmare (next to radioactive spiders and evil mother in laws). It’s such an enormous, painful facepalm. I’ve seen even well-educated people fumble in debates. Once in an astronomy glass an evangelical girl tried to bring the topic of supernovas around to the topic of light going faster than ‘c’ and evolution…oh god it was so painful to see the blank look on the professor’s face. I hit my head so hard on the desk the girl jumped and turned around.

    Unfortunately, to defend my lack of beliefs effectively, I feel I have to be a multi-subject scientist and philosopher in one.

    But yeah…in conclusion…Rob, go home. You make us facepalm.

  • Steve

    Just out of curiosity: What is considered a good argument against the “perfectly tuned” meme?

    I know that it isn’t true. We know that there is water on Mars. Europa is believed to have a sub-surface ocean. And Earth itself isn’t exactly that welcoming, having had multiple global extinction events.

    Also, it’s absolute hubris to think that out of trillions of stars, we are the only habitable planet. But that’s more of a gut feeling than a convincing argument.

  • http://www.secularleft.us Doug Berger

    The ironic thing is that Sherman is like many atheists I know and why a debate like this is pointless.

    How many could answer the question just off the top of your heads and in a manor that anyone can understand (i.e tone down the jargon).

    Most of the time these “debates” are ego strokes for both sides and there aren’t any conversions either way. It seems the important points are on style and presentation and not facts.

  • http://waters.me/ Simon

    The “perfectly tuned” meme is just that a meme not an argument.

    The Universe is not perfectly tuned, it is quite the opposite, we having evolved in this Universe for 4 billion years are reasonably well fitted to surviving on the warmer drier parts of the surface of this planet (an insignificantly small part of the Universe, most of the rest is barely above absolute zero and vacuous – at least compared to my office).

    Some physicists have suggested the Universe parameters are well tuned, but till they submit a full explanation of what possible values those parameters could have had, and a demonstration that all other selections prohibit any possible kind of intelligent life evolving, and that the selection we see is somehow special, then it is nothing but religiously inspired speculation. Even if they demonstrate the above they then have to demonstrate that the cause of this is not due say to this being the one attempt at many of a Universe in which this happened to be true. At that point we can have a discussion about whether this is of any significance or not, and of course none of this implies anything about a given historical creation myth* in any particular religion even if all the above caveats were demonstrated.

    Ultimately we can’t prove a negative, that the values were not well tuned, and that we exist to ask the question means that they are right for us (so that they have values that let us live is not a surprise), we can only ask them to demonstrate a positive (that they are), this hasn’t happened yet otherwise all reasonable physicists would believe it to be true.

    If one needs a more specific scientific argument the weak anthropic principal will do. If Intelligent life hadn’t arisen then the debate wouldn’t be happening, so the probability of intelligent life existing in this Universe is 1.

    * Except if there religious book happens to mention the precise values or some such, but since most religious text failed to mention the stars were other suns I think we are on a safe one there, given that isn’t even a terribly hard deduction.

  • Steve

    One can also list more examples of how hostile Earth is to life. Aside from the numerous global climate changes and extinction events in the last few hundred million years, there are also several astronomical dangers.

    In about a billion years, due to increased solar radiation, the surface temperature on Earth will be too high for liquid water. In time, the atmosphere will resemble Venus’s. In five billion years, the sun will turn into a red giant and eventually swallow up Earth. Also in a couple of billion years, our galaxy may collide with Andromeda.

    In light of that, life on Earth seems like a fluke – even taking into account the abundance of it. It certainly doesn’t seem like the work of a being that exists for eternity. Unless you allow for it to be bored and take some curiosity or satisfaction from seeing creation and destruction on such a scale. That may be believable, but conflicts with its alleged omnibenevolence.

  • Jim Baerg

    It sounds like this is a case of:

    “There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it” Larry Niven

  • Daniel Miles

    Hemant, I want to start by saying that I love your blog. I read it every day and I think you do an enormous service to our society by providing grounded, well-reasoned dialog on religious issues and I hope you keep writing for a long time.

    However, everybody makes mistakes and since one of the chief strengths of a non-religious lifestyle is a respectful, productive dialog about things that may or may not have been mistakes. I’d like to have one of those dialogs with you.

