Aron Ra: Debatable Inquiry in a Church
A couple of months ago, I heard from a church in Arizona that was looking for an “evolutionist” to participate in one of their scheduled events. It wasn’t described as a debate but as an “open discussion” with an “informal format” relating to evolution vs creationism, where I and some Christian apologist would “each share your thoughts and beliefs on the existence of God or not”. That’s what the email said.
In that initial invitation, I was asked to compose questions that I wanted them to ask me about evolution, and what I would like to ask them about Christianity. Not creationism; Christianity. At least that’s what it said in the email.
So it didn’t seem like this was really about science vs pseudoscience. Instead, it sounded like the very first foundational falsehood of creationism; the false dichotomy that one either has to reject God to accept evolution or that one must reject science in favor of a literal interpretation of the Bible. Because they’re looking for an “evolutionist” [by which they specified that they meant “atheist”] to argue against a “Christian” [which they obviously assumed as a default creationist] over whether there’s a god or not, rather than which explanation has any scientific validity. So I interpreted this as science vs scripture, faith vs fact, something like that.
A day or so later, they made a most exciting request. In addition to this discussion, would I also be “willing to provide a one-hour training session for our leadership team on the basics of evolution and the facts used to prove the theory”. I was really excited about that! More so than any other presentation I’ve ever given! I mean, we have thousands of teachers using legal loopholes and other excuses to teach creationism in public schools, but when have we EVER had someone properly teaching evolution in church?
They had already told me that I was there to address high school students. Adding this event would be perfect! So right away I let them know how I enthusiastic I was to give them the very best evolutionary primer that had ever been recorded for their high schoolers. However when I checked back to see what hour of what day that was to be scheduled, I was told that the entire weekend was booked and they couldn’t fit my lecture in. When I finally met with the Pastor, he said we might still be able to do this on some future date, which I’m really eager to get on the schedule.
I didn’t see the value of writing questions for someone else to ask me. I thought they should know better than me what they want to ask, but I did precisely as they requested. As I understood it, these questions were to be in the midst of the “open discussion”. But as it turned out, there was no open discussion. It was just those questions and that’s it, with no follow-up for interrogation nor opportunity for counter-arguments.
When I submitted the requested queries, I was also told there would be audience Q&A. But later that was canceled too, due to lack of time. That’s a big deal! Answering questions from the audience are the best way to show which side has any actual truth to it.
It wasn’t a very informal setting either. Instead, I was given time limits and a list of strictly enforced rules, one of which prohibited me from insulting the other party even jokingly. So it seems there was a lapse in communication between what they were writing and what I was reading.
I got a copy of the questions back, my opponent’s and mine together, and I noticed they were deliberately re-worded, replacing all references to “evolution” with “Darwinism”. So I explained to the organizers that the words “evolutionist” and “Darwinist” were inappropriate because they’re meant to give the impression that evolution was no more than just another religious belief or an empty guess made by some lonely old man in the 19th century, rather than the field of reliable science supported by 150 years and tens of thousands of peer-reviewed research articles on congruous data compiled since then.
My opponent was apparently made aware of my five paragraph explanation because he arrived ready to defend his misuse of that misleading pejorative as a personal priority.
[Video and text source: AronRa YouTube channel]
March 28, 2020
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