Advice for the Ruse vs. Nelson Undebate
|September 13, 2007||Posted by Paul Nelson under Intelligent Design|
Baby is yawning ’cause baby is bored.
In three weeks, Michael Ruse and I will be asked to explain what evidence, arguments, or attractive baubles — you know: glass beads, tin whistles, loops of colored string — would persuade us to adopt each other’s viewpoint. An undebate, of sorts.
A skeptical friend, who is a professor of biochemistry and prominent critic of ID, saw the debate announcement, and wrote me the following. Sounds boring, he said, unless you take some decisive steps to avoid the obvious.
My reply is below his remarks, which I excerpt here:
Actually, Paul, I believe this “undebate” has all the makings of a pretty humdrum affair. You’ll answer, as other commenters here would, “reproduce for me each and every minute step in the history of the universe, from the big bang, and I’ll believe!” Ruse will retort “have God appear to me and take me, step by step, through the history of the universe, and I’ll believe!” IOW, what the two sides have been doing for, like, forever.
A better format, one that would be more congenial, would be, for example, one where each contestant is asked to explore or outline a series of testable hypotheses that pertain to “the other side.” For example, Paul, you might lay out a feasible, fact-based research program dealing with the origin of life: what we don’t know, what we do know, and how we move some items from the first side to the second. Ruse might likewise spell out some unknowns in the field of ID, and how we would turn them into “knowns.”
How do we “keep score”? See how faithfully each side keeps to the spirit of the debate. The person who wimps out, who says, for example, “there is no way to study the origins of life from a naturalistic perspective,” or “ID is just religion and cannot be explored as suggested,” loses. Such a cop-out says that they are not willing to participate in an open and honest discussion of the subject.
There’s much wisdom here. Without giving away my talk — I doubt Michael Ruse reads this blog, although I’ll bet many of his students do — I’m going to come at the topic from what I hope is a counterintuitive direction.
One that picks up on my skeptical friend’s insights, in fact.