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I've heard a number of people suggesting that Nye made a mistake in debating Ham because people can't be persuaded.  I confess I sometimes feel this way, but this has gotten me reflecting on a formative moment in my own intellectual development.  As an adolescent I remember adoring any form of debate but also being very open minded as I really just a) didn't have fully formed positions on many things yet, and b) just had never thought about many issues.  I just loved the exploration of ideas, any ideas.  For example, I would eagerly turn to the editorial section of the newspaper every day when it arrived.  I still love ideas, though I'm more set in my positions these days.  This was a crucial time in my life where I really could be swayed by evidence on a number of issues.  In this connection, I'll never forget a sociology course I took in High School.  As a middle class white Jewish boy, I pretty much accepted the standard theory of poverty that held that poor people are just lazy.  I had never really thought about poverty, I just assumed the poor had some sort of moral failing.

I'll never forget my sociology teacher, who also happened to be the baseball coach, outlining all the factors that lead to poverty in impoverished areas and how it's a vicious cycle:  Underfunded schools, parents who aren't around because they work too much, families with substance abuse policies, lack of economic opportunity in the area, linguistic discrimination, malnutrition that effects cognitive development, staggering debt that prevents one from getting higher education to increase opportunity, lacking the right clothing for job interviews, etc., etc., etc.  For me that lecture-- and it was a single lecture! --was a "road to Damascus" moment.  The scales fell from my eyes and I saw the world in an entirely different way.  My economic politics, such as it was, changed entirely as well.

My point is that a lot of people just don't think much about things, take things for granted because that's all they've ever heard, and that evidence and alternative explanations can have a real impact.  This is why what Nye did was valuable.  There's a portion of that audience that's just never heard the things he said-- for example about snow accumulation.  These things will make sense to them and will potentially be seeds changing their entire worldview.  As others have said in this thread, it's not about the person you're debating but the audience and many members of the onlooking audience are more open than we might suspect.

Us secularists are often pessimistic about these things because we spend our time railing against the dogmatists who are already set in their ways.  We forget that a lot of people just aren't that reflective or committed to any particular position, that they believe what they believe because that's just what they've always heard, and that when they hear something that makes sense their susceptible to change and persuasion.  It's important to me, at least, not to forget this experience and to remember that it's possible for others as well.  Remembering this is what keeps me going and articulating things rather than assuming everyone's already heard it or that beliefs can't be changed.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well said! (9+ / 0-)

    Thank you!

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 08:14:33 PM PST

  •  "Us secularists" and "the dogmatists" (3+ / 0-)

    Are those loaded terms? And are those the only two acceptable points of view?

    Tyrion Lannister: "It's not easy being drunk all the time. Everyone would do it if it were easy."

    by psychodrew on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 08:18:45 PM PST

    •  I don't doubt that there's (4+ / 0-)

      secular dogmatism as well, though I do think we're at a point in history where the only credible form of explanation is naturalistic.  I guess that's my dogmatism, but I've never seen credible evidence or reason to think otherwise.  What I was trying to get at with my reference to dogmatism is religionists who are so set in their belief that there's no possible persuasion.  I don't think we should think of ourselves as addressing these people in debates.  It's the same point with respect to trying to persuade hardcore conservative relatives.  You'll never get through but the debate might be worth having nonetheless because of those who are watching who might be persuadable.

      •  The only credible form? (0+ / 0-)

        Seeing as a majority of human beings alive today believe in some supernatural power, I doubt it.  

        I'm willing to wager that your atheism, just as mine, is the result of either acute epiphany or chronic conditioning, not the product of some rational train of thought leading to the discarding of beliefs by contradiction.  Put another way, neither one of us can relate to reported experience of having personal contact with the supernatural, at least in not in any fashion that is self-evident to us.  For me at least, the absence of any such experience is so compelling that I'm as fervent in my atheism as an evangelical is in his delusion.

        •  Credibility doesn't depend on (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gerrilea, gsenski, Munchkn

          what the majority of people believe, but on what can be well defended.  So far we haven't seen any compelling evidence for non-naturalistic explanations, but have seen overwhelming predictive and explanatory success with naturalistic explanations.  Ergo, it's today the only credible explanatory framework.  That could change if new evidence comes along suggesting other models.  Even the advocates of the supernatural contend their positions are based on faith, i.e., are without credible evidence, but instead based on commitment to a belief.

          •  Yes it does. (0+ / 0-)

            Credibility is the quality of a statement or authority that induces credulity.  The most obvious test of whether a statement is credible is the popularity of its belief.  Doesn't mean it's correct, just means it's credible.  

            While I agree we have no empirical evidence of the supernatural, we wouldn't.  Empiricism assumes naturalism, so the reasoning is circular.  Parsimony provides an alternative foundation for accepting naturalism, but that's just introducing yet another axiom.  At the end of the day, you could say I take it on faith and leave it that.  Same goes for you, I suppose.

