Atheism Evolution General interest Intelligent Design

Krauss vs Meyer: Debate opponents disagree not only on Origins but on the intellectual capacity of their audience

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Quite expectedly, the Krauss vs Meyer debate got off to a poor start. Krauss has a few go-to moves during a debate and most of them were on full display in his opening remarks (one can hardly call them arguments). He opened with an ill-informed and misrepresentative attack on the Discovery Institute and on the person, character and honesty of Stephen Meyer himself.

During his diatribe, Krauss informed the audience that Meyer and his ideas are not worth debating and that Meyer himself is something of a dishonest marketing man for Intelligent Design. And what exactly is Krauss’ justification for this claim? Well, you see, several years ago, at a school board hearing in Ohio, Krauss, having failed to inform himself of the Discovery Institute’s long-standing position with relation to mandating the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools assumed they would be in favor of such a thing. When he discovered from Meyer’s testimony that they were not advocating the introduction of ID into public schools, Krauss came to the only reasonable conclusion he could imagine: Steve Meyer and the Discovery Institute were lying about their position. After all, the only other alternative was that Krauss had failed to do his due diligence in trying to understand the position of one of his opponents. How unimaginable that would be. No, instead, his opponents were dishonest charlatans making a “brilliant advertising move”.

This is classic Krauss. If you denigrate, misrepresent and discredit your opponent in the eyes of your audience right up front then you don’t have to worry too much about answering their arguments later. You just make silly faces while they’re talking or offer a few snide remarks here and there and hope the audience believes that you know better than your opponent, and that they shouldn’t consider his arguments any more seriously than your mime routine suggests you’re considering them.

If there is any doubt that this was exactly Krauss’ intention, one need only listen to his explicit admission at the 5:30 mark, when he says, “I want to just tell you a bit about this, because Stephen will, I know, you know, come across as a interested scholar and I want to disabuse you of that right away.” [1] In other words, Krauss is telling the audience that no matter how scholarly Meyer’s arguments may come across during his presentation, they should simply assume that he is being dishonest.

This was an incredible display of intellectual dishonesty on Krauss’ part and is a sign of the weakness of his position, or at least of the weakness of his own ability to effectively advocate his position in debate through an honest exchange and competition of ideas. When you honestly believe you have the better case (and the ability to present that case), you don’t resort to an opening ad hominem salvo in the hopes of preemptively discrediting your opponent. Instead, you attack your opponent’s arguments with better arguments about the actual issues under discussion.

All that having been said, by using such an opening approach, Krauss created an interesting opportunity for us to peer into how these two men viewed the audience they were addressing. How so? Well, consider the fact that by opening with this sort of attack, Krauss forced Stephen into making a decision to either address the misrepresentations that had been levelled at him in order to clear his name before proceeding with his arguments for ID or to simply ignore Krauss and make his presentation. If Stephen chose to address Krauss’ inaccurate attack it would take up a significant portion of his speaking time and almost certainly prevent him from completing his presentation. On the other hand, if he just ignored the personal attack he would clearly risk having his entire presentation undermined in the eyes of the audience by Krauss’ false accusations, in which case having the time to finish his full presentation would be of little use. In order to choose the latter approach, one must have a high degree of confidence in the intellectual capacity of the audience and be willing to trust that they are capable of seeing through sleazy debate tactics and personal attacks in order to focus on the actual arguments and issues. And this was precisely what Meyer did. Instead of wasting time holding the hands of the audience members and guiding them through Krauss’ irrelevant false accusations he simply brushed the whole thing off with a joke and got down to the real issues, thereby showing a respect for the intellectual abilities of his listeners. Conversely, Krauss showed a significant amount of disrespect for the intelligence of the audience members by assuming that they could be persuaded to dismiss Meyer’s actual arguments simply by presenting them with an irrelevant and false attack against his person. In doing this, Krauss showed that he had no more respect for the crowd than he did for Meyer.

Throughout the debate, it became very clear which of these two men truly was behaving as “an interested scholar” and which was trying to make a “brilliant marketing move”. I’ll join Meyer in trusting the audience to discern which was which.

