We are generally not enthusiastic about debates. It’s not that we are afraid of debating as we are confident in the truth of our position and creationists usually do very well, as the track record of Dr Duane Gish (Institute for Creation Research, USA) shows. However, it is often difficult to find an evolutionist of substance who is willing to debate and a lesser advocate strangely makes the case for creation look weaker (Some ask, ‘But would the arguments for creation look so good if the evolutionist put his case competently?’). Also, a debate can be won not by the truth but by rhetorical tricks (such as elephant hurling and equivocation—see some examples in Argument: Evolution is true science, not ‘just a theory’), and so truth can be a casualty. Furthermore, there is always limited time available for a presentation of the biblical creation arguments, so it does not make sense to give half of it to an evolutionist to tell people what they are hearing all the time anyway (via government-funded education, museums and national parks and the media, whether government funded or not).
But we do debates at times. We have three major ones available so that folk can ‘hear both sides’—in the proper sense where the debaters can hold each other accountable (Proverbs 18:17):
1. Clash Over Origins: creation or evolution? 2006
Debate topic: ‘That evolution is a better explanation of the origin, diversity, and history of life on earth than biblical creation’
For the affirmative: Dr Mark Farmer, professor of cellular biology, University of Georgia, USA.
For the negative: Dr Carl Wieland, Managing Director, Creation Ministries International, Brisbane, Australia
The debate was held at Toccoa, Georgia on 25 May 2006, at the Worldview Superconference, 24–27 May 2006.
Moderator: Jeffery Ventrella
2. Skeptic Willis vs creationist Wieland: ‘The Great Genesis Debate’ of 2003
Debate topic: ‘That scientific evidence supports a literal Genesis.’
We accepted a public challenge by an outspoken evolutionist and Australian ‘Skeptic of the Year’—science reporter and self-professed atheist, Dr Paul Willis.1 Over 1,100 people turned out to hear what the host church billed as ‘The Great Debate.’
For the negative: Dr Paul Willis, an evolutionary paleontologist, now a science reporter/broadcaster with the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC).
Sponsor: Northside Christian Church, Brisbane.
Moderator: Dr Robert Herschel.
The DVD of the debate is no longer marketed, but copies are often used as giveaway incentives in various promotions, e.g. 3-year magazine subscriptions in certain circumstances. Contact your local CMI office as required.
Many of the folk present at the Willis-Wieland debate filled in questionaires designed to gauge audience reaction. A significant number of those who were not already wholly-convinced creationists said that they had moved towards being more creationist. For an analysis of the audience questionnaires, see Reaction to the debate.
The feedback has been very positive. Here’s a sample, which gives some idea of why CMI is making the recordings of the debate available but not the Australian Skeptics, who backed Willis as their chosen ‘champion of evolution’.
I just wanted to say how much I appreciated the “The Great Debate” of 24 August 2003. If Paul Willis represents the best “ammunition” evolutionary atheists can throw at [CMI], then the Skeptic Society is in serious trouble indeed! There can be no doubt that Paul Willis was comprehensively thrashed in the debate … . Carl demolished every argument this so-called champion of evolution could throw at him.
‘To be frank—Willis’s performance was farcical; e.g. his citation of the Coconino Sandstone formation and the “fossilized forests” at Joggins, Nova Scotia as “proof” of an old earth. I was particularly impressed that Carl demolished the above two examples of Willis, since Willis has a doctorate in paleontology and one would expect that he would have made his strongest points around geological/fossil evidence. And yet, by EVOLUTIONISTS’ own admissions, the Coconino Sandstone formation is “yesterday’s geology”, and the Joggins forest example is precisely what we find in the Mount Saint Helens/Spirit Lake region (I am sure that evolutionists would love to date the geological data in the Mount Saint Helens/Spirit Lake region to ‘millions of years’, but I guess that even they are forced to accept that since this event was observed in 1980, it is not millions of years old).
‘Overall, Willis simply did not even TRY to rebut most of Carl’s points (I am sure much to the embarrassment of his fellow Skeptics in the audience); let alone refute them. On the other hand, Carl easily refuted most of Willis’s points (and the ones he didn’t refute were due to the sheer limited time factor).2
‘ … Willis claimed that the audience “had not heard one piece of evidence for a literal Genesis creation” … Carl pointed out, in reference to the helium in zircons (if significant amounts of helium are still in “ancient” granite zircons, then these crystals (and since this is Precambrian basement granite, by implication the whole earth) could not be older than between 4,000 and 14,000 years), if that is not evidence for a recent creation then I don’t know what is!
‘I would be most interested to know how the Skeptics reported on the outcome of this debate … they were humiliated by Carl and I personally doubt they will be coming back for another shot (at least in a public forum where both sides have the opportunity to present their cases) at [CMI] for a long time.
‘Congratulations to Carl and all the staff for putting the Skeptics firmly in their place!’
We don’t like self-promotion, but we are happy if our efforts help people to defend their faith and uphold the Bible against the increasingly common attacks of our day.
3. Skeptics vs Creationists: a formal online debate
Topic: Did the universe and life evolve, or was it specially created in 6 days?
4. Antitheist Mr Rick Pearson vs creationist Dr Rob Carter: ‘The Great Dothan Creation/Evolution Debate’ of 2007
Vocal atheist Rick Pearson faced our Rob Carter in Dothan, Alabama before a packed audience in a debate sponsored by American Vision—see report.
- Dr Willis had, by his own admission, previously ‘crashed’ a CMI meeting in Sydney, Australia. After publicly haranguing and abusing the speaker (and CMI/creationists in general) for using ‘lies’ and ‘deception’, he issued repeated challenges to debate. Later, and quite independently, a large Brisbane church decided to hold a creation/evolution debate. Paul Willis was put forward as someone keen to debate creationists, and accepted their invitation, which all happened before the church approached CMI. Return to text.
- As the final speaker, Dr Willis raised new issues in his summary that Dr Wieland could not address, a blatant violation of the rules of debate. See Links to in-depth information on the issues raised during the debate. Return to text.