            •  This is an informal fallacy (5+ / 0-)

              called the argument from popularity.  In the context of logic, the credibility of something is evaluated by the expertise of the person making the claim (do they have the requisite expertise), the availability of supporting evidence, and whether or not the person making the claim has something to gain from others believing it.  It's not a matter of whether a belief is widespread, but the degree to which it's supportable.  Thus, for example, it's widely believed that Sodom and Gomorrah were smitten by God, but this claim is lacking in credibility because 1) those that made it lacked knowledge to evaluate what really took place (e.g. of asteroids) and therefore were not in a position to judge it, 2) had something to gain by others believing God was the cause, and 3) there is a lack of other independent documents supporting this account (compared to accounts of Lincoln doing such and such a thing because there are documents from both supporters and detractors and those outside of the States referencing that event).  

              I'm not evoking a foundation for naturalism (and I also said originally that I think naturalism is the only credible position today (not that there's widespread consensus on this).  I said that I think this is the case because so far it's been the only successful explanatory and predictive paradigm.  The success of its predictions speaks to its likely truth.  It's a pragmatic argument not a foundationalist argument.  Your use of the term "parsimony" here is peculiar.  Parsimony refers to the simplification of something, not the introduction of additional foundations and axioms.  For example, it's parsimonious to exclude God from an explanation of earthquakes if movement of tectonic plates will do.

              •  As I said (0+ / 0-)

                the belief doesn't have to be correct.  In fact, belief based on the credibility of the source combines two informal fallacies: argument from popularity and authority. Neither fallacy has any bearing on whether or not a belief is credible.  Credibility and credulity are not base properties in any logic; they are situational qualities derived from some observation of the beliefs held by some population.  Thus, it is factually incorrect to say that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is incredible: without specifying the community where that is true, you're implying a universality that is clearly not the case.

                Of course naturalism is the only successful paradigm for making predictions.  By definition naturalism is any paradigm that is strictly concerned with observable, causal events.  Predictions by definition are observables resulting from causes.  By definition, any paradigm in which prediction is not admitted is not natural.  Which is why we have a word for it: supernatural.

                Parsimony itself is a principal--an axiom.  My use of it is to point out that epistemologically I'm taking a leap of faith that the simplest answer that explains all the evidence is sufficient.  

                •  You have no idea (0+ / 0-)

                  what you're talking about.  Go take a critical thinking/logic course and learn about these things.  Among the things you'll learn about in such courses are the evaluation of credibility.  In the meantime, if I were you I'd steer clear of issues in epistemology and stick to electrical engineering.

                  •  Bullshit (0+ / 0-)

                    But by all means, run along.

                    •  I happen to teach these (0+ / 0-)

                      things for a living.  I'm fairly confident about these matters.  You'll find that every critical thinking textbook says the same as I do here about what constitutes credibility.

                        •  Critical Thinking (0+ / 0-)

                          by Noel and Moore.  It devotes an entire chapter to evaluating credibility.

                          http://www.amazon.com/...

                          •  Read Chapter 4. (0+ / 0-)

                            Not even a hint of a definition of credibility, which the authors seem to think is a foregone conclusion (understandable; this isn't a epistemological text).  In fact, the chapter is a proposal for evaluating credibility in accordance to a value system defended by the authors throughout the entire book.  

                          •  lol, you've now revealed (0+ / 0-)

                            yourself as trolling.  I further suspect that your participation in these discussions both in this diary and elsewhere is premised on a dishonest attempt to defend creationism and intelligent design by confusing the issue.  Have a good day.

                          •  Of course you would (0+ / 0-)

                            Every time we get down to specifics, you pack up your marbles and run home.  Fair enough.  But I submit that's more indicative of trolling than anything I've ever done.  If the best you can do is pick out a random title of a book you probably haven't read, I'm not going to get too worked up when you start accusing avowed atheists of defending creationism and ID.

                            I'm looking at Chapter 4 of Critical Thinking right now.  Where would I find the definition of credibility? The phishing anecdote?  The advance fee story?  "The Claim And Its Source?" The  PRG-Schultz account?  Prove your honesty right here and now, or run away for good this time.

            •  Or to give a concrete (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gerrilea

              example, lots of people believe a good con man is credible which is how he's able to be a successful con artist, but that belief doesn't establish his genuine bona fides.

          •  Good point, but how does one defend "faith"? (0+ / 0-)

            Or a "belief"?

            There are many whom would say what they witness everyday is "compelling evidence", life itself is their proof.

            (I've had this debate numerous times with various "true believers")

            "Compelling evidence" is how each person defines it.  "Having the faith of a child", is nearly impossible to argue for or against.  

            It does point out the fantastic premise you've presented in this diary:

            How often do people actually review/reflect on what it is they believe? How many actually challenge their own faith?

            I must confess, I'm a recovering Catholic that knows the universe does not need anything more than to be, no one needed to create it, it just is...but I also know there is far more than what meets the eye.  

            Maybe someday I'll get around to sharing some of my experiences.  As yet, I've been waiting for science to give me the answers...the closest it's come is Einstein's "spooky action at a distance" or quantum entanglement but even that falls short...

            Hey I still have hope though!

