We often hear of legal verdicts being overturned on the basis of the trial having been poorly conducted. A trial where established procedures are not followed means that the decision reached was based upon incomplete or false evidence, carelessness, or perjury. But it is also, in my opinion, the norm for the majority of online debates, and the reason they are such a waste of time, regardless of whether or not it is intentional.
Recently I tried to take the approach of standard courtroom procedures to propose that the theory of evolution (ToE) should be put on the witness stand and cross-examined as relentlessly and thoroughly as young-earth creationism (YEC) has been all these years. My purpose was to force ToE to establish its claim to being “scientific” before it could frame the debate between it and YEC as between science and religion.
The request was clear and simple. One would have expected that those who believe in ToE would have confidently taken the stand and answered any and all challenges to their belief. And if one knows anything at all about standard courtroom procedure, one would expect the defendant to stay on the stand and not run around trying to play the part of prosecutor, defense attorney, judge, jury, and executioner.
But that’s what happened. Just as in the debate between White and Hunt on Calvinism, where White had great difficulty remembering the point being debated, the ToE’s wanted to put YEC on trial instead, having already deemed it guilty and decreed that it be thrown out of the court of science. The tu quoque fallacy was used as well in their accusations of YEC having the same faults. In addition, I as the prosecutor was tried and judged by some as incompetent to be in the courtroom at all unless I could prove expertise— and in every scientific discipline anyone wanted to bring up. This is an example of ad hominem. Besides, the prosecuting attorney is never expected to be the expert, but instead calls expert witnesses to testify, such as when a medical doctor is brought in to establish manner of death in a murder trial. It is also not for the attorneys, witnesses, plaintiff, defendant, or observers to determine guilt or innocence; that is up to the jury, with the judge making sure everything is according to law and to determine the appropriate sentence.
So when we see the defendant playing every other role in the courtroom, we are watching a mistrial. We can also identify it as such when both attorneys accuse every expert witness for the other side of incompetence or bias. And when expert witnesses’ testimonies conflict, as when for example astronomers cannot agree on fundamental properties of the cosmos, we cannot use them to establish the desired scientific principle. So to take only the side one prefers as expert testimony is, again, cause to declare a mistrial.
Granted, I’m no slick attorney, and never claimed to be such. But even the best prosecutor would fail in that environment. I had hoped for nothing more than to get a few people realize that what they do with science is what many do with Christianity, as stated so well by A. W. Tozer:
Many tender-minded Christians fear to sin against love by daring to inquire into anything that comes wearing the cloak of Christianity and breathing the name of Jesus. They dare not examine the credentials of the latest prophet to hit their town lest they be guilty of rejecting something which may be of God. They timidly remember how the Pharisees refused to accept Christ when He came, and they do not want to be caught in the same snare, so they either reserve judgment or shut their eyes and accept everything without question. This is supposed to indicate a high degree of spirituality. But in sober fact it indicates no such thing. It may indeed be evidence of the absence of the Holy Spirit.
Gullibility is not synonymous with spirituality. Faith is not a mental habit leading its possessor to open his mouth and swallow everything that has about it the color of the supernatural. Faith keeps its heart open to whatever is of God, and rejects everything that is not of God, however wonderful it may be. ‘Try the spirits’ is a command of the Holy Spirit to the Church. We may sin as certainly by approving the spurious as by rejecting the genuine. And the current habit of refusing to take sides is not the way to avoid the question. To appraise things with a heart of love and then to act on the results is an obligation resting upon every Christian in the world. And the more as we see the day approaching.
Now substitute “ToE” for “Christianity”, evolutionists for Christians, and the various other terms of divinity with names and titles such as Darwin and scientists. Oh here, allow me:
Many tender-minded evolutionists fear to sin against naturalism by daring to inquire into anything that comes wearing a white lab coat and breathing the name of Darwin. They dare not examine the logic or presuppositions of the latest theoretician to publish a book lest they be guilty of rejecting something which may be of unguided processes. They remember how the bogus evidence in the Scopes “monkey” trial was used to allow other views of origins in the science classroom, and they do not want to be held to their own standards. So they resort to an academic and legal monopoly, and shut their eyes and accept everything without question. This is supposed to indicate a high degree of rationality, but in sober fact it indicates no such thing. It may indeed be evidence of the absence of open-mindedness and the scientific method.
Gullibility is not synonymous with true science. Faith is not a mental habit leading its possessor to open his mouth and swallow everything that has about it the color of the purely natural. The scientific method keeps its mind open to whatever is of observation, and rejects everything that is of conjecture, however convenient it may be. ‘Test the hypothesis’ is a command of the scientist to the ToE. We may err as certainly by approving the spurious as by rejecting the genuine. And the current habit of refusing to admit falsification is not the way to avoid the question. To appraise things with a truly unbiased mind and then to act on the results is an obligation resting upon every scientist in the world. And the more as we see the ranks of defectors increasing.
But alas, my hopes were dashed, ground to dust with the mortar and pestle of ideological hubris, my case against ToE disposed of by a HAZMAT team as something feared to be contagious and deadly. (means they acted like I had cooties or something) I remain a heretic in their eyes, an ignorant rube afraid of lightning and thunder— nay, the quintessential cave-dweller. But if the alleged inability to grasp science is bad, then the inability to grasp logic is far worse (one example), taking perfectly good facts and observations and jumping to unwarranted conclusions from them.
Again, whether YEC suffers the same faults is completely irrelevant as to whether ToE suffers them. My point was to establish that ToE is nowhere near as pure and faultless as its followers declare, and that fallacies in a theory claimed to be the epitome of “scientific” cannot be lightly dismissed. Faulty reasoning undermines everything the scientist might do, so the scientist should be the most obsessive about avoiding it. Yet even those who still cling to ToE can see, as in the Cosmology Statement, that scientists are as sloppy with logic as anyone. (Read that Statement, and note how many of the criticisms of the Big Bang theory can be leveled at the ToE in general.)
Any time you find yourself tempted to jump into a brawl in progress, remember that it is a brawl and not a courtroom, and an environment controlled by one side. This was the mistake I made and will do everything I can to avoid repeating. All either side can really do is be aware of both sides’ arguments and judge for themselves. As I’ve said before, there are only two kinds of people in the world, with very rare exceptions: those who already agree with you, and those who never will. In all the years I’ve been online, I have yet to see anyone change their mind through participation in an informal debate. All I can hope for is that people will, somehow, begin to question everything with a truly open mind, and be very careful to make sure you do so after you’re sure you’ve seen enough evidence and heard enough testimony and cross-examination.