Young Earth Creationist Debate Tactics

by Dr. Joseph

Young Earth Creationist Debate Tactics are discussed here by Dr. Joseph (whose chosen to be identified only by his first name). Joe is a former young earth creationist advocate, from the "early days" in the 60's, who is in the process of collecting young earth creationist methods for an upcoming book.

All that is below is from Dr. Joseph, who is commenting on a discussion that you can read at The Deck is Stacked.


I rarely take the time to do post-debate commentary in situations where no interesting arguments were raised.  But this thread with Mr. F. is so disturbingly stereotypical that I just couldn't pass on the opportunity to make some observations for the good of those who are new to these topics but wish to equip themselves to debate "creation science" anti-evolution zealots.

1) Inevitably, when their baseless arguments have been exposed and they can no longer pretend that they "won," they often complain that they were "merely asking a simple question" (as if their motives were purely educational) and express shock that their "polite requests" were met with unjustified discrimination.  But the general denial strategy used to ignore evidence also accompanies TOTAL AMNESIA in forgetting their belligerent taunts which initiated the battle.  In this case, Mr. F. made clear from the beginning that his "question" about card decks was not his quest for knowledge, it was his opening salvo in denouncing the website's purpose and touting his superiority:

"evolution is so bankrupt you really have to be closed minded & brainwashed to believe it anymore
sorry, but the fossil records to obvious the the creation Model."

{And no, I have not left out any necessary ellipsis. I've reproduced the excerpt exactly. The mass of words is probably supposed to be three sentences—and yet this segment is actually among the most clearly and grammatically written of what often degenerated into unintelligible prose.}

2)  As I pointed out in my first post, the "stacked deck" analogy [see original discussion] was hopelessly verbose and obtuse. I doubt if many readers took the time or effort to figure out what he was trying to say. But its biggest problem was that it FAILED to reflect honestly the fossil record—even IF the argument were somehow important to the theory of evolution. (It wasn't.)

But for those who still don't understand the card deck's purpose, it was a lame attempt at a rehash of a nearly forty year old refinement of evolutionary theory called PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIUM (Gould & Eldredge). Darwin had assumed what came to be known as phyletic gradualism, with evolution generally occurring uniformly in a steady, smooth and gradual transformation of entire lineages. Evolution critics still quote-mine Gould to try and pretend that he somehow "disproved" evolution when he actually reaffirmed it and in 1972 explained that stasis dominates the history of most fossil species. So when we find long periods of  only minor changes in a particular species in the fossil record, that fits the predictions of evolution just as surely as the even longer periods where a series of changing morphologies creates a classic "evolution in action" path chart!

But the worst problem with his "stacked deck" illustration was the assumption that fossil formation is "evenly distributed" as to time and geography. So the fact that perhaps 90% of all fossil remnants found so far for Species X happen to come from just one dinosaur bone yard in Utah does NOT mean that the 200+ individual dinosaurs found there reflect 90% of all evolutionary diversity! To say that this is just common sense hardly need be said—and yet with the "creation science" scoffers, perhaps we don't explain the basics nearly often enough.   But this is exactly why everybody told Mr. F., "You don't understand the basics of Evoluton 101 and your deck doesn't illustrate anything because it ignores reality."

[Yes, in another sense I can use a CONVENTIONAL deck of equally distributed cards to explain what the fossil record tells us about the entire panoply of transitional fossil forms.  But why use an analogy to explain reality when the ACTUAL reality of the fossil record so wonderfully fits exactly what the theory of evolution predicts?]

3) Mr. F. pretended that any mention of his spelling and punctuation atrocities were about superfluous nit-picking.  No, the mangled amalgamations of character strings took considerable effort to decipher—even before one's imagination could be engaged in trying to GUESS what he was trying to say.  Had he held any respect for the reader, he would have at least have taken the time to repair the words he COULD spell. And there are plenty of FREE downloadable spelling and grammar checkers as well as web-based copy-and-paste tutors.  It often took three or more attempts at reading to extract any sort of meaning from his prose. The vast majority of readers gave up long before that. So what Mr. F. all too easily attributes to his opponents' obstinacy was actually exhaustion and total bafflement.  A professional proofreader cannot manufacture sentient meaning where none exists.   To put it bluntly, Mr. F knows very little about evolution and what little he DOES know goes unexpressed in any meaningful way that I could draw from the printed page.

4) Another example of the almost cliched ignorance of the basics of evolution comes in the form of such gems as this one:

"Spontannious [sic] Generation is the new Goal post to explain away what shoulda been found in th fossil record & there is no science that proves it happens, has happened & certainly that is happening today...
but nevertheless, it wouldnt happen to such an extreme we still wouldnt have fossil finds of a gradual metamorphic upward spiral of fossils leading to the most evolved ones found..."

{Yes, I'm definitely saving that nugget of wisdom.}

He also claimed to have embraced evolution at one time but then he looked at some fossils in a museum and knew that evolution was a lie!  So once again we find the assumption that something about the APPEARANCE of fossils—even casually viewed in a museum by an untrained layperson visitor—easily confounds the many fields which affirm evolutionary processes.  And like most YEC anti-evolutionists, he assumes that the fossil evidence forms the very heart of the theory (even though Darwin scarcely mentioned them). Sure sounds like Ken Ham to me!

5) But probably the most noxious of "special creation theory" strategies against any Bible-believing Christian who affirms evolution is to declare them not to be one [ed. note: not to be a Bible-believing Christian].  No matter how much is said about one's confessional background and years of original language study of the Biblical text or even one's ministerial and mission field experiences, they not only dare preach Christ in condescending tones, they toss in tent-meeting altar-call threats that they unambiguously associate with atheists and Bible-bashers! Shame. Shame. Shame.

6) Yet, probably the most sure-fire way to lose the respect of your audience is when your "Deny, lie, and repeat" strategy is exhausted and you've run out of anything else to say, single-handily declare yourself the victor!

And as you all noticed, this strategy worked about as well for Mr. F. as it has for the YEC heroes he emulates. (Once again: "Dr. Dawkins, we just found one of your pigeons.") [Note: see original discussion for the context of the last two statements.] Some evolution defenders have likened this cocksure defiance to the knight in Monty Python who just lost both arms and both legs to his foe—but he continues to scream, "Coward! Loser!" as the victor walks away unscathed. And just as in that movie, I've seen evolution debate victors turn around and say with a smile, "Sure. Whatever you say!"

Yet, when it all blows up in their face and everyone is disgusted with them, they feign to play the victim. (For an example, simply read Mr. F's final post.)

I usually disdain generalizations. But it continually saddens me that a large percentage of "creation science" debates over evolution exhibit all or most of the strategies summarized above.


You can go the original thread of comments here, and to Dr. Joseph's earlier comments on the fossil record and transitional forms here.

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