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Thread: I need help debating a creationist

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    I need help debating a creationist

    I've got a creationist posting on my Youtube channel but I'm not familiar with the responses to many of their arguments. I know it may seem pointless but if I don't respond, they win.

    Anyway, here are the topics I haven't been able to answer:
    The discussion gets confused at that level, so I like to drop back to earlier life where it's more obvious. Humans have over 21,000 protein encoded genes but simple lifeforms have many thousands fewer. So in the process of evolving from simple life to humans, many thousands of new proteins must have been added.

    But how? It's impossible. The usual suggestion is that a mutation duplicates a gene (that much is observed) which is mutated mercilessly until the new protein encoded gene emerges. But think about the math. Even a small sequence of 100 amino acids has 20^100 permutations. That's over 10^130 (or 10 to the 130 power) possible sequences. It's believed that only an infinitesimal fraction of those are useful proteins. There hasn't been nearly enough time for random mutations to get around to the needed one.

    Natural selection (NS) has two problems. First, it can only select or not select mutations that randomly occur and there would have to be a LOT of mutations. Second, mutating proteins would have to pass through many many many mutated generations that offer no advantage, no benefit before getting close to a protein that does something useful.

    It's true that NS can focus if mutations make a gazelle slower because slower gazelles get eaten and faster ones survive. But how can NS focus on a protein-in-progress? It can't. And the numbers are way way way too big.

    There's also the chicken-and-egg problem. Most proteins don't work in isolation. They are components to a molecular machine that serves as a component to a bigger structure that's part of a system. Most components are worthless without the whole. So how can NS leave alone the completed components while the missing components evolve into place? Also, systems are worthless without all their components. Evolution can't work.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

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    I have witnessed a similar false argument that is easier to see. Ie that the hundreds of bones in our skeleton have mllions of permutations and therefore could not come together without a designer. It is a false use of permutation maths of course, it's a riduculous argument but to people who sort of understand chance, as in the chance of winning a lottery, the idea that the status quo is too unlikely, it seems to imply that design fron on high.

    To concentrated on proteins is another take on the same basic "its too unlikely" argument. It is a completely ignorant use of numbers ignoring of course the DNA evidence which has added so much to the scientific evidence for evolution, adding to the morphological evidnce that Darwin used. It is such a sad thing that genes should be brought into this same false odds argument.

    I would say the creationist is able to believe what he or she wants but it smacks of doubt to try to wear the clothes of science without the basic understanding of the picture science has painted. Do you remember Feynman saying (not a direct quote) "i just saw a numberplate outside bht246g what are the chances of that? In other words any aspect of life is incredibly unlikely out of the context of slow development, if it all happened yesterday we all would have to consider miracles. The huge length of geological time has only been understood for a few generations but it's essential to begin to understand evolution.
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    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
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    Would you post a link to which video you are debating?

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    The video has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of evolution; it actually started because he disagreed with the idea of abiogenesis, calling it evolutionism, and I, perhaps rather stupidly, said that abiogenesis has nothing to do with evolution.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I know it may seem pointless but if I don't respond, they win.
    Actually, it's the other way round - if you do respond, they win.
    Your first response provided an opening for your correspondent to post a lot of the standard stuff in a new place.
    Now you're giving yourself (and others) extra work in order to post another response, which will be an opening for even more of the standard stuff.

    (If you want to inform yourself about where your correspondent is going wrong, there's a nice discussion over at TalkOrigins, here. It's twenty years old, and recent studies suggest that self-replication can get underway with even simpler structures than discussed there. Do a search on "prebiotic peptides" for more on that.)

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2018-Apr-08 at 05:04 PM. Reason: Last para, so as not to be enitrely negative

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Actually, it's the other way round - if you do respond, they win.
    Your first response provided an opening for your correspondent to post a lot of the standard stuff in a new place.
    Now you're giving yourself (and others) extra work in order to post another response, which will be an opening for even more of the standard stuff.

    Grant Hutchison
    I'm with grant on this, with one extra: find a good site where this issue is discussed (holler if you’d like some suggestions), provide a link, and say (in effect) please take this discussion elsewhere, e.g. ... I don’t know if you can delete stuff, but if you can, also add that any new posts on this topic will be deleted.

    The person who posted may be sincere, but if so, the ideas presented are not original. And those who originated the ideas are well aware of how nonsensical they are, as science.

