Why Evolutionists Should Debate Creationists, One More Time

In my college ethics class I would offer a challenge to students who were against the legalization of Marijuana. I said that as the illegal use of it increased and with it the overcrowding of prisons and the deaths due to gang wars over who controlled the market in America, along with the drug wars in countries like Mexico, at what point would the harms of keeping it illegal outweigh any harms of legalizing its use? Now granted, I didn't think it caused much harm, if any to adult users, but this was after all, an ethics class. I asked a pragmatic utilitarian question, not a principled one. It got them thinking.

I think the same type of question can be asked of those who have a principled objection against evolutionists debating creationists. It does harm to science they say, by giving creationists credibility. Let's take what PZ Myers said as an example, although Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne would agree with him against an upcoming evolutionist vs creationist debate that is to take place this Saturday. [It will be streamed live!] PZ said:
The empirical evidence is totally against (creationism or young earth creationism), and in reply, creationists only have hand-wavey distortions to offer. It is neither good science nor good philosophy, and it's as absurd to suggest that creationist philosophy has some merit as to suggest that flat-earthers have some interesting philosophy. They don't. The harm comes when an otherwise sensible institution bestows credibility on (expletive) by offering a 'debate'. A debate is an artificial format that treats both sides on an issue as having equal merit, to be argued to determine their relative rhetorical virtue. Do we debate on the topic of slavery anymore? On whether women deserve the vote?" LINK.
Now no scientifically literate person thinks creationism has any credibility at all, so all of us agree on that. The question concerns the harm that not debating creationists based on principle outweighs debating them for utilitarian reasons.

So let's place this into context. Flat-earthers are marginalized. They have no political power and as far as I can tell only boasts a handful of people who dare argue for it. The same thing goes for slavery and the denial of women to vote. Advocates of these abhorrent views probably have no public advocates. They certainly don't have any political power.

Let's now consider creationism. According to a Gallup Poll in 2012:
Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God's guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process. LINK.
46% of the American people believe in young earth creationism while one third of them are accomodationists who believe and/or argue for theistic evolution. Those are some really staggering numbers. And these creationists have political power, lots of it. They rule the Republican party.

Because of this evolutionists should debate creationists whereas they should not debate flat-earthers, or advocates for slavery or those who deny women the right to vote (if there are any). In other words, the harms of not doing so are greater than the harms of doing so.

But in fact, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne are already debating creationists. They do so all of the time, most any given day when responding to creationists. If debating creationists is such a bad thing then to be consistent they should never mention creationists and simply offer one post after another about the evidence for evolution.

If they just do not like live debates then they should just say so. Lots of people don't like them. They should never watch them or promote any of them at all. The same arguments PZ Myers offers against evolutionists debating creationists should apply to all debates: "A debate is an artificial format that treats both sides on an issue as having equal merit, to be argued to determine their relative rhetorical virtue." To be consistent he should reject all live debates. After all, does he really think religion has any merit to it? Do right wing Republicans have any merit to their case? Then he should just come clean and say he doesn't like or approve of any live debates. Then the rest of us can judge his rejection of evolution vs creation debates based on his rejection of all debates. Those of us who think debates have merit can then reject his rejection of all live debates and go merrily on our way without any regard for his anti-debate position.

So apart from a wholesale rejection of all live debates, consider instead the harms of not doing so compared with the harms of doing so. Throw the principled objection out the window until such time as creationists have little or no political power as Flat-earthers, or other idiots do. I think this would be a non-brainer, really. Sorry.


In case you didn't see this, Dr. Hector Avalos recently debated a young earth creationist and did an excellent job (skip to 1:23:30 for it to begin).