Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Michael Shermer and Kent Hovind debating Evolution vs Creationism - it should have been "The Science of Creationism" instead

Skeptics Circle
Nothing to do Saturday night - I decided to watch the debate between Michael Shermer and Kent Hovind, that took place April 29, 2004, Physical Sciences Lecture Hall on the campus of the University of California, Irvine.

(Over at Hovind's site you can download the creationist-evolution debate between him and Shermer at UC Irvine - if you don't mind - and be patient, it's a large file).

My first thought was, you can't be serious. No one takes creationism seriously. It's just another fringe belief like Atlantis right? But I have realized that Bad Beliefs Don't Die and that Intelligent Design / creationism are a real threat to our education systems as the following links may indicate: School attacked over evolution teaching, Evangelicals see flaws in Darwinism, Creationism, With New Name, Is Taught in Schools, School science debate has evolved and Wis. City's Schools Allowing Creationism, The school of creationism.

It is shocking that a college crowd mostly seemed to support Hovind. I am not sure they were all college students, most probably they were supporters coming on purpose. The debate was organized by one Christian campus organization of California U, therefore the audience couldn't be representative.
Fortunately each and every court case has been thrown out and cre-ID proponents have been defeated every time. They are not allowed to peddle religion as science in science class, which is what all this is about. Last case was the hearings in Kansas that was held to help deciding how science should be taught.

I did a little investigation on Kent Hovind and if you are unaware of Hovind's "education", tax evasion, and anti-evolutionary rants read it here and read also "A Review of Kent Hovind's Thesis".

Here is a quote from the very front of Hovind's web page:

Welcome to Creation Science Evangelism. Here at CSE, our goal is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have not heard, and to strengthen your faith if you are already a believer. We do this by showing how Science actually gives glory to God by supporting the Biblical account of creation.

Check these out:

Weblog: IRS Raids Home and Business of Creationist

He's also had trouble with the law, having been charged with assault, battery, and burglary (the charges were dropped), and faces other charges over his refusal to get building permits for his properties.

Now Hovind, who goes by the name "Dr. Dino" and runs Dino Adventure Land, Faith Baptist Church, and Creation Science Evangelism in Pensacola, Florida, is being investigated by the IRS for tax evasion.

He declared bankruptcy in 1996: The Hovind Bankruptcy Decision

Now we have an indication of his credibility.

In my experience anybody who wants to confront creationists should know as much as possible about the question about the eye, because it has turned into their favourite argument.

If you google "evolution of the eye", you get a lot of very good links, the best of them illustrated.

Hovind (and other creationists) say that the eye is an example of an irreducibly complex structure, i.e. something that could not have evolved because its constituent parts confer no advantage on the larger organism of which they are part. If evolution occurs through gradations, the critics say, how could it have created the separate parts of the eye (the lens, the retina, the pupil and so on) if none of these structures by themselves would make vision possible? In other words, what good is five percent of an eye? Creationist also recourse to the missing links in any explanation. If there is one little step that isn't covered in evidence of evolution, they use this as positive proof of creationism and miracles.

Quote from Evolution of the Eye:

Biologists use the range of less complex light sensitive structures that exist in living species today to hypothesize the various evolutionary stages eyes may have gone through.

Some scientists think some eyes may have evolved like this: The simple light-sensitive spot on the skin of some ancestral creature gave it some tiny survival advantage, perhaps allowing it to evade a predator. Random changes then created a depression in the light-sensitive patch, a deepening pit that made "vision" a little sharper. At the same time, the pit's opening gradually narrowed, so light entered through a small aperture, like a pinhole camera.

You can find more at Talk Origins

In the debate Hovind said: "No fossil gives any evidence for evolution because you can't prove that thing had a kid!", well here they do (it's even some of his own). And if evolution didn't happen the fossils wouldn't go from simple to complex, so apparently Hovind has never heard of "inference".

Evolution is merely a change of allele frequency over time. An allele is one of the alternate forms of a gene, a hereditary unit that is passed on from one generation to the other. The gene pool is the set of all genes in a species or population. Different alleles of the same gene usually produce different effects on the phenotype (i.e. your external appearance).

A summary is provided by palaeoanthropologist Milford Wolpoff in his "Paleoanthropology" (1999: 31-2) where evolution is defined as:

"the genetic transformation of populations through time, created by alterations in the genetic makeup of populations from generation to generation. The consequences of this process are changes in the adaptations and diversity of populations. This mechanism of descent with modification is responsible for the pattern and variety of life on earth: a tall order for so simple a concept. The theory part of the "theory of evolution" is concerned with how these changes in genetic makeup occur and what effect they have on populations. Evolutionists have critically examined the mechanisms causing genetic change, the problem of whether these mechanisms need to be viewed at the level of the gene, the individual, or the species, the issue of whether changes are gradual or episodic, and the extent to which evolution is directional. However, these is no question about two facts:
1. The process of evolution is an actuality, a hypothesis more than 100 years old that has not been disproved. For there to be no evolution, every generation would have to be exactly the same genetically as the previous generation.
2. Evolution if the singular explanation for the history of life on our planet. It is not a hypothesis about how life came to be, but rather an explanation and description of the processes governing its changes over time."

If you ever get landed with some creationist argument have a look at the excellent resource at www.talkorigins.org, the FAQ section has a dissection of every creationist "argument".

One of his most ridiculous assertions is that the earth is only 6,000 years old.

According to numerous, independent dating methods, the earth is known to be approximately 4.5 billion years old. Most young-earth arguments rely on inappropriate extrapolations from a few carefully selected and often erroneous data points, but how good are those young-earth arguments?

In the debate Hovind tried to knock down the evolution points of debate, yet he didn't provide solid evidence to back up his creationist view. He was mainly quoting from the bible and offering up opinions as to how evolution cannot work, yet no evidence as to how creationism works. Hovind were just reciting what he said over and over again before. Debating him without having studied his lectures seems like suicide. Hovind also tried to create a "role reversal", in which he called himself the skeptic. He claims that he is all for science, whereas Shermer is no skeptical because he is not questioning the evolution viewpoint.

Shermer allowed the debate to be about or include Evolution and that made the presupposition that it was a "Creationism versus Evolution" topic. Instead, the debate should have been on something like "The Science of Creationism", to examine the premises of the subject. In that way, the whole debate would have been forced to concentrate on creationism. Then Shermer could have proceeded to demolish each and every creationist claim with piles of clear, simple evidence in his own style. There would have been no need to try and justify or even mention evolution, provided the debate focused on creationism alone.

The debate between a creationist and an evolutionist will never be fair, the evolutionist will have to explain a complex theory, and the creationist will just have to use some premade simple out of context quote or misinterpreted data to seemingly debunk the scientist’s long explanation with a single sentence.

Here is Michael Shermer's write up of the debate.

Now you must see the debate and judge for yourself.

See who links to your web site.