Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How to respond to requests to debate Creationists

OMG, this is hilarious! PZ Myers and Pharyngula posted something incredible. Apparently an evolutionary biologist received an invitation to debate one the the high-on-themselves Discovery Institute weenies and PZ posted both the invitation and his response. Before you read it, let me set the stage a bit.

The biologist is University of Vermont's own Professor Nicholas Gotelli. Now you should also recall that the University of Vermont is where Ben Stein was scheduled to speak, but chickened out. I blogged about it in "Ben Stein is a . . . what?"

So in return the Discovery Institute wrote a typical nasty little response claiming that his withdrawal might not have been voluntary, of course without actually offering any evidence that it wasn't. Typical Discovery institute tactics. ("Darwin Defenders Get Ben Stein Expelled from University of Vermont’s Commencement Address")

Next a little bit of background is that the same Nicholas Gotelli wrote an opinion piece that said there were a number of reasons why Stein should not have been selected as a commencement speaker and the Discovery Institute, in their usual way, had a knee-jerk reaction that failed to address a number of issues. For example did they mention why the faculty and students across the campus overwhelmingly disapproved of the choice of Stein as a commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree? Oh heavens no! The ID'iots took one small part of the article and claimed that not having performed any scholarship of any sort wasn't a good enough reason to reject little Bennie. (University of Vermont Biology Prof: Ben Stein Has No Peer-Reviewed Scientific Research!) Did they forget to mention that everything stated in Professor Gotelli's about Stein's scholarship is true! Plus they ignored this gem:

"Stein's ideas are widely discredited by reputable academic scholars as well as by the mainstream media, and that is the real reason we don't want him to represent us on graduation day."
No, they try and make not having any scholarly work is a good thing!

So after all they they have the nerve to invite him to be their sponsor so they can have him debate one of their talking heads on campus. Now you really have to read both the invitation and Professor Gotelli's response. It's a classic! "How to respond to requests to debate Creationists." My favorite parts are:

He mentions their "sneering coverage" of his opinion piece, which was actually written by the guy who wrote the DI's request to debate invitation. Can you believe the cojones on these people? I loved the Professor's reply:
"However, this kind of two-faced dishonesty is what the scientific community has come to expect from the creationists."
He very clearly states his opinion with:
"Academic debate on controversial topics is fine, but those topics need to have a basis in reality"
He also asked a question that many have asked before:
"Instead of spending time on public debates, why aren't members of your institute publishing their ideas in prominent peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Nature, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences?"
Near the end he states that he is declining their offer:
"So, I hope you understand why I am declining your offer. I will wait patiently to read about the work of creationists in the pages of Nature and Science. But until it appears there, it isn't science and doesn't merit an invitation."
All I can say is "Magnificent!"

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