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    I had a similar drive-by creationist post on my blog last year - the pretext was some passing comment of mine concerning adaptation.
    I killed it in the spam queue, before it appeared. Then I saw the exact same text appear twice times more. Then the same again, prefaced with a boiler-plate protest that I was suppressing freedom of speech (I could find the same sentence used in similar comments on other blogs). Then the same again, but accusing me (hilariously) of being un-American. Then again, saying I was obviously afraid to enter into debate. All were quietly binned without ever appearing or being responded to. Finally I received a message through my contact form saying that I would be sorry, come the Rapture, if I didn't get with the creationist programme RSN.
    These folk have a roaming remit, and what they want is to find someone who'll let them post their stuff as if they were having a reasoned debate. But they're not - they're following a flow chart that responds to key phrases and concepts, and they like nothing more than the chance to place their material where it is searchably present outside of obviously creationist sites. You do them a favour every time you respond.
    If you're stuck with a creationist post that's already published, then I'd second Jean Tate's suggestion of pointing to a website (like TalkOrigins) where these old creationist tropes are addressed, simply as a sort of public service announcement. But if you can't block or delete posts, then you'll probably find you still end up with a creationist response posted on your site. The cycle just goes on and on until you disengage.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Actually, it's the other way round - if you do respond, they win.
    Your first response provided an opening for your correspondent to post a lot of the standard stuff in a new place.
    Now you're giving yourself (and others) extra work in order to post another response, which will be an opening for even more of the standard stuff.

    (If you want to inform yourself about where your correspondent is going wrong, there's a nice discussion over at TalkOrigins, here. It's twenty years old, and recent studies suggest that self-replication can get underway with even simpler structures than discussed there. Do a search on "prebiotic peptides" for more on that.)

    Grant Hutchison
    Grant there hasn't been anything you posted that I have disagreed with until now. If these forums are on public sites then failing to counter these statements gives the novice reader the impression the notion(s) are correct, agree?

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    Wasn't this one of the arguments that got Behe destroyed in his testimony in Kitzmiller v Dover? Some mutation was so incredibly rare that it was 1 in [very many], so rare that he called it impossible, upon which the cross examiner asked him how many bacteria were in a ton of soil, basically showing that such a mutation was likely to happen in a week or two?

    Anyway, you could do worse with your time than read through this http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dove...r_v_dover.html

    ETA: wiki has the short on it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michae...over_testimony
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    Quote Originally Posted by bknight View Post
    Grant there hasn't been anything you posted that I have disagreed with until now. If these forums are on public sites then failing to counter these statements gives the novice reader the impression the notion(s) are correct, agree?
    No, I don't agree. People understand very well, from everyday experience in the workplace and the pub, that to ignore a comment is pretty much the opposite of accepting its validity.
    Getting into an endless debate over the matter simply gives the comment author the opportunity to say more stuff, at greater length, while ignoring or distorting the content of the replies. It's an ancient tactic, being used on this very forum even as we type, and currently being used to egregious effect in the international political arena. It generates the subversive impression that there is room for debate where actually there is none.

    (A colleague of mine had an apposite placard above his desk. It read: "You can't correct the internet; you can't even correct Wikipedia.")

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    Wasn't this one of the arguments that got Behe destroyed in his testimony in Kitzmiller v Dover? Some mutation was so incredibly rare that it was 1 in [very many], so rare that he called it impossible, upon which the cross examiner asked him how many bacteria were in a ton of soil, basically showing that such a mutation was likely to happen in a week or two?
    Yes, this is essentially the rejoinder offered by Ian Musgrave in the TalkOrigins article I linked to earlier, though Musgrave also points out that the improbability of the specific mutation observed is in any case not the relevant question - what we're interested in is the probability of all possible mutations that produce the observed effect. The fact that one complicated protein is observed to do one complicated thing doesn't mean that there aren't other proteins that could do the same complicated thing. It turns out that many proteins have a parameter space that ranges quite widely across the fitness landscape. And it's becoming increasingly clear that many proteins do multiple biological jobs, signalling this and that within the organism, so the potential for a protein being repurposed is considerably more likely than the creationist's naive estimate that you have to build a whole new protein from scratch, at random, in order to do a new job. (Some of our clotting factors appear to have started out as digestive enzymes, for instance.)

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Yes, this is essentially the rejoinder offered by Ian Musgrave in the TalkOrigins article I linked to earlier, though Musgrave also points out that the improbability of the specific mutation observed is in any case not the relevant question - what we're interested in is the probability of all possible mutations that produce the observed effect.
    TalkOrigins is such a great resource.

    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    The fact that one complicated protein is observed to do one complicated thing doesn't mean that there aren't other proteins that could do the same complicated thing. It turns out that many proteins have a parameter space that ranges quite widely across the fitness landscape. And it's becoming increasingly clear that many proteins do multiple biological jobs, signalling this and that within the organism, so the potential for a protein being repurposed is considerably more likely than the creationist's naive estimate that you have to build a whole new protein from scratch, at random, in order to do a new job. (Some of our clotting factors appear to have started out as digestive enzymes, for instance.)