            ;)

            -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

            by gerrilea on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 11:01:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Private experience (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              David54, gerrilea

              is not evidence because evidence must be public or shareable to count as experience.  A private experience could be god or schizophrenia.  Who knows?

              •  I like the diary and agree, but I think you guys (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                gerrilea, JosephK74

                are getting off into the weeds a little in the comments.
                The context of this debate is that there is an authoritarian political cult in this country for whom the Bible, (and the narrow "young earth" interpretation of it) is an instrument of political power.
                Bill Nye is witnessing the damage to our society by this movement. In the form of climate denialism, it's putting society at large in danger. In the form of anti-abortion restrictions, it's putting women's health and civil rights in jeopardy.

                I agree that one reason for the debate is that we need to preserve and sustain a basic cornerstone of "civilization" or "human culture" which is logic and the capacity for a rational human to be persuaded by the evidence.
                However, it's not about winning over every mind in that regard, or a majority.

                It's about sending a message to the religious right that when they pursue this Orwellian strategy in our society, they are going to face an argument. They have to know that we are going to win that argument, and they are going to lose support for their side. Maybe just one or two people will be susceptible to reason but that's a loss for them, and they must know that every time they open their mouths they're going to lose a little power.

                I don't think we should be concerned with vanquishing "faith", or with perfect academic victories of reason, (except academically, or parochially). There are bigger fish to fry.  Individuals have a right to have "faith". I remember a time most churchgoing people I know didn't dispute the theory of evolution, it was taken as a proven. The "young earth creationists" like Ham represent a "New Age Fundamentalism" that has an authoritarian political agenda, and they've over-leveraged their power as a result of not being confronted by scientists and other reason-based people.

                You can't make this stuff up.

                by David54 on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 07:14:33 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Isn't the private experiences of the (0+ / 0-)

                Apostles what gave us Christianity?

                Isn't the private experiences of Joseph Smith that which gave us Mormonism?

                I just have no desire to start a religion.

                :)

                It doesn't make those experiences less valid or irrational.  Oh and I do share my personal experiences with those I trust.

                A miracle is just something that science hasn't figured out yet.  As for "GOD", I'll leave that up to the philosophers amongst us.

                With up to 11 dimensions in this universe, there's a lot we're not experiencing.

                -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

                by gerrilea on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 09:19:41 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  In the context of (0+ / 0-)

                  science "experience" does not mean "five senses" but what can be replicated in an experimental/observational setting by others, ie, what is "public".  there's plenty we do not directly see but can observe.  For example, we can't see black holes but can observe the acceleration of stars in their vicinity allowing us to infer their presence and mass by what we know about gravity.  That observation of acceleration is publicly observable.

                  There are a number of problems with the private experiences evoked by the religious as "evidence".  First, since we don't have this experience ourselves, we don't know whether the person is just making it up for personal gain and power, or whether they genuinely experienced it.  Second, we can't discern the causation.  Was the experience caused by the divine and supernatural, was there some LSD in their tea, do they have a neurological condition?  We don't know and the person having the experience doesn't know.  This is why it's not evidence.  Matters get worse when we note that these experiences can be produced by drugs, neurological manipulation, etc.  that suggests a naturalistic explanation.  Even the religious recognize this when they call these matters of faith or conviction rather than evidentiary demonstration.

                  •  While I do understand and accept (0+ / 0-)

                    "scientific method", is that the only criteria one must use to measure the value or legitimacy of life their with?

                    Millions claim they've seen angels and ghosts.  Millions more claim they've seen UFO's.  In the case of angels and ghosts, there's a very popular TV series that explores them, Ghost Hunters.

                    If we were to use your standard of "public" evidence, then we've both just lost this debate and more than likely diminished the value of life itself.

                    :(

                    Science cannot tell me what light actually is, it can tell me how it "acts" under certain circumstances, but its very nature is still unexplainable.  Matter itself is thought to be units of vibrations or strings.  This is a belief that cannot be proven.  Matter ceases to be at temperatures at or near absolute zero.

                    Science is silent on what came before "the big bang" or what may have caused it.  But that assumes there was a "bang" in the first place.  Perspective colors all we think, do and believe.  The scientists claim observational analysis shows us an expanding universe and then says it had to start somewhere.  I laugh at the folly, the "cause" of the expansion measured could be very easily explained as dimensional pulling, not pushing.

                    But I digress....sorry.

                    If we are to move forward, towards the truth, whatever it may be, we need a better set of tools and standards to teach our children with.

                    ;)

                    Hey, thanks for taking the time and bringing this great topic here for us to discuss.  On a completely esoteric level, I see very little difference between science and/or religion.

                    One side tells us to believe"y" because of "x", the other side tells us to believe "x" because of "y".

                    -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

                    by gerrilea on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 05:41:38 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

    •  no, these are not the "only 2 acceptable" (3+ / 0-)

      points of view.

      Actually, the author is positing the 3rd point of view: I don't know/never thought about it.  This point of view could lead to many other points of view besides the two the author mentions.

