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Author Topic:   Who won this evolution/ID debate?
Percy
Member
Posts: 18482
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 1 of 29 (547570)
02-20-2010 9:27 AM


On November 30, 2009, Michael Shermer and Don Prothero debated Stephen Meyer and Richard Sternberg on this question: "Has Evolutionary Theory Adequately Explained the Origins of Life?" Shermer/Prothero of course took the affirmative, and Meyer/Sternberg the negative.

Who won this debate? For my surprise answer skip forward to the end of this message.

Of course, evolution is not a theory of life's origins, but it was evidently understood, at least by Shermer and Prothero, that the debate was to be about the sufficiency of evolutionary-style mechanisms to explain life's origins.

Some of you are probably thinking, "Sternberg, Sternberg. Why is that name so familiar?" Well, it was just a few years ago that Richard Sternberg in his capacity as managing editor of the journal of the Biological Society of Washington published a paper on intelligent design by Stephen Meyer, his partner in this debate. Some of you might recall Sternberg's denials that he was an IDist and that he was just being objective by including all legitimately scientific work regardless of perspective, and now here he is finally out in the open fully aligned with the IDists of the Discovery Institute. Can you say "dissembling?" Oh, heck, why beat around the bush? "Lying" is the more accurate term.

I tried to refresh my memory of Sternberg's version of events by visiting his website (www.rsternberg.net), but he's changed the organization (for the better), and I couldn't find passages I thought I remembered. But there's a link to a letter he wrote to The Scientist (http://www.rsternberg.net/v2_TheScientist.htm) where he cagily dances around the issue of whether he's an IDist by stating that accusations that he's a creationist are wrong, ignoring that obviously the criticism came from people who were lumping creationists and IDists together.

Sternberg has received much encouragement and support from the ID community, and all I can say is that people who hear cheers when they lie are likely to continue lying.

By the way, when the Sternberg controversy erupted in 2004 I predicted that Sternberg would become unemployable in his chosen field, and guess what? I was right. Sternberg has maintained his status as an unpaid collaborator at the Smithsonian, but he's now employed by the Biologic Institute, a fully owned subsidiary of the Discovery Institute. Sternberg published Meyer's paper and ruined his career, and now Meyer has compensated him by giving him a job. Meyer is now Sternberg's boss.

I first learned of the debate just last night while reading the latest issue of Skeptic magazine. A two page summary of the debate describes Shermer/Prothero blowing Meyer/Sternberg out of the water, and so this morning I sat down at my computer to see what more I could find out about the debate online. To my surprise, the first link is to a blog describing the debate in precisely opposite terms. This is from http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/...ernbergprothero-debate:

It was all shaping up to be a serious heavyweight bout. And then Meyer and Sternberg simply KO’d the competition in the opening round...To call the debate a massacre would be a discredit to Sitting Bull.

Okay, so who's right? Answering that question requires listening to the debate, about 120 minutes of audio that can be found in two places:

I'm continuing to learn more about the debate, which evidently stirred up emotions on both sides. The American Freedom Alliance who sponsored the debate characterizes itself as a defender of "Western values and ideals," but Prothero calls it a right wing organization (see his comments the morning after the debate at http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/12/battle-in-bever.html). Both Shermer and Prothero complained during and after the debate that the ID side had not addressed the topic (the origin of life), but Ari Davis, serving as moderator, allowed this.

But this meant that Shermer and Prothero prepared for the wrong debate, because except for Prothero's opening presentation on the the history and current status of origins of life research, the subject of what was supposedly the debate's topic was completely ignored. Of course Meyer and Sternberg were not surprised since IDists don't care about topic anyway (we see it here all the time) - they talk what they want to talk about, and it's always the same things regardless of topic.

By the way, Ari Davis responded to Prothero's morning-after comments at, no surprise, the Discovery Institute's website (http://www.evolutionnews.org/...is_responds_to_donald_p.html), and makes clear that he and the AFA have a clear anti-evolution agenda.