    Grant Hutchison
    I'm sure you're aware of it, but others might like to read about Richard Lenski's work. A similar mutation showed up in several separate populations of E.Coli, and the way the study was set up it even turned out to be reproducible. (One attack on it from the creationist corner was hilarious...)
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    It really depends what you want to do. It is unlikely this person will change anyone's mind or you will change anyone's mind, but by chance the circumstances will all come together and peoples minds might be changed. Just be grateful that people want to challenge evolution or creation. It makes both sides arguments better off. Just like hackers make antivirus software and programmers better.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    No, I don't agree. People understand very well, from everyday experience in the workplace and the pub, that to ignore a comment is pretty much the opp
    I agree with Grant's disagreement.

    It's your video; your voice being heard. He's got all his ducks lined up just waiting to inundate your space with his agenda. To grant this guy a response is to hand over your hard-won stage - and hard won viewers - to him.

    Much like heckling a comedian. The moment a comedian acknowledges a heckler, he submits to sharing the attention with the heckler. AND all the other hecklers in the crowd.

    Let this guy use his own blood sweat and tears to make his own video.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    I agree with Grant's disagreement.

    It's your video; your voice being heard. He's got all his ducks lined up just waiting to inundate your space with his agenda. To grant this guy a response is to hand over your hard-won stage - and hard won viewers - to him.

    Much like heckling a comedian. The moment a comedian acknowledges a heckler, he submits to sharing the attention with the heckler. AND all the other hecklers in the crowd.

    Let this guy use his own blood sweat and tears to make his own video.
    Unless you're Don Rickles. Who could - and frequently did - leave the heckler bloody.

    The discussion reminds of the old George Bernard Shaw quote: "I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it."

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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    The discussion reminds of the old George Bernard Shaw quote: "I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it."
    It always sounded more plausible as coming from Mark Twain than GBS. But the ever-reliable Quote Investigator has much to say on that one.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    It always sounded more plausible as coming from Mark Twain than GBS. But the ever-reliable Quote Investigator has much to say on that one.

    Grant Hutchison
    Ha. I first read the saying in something written by Heinlein but then saw it was (erroneously) attributed to Shaw and I've derailed this thread long enough.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Anyway, here are the topics I haven't been able to answer:
    That "Humans have over 21,000 protein encoded genes but simple lifeforms have many thousands fewer." argument is wrong or at least circular (simple = less genes).
    One of the arguments for junk DNA is that some simpler life forms have more DNA than human beings. Three reasons why junk DNA makes evolutionary sense
    Consider that the salamander genome is ten times the size of the human genome. Now this implies two possibilities; either salamanders have ten times functional DNA than we do, or that the main difference between us and salamanders is that they have much more junk DNA. Wouldn't the complexity of salamander anatomy of physiology be vastly different if they really had so much more functional DNA? On the contrary, wouldn't the relative simplicity of salamanders compared to humans be much more consistent with just varying degrees of junk DNA? Which explanation sounds more plausible?

  19. #19
    Just a few general tips. You probably won't change their mind but there might be some fence sitters watching the interaction who might have their minds change. My experience there are several types who get into these debates
    One is someone who just wants to talk about it. This can be fun and interesting from grade 7 to 11 me and on of my friends would do this often, one time getting on the nerves our physics teacher.
    there are people who want to convert you and this usually don't go well. Sometimes they go around and call you an idiot etc. These are ones you should just runaway from.
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    Instead of countering specious arguments, why not challenge the creationist to explain why clearly-vestigial features exist in numerous creatures? For examples: some beetles have useless wings underneath fused elytra, some whales have pelvises, birds have inactive genes for tooth-production, and humans have goosebumps.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Backroad Astronomer View Post
    Just a few general tips. You probably won't change their mind but there might be some fence sitters watching the interaction who might have their minds change. My experience there are several types who get into these debates
    One is someone who just wants to talk about it. This can be fun and interesting from grade 7 to 11 me and on of my friends would do this often, one time getting on the nerves our physics teacher.be careful.
    there are people who want to convert you and this usually don't go well. Sometimes they go around and call you an idiot etc. These are ones you should just runaway from.
    Maybe a bit extreme to run but just
    ...I'm still free, you can't take the sky from me.
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    Not that I favor responding to the comment, but just as a comment about the issue itself, I think that many organisms, particularly prokaryotes, can share DNA, so different genes can be spontaneously mutated by one organism and then shared by others.
    As above, so below

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duane_Gish
    Gish was also criticised for using a standardized presentation during debates. While undertaking research for a debate with Gish, Michael Shermer noted that Gish used similar openings, assumptions about his opponent, slides, and even jokes. For example, during the debate, Gish attempted to prove that Shermer was indeed an atheist and therefore immoral, even though Shermer said he was not an atheist and was willing to accept the existence of a divine creator

    It is possible to believe in evolution and in a God/creator.