      He could say that secularists are dogmatists as well as their opposition, but I don't think that, in this case, the reader would think that the author excludes himself from that categorization.

  •  Good point, and is one reason it's so important (4+ / 0-)

    to stay engaged with our adolescents and young adults.

    If I have any spit left after I've licked my own wounds, I'll be glad to consider licking yours. Peace.

    by nancyjones on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 08:37:00 PM PST

  •  "Us secularists?" (0+ / 0-)

    What's with this "us" stuff?  I didn't spend years honing proficiency as an electrical engineer for the purpose of spewing factoids as if I were offering liturgy.  While there's value in establishing a landscape in rote knowledge, it's just a pile of disconnected facts without cultivating the tools used to acquire it in the first place.  

    I also think it's borderline lazy to describe the audience for the Nye-Ham debate as underprivileged ignorants; do you think they just accidentally stumbled on the venue and somehow were tricked into paying admission?  Do you think they were just randomly clicking around the Internet and came across the live feed?  I'd wager the audience--on both sides--was as in command of the facts as yourself.  And I think you'd be surprised how much the other side's supporters agree with what Bill Nye said.

    Creationism is a nuisance, but it's not a big deal.  Personally, I think the debate's been overall positive for exposing its most vigorous lay participants to topics they may address within the short, shallow scope of K-12 education.   I don't care what people think happened 6000 years ago so long as they're interested enough in the subject to keep digging and learning.  After all, there are worse things than having a bunch of potential Raymond Damadians running around.

    •  Not sure how you're (3+ / 0-)

      getting that from this diary.  What I'm suggesting is that the audience might be more open than we sometimes suspect.  What, incidentally, is the spewing of rote knowledge you're referring to?  In my view, mere factoids don't even constitute knowledge.

      •  Starting here: (0+ / 0-)
        We forget that a lot of people just aren't that reflective or committed to any particular position, that they believe what they believe because that's just what they've always heard, and that when they hear something that makes sense their susceptible to change and persuasion.
        The implication is that your debate opponents are malleable ignorants misled by dogmatists rather than capable people who likely command as much familiarity with the facts as yourself.  This just substitutes belligerence for condescension, which is even less effective since it is unearned for the vast majority of "us secularists."
        •  Not at all. The word (4+ / 0-)

          "ignorant" is all your own, not one I used or presumed.  All of us, you and me included, take certain beliefs for granted and have never bothered to reflect on them.  They just make up the obvious furniture of our beliefs.  Confronted with new evidence and points of views on these things, however, those beliefs can change or be abandoned.  There's no condescension there, just a fact about our cognition.  I suspect that large portions of the population, including among religious believers, don't have strong positions about the evolution/creationism debate one way or another for the simple reason that it's just not a vital concern in their lives.  Given that, why would they be particularly informed about the issue?  In rhetoric these sorts of beliefs are called "commonplaces".  They're things we take as obviously true just because we've always heard them and haven't bothered to investigate them.  The thing about commonplaces is that often we aren't deeply attached to them either.  At any rate, you might want to check those interpretative filters you're wearing.

          •  Hence, implication (0+ / 0-)

            We're not talking about the sun rising in the east tomorrow, or a discussion on whether 2 + 2 = 4. Random people didn't just show up at this debate.  People who were interested in the subject matter did.  And the discussion touched on rudimentary topics in science and philosophy.  It is condescending to assume that those in attendance or watching online haven't given any consideration to their views on origins.

            •  You're a really unpleasant (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gerrilea

              fellow that attributes a lot.  First, obviously folks were interested.  Why else would they show up?  You're the one making claims of randomness here.  However, second people enjoy a good debate about a controversial topic.  Many show up for just that reason.  The fact that they show up because they have a passing interest in the issue or because they just like a good controversy doesn't entail that they've done any deep and thoroughgoing research on the matter and have therefore strongly decided one way or another.  Pointing that out is condescending.

              •  Who said that they've decided strongly (0+ / 0-)

                one way or another?  I'm taking issue with your assumption that they're by and large ignorant of the subject matter, or that they're circus attendees looking for some entertainment.  

                I'm unpleasant?  I'm not the one extolling the virtues of "us secularists" standing athwart the dogmatists for the hearts and minds of the ignorant masses.

                •  mmm (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  rduran, JosephK74

                  The evidence for an old earth is compelling, so in fact, young earth creationists are likely to be either dogmatically committed to dodging that evidence (Ken Ham's position) or basically unaware of it. It would be crucial to distinguish between having given "consideration to their views on origins" and commanding "familiarity with the facts." There is plenty of unfamiliarity with the facts on all sides. I don't remember any of my high school science classes presenting evidence for either an old earth or evolution.

                  It's important to understand that people can become "dogmatically committed" to various propositions without religion being involved. Not only can secularists be dogmatists, but I would venture that we're all dogmatists about something. That said, Ken Ham (as I understand it) operates very much in the realm of classic dogma: 'the Bible says it, and that's that.'

                  However, as JosephK74 says, many people (even religious people) aren't dogmatically committed to anything Ken Ham says, so it's possible for them to learn from Bill Nye and others who are familiar with the evidence.