I'm listening to the debate now and will continue writing this review when I'm done...

Okay, it's two hours later, I"m back. In their opening comments both Shermer and Prothero were highly critical of ID as not doing science and not being science. In his own opening comments Meyer began with ad hominem by saying that Prothero had a command of facts that aren't true, then went on to say that although he'd be happy to debate ID some other time, the topic of this debate was the sufficiency of evolution to explain the history of life. I thought he was going to somehow bring the origins of life into the picture, but he never does.

Sternberg used his presentation to argue that the evolution of the whale could not have followed evolutionary principles because the store of existing variation was insufficient, the mutation rate was too slow, and whale populations were too small. One wonders when Dr. Sternberg is going to present his work in a peer reviewed journal, or if he's going to again raise accusations of a scientific "thought police" as he did in his letter to Nature (http://www.rsternberg.net/Nature.htm). But even more than that one wonders why Dr. Sternberg prepared a presentation on whale evolution for a debate on the sufficiency of evolutionary principles to explain the origin of life.

In other words, why did Dr. Sternberg come prepared to discuss what the moderator, AFA president Ari Davis, allowed to be discussed, and not the topic of the debate. I share Dr. Prothero's suspicion of behind-the-scenes chicanery, but believe it happened not by plan but simply due to shared viewpoints.

The pinnacle of the evolution side's rebuttal arguably occurs at 59 or 60 minutes when Shermer launches direct questions at Meyer and Sternberg about just how many acts of creation they're talking about. Paraphrasing Shermer, was it 10 acts of creation per million years? 100? 1000? Was each species specially created with subspecies created through evolution? Is every beneficial mutation an act of creation? Inquiring minds want to know.

The 60 minute mark is also where things get real interesting. I'd advise skipping the first hour of the debate because it's arguments we've heard from both sides many times. The rebuttal begins at 60 minutes, and the moderator allows the two sides to direct their questions and answers directly at each other, something very rare in formal debates where the debaters usually address their arguments to the audience, and where direct interactions between participants are kept to a minimum.

So the debate turned into one pretty good dust-up of a discussion. I highly recommend beginning your listening at the 60 minute mark. You can go back later and fill in the blanks.

So who won the debate? The big winner was Richard Sternberg, hands down. I think he must be internally conflicted and/or unaware of the true reasons behind his rejection of mainstream evolutionary explanations, and I further think that those reasons can only be religious or at least spiritual, otherwise an alliance (and employment) with the Discovery Institute would make no sense, but he was intelligent, informed, articulate, and spoke and presented his thoughts and ideas far better than any other participant.

The big loser? Don Prothero. I agree with the IDist summaries that he was overly aggressive and did not comport himself well, and I also agree that Sternberg appeared to be more informed on biological matters. Debate is a skill that has nothing to do with knowledge and intelligence.

Which side won the debate? If I postulate an unbiased audience observer who is intelligent but as uninformed about science as your average layperson, then Meyer and Sternberg handily won the debate for the ID side.

--Percy


Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by cavediver, posted 02-20-2010 10:25 AM Percy has responded
 Message 4 by ZenMonkey, posted 02-20-2010 11:19 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply
 Message 5 by Taz, posted 02-20-2010 11:32 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply
 Message 8 by nwr, posted 02-21-2010 12:05 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

    
cavediver
Member (Idle past 1807 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 2 of 29 (547572)
02-20-2010 10:25 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
02-20-2010 9:27 AM


If I had been involved in a debate on the topic "Has Evolutionary Theory Adequately Explained the Origins of Life?" and arrived so prepared, and then found my opponent simply chose instead to divert onto his doubts concerning whale evolution, I would have become violent. And the moderator would have been an equal target for this violence. This is not debate, it's taking the piss, while shouting loudly - ha, watch me take the piss.