    But is it possible to be a "non/anti-creationist/opponent of creationism", yet still believe in a God/creator?
    Last edited by wd40; 2018-Apr-18 at 11:33 PM.

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    Arguing with creationists is fraught with pointlessness; their belief is one of faith, not logic. Creationism is related to a particular way of interpreting Scripture in what is claimed to be a “literal” way. That has been a subject of debate within the Christian community for well over a millennium, and probably has parallel debates in other Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic religions which have equivalent holy books.

    So, any disagreement with their position is, first, an attack on their religious faith.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2018-Apr-19 at 09:04 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Arguing with creationists is fraught with pointlessness; their belief is one of faith, not logic.
    Is it also pointless to debate with an irreligious Intelligent Designer?

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    Quote Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
    Is it also pointless to debate with an irreligious Intelligent Designer?
    It is pointless to debate with any true believer who is committed to a doctrine taken on faith and rejects any disagreement based logic or scientific evidence. Such a person assumes that the Almighty Creator can and does make it happen regardless of what the scientists say for whatever reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
    Is it also pointless to debate with an irreligious Intelligent Designer?
    There's no such a thing. "Intelligent Design" is a change in brand name, not in philosophy.

    Grant Hutchison

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    I have no problem with a creationist, I cannot disprove it, but I have a big problem with them if they also think they know what God wants, which unfortunately they all tend to do. If one challenges that aspect they usually refer to dogmatic ancient texts. It is then the dogma which is the real issue. The common idea that ancient peoples knew fundamental stuff is just as hard to shift. The deferral to ancient wisdom is the last taboo, maybe.
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    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    I learned the hard way that you can't reason people out of irrational beliefs. It's like trying to fix a smeared painting by hitting it with a hammer. And when it fails to improve the picture, you try using two hammers.

    Facts and logic are like hammers... no logical facthammer can ever be a paint brush for this particular type of faith based emotional canvas.
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    My take is that if you want to enter into any kind of debate like that, you need to change the topic from "why is evolution possible/impossible" to "what kinds of useful predictions does your model make." The basic problem is, neither person is thinking scientifically if the debate sounds like "here's why evolution could not be what actually happened / here's why it is what actually happened." Science is not about saying what actually happened, science is about making models that demonstrably work. Everything else is a personal belief, and you'll never be able to debate someone else's beliefs, nor should you debate your own. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs about what actually happened, the reason we have evolution in classrooms is because it helps us understand all kinds of things that saying "God did it" does not help us understand ("God works in mysterious ways" is the proof of that.) But we never get to know what actually happened, because if there is a God, she could have just set everything up to make it look like evolution occurred-- and no scientist could ever argue otherwise, they could only say that if God set it up to look like evolution occurred, then we can still get more usefulness out of that model than any other.

    So if you do want to have that debate, I agree with the others that it will be fruitless if you try to argue why evolution is right/wrong, because every point that makes sense to you will be countered by a point that makes sense to them. So instead, just ask one simple set of questions, like: "What phenomena does your way of thinking about the origin of species help you understand and predict? What strategies for dealing with disease do you get? What predictions can you make about classes of fossils that have not yet been found but you expect to find?" Then be sure you have some good examples of answers for those questions that use evolutionary modeling. You might even get them to say the Earth can't be 6000 years old, or species other than humans evolved, but God made humans. That helps pin them into a corner, if they want to try to be scientific while still holding to their most fervent beliefs. Ask them how old they think the Earth is, and more importantly, why do they think that. Would they still think that if they had never read any religious texts that say so, is it something they hold true purely based on the scientific evidence? Are they excusing their beliefs by saying they aren't disproved, or are they actually using them to make predictions that stand up?

    That's what science is actually for, and if you can establish that your opponent doesn't understand that, you "win" immediately by simply saying "of course you may have your own personal beliefs, but we are interested in the best science here." Thus, the debate needs to be, which is the better science, because that is the only topic that science has anything to say about. Along those lines, you could also ask Bill Nye's question-- what kinds of evidence would cause you to change your mind? That's how you find out if the person is even interested in thinking scientifically in the first place, because if they aren't, then you won't get them to change their mind, nor any readers with similar bents. But you can get them to realize, "oh yeah, I'm doing religion, not science." That's what a "win for science" looks like, because science cannot beat religion any more than a baseball team can win a soccer game, but good science can beat bad science, especially if the bad science is unmasked as religion instead. It's not about who has the better facts, it's about who is using facts to rationalize, and who is using them to predict. You can make that clear without needing to judge the facts at all.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2018-Apr-19 at 02:36 PM.

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