Sunday, October 09, 2005

To debate or not to debate ... and how?

A few weeks back the evolution blogs were buzzing about yet another screed about why science has got it all wrong. As usual, the offending article was written by someone with no scientific background who was confident that his ability to copy and paste the boilerplate text of ID proponents trumped years of study by actual scientists. The blogging got rather heated, and it led to some interesting discussions about the best way to talk to people about evolution and the phony “teach both sides” debate.

The charge was led by PZ Meyers at Pharyngula who is a proponent of the “humiliate them into submission” school of argument. While I don’t find this method to be particularly effective, I can understand the frustration and irritation of career scientists who find themselves constantly challenged by people who have never actually bothered to do science. The Pharyngula 9/20 post “Evolutionary Strategery” continues the discussion. It includes a link back to Meyers’ dissection of the article (for want of a better word) by one Timothy Birdnow and dozens of comments that illustrate the issues.

For me, the real keeper in the post was a pointer to the Wedgie Document, a guide to arguing with creationists on the Internet, by a blogger who calls himself Comissar. This answer to the creationists’ notorious Wedge Document offers common sense guidelines for having a discussion with someone whose mind is closed without insulting those who are listening … and who might be open to learning something.


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