My interlocutor has posted a quite remarkable post mortem on his own blog.
The post is a heartbreaking act of self-abnegation on the personal level- it reads in places almost like an examen, and is explicitly identified by the author as a sort of credentialist's mea maxima culpa- but this is compounded with a breathtaking renunciation of a foundational principle of intellectual examination; the commitment to fair debate, as a means both of assessing the relative merit of ideas, and of sharpening the issues under consideration, by forcing the participants to confront and respond to challenges.
I have decided to respond point by point, since, we are assured, this exchange shall be the last one.
So be it.
PS: He has also had drearily predictable resort to the Memory Hole, having removed my comments on his blog and assured me the Memory Hole is big, dark, deep, and wide enough to accommodate any further posts I might venture to advance.
Gee who could ever have seen that one coming?
Recently, I got to debate a geocentrist online (yes, they do exist!). It was in the comments on a wonderful blog, Accepting Abundance. Though it was initially my attempt to understand why anyone would still be a geocentrist, it quickly became a sort of debate. Though there are several posts over a few days, in all, the debate took about an hour of my time. Most of that time was spent talking with a friend of mine in cosmology about the discussion, and learning more about the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the afterglow of the big bang. Specifically, I got to learn about multipole moments in the CMB and what they mean.
>> Well, at least you got to learn about the Axis Of Evil, for the very first time. It is not at all clear you learned about what the astonishing alignments in the CMB- the largest structure in the visible universe- with supposedly insignificant Earth- mean, because you specifically denied what they in fact consist in.
That is to say that you denied exactly what is a major reason the "Axis of Evil" is so "evil" (for the proponents of the standard model, that is) in the first place.
You see, the Big Bang universe is supposed to be isotropic and homogeneous on its largest scales, according to the standard model, and there is nothing at all isotropic about the Axis (as you yourself, finally, admitted). It defines a preferred direction in space, across the entire visible universe, and that preferred direction is inexplicably oriented to the ecliptic plane and the equinoxes of Earth, in direct contradiction to the assumptions of the Copernican Principle itself.
Though this was the positive part of the experience,
>> You're welcome.
the rest of the experience was fairly negative. So now I'm resolved never to debate a geocentrist (or creationist or scientologist or... etc.) again. Why? Three reasons.
Debating doesn't get to the Truth
>> Oh. So, then, what does? The Party platform faithfully enforced?
I just googled up a cute little piece called "How To Debate A Young Earth Creationist".
The irony is so delicious I must post this immortal excerpt, this never-to-be-forgotten insight into the profound dishonesty and intellectual weakness of the "New Atheist brights" and their dhimmi retainers:
"In fact, evolution could be very easily falsified. Evolutionary biologist JBS Haldane famously said that a fossilized rabbit from the Precambrian era would do it. Another way to falsify evolution would be to test any of the innumerable predictions it makes, and see if the observation doesn't match what was predicted. Young Earthers are invited to go through all the predictions made in the evolutionary literature, and if they can genuinely find that not a single one is testable, then they're right."
>>Now readers of this blog know we have now obtained something arguably more shocking than a rabbit from the Precambrian. We have obtained a TRex with soft tissue, blood, and collagen C14 dated to relatively modern age!
So there it is.
The precise definition of what our "skeptic" debate coach has asked for.
What do you suppose the chances are that he would accept this falsification- a falsification which answers, exactly, his very own parameters?
I suggest, alas, about the same chance that our intrepid interlocutor will admit the Earth-oriented alignments of the CMB Axis constitute a devastating observational challenge to the Copernican Principle; that is to say, no chance at all.
You can read the debate and decide for yourself how I did. My own judgement is that I did poorly. I think I lost the debate. In fact, I'd be surprised to find someone who, looking at the discussion carefully, wouldn't think I lost. But please let me know if you do think differently. It might be easy to do. Our bias against geocentric theory makes it seem as though I might have won, but simply looking at the argument, the exchange, the use of rhetoric, and my loss of patience and the limits on my time (I refused to spend more than 15-20 minutes/day on this; I have a kid to watch and a dissertation to write!), the exchange ended poorly for me.
>> The debate ended poorly for you because you repeatedly denied the scientific authors' own statements concerning the CMB alignments with the ecliptic and equinoxes.
You repeatedly insisted, in direct contradiction to the scientific evidence itself, that these alignments "have nothing whatever to do with Earth".
