Last night John Loftus and I had our second debate at Unity Baptist Church in Red Deer, Alberta. I am happy to say it was another excellent mix of Christians and atheists. The Q&A with the audience got a bit heated at times, though not as much as the previous night. Particularly notable was the first questioner who insisted to me that she knows absolutely nothing by way of testimony. Everything she knows, so she claimed, is through her own testing. This lady was clearly very intelligent in her own area of scientific expertise, so I was all the more taken aback by her insistence on such an absurdly false claim. From our first years of the developmental acquisition of language and concepts to the weather forecast we heard this morning, a vast amount of what we know is through testimony.
Perhaps most interesting was the engagement I had with one atheistic gentleman after the debate. It was a very cordial and enjoyable discussion. Afterward John Loftus commented that the man had come up to him before the debate and said “Why do you even bother talking to these people (i.e. Christians)?” So the fact that we ended the night on such a positive note was even more gratifying.
The issue of unicorns came up at least once (sigh) and at least two Christians insisted that there is no evidence for evolution. One young man stated that the dating of the fossil record is viciously circular. While I remember reading that claim from Josh McDowell when I was in high school, looking back I can see how absurd it is. And by “absurd” I mean not simply that we have multiple means of scientific dating (for which Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth provides an excellent and very accessible overview). More basically I mean the sheer absurdity at suggesting that the world’s leading scientists are somehow blind to a vicious circularity that is blatantly obvious to a high school student. I made a general observation to the audience about the implausibility of dismissing a scientific consensus without having seriously considered the evidence for it, but I’m quite sure many folk weren’t too happy with me.