PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

Incl. intelligent design, belief in divine creation

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PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#1  Postby Shrunk » Feb 13, 2015 4:53 pm

I know many of you avoid Myers' blog on general principle, so I wanted to make sure no one missed this. It's his opening statement from a debate with Fazale Rana of Reasons to Believe and, while I still think the best strategy in debating creationists is to not debate them at all, I think Myers' approach here is quite brilliant, in that it is likely to throw the creationist off his game and shift the burden of proof to the creationist side, which is where it should be (A "debate" on the shape of the earth does not start from the premise that the person arguing for "flat" is on equal standing with the one arguing for "round.")

Myers starts out by describing a visit to the National Gallery in Washington DC where he found himself transfixed by a painting:

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The painting is by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, a 17th century Spanish artist, and it’s a portrait of two Gallician women. But now imagine, as I stand there enjoying it, that I’m joined by a fellow art lover — someone who thinks exactly as I do, that this is a beautiful painting well worth savoring. But he has a different idea. This painting is so beautiful that it could not possibly have been created by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo — it could only have come into existence by supernatural means, and he says he knows exactly who painted it and what magic was involved, and he’d like to debate me on the subject.

Do I need to paint the similarity to the situation tonight with a broader brush?

Anyway, the correct answer is obvious to me, and I’m curious to see how this person is going to defend his peculiar position. As a minimal necessity, I expect to hear something about the identity of the mysterious True Painter, and something about the True Painter’s methods, and I would hope quite a bit about epistemology — how did my opponent make his case, where did he learn the Truth of this painting?

In this little parable, I am disappointed, as I expect to be tonight. While insisting that everything had a supernatural cause, he dwells on the physicality of the painting: it’s on canvas, the colors come from complex combinations of organic and inorganic compounds, that scientists can bounce lasers off it and determine the proportions of each element in it spectroscopically.

Wait, I say, you’re making my case for me. The painting is a natural object, made of earthly matter, of compounds arranged in a way that is perfectly compatible with all physical laws.

So then he tells me, look, it’s made of hundreds of thousands of precise tiny brushstrokes, each one contributing to whole. It’s incredibly complex. It can’t have been created by natural means.

And I try to explain that complex objects are generated by natural mechanisms all the time — that something is complex is not evidence that it was spontaneously generated by an invisible spirit. We can look at how paintings are made even now, and see equally complex images created without the aid of metaphysical agents.

His reply is to cast doubt on the existence of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. We don’t know his exact birthday — sometime late in 1617. We don’t know whether he was born in Seville or Pilas. Therefore we should question whether Bartolomé Esteban Murillo even really existed, opening the door to the idea that some other mystical agent actually created the paintings.

Then I will be tempted to reply in kind: but we have his baptismal certificate from 1618! We know the names of his parents (Gaspar and Maria)! We know that he studied under Juan del Castillo, and that he was prolific and left a great many surviving paintings!

That’s the temptation, that I respond by deluging you in kind with more and more details, while failing to address the great big void in the room — that despite postulating a supernatural mechanism, despite calling into doubt the existence of the material cause on the flimsiest of excuses, my critic has not revealed who the True Painter is, how he knows its identity, how it placed all those exquisite brush strokes on the canvas, in fact, no positive evidence at all for his hypothesis.

My little story expresses my frustration with these kinds of events, and tells you what I predict....


Continues here:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/ ... more-22586
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#2  Postby epepke » Feb 13, 2015 5:22 pm

It's not that I (for one, at least) avoid Myers' blog on general principle; I just have only a finite number of teeth left, and I don't want to waste them by grinding them.

This is quite excellent, though if I were a creotard, I could find a way to poke holes in it. But I can also find a way to poke holes in the hole-poking.

Still, it's well written and is a good meta-analysis. Thanks.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#3  Postby Rumraket » Feb 13, 2015 7:04 pm

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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#4  Postby Animavore » Feb 13, 2015 7:08 pm

I once heard PZ own the living crap out of a creationist on a live radio debate. He's good at that kind of thing. Always has been.

He should stick to it.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#5  Postby surreptitious57 » Feb 13, 2015 7:41 pm

I once joined Christian Forums in the spirit of intellectual openness with those of a different world view and made just one post suggesting all ideas should be taken apart and that no one truth was so sacred it could not be subject to critical rigour This was completely misinterpreted as an all out attack on Christianity and resulted in me being immediately permabanned

And Joyce I have some questions for you : how do you know that when God is telling you to do some thing that it is not Satan in disguise and vice versa ? And if Satan can steal the will of God does that not make him more powerful by implication ? And if you can provide logical answers to either of these then how do you actually know whether you should accept them or not ?
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#6  Postby Thommo » Feb 13, 2015 8:01 pm

Animavore wrote:I once heard PZ own the living crap out of a creationist on a live radio debate. He's good at that kind of thing. Always has been.

He should stick to it.


