Skeptical tactic for shutting down debates

For some evolutionists, ‘ignorance is bliss’

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iStockphoto not-listening

A main prerequisite for reasonable debate between two people who disagree with each other is to interact with one another’s ideas. But what happens when one person refuses to listen to another’s views or dismisses one whole side of the argument a priori sometimes purely based on ridicule? Ironically, much of the ridicule is based upon ignorance because they simply refuse to look at creationist materials to see what they say.

For example, many of CMI’s speakers will have experienced the following situation that occurred with one of the authors of this article (by ). And hopefully, this example will help others who experience similar situations.

During a ministry trip to South Africa some years ago a student group invited me to speak at a major (secular) university about the UFO phenomenon. This subject matter always draws a large crowd and it is a subject that even most evolutionists (like the rest of the general population) would not know much about. Thus it has an intrigue factor.

Ridicule based on ignorance is hardly an objective form of scientific debate or reasoning.

At the end of the talk I answered the usual Creation Answers Book type questions. And as we packed up and made our way towards our vehicle, two young men followed me and continued to ask questions, which I attempted to answer. As they were both physics students, the questions related to the alleged ‘big bang’ origin of the universe, and how could we see distant starlight from millions of light years away if we believed the universe was only thousands of years old. As often happens, each time I attempted to answer a question, they rarely let me finish and kept moving on to another question—it’s like getting a volley from a machine gun. In reality, this demonstrates that they are not actually interested in hearing the answers. So, I usually refuse to answer more questions and play their game (see Anyone for tennis?). I said (or words to this effect):

“If you are asking me questions and are really interested in the answers, then why don’t you listen to them? In fact, every question you have asked has been answered multiple times. We have answers! Creationists now have come up with some good cosmological models to answer your questions, and moreover, the big bang has its own light travel problem called the horizon problem. But, it appears that you are not interested in hearing my answers, so why don’t you go to creation.com, do a search and read this stuff for yourself.”

They responded with a rather condescending snigger:

“Why would we go to a creationist website for answers?”

Aha, now the real heart of the matter has been revealed, which I seized upon. I highlighted to them that they were in no position to criticize creationist views or beliefs if they chose to be entirely ignorant of them. They were rejecting and ridiculing one whole side of the argument—not based upon any poor scientific reasoning—but on a philosophical basis, or a faith position. Moreover, I stated that ridicule based on ignorance is hardly an objective form of scientific debate or reasoning.

They were taken aback a bit, as most aggressive evolutionists are used to ‘beating up’ on timid Christians who get flustered when trying to provide a single answer against a volley of arguments. As such, no information gets effectively transmitted.

Picking up on their excuse not to listen to creation arguments, like Paul at Athens in Acts 17, I said that they must be men of faith and that they were just as religious as I was. Also, that their underlying agenda was to shut down any arguments for the existence of God. I said:

“If you refuse to hear any contrary information that challenges your belief system, then it is clear that you don’t want there to be a God, and therefore I am wasting my time talking to you.”

Now, some might think this is a bit strong, but it was a tactical move to challenge them to read creation information, and we know from experience that many of us came to Christ from being exposed to this information. And so what if they did not take up the challenge anyway? Nothing would be lost because they had already admitted they wouldn’t seek out the information. But there is a faint hope that I had put a dent in their confident worldview.

In short:

  • I did not allow myself to be bullied.
  • I refused to play by their rules and refused to continue unless they agreed to listen to my answers.
  • I highlighted their own ignorance and challenged them to be more informed.

Sometimes it works!

But what followed next was a pleasant surprise. A few days later at an evening midweek meeting I saw one of the young men. He had just sat through a whole creation relevance talk, and this was not in some university lecture hall. He had sought out where I was speaking next, and this young self professed atheist had come to church!

At the end of the talk he had more robust questions for me, which was fine, because now he was going to listen (questions are actually an opportunity—providing the answers are listened to). So rather than having to deal with me again (thus allowing him to have some wiggle room if he needed to retract some of his allegations), I asked our South african Ph.D. speaker, Dr Johan Kruger, to spend time with him.

We don’t always get to see or hear the results of our challenges, but this was proof, at least in one case, that my challenges had caused one young man to rethink his own position.

As Christian creationists, we often get anxious to share the vast amounts of information we have. But we need to face the reality that some will not listen and are not interested in listening despite our best efforts. This is not our problem. After all, none of us can save someone. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. The Lord Jesus advised on how to deal with such situations. In Mark 6:11 He said:

“And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

Are creationists dishonest?

There are other excuses that some evolutionists use in refusing to engage with the information. For instance, some accuse creationists of doing dishonest research. But if they haven’t engaged with it, how can they say it is dishonest? In fact, biblical creationists have a worldview which condemns dishonesty, so we would not be acting consistently with our own belief system. That doesn’t mean it never happens, but mainstream creationists would not tolerate known hoaxes perpetrated for the cause of creation. In fact, the creationist community has been good at cleaning house somewhat. That’s why we publish articles like Arguments Creationists Should Not Use to help creationists avoid outdated or wrong arguments. We believe that there is so much good evidence for creation that it is not necessary to use weak or outdated arguments, and the wealth of good creation information is growing all the time. On the other hand, evolutionists are on record saying that it is fine to tell false evolutionary stories to students, because it reinforces the idea of evolution in their young minds. And over a century after Haeckel’s embryo drawings were exposed as forgeries, they are still appearing in textbooks as evidence for evolution.