HeKS

———–

[1] Krauss may have meant “disinterested scholar”, but the key word here is “scholar”, because Krauss is trying to attack the idea of Meyer as a scholar, period, whether he means to say  “disinterested scholar” or something like ‘scholar interested in the truth of the issues’

16 Replies to “Krauss vs Meyer: Debate opponents disagree not only on Origins but on the intellectual capacity of their audience

  1. 1
    ppolish says:

    I only caught the final 60 seconds or less of Krauss’s talk – and the very loud applause & cheering that followed. A bit disheartening.

  2. 2
    HeKS says:

    ppolish #1

    Yes, well my article was about the differing ways these two people chose to view and interact with their audience, not necessarily about which one’s choice reflected a correct view of some or all of the audience’s intellectual capacity.

    Being a Canadian myself, I would point out that we seem to be a rather more secular society here than is to be found in the U.S., so it wouldn’t be all that surprising if a majority of the audience defaulted to Krauss’ side of the matter. That said, it really is sad how quick those on the materialist side of the issue are to blindly support the participant that agrees with their worldview no matter how silly and unsophisticated their “arguments”. They will laugh, clap and cheer for the most inane and ignorant comments.

  3. 3
    Mung says:

    A classic case of the poisoning the well fallacy. Don’t they teach anything in college any more?

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    HeKS, Attack the man demonise and dismiss tactics unfortunately work very well — for the short run (until things go over a cliff . . . ) — in a situation where there is deep polarisation multiplied by message dominance so that there is a predisposition to believe the magisterium and deride the heretic. But after things go over a cliff, it becomes evident that there was evil, misanthropy and folly in poisoning the well we all are going to need to drink from. KF

  5. 5
    Robert Byers says:

    Very, Very, well spoken thread here. Right on and right to say so in this special case.
    Meyer respected, was not provoked, his audience and got down to business.
    Krausee had malice toward any in the audience who disagreed with him or agreed with Meyer or gave him a chance.
    Krauss damaged his side to any fair or even unfair intelligent observer.
    He is not worthy of a high rank ID or YEC proponent. jUst send kids against for fun.
    i don’t want the other side to be hurt this way bu thier own speakers.
    I want then hurt by a intellectual conquest. which is happening these days.

    I note the evos even think he blew it and they say it was just because he is not a biologist. NOPE. Thats a minor point.

    by the way a pro evolution etc etc audience would apllaud him. They applauded his CHILD ABUSE accusation against millions of creationists who demand equal time for creationism in schools.
    its a reflection on them and I suspect they reflected on it driving home.
    Hopefully, if they were TRUE CANADIANS an issue in those places, they will repent and maybe give Meyer and company another chance in a better climate of thoughtfulness.

  6. 6
    awstar says:

    In other words, Krauss is telling the audience that no matter how scholarly Meyer’s arguments may come across during his presentation, they should simply assume that he is being dishonest.

    I kept expecting Krauss to tell the audience that the dishonest but clever Meyer was just feigning a migrane to gain their sympathy. Maybe Krauss is actually kinder than he appears.

  7. 7
    Roy says:

    When he discovered from Meyer’s testimony that they were not advocating the introduction of ID into public schools, Krauss came to the only reasonable conclusion he could imagine: Steve Meyer and the Discovery Institute were lying about their position.

    If the Discovery Institute do not want ID taught in schools… why do they publish textbooks and lesson plans?

  8. 8
    mike1962 says:

    If the Discovery Institute do not want ID taught in schools… why do they publish textbooks and lesson plans?

    Private schools. Home schools.

    There are over 1,770,000 home schooled children in the USA.

    There are over 5,268,000 children in private schools in the USA.

    That’s a sizeable market.

    DI also publishes books on economics, technology, science and culture, and international affairs.

    Glad I could help.

  9. 9
    rohn says:

    Nice op HeKS.

    I believe the cliff is near! Dawkins has already fallen off.

    Awstar @ 6

    “Maybe Krauss is actually kinder than he appears.’

    The word kind and Larry Krauss are like oil and water. They will not mix and guess which one sinks to the bottom.

    At one point Krauss actually asserted that he was the possible source of Meyer’s migraine.

    Only his groupies think Krauss’ opinions matter.