    I think the last sentence of this post isn’t a good step forward for us. Certainly it’s worth talking about what happens when eloquent, charismatic creationists out-class clumsier members of the atheist community and I agree that it’s something to be avoided. Also, there are many *good* reasons not to ‘debate’ with creationists. Personally, I’ve stopped doing it because I’ve found that a mind capable of believing in creationism is not a mind capable of logic, reason or the synthesis of facts and I find the experience frustrating and non-productive.

    However, refusing a dialog because “the other side” might score some points is not a good thing and I think if a Christian who found her faith strengthened by watching the Lutzer-Sherman debate were to read your blog, she’d feel even further strengthened when she reads that you’re afraid that your side might look ridiculous.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    However, refusing a dialog because “the other side” might score some points is not a good thing and I think if a Christian who found her faith strengthened by watching the Lutzer-Sherman debate were to read your blog, she’d feel even further strengthened when she reads that you’re afraid that your side might look ridiculous.

    Let me try to explain what I’m saying because I think we’re on the same page. I’m not afraid of the other side scoring some points. In fact, some of the Christians I’ve dialogued with have really excellent things to say.

    But when it comes to evolution/Creationism, I have yet to hear the other side say anything useful. It’s certainly not scientific. The facts are entirely on our side. All we should have to do is spell that out and we *should* come out looking like we make more sense. The fact that, in this case, the evolution side came off looking unprepared/unpolished does our side a disservice.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Bertram Cabot, Jr.:

    Maybe atheism is not as superior as you all pretend.

    LOL! Oh, Bertram. I’m not an atheist because I think it’s superior. I’m an atheist because I don’t believe in God.

    artiofab:

    So… wait.

    Rob Sherman stumbles at being able to explain the science behind abiogenesis. Therefore he is a bad debater.

    Replace “stumbles at being able” with “brought his daughter on stage” and you’ll represent what actually happened. That’s an idiotic debate tactic. And his arguments were not at all up to snuff. He was utterly unprepared.

    Justin Bonaparte:

    Is it just me, or could they have not possibly made two more hideous caricatures of their images for the fliers?

    Phew. Glad I’m not the only one who thought so.

    Steve:

    Just out of curiosity: What is considered a good argument against the “perfectly tuned” meme?

    A few things I’ve used in combination:
    1. So far as we know, life exists in an almost infinitesimally small fragment of the universe. If the universe were designed for intelligent life, we’d see more of it. The universe seems better tuned for black holes.

    2. We have no reason to think that the physical constants actually could be anything else. We have a single point of data, and therefore no idea what the range of values could be (or even if there is a range).

    3. People who make this argument also love to talk about how unlikely evolution is (because of the compounded probability of various steps in the process). Well… you can’t have it both ways. Either the universe is fine-tuned for life, and thus life is almost guaranteed, or we live in a universe where life is unlikely, and thus the steps in the evolutionary process are miraculous (or the probability argument is based on a flawed premise).

    4. Most of the places we could go on the planet we live on pose a threat to us: deserts, oceans, mountains; anywhere an earthquake, volcano, tornado, hurricane, tsunami could hit; etc. Even this planet doesn’t seem tuned for life.

  • Gatogreensleeves

    Written debates over several months are the best way to get to the best arguments and rebuttals. An opening statement with 2-3 rebuttals and a conclusion, with a month to write each is a good model IMO. The Carrier/Roth debate on abortion around 2000 (I think) was in this format and it is a great read.

  • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

    I’m sorry, but who the hell is Rob Sherman? If I looked at his website http://www.robsherman.c?m without knowing first that he was an atheist I would’ve assumed he ran a megachurch somewhere in the deep South. I haven’t seen anybody so self-aggrandizing in a long, long time. Why did people think he would be good in a creationism/evolution debate? There’s nothing on his website to indicate he has any scientific education.

  • Blacksheep

    In closing, I think this debate was damaging to the people present. There is no possibility that any Christian was even partly swayed to the atheistic view. In fact, the opposite occurred. I talked with my girlfriend about what happened, and she said that the night reaffirmed her faith in Christianity.

    Based on your conclusion, and on your girlfriends response, I would say that the debate was the opposite of damaging to the people present.

  • Blacksheep

    If the universe were designed for intelligent life, we’d see more of it.

    Logically speaking, the opposite is true. If the universe was created by God, He could simply have chosen to create life only on earth. If life sprang up by chance, in a universe “fine-tuned” to support life, our universe is so vast that the odds of it springing up by chance elsewhere is almost certain.