Even if creationists were being dishonest, that would not be a reason to refuse to engage creation materials. Rather, intellectually honest evolutionists should want to refute them all the more, particularly if our arguments represented bad science. And really, if evolutionists thought they could easily debunk creationists, surely that approach would be more convincing for onlookers.

Willful ignorance

In reality, it is necessary to understand both sides of a debate to have an informed view on an issue. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” What we are taught growing up is what we will believe automatically, so with hours upon hours of evolutionary indoctrination in schools, movies, and other media, it is no wonder that evolution seems so self-evidently true. But by shutting out all other alternate explanations, one never has to have that belief challenged. But at CMI, all of our scientists gained their degrees in the same evolution-soaked establishments as their evolutionary counterparts. So, we’d like to think we are informed as to both sides of the arguments.

Laypeople who believe evolution more often than not only have a caricatured understanding of what evolution actually teaches.

The history of science is filled with accounts of the majority opinion being wrong. Geocentrism, taught not by the Bible but by Aristotelian philosophy, was preserved with layers upon layers of epicycles, much like modern evolutionary cosmology is preserved with ‘fudge factors’ like dark matter and energy. At the turn of the 20th century, eugenics was a favoured view which led to the involuntary sterilization of thousands of Americans, but it only grew to its terrible but logical conclusion in Nazi Germany.

Engaging in this sort of willful ignorance shows that one is not concerned about the truth, or about having a dialogue. The Bible actually calls this a form of sin. Peter says, “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation’. For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and the destruction of the ungodly.”

Peter’s opponents have a form of uniformitarianism, although not the same as the geologists of today. They do not believe that Jesus will come back because the pattern, as far back as they can see, is that things proceed the same way. But Peter says they are willfully ignorant of the big discontinuities of history. Things haven’t always proceeded the same way—God created the earth, so all of these things had a beginning. And then God deluged the whole earth, providing a second great discontinuity. Peter says that this is so obvious that ignorance about it is willful and sinful. Furthermore, these great discontinuities are evidence for the future judgment and destruction of the current order of things—which these scoffers should beware.

Creation=religion, Evolution=science?

Another reason some refuse to engage creation is that they believe creation is based in religion, while evolution is based in science. But both creationists and evolutionists define their position about what they believe happened in the past—and the past is outside the realm of scientific experimentation. We can look at the physical evidence of what happened in the past, like rocks and fossils and light from stars, but all we can test is what we’re left with in the present. No one can go back to when those things were formed.

In fact, many creationists are Ph.D. scientists, who received their degrees in secular universities, and who have made real contributions to their field. To name just a few examples, geneticist Dr John Sanford is the inventor of the biolistic gene gun. Dr John Hartnett helped develop the technology that is used in super-precise clocks that would only gain or lose a second after tens of millions of years. Such clocks make work on the International Space Station possible. Dr Raymond Damadian made discoveries that made the MRI possible.

In reality, both creation and evolution are in the realm of historical science—that is, scientists on both sides are interpreting the same evidence—fossils, rock layers, light from distant stars and so on—to try to figure out what happened in the past. But there are foundational assumptions that go into that. Creation and evolution are two assumptions about past events that shape how we view the evidence. This distinction is also recognized by evolutionary scientists like Ernst Mayr and E.O. Wilson.

Evolutionists have the scientific consensus on their side, but remember—it took a long time for scientific consensus to agree that it was a good idea for a doctor to wash hands between patients. Also, evolution as a process has a consensus, but when you get into the details about what the process actually looks like, there is a surprising amount of disagreement.

Even more than that, laypeople who believe evolution more often than not only have a caricatured understanding of what evolution actually teaches. More than once we have had high school students display shocking ignorance of evolution, but presume to be able to insult Ph.D. scientists who disagree with the current dogma about evolution. This reinforces the point made earlier about ridicule based upon ignorance.

Leave the Bible out of it?

Others claim to be willing to debate the science behind creation, but demand that creationists leave the Bible out of it. But the Bible is foundational to biblical creation (as the name would suggest). And evolutionists would presumably be unwilling to debate the evidence without recourse to their own unifying narrative. However, one could use the evolutionist’s own uniformitarian belief system to falsify their own beliefs. For example, see 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe or the RATE team’s research that revealed carbon 14 in artefacts that were supposed to be millions or billions of years in age.

We regularly receive correspondence from Christians distraught over their failed attempts to show people evidence for creation. This can be particularly difficult if the person is a loved one or close friend. However, if someone shows repeated resistance to hearing about the truth, it may be better to challenge them upfront as to their own religious biases, which, as shown in the anecdote above, can shock people into actually listening.

The main thing a person should do before engaging in any form of debate anyway, is to be sure that you are confident and informed of your own position. It is a shame that we get email from Christians trolling atheistic website who come to us expressing a shaky faith because of what they’ve read. The answers to the usual evolutionary arguments are on creation.com. Please consider that CMI exists to equip you in this way and as a faith funded ministry we can only do so with support.

Published: 14 October 2014

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