Hamilton is a progressive place where the difficult issues are tackled. Rather than being a cow town (we’re not! we’re not!), we sit around of a Friday evening and debate the Big Questions.
We had a phone call awhile back from someone from the Methodist Centre who wanted a skeptic to contribute to an evening entitled, “What Is Truth?” With four days’ notice, we politely declined. However, a talk was coming up the following month looking at scientific and religious perspectives on the origin of the universe. And the month after that it was creation vs evolution.
We toddled along to the first of these and my other half David was keen to get his teeth into the next one. So we found ourselves, one recent wintery evening, ensconced amongst a group of fundamentalists. We did have support – two Coromandel skeptics came and cheered, as did some Auckland friends.
Rather than go into the evidence, David’s plan was to explain how creationists really are not interested in this at all – for them the word of God is the yardstick by which all truth is measured and all evidence has to be harmonised with it. (See the Answers In Genesis Statement of Faith). It’s also important not to dignify the creationist position by giving the impression that there is a serious scientific debate about its validity.
The previous month someone from the local astronomical society had tried to encapsulate 15 billion years of cosmic history in 20 minutes, which led one person in the audience to say that it would take more faith to believe all that than the simple message in Genesis. It’s fair to say most people didn’t understand one word.
So – how did we do. Well, of course we won outright. But seriously – there was a lively, mostly enjoyable, discussion following and I got the feeling that a few people were jarred out of their former complacency. Pointing out that the human eye, rather than being an example of Intelligent Design, is in fact very poorly designed, had particular impact. A fun night was had by all, but is it worth doing this kind of thing? The answer has to be yes, if only to keep abreast of creationist tactics. They are an increasingly active bunch and it’s necessary to counter their twaddle if scientific standards are to be maintained (see Warwick Don’s article, this issue).
The annual conference is, of course, not far off now and if you haven’t done so already, you really need to book. It’s promising to be another rip-snorter, and kicks off on Friday the 13th! Black cats not welcome. See here for the registration form. So go to it.