CFI Portland Meetup Group Message Board Announcements › Questions about the evolution debate scheduled for Mon. 9-12-11

Questions about the evolution debate scheduled for Mon. 9-12-11

Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,020
This is the place to discuss questions with the dinner/debate/discussion on Mon. 9-12-11. Feel free to post your questions and I'll answer as best I can (and others can feel free to give their answers/opinions too).

Event link: http://www.meetup.com...­
........................

To start, David Galiel asked what relationship CFI has to this event.

I'm not on the CFI leadership team, but I'm a CFI member, so here's my answer (not speaking for CFI).

This event is co-sponsored by CFI-Portland. (That's why it is posted on the CFI meetup group as a CFI event.)

This event is a little different than most of the other CFI co-sponsored events with my two groups (Westside Science and Religion Discussion Group, and the Vancouver Science and Religion Discussion Group). In most of those other group debate events, I moderate the events, with another person from CFI being the main debater (usually Sylvia Benner, but there has been at least three other CFI members representing CFI). Recently I had a CFI member (Dr. Dan Mangum) as a partner in a 2-2 debate against creationists, regarding evolution:

Event: "Evolution vs. Creationism" (Debate/discussion with audience participation) on 6-27-11
Info: http://www.meetup.com...­
YouTube video: http://www.youtube.co...­

These debates are things I plan with the help of CFI. To see more upcoming debates, see this for the Westside:
http://www.meetup.com...­
and this for Vancouver:
http://www.meetup.com...­

The goal is to engage believers and non-believers in person, even making relationships.

I started the Westside discussion group a few years ago as an evangelical Christian. After the first year, I became an atheist. I was a born-again evangelical Christian preacher on community access TV and the internet.
A former member
Post #: 1
Bernie, thank you for your response.
A few follow up questions.

What does "co-sponsored" mean, exactly?

The common implication of co-sponsor is that you and the CFI board sat down together as equals and decided to conduct these debates, and that they endorse both the subject matter and your representation of CFI's position in these debates.

Is that true?
Furthermore, does CFI support these events in any material way?
Do your statements in the course of the debate represent a proxy for CFI statements?

Why do you not make these distinction explicit and unambiguous, in writing, on the Meetup page where you announce these debates?

Why do you direct people with concerns about these debates to CFI-forums, and refer someone concerned about basic facts of evolution to CFI's board for approval to distribute them at this forum, further suggesting that the subject matter, content and/or your representation in these debates is subject to CFI approval? Is it?

Why are there two different event pages - one linked to CFI-Portland, and one linked to your Westside Group. Did CFI-Portland approve the content of the event announcement on their page?

What is the goal of this particular debate? Is it "to engage believers and non-believers in person, even making relationships?"

CFI's stated mission is,
"to foster a secular society based on science, reason, free inquiry, and humanist values...present affirmative, rational ethical alternatives to the reigning paranormal and religious systems of belief...promote critical thinking and humanist values through education, outreach and social services."

Is that the mission of this debate and others like it?

And finally and most importantly:

Why do you think it OK for numerous people to keep asking these questions, and for to perpetuate confusion and ambiguity in public announcements and comments about whether you represent CFI in any way, shape or form as a debater in these events?

Will I.
spblat
Portland, OR
Post #: 1
Here's a link to my analysis of the event discussion giving rise to this thread. I'm not particularly interested in concerns over the relationship between Bernie and CFI.

http://www.differhone...­

In short, I don't think this debate should have been scheduled, because evolution is not a religious issue. It is not a creation story. It is a scientific explanation for biological diversity. It is not up for "debate"; evolution is a fact. Characterizing evolution as "just a theory" (as will happen during the debate) demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of what science is and how it works. Faced with such a misconception, one should retreat to an educational conversation about the scientific method in general, not evolution in particular. Arguing with religious people on their turf about science can only cause confusion and frustration. As David pointed out, "It takes training to expose charlatans and debunk faulty reasoning. It's not about the science, it's about the demagoguery."
Will I.
spblat
Portland, OR
Post #: 2
Notwithstanding concerns about the event itself (which is happening regardless), what claims do people think theists should be sure to be exposed to during the debate? Here are my priorities. What are yours?

1. Evolution is both a fact and a scientific theory.

2. "Theory" in a scientific sense does not mean uncertainty; it refers to people using the scientific method to develop an explanation for the evidence we see around us. This explanation works perfectly: it has made innumerable predictions, none of which have turned out to be incorrect. It is the very model of a successful scientific theory. To conflate "theory" with "uncertainty" is to commit a grievous category error. If the word "theory" gives you pause as to the "truth" of evolution, we suggest you learn more about how science works and the process by which scientists came to a consensus about evolution, gravity, zoology, biology, physics, chemistry and all the scientific knowledge that drives modern society.

3. "Intelligent design" is not a scientific theory. It makes no predictions about the world. It offers no method for confirming or refuting its nonexistent predictions. It fails to identify what evidence to examine in support of its nonexistent predictions. It is not an "alternative" theory to evolution, it is bereft of any scientific legitimacy whatsoever. Intelligent Design is creationism by another name. One is free to claim (and to believe) that whales are not descended from land mammals and were created by God as a miracle, but mountains of evidence plainly show otherwise.

4. Humans make errors; scientists do too. The true miracle of the scientific process is that it works in spite of the tendency all humans have toward bias and error: dissent feeds the process and improves our understanding. This is the opposite of what happens when a religious "truth" is challenged.
Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,021
Answering more questions from David Galiel:

"What does "co-sponsored" mean, exactly?"