That's what he's trying to do. Provoke conflict through belligerence on topics where he's sure he's right. His strength is his weakness.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#7  Postby quisquose » Feb 13, 2015 8:06 pm

Stuff like this is why I still visit PZ's site every day.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#8  Postby Calilasseia » Feb 13, 2015 8:11 pm

Dawkins had an introduction of this sort in one of his books, centred upon hypothetical Latin denialism. Didn't make an atom of difference to the creotards. But we're not aiming at the die-hard ideological stormtroopers for creationist masturbation fantasies, we're aiming at the people who haven't been corrupted yet, in order to vaccinate them against the creationist virus.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#9  Postby bert » Feb 13, 2015 8:40 pm

surreptitious57 wrote:And Joyce I have some questions for you : how do you know that when God is telling you to do some thing that it is not Satan in disguise and vice versa ?


I came up with the same argument about Mohammed being told the quran. How was he sure that it wasn't the devil? Did they teach you that in school in those days?

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If god is a god of peace, and the devil wants to promote ware, are you sure the quran was dictated by god or the devil?
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#10  Postby DalecWho » Feb 21, 2015 10:07 pm

I didn't find his painting "parable" particularly clever -- in fact, I thought it was kind of dumb. What jumped out to me was that paintings don't paint themselves -– there is design and artistry involved by the painter.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#11  Postby Rumraket » Feb 21, 2015 11:14 pm

DalecWho wrote:I didn't find his painting "parable" particularly clever -- in fact, I thought it was kind of dumb. What jumped out to me was that paintings don't paint themselves -– there is design and artistry involved by the painter.

You seem to have missed the point totally. He was not addressing the "it looks designed" aspect of the argument, he was addressing the "and the design must have been done by a supernatural agent" aspect of it.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#12  Postby DalecWho » Feb 21, 2015 11:19 pm

I got the point, it was just a poor analogy for it.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#13  Postby DalecWho » Feb 21, 2015 11:25 pm

And quoting Nick Snow, "He was dismissive of the entire event and his position/premise from the get go was "basically this whole thing is silly - you must prove the existence of God before any evidence for the existence of God can be considered."
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#14  Postby DalecWho » Feb 22, 2015 12:24 am

Rumraket wrote:
You seem to have missed the point totally. He was not addressing the "it looks designed" aspect of the argument, he was addressing the "and the design must have been done by a supernatural agent" aspect of it.

You seem to be allowing that there was design.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#15  Postby Rumraket » Feb 22, 2015 12:34 am

DalecWho wrote:
Rumraket wrote:
You seem to have missed the point totally. He was not addressing the "it looks designed" aspect of the argument, he was addressing the "and the design must have been done by a supernatural agent" aspect of it.

You seem to be allowing that there was design.

Yes, the evolutionary process is an amazing designer. In fact it is so powerful a designer we some times use it because mere human engineers are too slow in their thinking, and too limited in their imagination, to find the best designs. So we use evolutionary algorithms to solve all sorts of design and engineering challenges to find solutions for complex objects no human would ever dream of.

Also, if there really was design by some kind of intelligent agent, that would be interesting. But it would require actual positive evidence of it's own, not just "evolution as we currently understand it doesn't seem capable of making this entity"(and in any case, for every object so far mentioned by various ID proponents, they invariably turn out to easily accounted for by evolution). But no, I'm not opposed to design in principle.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#16  Postby Shrunk » Feb 22, 2015 12:39 am

DalecWho wrote:I got the point....


It seems you haven't.

DalecWho wrote:And quoting Nick Snow, "He was dismissive of the entire event and his position/premise from the get go was "basically this whole thing is silly - you must prove the existence of God before any evidence for the existence of God can be considered."


And Nick Snow is someone about whose opinion a single flying fuck should be given because....?
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#17  Postby Rumraket » Feb 22, 2015 12:40 am

DalecWho wrote:And quoting Nick Snow, "He was dismissive of the entire event and his position/premise from the get go was "basically this whole thing is silly"

I have to agree with PZ Myers there, the matter is totally settled within the scientific community. The fact that a bunch of religious institutions and the occasional oddball contrarian have a hard time accepting evolution doesn't mean there is an actual genuine debate to be had.

DalecWho wrote: - you must prove the existence of God before any evidence for the existence of God can be considered.

I'm not sure what you refer to here, is there some specific time during the debate where this expression came up? I saw it but it doesn't sound exactly familiar.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#18  Postby DalecWho » Feb 22, 2015 1:16 am

Shrunk:
I'm sorry you have a limited vocabulary.
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#19  Postby Rumraket » Feb 22, 2015 1:23 am

You one of those who have an irrational aversion to the word fuck?
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Re: PZ Myers' great opening statement in debate with creationist

#20  Postby Shrunk » Feb 22, 2015 1:25 am

DalecWho wrote:Shrunk:
I'm sorry you have a limited vocabulary.


How many of my 20,000+ posts have you read in order to determine that? And the fact that my vocabulary includes the word "fuck" means it is larger, rather than smaller, than if my vocabulary lacked the term.

Your vocabulary, OTOH, seems inadequate to the task of answering the simple question I asked.
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