Sunday, September 1, 2013

Shermer & Prothero v Meyer & Sternberg

This debate ( audio | 1h58m21s ) took place in 2009 between Michael Shermer and Donald Prothero versus Stephen Meyer and Richard Sternberg. The debate topic was: Has Evolutionary Theory Adequately Explained the Origins of Life?

DB: 8m53s! The intro is wayyyy too long.

3 stars

APF review: 4/5
Robert Crowther talks about how awesome the cdesign proponentsists were in the debate.
Shermer licks his wounds and is more forceful in print than he is in the debate.

I was waiting to listen to this one for awhile because I know that the evolutionists side did a bad job and I remembered the ID proponents doing a better job. I always find myself saying that I think Stephen Meyer is a solid proponent of ID and I would imagine that I could cite this debate as an example supporting that position. I probably still could, but I wouldn't think it is all that impressive of an endorsement after just hearing the debate.

In fact, the best way to describe this debate is to call it a hornet's nest. The best part was probably Shermer and Prothero's opening and then it just went down hill from there. Damion goes into some detail about their arguments which I suggest you read if you want to know them but don't want to listen.

Basically, the IDers came off as really whiny. They also came off as creepily interested in one another, too. Several times in the debate Meyer would stop everything and talk about how great of a guy Sternberg is and Shermer mentions this...later on, during the Q&A the mod had to ask Meyer to not ask his own questions of his debate was kind of weird...

There was also a pissing match over what the debate topic was about. Technically, only Shermer's side really addressed it. The debate was on whether or not evolution was able to address the origins of life. All the IDers did was complain that they weren't being taken serial and that whales evolved too fast. They started mentioning the Cambrian explosion but barely did so beyond quibbling and both sides messed this topic up: complaining about how long it actually took and whether it should be considered an explosion or a short fuse. I can picture a layperson in the audience, who is interested in the discussion, begging someone to relate this back to the topic at hand.

Meyer did get some good jabs in on Shermer, maybe this is where I thought Meyer did a good job. Shermer compared Sternberg's argument to the god of the gaps argument in his rebuttal and Meyer was pretty slick in calling out Shermer for using canned responses in his rebuttals. This is a major issue that I have with Shermer in general, he is just too vague of a skeptic, it would be nice if he did some more research and argued more on specifics.

But besides that, the IDers mostly just patted each other on the back, whined that they too, had PhDs and didn't address the arguments their opponents made that were relevant to the debate's topic. They got away with this, though and the audience seemed raring to clap at anything pro-ID, I think they even accidentally clapped for a talking point that wasn't that pro-ID made by Sternberg.

Both Richard Sternberg and Stephen Meyer are the guys who sparked the whole Smithsonian/Peer-Review Controversy, something that was later treated in Expelled. Their back-patting all night in this debate definitely fits in well with the circumstances that are discussed in the Wikipedia article I link to.

A pretty frustrating debate. I would like to hear Massimo Pigliucci debate Meyer, personally. I just remembered that there is a debate between Meyer and Ken Miller out there, but I haven't heard it in awhile, maybe I'll check that one out later...

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