Edited by cavediver, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Percy, posted 02-20-2010 9:27 AM Percy has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Percy, posted 02-20-2010 11:05 AM cavediver has not yet responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 18482
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 3 of 29 (547575)
02-20-2010 11:05 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by cavediver
02-20-2010 10:25 AM


Yeah, I agree, that's why I can't participate in real time discussions. The only reason I usually come across here as level-headed (at least I hope I do) is because I can always walk away from the keyboard until I calm down. They would have had to drag me off the stage.

But if I can use your response as an excuse to expand a bit on why I think the IDists won the debate, a relatively average uninformed observer would see the evolution side as objecting to what looks a lot like a legitimate area of scientific inquiry. In fact, I agree completely that posing the hypothesis that life might be intelligently designed is completely legitimate, which is the perspective that Meyer worked hard but very successfully to encourage.

But anyone familiar with the creation/evolution wars could only arrive at this conclusion by somehow inflicting complete and total amnesia on themselves. ID is quite obviously just the latest scam by the evangelical crowd to displace evolution from the classroom. The ID community is, of course, much smaller than the creationist community, since it can only draw upon the subset of evangelicals willing to give up the claim of Biblical inerrancy, or at least willing to not talk about it. But the ID community is disproportionately influential for its size, and evolutionists properly fear its ability to further diminish treatments of evolution in public school science classrooms.

But that aside, we should be as much in favor of scientific research of ID as any other scientific field, and the error that Shermer and Prothero made was coming across as if they objected to free scientific inquiry. What they should have done was criticized ID for the contradiction of claiming to be science while decrying methodological naturalism, and for publishing ID textbooks for schoolchildren before ID is accepted by the broader scientific community, something that is true of all other scientific ideas taught in public school science classrooms, and for not having any legitimate research program, and for the most part not participating in the same scientific conferences and journals as everyone else involved in legitimate science, preferring to promote ID through popular press books and public debates and presentations.

Again, stuff I know you already know, these are just more thoughts that occurred to me and that seemed worth saying in the context of this thread.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by cavediver, posted 02-20-2010 10:25 AM cavediver has not yet responded

    
ZenMonkey
Member (Idle past 2675 days)
Posts: 428
From: Portland, OR USA
Joined: 09-25-2009


Message 4 of 29 (547577)
02-20-2010 11:19 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
02-20-2010 9:27 AM


Good thing that science and facts aren't determined by debate. After all, a debate is for deciding who's the most convincing, not necessarily who's right.

Now must go listen to debate this afternoon and see for myself who "won."

Edited by ZenMonkey, : No reason given.


I have no time for lies and fantasy, and neither should you. Enjoy or die.
-John Lydon
This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Percy, posted 02-20-2010 9:27 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

  
Taz
Member (Idle past 1456 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 5 of 29 (547580)
02-20-2010 11:32 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
02-20-2010 9:27 AM


Personally, I don't understand why Shermer keeps debating like this considering he's had a history of getting owned by none other than Hovind.

Added by edit.

Actually, I know it's unwise to go against Percy, but I highly recommend listening to the first 60 minutes first. I'm more interested in the tone of the debaters and what might the audience think as a result of the tone.

In a debate, facts aren't the only things that count. For example, I could tell you your breath stinks by saying "hey, your breath stinks" or I could say "I can smell your breath."

Right now, I'm feeling more sympathetic toward Meyer and Sternberg.

My question is how are they doing this? How come IDists always sound better in person even though their arguments are BS?

Edited by Taz, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Percy, posted 02-20-2010 9:27 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

Replies to this message:
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nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 6 of 29 (547583)
02-20-2010 12:21 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Taz
02-20-2010 11:32 AM


Taz writes:

How come IDists always sound better in person even though their arguments are BS?