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    The DI publishes textbooks and lesson plans.
    Therefore, they must want ID taught in public schools.

    The premise is true.
    Therefore the conclusion must be true.

    IDiots.

  11. 11
    HeKS says:

    Roy #7

    Mike1962 has correctly answered your question. Discovery Institute has clearly stated numerous times that the ID curriculum they have prepared is not intended for public school use but for private schools, students being home-schooled, and for adults interested in the subject.

    Here is one of many examples:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....96141.html

    They have even clearly stated this fact directly on the website for their ID curriculum, where they say:

    The Discovering Intelligent Design curriculum is designed for educational use by home schools and private schools rather than public schools. When this subject of intelligent design is forced into public schools, it tends to generate polarization, transforming the topic from a scientific investigation into an emotional, politicized debate.

    Please, Roy, don’t be a Krauss.

  12. 12
    Mapou says:

    The ancient Greeks, who invented democracy, believed that there should be a great many different schools of thoughts competing for the public’s collective mind and that it was up to the students to decide which schools to attend.

    Nowadays, we have a fascist system dictated by a bunch of cretins belonging to a single state religion: materialism. It is time to democratise education.

  13. 13
    Indiana Effigy says:

    I found Krauss to be arrogant and condescending rather than presenting logical arguments. I would hate to think how rude and offensive Krauss would have been if Meyer was not having a migraine.

  14. 14
    Me_Think says:

    The truth is, Krauss doesn’t care who the opponents are. He uses a set narrative (vast galaxies, Empty space is boiling, bubbling.., Open universe, miserable future of universe) which he repeats in all debates. He knows he scores with the audience with the narrative – and that’s all that matters in a public debate.

  15. 15
    Indiana Effigy says:

    The truth is, Krauss doesn’t care who the opponents are. He uses a set narrative (vast galaxies, Empty space is boiling, bubbling.., Open universe, miserable future of universe) which he repeats in all debates. He knows he scores with the audience with the narrative – and that’s all that matters in a public debate.”

    Isn’t that true of most people who participate in many debates? I have heard Meyer use the same narrative several times. That practice doesn’t say anything positive or negative for the arguments being made.

  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    About a Bike Lock: Responding to Richard Dawkins – Stephen C. Meyer – March 25, 2016
    Excerpt: Moreover, given the empirically based estimates of the rarity (of protein folds) (conservatively estimated by Axe3 at 1 in 10^77 and within a similar range by others4) the analysis that I presented in Toronto does pose a formidable challenge to those who claim the mutation-natural selection mechanism provides an adequate means for the generation of novel genetic information — at least, again, in amounts sufficient to generate novel protein folds.5
    Why a formidable challenge? Because random mutations alone must produce (or “search for”) exceedingly rare functional sequences among a vast combinatorial sea of possible sequences before natural selection can play any significant role. Moreover, as I discussed in Toronto, and show in more detail in Darwin’s Doubt,6 every replication event in the entire multi-billion year history of life on Earth would not generate or “search” but a miniscule fraction (one ten trillion, trillion trillionth, to be exact) of the total number of possible nucleotide base or amino-acid sequences corresponding to a single functional gene or protein fold. The number of trials available to the evolutionary process (corresponding to the total number of organisms — 10^40 — that have ever existed on earth), thus, turns out to be incredibly small in relation to the number of possible sequences that need to be searched. The threshold of selectable function exceeds what is reasonable to expect a random search to be able to accomplish given the number of trials available to the search even assuming evolutionary deep time.
    ——-
    (3) Axe, Douglas. “Estimating the Prevalence of Protein Sequences Adopting Functional Enzyme Folds.” Journal of Molecular Biology 341 (2004): 1295-1315.
    (4) Reidhaar-Olson, John, and Robert Sauer. “Functionally Acceptable Solutions in Two Alpha-Helical Regions of Lambda Repressor.” Proteins: Structure, Function, and Genetics 7 (1990): 306-16; Yockey, Hubert P. “A Calculation of the Probability of Spontaneous Biogenesis by Information Theory,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 67 (1977c): 377-98; Yockey, Hubert. “On the Information Content of Cytochrome C,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 67 (1977b) 345-376.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....02722.html

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