  • Blacksheep

    Daniel Miles,

    Personally, I’ve stopped doing it because I’ve found that a mind capable of believing in creationism is not a mind capable of logic, reason or the synthesis of facts and I find the experience frustrating and non-productive.

    Has it slipped your mind that the vast majority of the greatest scientific discoveries in history were generated by people who believed in God? Amazing how they did it without the benefit of logic, reason, or the ability to synthesize facts!

  • Rosita

    It seems that Rob Sherman’s daughter would have been a better choice, if she had been prepared.

  • ACN

    It may not be totally obvious from their remarks, but as is often the case, statements like this typically come with riders like:

    Personally, I’ve stopped doing it because I’ve found that a mind capable of believing in creationism in the present day with access to modern evidence about the topic, not to be confused with people who lived hundreds of years ago without these benefits is not a mind capable of logic, reason or the synthesis of facts with respect to biological matters on speciation, the fact of evolution etc and I find the experience frustrating and non-productive.

    Also, note that the text block you quoted had 0 reference to belief in god. A belief in god IS NOT necessarily incompatible with an understanding of evolutionary biology. A belief in a god that created human beings uniquely, or created a set of exactly 2 human beings from which we are all descended, IS incompatible with understanding evolutionary biology. I understand that in the past there has been a lot of confusion on this topic in the past because you use the words creationism/Intelligent Design etc to mean slightly different things than their usual definitions.

    Also, in reality the problem is actually far more sinister than people who are incapable of understanding logic. People like the ICR and the various creationist politicians are actually capable of synthesizing facts. They are deluded, and have chosen to deliberately mislead a gullible public because they believe that the contents of a book written by numerous authors over the course of long periods of time somehow maps to a better understanding of biology than science.

    If they were simply idiots, they wouldn’t be able to go about their lives in a reasonable way. The leaders of this movement are either deluded or so entrenched in a belief system that they are unable to verify it against reality, while the rank-and-file members may vary from ignorant of the science, to equally deluded.

  • Steve

    Logically speaking, the opposite is true. If the universe was created by God, He could simply have chosen to create life only on earth.

    In other words, god is an arrogant moron and an asshole.

    There is no reason to create a universe with billions of galaxies and only create life in one insignificant solar system. It’s beyond absurd. If a god wanted some personal laboratory to experiment with creation and life, he could have created a single solar system and be done with it. To think that all of this was created solely for us is the very height of hubris.

    And I fully agree with ACN. A belief in a god does not in way shape or form, necessitate a belief in creation, a personal god, salvation or any form of direct connection or relationship to that god. It’s not necessary to buy into all of Christian mythology.
    What some scientists believed 400 years ago is irrelevant. There were no better alternatives, so believing in creationism back then isn’t really such a bad thing. To believe in it today is a sign of stupidity and short-sightedness. Especially since evolution is in no way incompatible with Christianity. But fundies are so narrow-minded that they can’t see anything rationally.

  • ACN

    To think that all of this was created solely for us is the very height of hubris.

    And the depth of puddle thinking :)

  • Blacksheep

    Steve,

    In other words, god is an arrogant moron and an asshole.

    Trailer park rhetoric and stamping of feet aside, my earlier point still holds.

    Your analysis that there is no reason for God to create millions of galaxies and only create life in one insignificant (to you perhaps) solar system is not something to use as evidence.

    Besides, what makes you think that I believe that God only made life here? I would have no problem accepting that he created life in other solar systems.

    That was not the point of my comment. My point was that it is logically more likely for there to be life on only one planet if life was created by God than if life sprang up by chance. If it sprang up by chance, it is more likely to assume that it happened elsewhere.

  • ACN

    My point was that it is logically more likely for there to be life on only one planet if life was created by God than if life sprang up by chance. If it sprang up by chance, it is more likely to assume that it happened elsewhere.

    That actually isn’t what your original post said. You said:

    Logically speaking, the opposite is true. If the universe was created by God, He could simply have chosen to create life only on earth. If life sprang up by chance, in a universe “fine-tuned” to support life, our universe is so vast that the odds of it springing up by chance elsewhere is almost certain.

    The central point that people are disagreeing with sounds like it is the assertion that the present universe is “fine-tuned” for life. Given that human life exists, you should not be surprised that the conditions of the universe are such that human life is possible. The converse, is not the same. This does not mean that human life is likely. It does not mean that the universe is “fine-tuned” for human life. It doesn’t mean that the universe “saw us coming” or anything ridiculous like that.

