Anika Smith has noted at Evolution News and Views that Richard Dawkins, author of the recently published book The Greatest Show On Earth, refuses to debate Stephen C. Meyer, author of the recent book The Signature in the Cell.
Dr. Meyer challenged Dawkins to a debate when he saw that their speaking tours would cross paths this fall in Seattle and New York. Dawkins declined through his publicists, saying he does not debate “creationists.”
“Dawkins’ response is disingenuous,” said Meyer. “Creationists believe the earth is 10,000 years old and use the Bible as the basis for their views on the origins of life. I don’t think the earth is 10,000 years old and my case for intelligent design is based on scientific evidence.”
According to Discovery Institute, where Dr. Meyer directs the Center for Science & Culture, the debate challenge is a standing invitation for any time and place that is mutually agreeable to both participants.
It’s a fair question to ask why Richard Dawkins won’t debate even a creationist, but much more telling that he won’t debate Dr. Meyer, who wants only to discuss science. Dr. Dawkins calls “Life” the Greatest Show On Earth, yet he will not debate someone in how that show was produced? Why won’t Richard Dawkins discuss the science? Claiming, as his grounds for rejecting debate, that Dr. Meyer is a creationist, seems like classic Bulverism as explained by C. S. Lewis:
Suppose I think, after doing my accounts, that I have a large balance at the bank. And suppose you want to find out whether this belief of mine is “wishful thinking.” You can never come to any conclusion by examining my psychological condition. Your only chance of finding out is to sit down and work through the sum yourself. When you have checked my figures, then, and then only, will you know whether I have that balance or not. If you find my arithmetic correct, then no amount of vapouring about my psychological condition can be anything but a waste of time. If you find my arithmetic wrong, then it may be relevant to explain psychologically how I came to be so bad at my arithmetic, and the doctrine of the concealed wish will become relevant – but only after you have yourself done the sum and discovered me to be wrong on purely arithmetical grounds. It is the same with all thinking and all systems of thought. If you try to find out which are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like, go on and discover the psychological causes of the error.
In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became to be so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it “Bulverism.” Some day I am going the write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father – who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third – “Oh, you say that because you are a man.” “At that moment,” E. Bulver assures us, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.” That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.
But, it could be that Richard Dawkins is just outright scared to debate Stephen Meyer; maybe he has too much riding on the line and can’t risk being bested. I don’t honestly know. Maybe he learned his lesson when he debated John Lennox. At any rate, it seems that according to Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth can only have one type of reviewer.