Why I Won’t Debate Creationists

 Here’s an interesting article by Richard Dawkins about Creationism, good read.

Why I Won’t Debate Creationists

For good or ill, the late Stephen Jay Gould had a huge influence on American scientific culture, and on balance the good came out on top. His powerful voice will echo on for a long time. Although he and I disagreed about much, we shared much too, including a spellbound delight in the wonders of the natural world, and a passionate conviction that such wonders deserve nothing less than a purely natural explanation.

Another thing about which we agreed was our refusal to engage in public debates with creationists. Steve had even more reason than me to be irritated by them. They distorted the theory of punctuated equilibrium so that it appeared to support their preposterous (but astonishingly common) belief that there are no intermediates in the fossil record. Gould’s reply deserves to be widely known:

“Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists ? whether through design or stupidity, I do not know ? as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups. “

Some time in the 1980s when I was on a visit to the United States, a television station wanted to stage a debate between me and a prominent creationist called, I think, Duane P Gish. I telephoned Stephen Gould for advice. He was friendly and decisive: “Don’t do it.” The point is not, he said, whether or not you would ‘win’ the debate. Winning is not what the creationists realistically aspire to. For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at all. They need the publicity. We don’t. To the gullible public which is their natural constituency, it is enough that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist. “There must be something in creationism, or Dr So-and-So would not have agreed to debate it on equal terms.” Inevitably, when you turn down the invitation you will be accused of cowardice, or of inability to defend your own beliefs. But that is better than supplying the creationists with what they crave: the oxygen of respectability in the world of real science.