    The actual observations support the opposite of fine-tuning. Indeed, many examples of fine-tuning are evidence that life is fine-tuned to the cosmos, not vice versa. This is, by the way, is exactly what evolution proposes. Moreover, we don’t know what fundamental conditions, or ranges thereof, would rule out any possibility of life. There might be intelligent beings in other universes, or in parts of our own universe beyond the hubble bubble where physics could potentially work differently yelling at each other about how if fundamental constants were only slightly different, then the absence of free quarks and the extreme weakness of gravity would make life impossible.

  • Blacksheep

    ACN,

    My central argument is not about whether or not the universe is fine tuned for life or not.

    In fact I happen to totally agree that the observations support the opposite of fine tuning.

    Mike the infidel seemed to be implying that if the universe was “designed” for life, there is a greater chance of more life in the universe.
    I disagreed – and said that if the universe was “designed” (by God) then it’s easy to assume that we could be the only life.

    On the contrary, if the universe were not designed, and life was able to come forth by chance, there would certainly be more of it out there.

    His quote, again:

    If the universe were designed for intelligent life, we’d see more of it.

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    Obviously Sherman is not a “True Atheist.”

    It gives the other side equal footing and a legitimacy they don’t deserve.

    Convenient. And cowardly.

    It’s possible that our side will come off looking even more ridiculous than their side.

    Atheists do that without help from Sherman or anyone else.

  • ACN

    Obviously Sherman is not a “True Atheist.”

    No one is saying that. We’re saying he was a poor choice as a debater.

    It gives the other side equal footing and a legitimacy they don’t deserve.

    Convenient. And cowardly.

    Too bad it is true. We don’t decide what our best scientific theories are by public debate. There is a venue for this, the peer reviewed journal. It is the creationists who aren’t doing science who really want to drag the debate into public so they pander to a gullible public.

    Do you see what the problem with trying to resolve the creation/evolution issue with public debate is? Let me try to elucidate, suppose there was a big debate over biochemical ion channels vs. gnomes as the explanation for how ions do useful things in the body. If you put me, a non-chemist, non-biologist who knows virtually NOTHING about biochemical ion channels up to defend the chemistry side, and you somehow begged/cajoled christopher hitchens into defending the “gnomes” side, I guarantee that I would lose. Would this be the damning evidence that those pesky ion channels don’t exist and rather people are filled with gnomes? Of course not! All it shows is that I was a bad/poorly prepared debater. Worse, this would become a rallying point for some crazed “gnome-ists” excited that their pet theory got equal time against chemistry and embarrassed the opposition!

    This is the argument people are making here. That Rob Sherman may put an acceptable amount of trust in biologists doing their job correctly, he was not well prepared to explain evolution in a public debate, and as a result, creates a situation where the creationists come off looking very good to a gullible public. To avoid nonsense like this, biologists, unless they are extremely well prepared and the debate is on a narrow enough topic to prevent a “gish gallop”, probably shouldn’t give the creationists the time of day as they have NOTHING to gain (the theory of evolution is the best explanation of the observable fact of evolution, hands down, not even close) and everything to lose (see “gnomes” above) from a public debate.

  • Mike D

    Wow. So Rob Sherman is even more an embarrassment than Dave Silverman’s inability to explain the tides to Bill O’Reilly.

    I didn’t know worse was possible. Thanks for sharing this horror with us . . .

  • blessed

    I have a question for all athiest’s? Why is it so important to “win” Christians over to your side? I trust and believe in The God of creation, whom is loving, teaches me good morals and values, and promises me a seat in heaven… Where only love and goodness exists…. When i put my faith in his son Jesus Christ.
    Personally i think its very selfish to want to “win” a Christian over when what you have to offer is NO afterlife. Thank God in heaven that i have more to look forward to then this sin drenched world.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/KIDZFDXNIVYSUSZBZDUJIQD3II Exploerer

      You know if it stopped there that would be great and I would be glad for you to be so satisfied in your beliefs.

      Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there, on a whole christians want to pass laws based on their crippled morality and impose the dictates on their mythology upon everyone else. 

    • TiltedHorizon

      “Personally i think its very selfish to want to “win” a Christian over”

      Selfish: Lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

      “and promises me a seat in heaven”
      “teaches me”
      “what you have to offer is NO afterlife”
      “i have more to look forward to”

      Clear no self interest in this post.


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