Facts are mostly boring while theories, even wrong headed ones, can often be made to seem exciting.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by Taz, posted 02-20-2010 11:32 AM Taz has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by greyseal, posted 02-22-2010 10:02 AM nwr has responded

  
Taz
Member (Idle past 1456 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 7 of 29 (547588)
02-20-2010 12:53 PM


I'm still listening to it. My question is what kind of audience did they have? Because brought up in the debate are some pretty hefty concepts and words.
  
nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 8 of 29 (547639)
02-21-2010 12:05 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
02-20-2010 9:27 AM


Percy writes:

Who won this debate?


Meyer and Sternberg won hands down. It wasn't even close. I listened at the "americanfreedomalliance.org" site.

If "Origins of Life" is taken as a reference to abiogenesis, then neither side satisfactorily addressed the question. If it means "life as we know it today" then that includes evolution leading to the current biosphere. That's how Meyer and Sternberg apparently took the question, and they concentrated on addressing whether the neo-Darwinian account is adequate.

Shermer and Prothero spent too much of their time attacking ID, which wasn't even part of the topic. This came across as evasive - an attempt to change the topic to one they could handle instead of addressing the actual question.

Shermer and Prothero debated as if addressing an audience of biologists. Meyer and Sternberg debated as if addressing an intelligent and knowledgable audience, but without assuming they are biologists. I would say that was a mistake by Shermer and Prothero.

But this meant that Shermer and Prothero prepared for the wrong debate, because except for Prothero's opening presentation on the the history and current status of origins of life research, the subject of what was supposedly the debate's topic was completely ignored.

I don't think that adequately accounts for the problems they had.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Percy, posted 02-20-2010 9:27 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

  
Buzsaw
Inactive Member


Message 9 of 29 (547658)
02-21-2010 9:55 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Taz
02-20-2010 11:32 AM


Re: How Are They Doing This?
Taz writes:

My question is how are they doing this? How come IDists always sound better in person even though their arguments are BS?

1) Perhaps, to a greater or lesser degree, there's a persistent nagging notion in the minds of intelligent people that no matter how complicated explanations for the complex universe get, totally natural and random processes do not make sense.

2) As with the debate which Percy cited, what is BS is debatable.

Edited by Buzsaw, : revise phrase


BUZSAW B 4 U 2 C Y BUZ SAW.
The immeasurable present eternally extends the infinite past and infinitely consumes the eternal future.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by Taz, posted 02-20-2010 11:32 AM Taz has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by Taz, posted 02-21-2010 3:22 PM Buzsaw has responded

  
Son
Member (Idle past 1994 days)
Posts: 346
From: France,Paris
Joined: 03-11-2009


Message 10 of 29 (547664)
02-21-2010 10:28 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Taz
02-20-2010 11:32 AM


That's because Idists' speciality is propaganda whereas scientists actually work for a living. That's also the reason you don't see ID research, the time they didn't spend on researching, they can spend it on training for arguments and debates.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by Taz, posted 02-20-2010 11:32 AM Taz has not yet responded

    
Taz
Member (Idle past 1456 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 11 of 29 (547675)
02-21-2010 3:22 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Buzsaw
02-21-2010 9:55 AM


Re: How Are They Doing This?
Buzsaw writes:

..totally natural and random processes do not make sense.


Perhaps I could learn a lot from you after all. I've been trying to live as a liar for a while. You could teach me how to lie more shamelessly.

Added by edit.

Perhaps I should be a little more clear. We've been telling you for years that the process isn't completely random. Although it's vital to the process, I would argue that randomness only makes up a small part of the overall process. And yet here you are continuing to say that the process is completely random.

It seems like lying must be the christian thing, then, since you've been telling us that you're some sort of preacher at your church and that you're a very christian person. So, I have to conclude that in order to be morally superior you have to be a liar.

And I'm still waiting for that apology about the leaked email about global warming. I made it clear in that thread that if you couldn't cite directly from the emails the parts where those researchers specifically said they doctored the numbers, then you had no grounds to accuse the scientific community of an international conspiracy. All you did was keep linking us to blogs that linked to other blogs that linked to yet other blogs of people's opinions on the matter. If one is patient enough, one could keep clicking on the links after links until one gets to the texts of those emails taken out of context.

