Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pointless debates leave me cold

Did you watch it? That debate between Ken Ham, a man who believes that humans and dinosaurs once lived together in harmony while lions munched on grass, and Bill Nye, a man who believes that humans descended from a primaeval slime (and who, on available evidence, made bow ties cool before Matt Smith was even born).

So, did you watch it? I didn’t, but it probably doesn’t matter: for the next few months, or years probably, my Facebook timeline and Twitter feed will fill up with pictures of the two men combined with soundbite quotes from The Debate, probably with an extra explanatory gloss as a caption.

So far, I have gleaned that Nye would change his mind if found evidence that science is wrong, while Ham would never change his mind even if, if his words are to be taken literally, God himself came down and said, “I had nothing to do with it, it was evolution all the way.” Not that Nye’s apparently reasonable position is much better: if taken literally, his words mean that if you simply proved, for example, that the stars are closer than they look, he would reject science and embrace creationism. The way I always understood it, if scientists were presented with this evidence, they would say, “Gosh, I am amazed — I wonder if we can find out what’s causing that?” and come up with an explanation.

So, at the end of the day, you have two completely opposing views being aired once again (having been aired countless times in countless debates, big and small, that have raged for years), and at the end of it nobody will have altered their position one iota or learned anything new; you can bet, though, that both sides are claiming victory. All it’s done is to give the internet more ammunition to hurl at itself.

My own position on this is that Genesis and evolution don’t even belong in the same debate. For the longest time, Christians in general were quite happy with the idea that we probably evolved and didn’t think that had any bearing on the philosophical arguments, allegories and parables in the Old Testament. That’s all changed, and it’s a spectacularly unedifying spectacle. You’d think people had better things to worry about, like how best to feed the starving millions. There’s something religion and science could join forces for.

But no. What’s far more important, apparently, is for people to start arguments that have little point and don’t even make sense. Those who side with science have their innate intellectual superiority to counter the imbecilic ramblings of the creationists, while those who side with religion have the certainty of the Word of God to smite the delusional blasphemies of the heathen.

There is no point to this “debate”; no point at all. It just makes life more unpleasant for those of us who just want to get on in life and try to be nice people.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with most of that but I take issue with one thing:

    You imply, that these kind of debates are useless, because nobody has "altered their position one iota".
    I don't think that's relevant at all. The point of a debate is not to persuade the opponent, but to present a (water-tight) argument to the opponent and the audience and do your best to rebut all challenges thrown at your position.
    Persuasion hardly factors into a "victory", because many people are convinced by extremely fallacious and flawed arguments, while others discard even the best, irrefutable evidence against them.