Thursday, March 15, 2012

I laughed at him, but I also applauded him

I'm just back from a public debate of whether intelligent design should be taught in public-school science classes. Baptist pastor Steve Kern argued for, and doctoral student Abbie Smith argued against. Kern is the husband of Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern, a sponsor of "academic freedom" bills.

I half-expected to see a skillful orator tie a scientist-in-training into rhetorical knots. I've known many Baptist preachers and preachers-to-be, and I assure you that plenty of them are capable of it. Abbie would nail them on the relevant science, but that's not really what wins debates on matters like this.

However, Kern was ill-prepared and slow-witted. He was so bad that I wonder whether the host of the event, the Oklahoma City chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, invited him not just for his views, but also for his ineptitude. (In last year's debate, Kern argued that the U.S. was established as a Christian nation.)

Kern did get his tongue loose at one point in the debate. He emphasized that he reads creationist science books, and then proceeded to regurgitate various ill-digested morsels. When he made his way to genetic entropy, and stated that mutations always destroy information, I merely grinned. But when he ended by proclaiming that evolutionary improvement would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics, I let myself chortle. I wasn't alone, but I may have been the first or the loudest. The moderator gave me a disapproving look, and I deserved it.

The debate was a bore, though Abbie presented well. The highlight, for me, came during the Q&A. Kern said outright that it is theology that drives his science, and not science that drives his theology. I waited for the audience to respond, and when it did not, I initiated a round of applause. And I was sincere in doing so. What I detest about ID creationists is their fabulous dishonesty, not their belief in God. There's nothing more I could ask of Kern, than that he explain with complete honesty his subjugation of science to religious dogma.

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