                  "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

                  by HudsonValleyMark on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 02:36:35 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Don't disagree (0+ / 0-)

                    After all, the vast majority of participants in this debate are laymen to one degree or another.  Which makes me wonder why JosephK74--a laymen himself--feels he can condescend to anyone, much less speak for "us secularists."

                    •  secularist (sek-yu-lu-rist) (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      David54, gsenski, JosephK74
                      An advocate of secularism; someone who believes that religion should be excluded from government and education
                      It seems that JosephK74 has struck a nerve, but I'm no closer than ever to figuring out what it is.

                      "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

                      by HudsonValleyMark on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 06:42:15 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  These passages specifically struck a nerve: (0+ / 0-)
                        My point is that a lot of people just don't think much about things, take things for granted because that's all they've ever heard, and that evidence and alternative explanations can have a real impact.  This is why what Nye did was valuable.  There's a portion of that audience that's just never heard the things he said-- for example about snow accumulation.  These things will make sense to them and will potentially be seeds changing their entire worldview.  As others have said in this thread, it's not about the person you're debating but the audience and many members of the onlooking audience are more open than we might suspect.

                        Us secularists are often pessimistic about these things because we spend our time railing against the dogmatists who are already set in their ways.  We forget that a lot of people just aren't that reflective or committed to any particular position, that they believe what they believe because that's just what they've always heard, and that when they hear something that makes sense their susceptible to change and persuasion.  It's important to me, at least, not to forget this experience and to remember that it's possible for others as well.  Remembering this is what keeps me going and articulating things rather than assuming everyone's already heard it or that beliefs can't be changed.

                        •  which of those comments do you dispute? (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          JosephK74

                          Do you think there are very few people who "take things for granted because that's all they've ever heard"? Are you confident that almost everyone who watched the debate had previously heard the things Nye said? Do you think that almost all people are pre-committed to a particular position?

                          I study public opinion. It's a basic fact of public opinion research that many people can be induced to change their positions when exposed to counterarguments, often even very weak ones. This may be less true of creationism, but anecdotally, I think it's very likely that most of the people I know who would espouse creationism in a survey have never really heard the evidence against it. I don't know about the people who watched (or will watch) the debate, but it's highly unlikely that they're all schooled in YEC apologetics. I don't think it's condescending to say so. (And if it's condescending to criticize YEC apologetics, it seems a lot more condescending not to.)

                          "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

                          by HudsonValleyMark on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 02:49:22 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I think (0+ / 0-)

                            there are few Americans who haven't been exposed high school biology.  My hypothesis has preliminary support in high school graduation rates.  I'd also wager that very few people who scrambled for tickets to the Nye-Ham event or took the time to watch the whole thing live were ignorant or detached from the topic.  I make no assumption about the depth of their knowledge, but it is condescending to view these attendees as a malleable flock in search of guidance as opposed to a engaged audience with strong and considered opinions of their own.  It takes a hell of a lot more work than simple "stating things" to teach them something new, let alone change their minds.  And considering we're talking about laypeople (and that includes both Nye and Ham) speaking to other laypeople, a little humility is in order.

                          •  Interesting. So apparently (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            HudsonValleyMark

                            you're committed to the position that all people who have taken high school biology have heard it stated the the ice accumulation record in the poles indicates that the earth is 6k years old and that there's thus no value in saying this publicly because "everyone already knows it"?  This observation strikes me as something that's seldom mentioned and that can provoke real thought and questioning insofar as it's far easier to understand than carbon dating and people can readily observe strata of snow accumulation themselves.  It's condescending to point these things out?  I'm pretty well versed in these issues and I'd never heard that example.  What of people that don't read books on evolution at all, but just vaguely know the positions?  It's as if you're saying there's no value in stating supporting reasons for claims and that it's insulting to do so.  Isn't giving reasons actually a sign of respect?

                            Additionally, you seem unaware that many high school biology classes never teach the chapter on evolution wishing to avoid controversy, and that when they do they don't give much in the way of supporting evidence or methodology, but instead just state the basic principles of the theory (and often poorly at that).

                          •  I'm committed to the position (0+ / 0-)

                            that just about everyone who has taken high school biology and earth science in the United States in the past half century has encountered evidence of evolution across deep time.  What particular slate of evidence encountered is trivia as it relates to the issue under dispute, and it's condescending to presume that you are doing them a favor simply by pointing out additional trivia (gathered from books chock full of rote knowledge).

                            I'm fully aware that most HS curriculums don't delve deeply into mechanics, though we disagree on whether they by and large delve at all.  98 percent of HS students encounter at least one hour of general evolutionary concepts; 89 percent encounter 3-5 hours.  Three quarters never encountered creationism or ID.  In other words, the vast majority of students have encountered more evolutionary theory in high school than they did during the Nye-Ham debate, and they did so largely without the distraction of creationism.