It means that two groups participate in the planning and/or advertising.

"The common implication of co-sponsor is that you and the CFI board sat down together as equals and decided to conduct these debates, and that they endorse both the subject matter and your representation of CFI's position in these debates."

I can't tell you what the CFI board discusses since I don't attend Board meetings.

"Furthermore, does CFI support these events in any material way?"

No financial support, except indirect through posting/advertising the event on meetup.com .

"Do your statements in the course of the debate represent a proxy for CFI statements?"

I usually introduce CFI to the audience and say that I don't speak for all atheists. I learned early on that no atheist can speak for all atheists... just as no Christian can speak for all Christians... especially when getting into details.

"Why do you direct people with concerns about these debates to CFI-forums, and refer someone concerned about basic facts of evolution to CFI's board for approval to distribute them at this forum, further suggesting that the subject matter, content and/or your representation in these debates is subject to CFI approval? "

The Discussion Board is set-up for the purpose of discussing. The event meetup page isn't intended for discussions, as you'll notice by the very limited number of characters one is allowed to type.

Someone suggested a flyer for evolution details. I suggested they do it and get CFI approval, as I don't have time for it.

"What is the goal of this particular debate? Is it "to engage believers and non-believers in person, even making relationships?" "

The goal is to educate the masses as to science and the folly of creationism, as far as I'm concerned. (I can't speak for CFI as I'm not on their leadership team.) It is also about teaching the public how to talk to others with radically different viewpoints, rather than demonizing others. And yes, making relationships. Some of the Christians I debate are very nice people and I appreciate them as friends, and would be honored if they considered me as a friend. (Some of them I also see as being dishonest and untrustworthy.)

Regarding CFI's mission, yes, I see this project very much aligned with it.

"Why do you think it OK for numerous people to keep asking these questions, and for to perpetuate confusion and ambiguity in public announcements and comments about whether you represent CFI in any way, shape or form as a debater in these events?"

I think you should only speak for yourself. My understanding is that most people understand that an event listed on the CFI webpage is a CFI event, and many have attended these debates/discussions in the past. This is nothing new.

If you are a CFI person, and CFI leadership thinks you are a decent person, they will also let you lead projects and post them on the CFI meetup page (book groups, discussions, etc.).




Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,022
Will said:
"It is a scientific explanation for biological diversity. It is not up for "debate"; evolution is a fact."

It depends on the group. Amongst the scientific community, yes, evolution is a fact. But amongst Christians, it is a debate. CFI has outreach events, and this is a great way to reach others with the message of Secular Humanism, which CFI heavily promotes.

It is also a fun way to learn science, by seeing what the critics say against it. How would you defend it? It's a good mental exercise.

Also, in critical thinking courses, I've heard a major element is trying to look at alternate explanations for things. The alternative to evolution is creationism, so I think it is great to compare/contrast them. I did that, and that's why I left Christianity.
Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,023
Will said:
"Notwithstanding concerns about the event itself (which is happening regardless), what claims do people think theists should be sure to be exposed to during the debate?"

My approach is to first set-out the positive evidence and reasoning for whale evolution.

Then I will analyze the most common creationist objections.

We will have an extended Q&A time, so lots of other stuff will come out of that.
A former member
Post #: 2
What is your primary source of information about evolution?
How do you fact-check your assertions when they are challenged as misrepresenting scientific consensus about the facts of evolution?
Can you describe, in a single sentence or paragraph, what biological evolution is?
A former member
Post #: 3
Will wrote,

H As David pointed out, "It takes training to expose charlatans and debunk faulty reasoning. It's not about the science, it's about the demagoguery."

Unfortunately, further conversations with Bernie have revealed that it is very much about the science, as well.

Bernie, would you like to share here what you have stated about evolution beginning with "energy evolving into matter after the big bang"?

How about your statements that "humans evolved [from animal]", and "we have been bred with instincts from other animals"?

Can you describe to us your understanding of the difference between physical cosmology, evolution and abiogenesis?

I apologize with the inconvenience of using this forum to get these clarifications, but I assume you would rather discuss this here than in front of an audience in the Q&A session during the debate on Monday?
Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,024
David said:
"What is your primary source of information about evolution? How do you fact-check your assertions when they are challenged as misrepresenting scientific consensus about the facts of evolution? Can you describe, in a single sentence or paragraph, what biological evolution is?"

My primary sources evolution and science are many books and the internet. Too many to list.

I usually fact check primarily with the internet. Sometimes I refer to my books.

Biological evolution explains how more complex creatures arise from simpler creatures (yes, sometimes creatures also lose functions due to evolution too). Life radiates out until it finds a niche where it survives. It explains how something goes from the simplest single-celled creature to the most complicated structure in the entire known universe: the human brain. (There is the more technical explanation with alleles, but this is the one that is understandable to the masses.)

Talk.origins has a good quote:
http://www.talkorigin...­
Excerpt:
"In the broadest sense, evolution is merely change, and so is all-pervasive; galaxies, languages, and political systems all evolve. Biological evolution ... is change in the properties of populations of organisms that transcend the lifetime of a single individual. The ontogeny of an individual is not considered evolution; individual organisms do not evolve. The changes in populations that are considered evolutionary are those that are inheritable via the genetic material from one generation to the next. Biological evolution may be slight or substantial; it embraces everything from slight changes in the proportion of different alleles within a population (such as those determining blood types) to the successive alterations that led from the earliest protoorganism to snails, bees, giraffes, and dandelions."
- Douglas J. Futuyma in Evolutionary Biology, Sinauer Associates 1986
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