Update: A video of the debate is now up on YouTubue; and yes, it is a rout for Kern and a win for Abbie:
On Thursday fellow “blogger” Abbie Smith, aka erv—a graduate student who studies endogenous retroviruses—debated evolution with conservative pastor Steve Kern at the Oklahoma City Community College. The debate was sponsored by the Oklahoma City Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
Red Dirt Report describes the fracas, which, if the site is to be believed, was a rout for Kern and a victory for Abbie. A few snippets from the report:
This year, Kern took up the challenge again, this time debating whether “intelligent design” should be taught in public schools, something his opponent – Abbie Smith, a doctoral candidate in microbiology and immunology at the University of Oklahoma – disagreed with.
After introductions by the Rev. Jim Shields of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, Kern kicked off the debate by giving a rather rambling opening statement that, among other things, had him proclaiming “neo-Darwinism is a dying theory” and that “education is about having other points of view.”
“Since removing God from the schools, public education has suffered,” Kern said.
As Kern looked down at his notes, seemingly nervous and unprepared, Smith sat next to him, smiling confidently. She would soon have her turn, standing behind the lectern and giving a snazzy PowerPoint presentation that clearly explained
With images of reactionary book burnings and an artist rendering of Jesus coddling a baby dinosaur accompanying her notes that appeared on two screens, Smith’s classroom approach was smart, witty and informative in comparison to Kern’s rigid, fundamentalist approach. . .
When Smith concluded her introduction, Kern sarcastically congratulated her and explained that children are not taught the difference between microevolution and macroevolution and how the former “is the ability of species to make chamges within the limits set by the parameters encoded in the DNA of specific species” while the latter is the “unobserved process of one species changing into a totally different species.”
Noting a bill that his legislator wife, State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) has pushed, addressing “academic freedom,” Kern said all it would do is “allow teachers to point out discrepancies” in scientific theories, such as the theory of evolution.
At this point, Kern then got startlingly emotional, asking Smith and the audience, “Why are they upset about children learning about God?” He then added, “You can’t compartmentalize your faith, your education … they are all things, that are part of who you are.”
Because it’s against the First Amendment, you moron! Kern then went on to use a version of the “why-are-there-stlll-monkeys” argument:
Kern also said the theory of evolution was a “lie … (they) have been teaching and preaching and proselytizing for 70 years …”
This is where Kern began to argue that evolution – at least macroevolution – doesn’t make sense because “viruses are still viruses” and other organisms are still what they have always been … “You’re talking about adaptation here,” he told her.
Smith went on to talk further about viruses, while Kern sat there with a sour look on his face, coming back to tell her that “You go back and viruses are viruses … they may have adapted … they are still viruses.”
. . . “If evolution is true, why are so many people asking about its validity,” asked Kern.
The debate wound up with a Q&A:
During a question-and-answer portion, following the conclusion of the debate, one of the questions had to do with God and that if there was a God, wouldn’t the study of evolution expose His existence?
Smith thought about it and said, “Theoretically.”
Kern, of course, said that if a design is revealed, then logically there must be a “designer.”
This is one time when Abbie failed to score big. “Theoretically,” is a confusing answer. I would have responded, “Yes, the study of evolution has given evidence against the existence of God, for no Designer God would have used the wasteful and incredibly painful process of natural selection to forge His creations, nor would He have pointlessly led 99% of all species that ever lived to a final extinction. If a beneficent and omnipotent God wanted to bring things into being, natural selection—with all the incalculable and pointless suffering it brings to innocent animals—would have been the last process He would have used. And, of course, there are all those design flaws, like the small birth canals of women. . . ”
Kern, apparently, failed to grasp the elementary tenet of evolution that natural selection gives the appearance of design without the need for a designer. Nous n’avons pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là.
Kudos to Abbie, who, unlike other students, is using her spring break productively.
UPDATE: The Oklahoma City Biblical Examiner has a different (and poorly-written) take on the debate. LOL!:
At one point, Ms. Smith said that, if evolution were proven false, all science would be useless and she would have no reason to go to work the next day. It is unclear whether she was referring to macro-evolution or micro-evolution. Macro-evolution is an unobservable hypothesis which supposedly took place in the far distant past. It has no bearing on observable science today.
The Biblical Examiner needs to learn the difference between “unobservable” and “we can see it happening in real time with our own eyes.” One can certainly observe feathered dinosaurs in the fossil record around 140 million years ago, as well as a gazillion “mammal-like reptiles” and “fishapods.” And then there are those annoying early hominins . . .