                          •  let's put these together (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            JosephK74
                            It takes a hell of a lot more work than simple "stating things" to teach them something new, let alone change their minds.
                            98 percent of HS students encounter at least one hour of general evolutionary concepts; 89 percent encounter 3-5 hours.
                            OK, so setting aside the thrill of debating which of Joseph's remarks are or aren't condescending, how is that, in last year's Pew poll, 27% of respondents 18-29 could say that "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time," despite generally having been exposed to "at least one hour of general evolutionary concepts" unsullied by "the distraction of creationism"?
                            ...it's condescending to presume that you are doing them a favor simply by pointing out additional trivia (gathered from books chock full of rote knowledge).
                            Do you think that Bill Nye wanders through "books chock full of rote knowledge" to come up with "trivia" he can use in interviews and debates?

                            I'm kind of gobsmacked. Do you not see the coolness of looking at polar ice to see how long the record is — like tree rings, only a lot more of them?

                            "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

                            by HudsonValleyMark on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 05:16:26 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That's precisely what I mean by condescending (0+ / 0-)

                            Why do you think that merely encountering general evolutionary concepts inoculates a human being from Christian apologetics?  

                            No, I don't think Bill Nye wanders through "books chock full of rote knowledge" to come up with trivia.  I think he commands a far more interactive experience and it incorporates it into his work and personal life.  

                            I think crunching WMAP data is cool, but no.  I'm not gobsmacked by tree rings or ice cores.  That's because I'm not all that interested in planetary sciences or biology.  In fact, my only interest in those areas concern the politics of climate change, supporting evidence for deep time, and YEC apologetics.

                          •  I don't, obviously (0+ / 0-)
                            Why do you think that merely encountering general evolutionary concepts inoculates a human being from Christian apologetics?
                            I'm trying to wrap my head around how you could possibly suppose that I do think this, but I can't get there. If you could give yourself a bit less credit and the rest of us a bit more, things might go better.
                            I'm not gobsmacked by tree rings or ice cores.
                            Again, you're missing the point in a way that assumes your interlocutor is more than a bit dim. Very tiresome.

                            Why did Nye mention the polar ice? Since you're apparently willing to give him a modicum of credit for not just amassing and flinging ad hoc trivia, what was he doing?

                            "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

                            by HudsonValleyMark on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 06:41:08 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Like so (0+ / 0-)
                            OK, so setting aside the thrill of debating which of Joseph's remarks are or aren't condescending, how is that, in last year's Pew poll, 27% of respondents 18-29 could say that "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time," despite generally having been exposed to "at least one hour of general evolutionary concepts" unsullied by "the distraction of creationism"?
                            Did I miss something here, or are you not arguing that exposure to at least one hour of general evolutionary concepts is enough to disabuse 18-29 year olds of creationist heresy?

                            Nye brought up the ice cores and tree rings as evidence of activity right here on Earth that predates the purported creation of the universe according to Ken Ham.  What of it?

                          •  wow (0+ / 0-)
                            are you not arguing that exposure to at least one hour of general evolutionary concepts is enough to disabuse 18-29 year olds of creationist heresy?
                            I presented evidence that it isn't, so you think I'm arguing that it is?

                            Explain that to me. How could that possibly make sense?

                            Nye brought up the ice cores and tree rings as evidence of activity right here on Earth that predates the purported creation of the universe according to Ken Ham.  What of it?
                            Yes, by golly, he was making an argument that directly engaged Ham's argument. Imagine that!

                            "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

                            by HudsonValleyMark on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 09:01:14 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Then we don't have a problem (0+ / 0-)

                            I'm certainly not equating understanding with belief.  So what's your point bringing up the Pew poll?

                            I'm still not following you on ice cores and tree rings.  Why is it surprising the Nye brought up evidence to refute the notion of a 6,000 year old creation?

                          •  ok, well (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            JosephK74

                            You don't seem to have addressed any of my specific questions.

                            I think there are few Americans who haven't been exposed high school biology.
                            That doesn't seem to address any of the points that you made or that I asked about. For what it's worth, I was an honors student in high school biology, and I can assure you that it didn't equip me to form an opinion on any part of young earth creationism. Sad but true.
                            I'd also wager that very few people who scrambled for tickets to the Nye-Ham event or took the time to watch the whole thing live were ignorant or detached from the topic.
                            First, there's no reason to make the selection criterion having "scrambled for tickets," or even having "watch[ed] the whole thing live." Also, "ignorant" and "detached" are two distinct dimensions.

                            Presumably many of the people who watched are at least somewhat familiar with creationist apologetics. It doesn't follow that they are familiar with Nye's arguments. Presumably many of them are more or less irrevocably committed to (or against) creationism, regardless of their knowledge base. However, I see no reason to rule out that many viewers (regardless of their familiarity with creationist apologetics) were genuinely curious.

                            I make no assumption about the depth of their knowledge, but it is condescending to view these attendees as a malleable flock in search of guidance as opposed to a engaged audience with strong and considered opinions of their own.
                            No idea where you're coming up with "malleable flock in search of guidance."