So, I've established that you're a liar. But not only that, you seem to have a problem admitting that you're a liar.

Seriously, Buz, it's getting tiring and old. I cringe every time I see a self proclaimed "man of god" lie so casually.

Edited by Taz, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Buzsaw, posted 02-21-2010 9:55 AM Buzsaw has responded

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 Message 12 by Buzsaw, posted 02-21-2010 7:05 PM Taz has not yet responded

  
Buzsaw
Inactive Member


Message 12 of 29 (547694)
02-21-2010 7:05 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Taz
02-21-2010 3:22 PM


Re: How Are They Doing This?
Taz writes:

since you've been telling us that you're some sort of preacher at your church

I've never been no kind of a preacher in my church and have never stated that I was. There, Tazmanian Devil. Divy the goods as to the truth of your allegement and you'll finally have a bonafide Buz lie.


BUZSAW B 4 U 2 C Y BUZ SAW.
The immeasurable present eternally extends the infinite past and infinitely consumes the eternal future.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by Taz, posted 02-21-2010 3:22 PM Taz has not yet responded

  
Buzsaw
Inactive Member


Message 13 of 29 (547695)
02-21-2010 7:21 PM


Re: Clarification Of Statement
For Taz and anyone else who may need clarification of my message 9, what I meant to convey in the following statement relative to totally was that no intelligence applied, that is, all processes which were totally absent of ID. ID proponents do accept that some random and/or natural processes do effect a measure of micro-evolution within the perameter of given species, for example, as I undersand it.

Buz msg 9 writes:

1) Perhaps, to a greater or lesser degree, there's a persistent nagging notion in the minds of intelligent people that no matter how complicated explanations for the complex universe get, totally natural and random processes do not make sense.


BUZSAW B 4 U 2 C Y BUZ SAW.
The immeasurable present eternally extends the infinite past and infinitely consumes the eternal future.
  
greyseal
Member (Idle past 2026 days)
Posts: 464
Joined: 08-11-2009


Message 14 of 29 (547757)
02-22-2010 10:02 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by nwr
02-20-2010 12:21 PM


because one side writes technical papers, the other blasts from the pulpit...
seriously, that's the answer.

preachers preach. They don't have to be right, they just have to be loud and make the hearer feel the way the hearer thinks they should.

scientists strive to be right and to not lie, embellish or belittle.

preachers on the other hand feed off of and feed to emotion.

IDiots are often either preachers, or are preaching. They learn and know how to speak - plus it's a lot easier to say "I know this" when it's from ancient books written by goatherders purportedly saying what an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent deity can or can't do, than when talking about apparent laws discovered by hand from within the system itself.

Scientists often don't know how to speak to the public either (see thunderf00t's meeting with the bananaman for making that cringingly clear).

When a scientist CAN speak - see PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan and many more - then they are beyond intimidating for IDiots because they show them up on their "home turf".


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by nwr, posted 02-20-2010 12:21 PM nwr has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 15 by nwr, posted 02-22-2010 10:33 AM greyseal has not yet responded

    
nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 15 of 29 (547758)
02-22-2010 10:33 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by greyseal
02-22-2010 10:02 AM


Re: because one side writes technical papers, the other blasts from the pulpit...
greyseal writes:

because one side writes technical papers, the other blasts from the pulpit... seriously, that's the answer.


As far as I know, Meyer and Sternberg do write technical papers. I have no idea as to whether they preach from any pulpits.

So, no, seriously what you said is not the answer. For sure, it applies to many ID proponents. But it does not apply for this debate, where Meyer and Sternberg did make technical points for which Shermer and Prothero did not provide adequate responses.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by greyseal, posted 02-22-2010 10:02 AM greyseal has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by hooah212002, posted 02-22-2010 9:49 PM nwr has responded

  
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