                            Do you think it's "condescending" to suppose that some folks may have turned on the debate hoping to learn something? Is this something you have never, ever done yourself? Have you never held an opinion with the awareness that it isn't based on much evidence and the willingness to change it for cause? Is it somehow a bad thing to be persuadable by "something that makes sense"?

                            It takes a hell of a lot more work than simple "stating things" to teach them something new, let alone change their minds.
                            That may be a good point, but I can't really tell what it means. Certainly stating facts to people doesn't assure that they will accept or learn from any of those facts.
                            And considering we're talking about laypeople (and that includes both Nye and Ham) speaking to other laypeople, a little humility is in order.
                            I can't tell where the attribution of pride is coming from. I think it is quite possible for a layperson to assess the balance of evidence between Nye and Ham, and to understand the difference in their approaches. Is it arrogant of me to think so?

                            "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

                            by HudsonValleyMark on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 05:00:09 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I believe I have (0+ / 0-)

                            addressed your specific questions.  If I've missed any, please ask them again.

                            I don't know what you mean by "equip you to form an opinion" concerning YEC.

                            Since we're talking about the value of "stating things" to audience like the one that gathered at the Creation museum; yes, selection criteria matters.  And again the notion that the audience hadn't encountered Nye's arguments before is condescending nonsense.  Nye laid out grade school rudimentary rote and dicta for no more than a half an hour .  Contrast that with the 98 percent of students minimum 1-2 hours of exposure on general evolutionary concepts alone.

                            Of course people tuned into learn something.  Hell, I tuned into to learn something.  However you seem to think they tuned in to learn a list of facts that have probably turned up at one point or another in various debates they've had in their personal lives.  Fair enough; so did Nye, which probably explains Ken Ham's unexpected success.  What I was certainly looking for was a robust defense of methodological naturalism, which we didn't get.  Nye simply restated it--without naming it or without even connecting it to Ham's attack--and basically said that if you don't buy it then he doesn't consider you to be a "reasonable man."  JosephK74 wouldn't have even gone that far apparently; after all, he think's it's sufficient to just "state things" and treat Ham (and by extension at least half of his audience) as little more than noise.  That's why I say some humility is order.

                          •  you could reread my previous comment (0+ / 0-)

                            You may think that I am now able to answer my questions yes or no, but I don't think that I am.

                            I don't know what you mean by "equip you to form an opinion" concerning YEC.
                            Maybe that is the problem right there. I'm not sure how to address it. Do you have an opinion on YEC? How did you form it?
                            And again the notion that the audience hadn't encountered Nye's arguments before is condescending nonsense.
                            I'm sorry, but repeating yourself a bit more rudely doesn't constitute evidence.
                            Nye laid out grade school rudimentary rote and dicta for no more than a half an hour .  Contrast that with the 98 percent of students minimum 1-2 hours of exposure on general evolutionary concepts alone.
                            That's fallacious on its face. The time spent is no index of anything, and the characterization of "rote and dicta" is, well, dicta.
                            However you seem to think they tuned in to learn a list of facts
                            I don't, of course. As the diarist mentioned, you attribute a lot.
                            Fair enough; so did Nye, which probably explains Ken Ham's unexpected success.
                            You haven't supported either "success" or "unexpected."
                            What I was certainly looking for was a robust defense of methodological naturalism, which we didn't get.
                            Again, that might be a good point, but you would actually have to do some work with it. And it isn't at all obvious why a "robust defense of methodological naturalism" is the best way — or even a good way — to get people to question YEC.
                            after all, he think's it's sufficient to just "state things" and treat Ham (and by extension at least half of his audience) as little more than noise.
                            Again, you attribute a lot. "Stating things" doesn't entail a mere "list of facts." As for how Nye treated Ham, I could only guess what you are talking about.

                            "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

                            by HudsonValleyMark on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 06:26:36 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Yes, I have an opinion on YEC (0+ / 0-)

                            I don't buy it.  I never have.  

                            I've presented evidence that the audience is likely informed--both in terms of HS familiarity with general evolutionary concepts and noting the intensity of ticket sales for the event.  You're welcome to present evidence to the contrary.  That's usually how it works.

                            If you have a problem with the content defined as "general evolutionary concepts" by the National Survey of High School Biology Teachers, then take it up with the survey investigators.  I'm more than satisfied.  

                          •  you're still missing it (0+ / 0-)

                            You've presented no evidence that the audience is likely informed about the points Nye made. You've presented evidence that the audience likely has been told about "general evolutionary processes." Those aren't the same things, at all.

                            If that distinction seems small to you, maybe you received extraordinary science education; maybe you've never dealt with high school students; maybe you don't know any teachers. I don't know what is missing.

                            I'm more than satisfied.
                            Yes, that much was immediately apparent.

                            "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

                            by HudsonValleyMark on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 09:37:33 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I never argued that the audience was (0+ / 0-)

                            likely informed of any specific piece of trivia Nye presented.  Just that they were aware that there is evidence for cosmological, geological, and biological deep time.  That said, I'm pretty sure Nye touched on evidence that is frequently raised in HS biology--the fossil record, strata, etc.  

                            That distinction is small to me.  In fact, if the distinction is more important than I realize, then you should explain why.

                          •  continuing to miss it, with enthusiasm (0+ / 0-)

                            You even reverted to the "trivia" frame, as if Nye wasn't actually making an argument.

                            I think it would be interesting to know more about what actually gets said in high school biology classes, but I see no reason to assume that a prohibitive majority of the people who take them come away "aware that there is evidence for cosmological, geological, and biological deep time." You can posit that almost all YECs are aware of the evidence and choose to believe that the Bible trumps — and on YEC discussion boards, that may be true — but in my experience, it often isn't. People may know that "scientists say X," but often they haven't heard or thought about assessing the evidence for X. My high school science class came across very much like an assemblage of trivia, which is distinctly what Nye was not trying to present.

                            Now, I have no way of estimating what proportion of the population is potentially persuadable by Nye's arguments. But based on everything I know about public opinion on a wide range of subjects, I would be shocked if the proportion were close to 0. (And of course I would be even more shocked if it were close to 100% of people who don't already agree with Nye.)

                            "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

                            by HudsonValleyMark on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 08:05:43 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  For the most part, Nye wasn't... (0+ / 0-)

                            ...making an argument.

                            He was saying "science is cool."  Which is all well and good, except when you're preaching to the choir...

                            ...and they happen to be creationists.

                    •  I think Jk74 was using Ham's terminology (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      gsenski, JosephK74

                      i.e. everyone who disagrees with him is a "secularist".
                      The religious right have successfully re-defined "secularist" as atheist.

                      The basic thrust of his diary is that "debate" is a good thing, and that there are people out there who are capable of changing their minds.

                      It seems like you're antagonized by this basic thrust and you're trying to seek battle on a straw man, and attack the diarist's personality.

                      You can't make this stuff up.

                      by David54 on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 07:36:56 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Debate is a good thing (0+ / 0-)

                        But that's not the thrust of this diary.  The thrust of this diary is stating things for the benefit of people JosephK74 describes as "think[ing] much about things, tak[ing] things for granted because that's all they've ever heard."

                        If we were talking about grade schoolers and even some high schoolers, then perhaps Joseph has point.  But we're talking about the audience for this particular debate, and we're talking about secular communicants who are as HudsonValleyMark pointed out likely laymen themselves, and we're talking about rudimentary subject matter.  Combined with a starting point of utter contempt for the other side's position, that's a recipe for a pie fight rather than an opportunity to educate.

            •  I think you've misunderstood (3+ / 0-)
              We forget that a lot of people just aren't that reflective or committed to any particular position, that they believe what they believe because that's just what they've always heard, and that when they hear something that makes sense their [sic] susceptible to change and persuasion.
              I wonder about your estimation of the portion of humanity US citizens who "just aren't that reflective". Rough guess. Would you disagree that there are a lot of such people? Not the majority, necessarily; a largish minority, perhaps. Wouldn't you agree that, whatever the actual portion it nonetheless includes a lot of people?

              The diarist didn't claim everyone was thus, nor even that the majority are. Only that some not insignificant number of people do not often, for various reasons, reflect on these ideas a whole lot beyond what so-and-so claims on tv, and that this was an opportunity for them to hear the dissenting opinion themselves.

              I submit that a lot of people simply do not reflect much on these ideas in a rational manner. But that a lot of them are not so much stupid or ignorant, but rather ill-informed.

              All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

              by subtropolis on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 09:55:13 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  I don't agree with your characterization of that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JosephK74

          quote.
          I don't think people are "malleable ignorants", but I do think most people are "soft" in many of their opinions and stick with them in the name of "getting along" at work or in the family, etc., but when incited or pressed to think deeper
          can access a little more rigor in their process.
          Also, there is an age at which young people start questioning what the adults are telling them, formulating what will become their own independent identity, etc.
          It's important that they are given some "real meat" to grow on, and they should be exposed to a "real debate".

          You can't make this stuff up.

          by David54 on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 07:27:10 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Even Nye said he learned something from (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JosephK74, rduran

    Ham. He didn't specify but sure wasn't that the earth is 6000 years old.

  •  When Pat Robertson comes out the next day (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JosephK74

    and says that Hamm made Christians look silly, you know that Nye was right to accept the debate.

    the reason is that people normally don't delve into the details of these things. you can poll somebody and ask them if they believe in evolution, and they may respond that they believe in a creator. but that doesn't tell the whole story. they may be no more familiar with the assertions of the young earth crowd than they are with scientific case for evolution, the big bang, and an old earth. once the two are presented side by side, with one side clearly reasonable and well versed in familiar facts, and the other hanging onto an explanation based entirely on his unshakable faith, people understand that the two things are not the same. there is a difference between science and faith.

    if they people kept their belief in a creator but accept the difference between science and faith, this debate was a success.

  •  A little OT... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JosephK74

    Has anyone in the right wing media commented on the debate yet? If not, I'll take that as a sign that Nye won. Since I don't watch Fox I have no idea if this is something they've taken up. I know Robertson's not happy with Ham for doing this because it makes them all look stupid.

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