That's why you lost.
Not because of your bad mood or your deficiencies in rhetoric.
Good heavens, man, you had the easiest position to defend in all of history!
Everyone believes the Copernican Principle.
But when you started contradicting the scientific data itself........well.
That's where you lost.
But there's no doubt that geocentric theory is wrong.
>> Then why couldn't you show it to be wrong? Why could you not point to this or that experiment showing a direct measurement of the motion of the Earth around the Sun?
Oh, that's right.
Because there isn't one; because every experiment ever undertaken to measure that universally assumed motion failed to detect it, and ultimately physics itself had to be re-invented soup-to-nuts by the Theory of Relativity, in order to explain that failure!
Now when you say "there is no doubt that geocentric theory is wrong", we would expect you to be making a scientific, not a theological, statement.
But it turns out you aren't.
You are making, exactly, a statement of faith in this regard.
Which is fine, except your readers were expecting you to be the guy advancing the science, and you couldn't come up with the goods.
If this is wrong, we might as well postulate that the universe were created a week ago with all our memories fabricated, or that we are simply brains floating in a void dreaming of the world. So, seeing this as a test, does the debate winner determine the truth on the debate topic? Not in this case.
>> You see, there exists no logical connection at all between geocentrism, a week old universe with fabricated memories, or floating brains in a void dreaming of the world.
Geocentrism is very easy to falsify.
Simply measure the motion of Earth around Sun.
If you insist that this little detail can be safely ignored, since science tells us that we cannot measure any absolute motion, then tell us why that same science also tells us the Universe must be isotropic and homogeneous on its largest scales....which you yourself admit in the debate it is not, since you yourself admit in the debate that the very largest structure in the visible universe is not isotropic!
You, like the "skeptic" debating coach in the face of Mary's Bones, have an observational problem in the form of a universe-spanning, anisotropic Axis in the CMB, inexplicably oriented with supposedly insignificant Earth, and you could not fairly address it.
That's why you lost.
Not in many cases, I think. This is one reason I hate debates. This is also the one thing I like about Richard Dawkins. I used to think Dawkins was an amazing writer and popularizer of science, but a fairly unphilosophical and insulting fellow who shouldn't be writing about theology. Until he refused to debate William Lane Craig. Now it's hard for me not to respect him. At least, for that.
>> Well, you admire the wrong guy for the wrong reason, is all I can tell you.
Debating Encourages the Madness
Debating encourages the crazy. It really does. How can it not? Let's imagine I had more time, patience, rhetorical skill. Imagine I was Bill Craig debating about geocentric theory. I'd trounce my opponent.
>> So find yourself a Copernican Bill Craig and send him on over here to Magisterial Fundies, pull up a chair, pop some popcorn, and enjoy.
I'm easy to find.
What would this accomplish?
>> Ummmmmmm......a better debate, maybe?
Well, my opponent is so invested in his dogma, he thinks the earth doesn't move, for crying out loud!
>> Oughta be easy for your Bill Craig to wipe the floor with a dimwitted fundie like that, eh? Strange you couldn't......
But of course that is not even the issue.
Our debate was not about geocentrism. At your request, our debate was about the CMB Axis. One single piece of scientific evidence, just as you requested.
I will happily debate geocentrism with anyone, any time.
I will happily debate the CNB Axis with anyone, any time.
I will happily assert that until someone takes me up on this, and provides either a compelling scientific or a compelling metaphysical argument against my position..........
"For crying out loud!" is not going to get you very far.
"For crying out loud" is not an argument.
It is the last resort of somebody who is sure he is right, but doesn't have the evidence to prove it.
That's not science.
That's not even faith.
That's a dunderhead's clownish appeal to the peanut gallery.
He won't accept defeat.
>> Umm, would it be OK to actually get defeated first? Just asking.......
Either he'll think he lost not because of his ideas but because of his skill.
>> No, that's what you did.
As I wrote above, I'm at risk for the same delusion. Another reason debates don't work.
>> Not for you, anyway.......
Eventually the responses end, and people part ways. What will this person think at the end? What will his fans think? He'll think two things. My debating him has given his position legitimacy.
>> Well, it typically does not harm one's legitimacy to win a debate. But then again, maybe you just need a Bill Craig.
A real astronomer is willing to debate this, so it must be real! The second thing is that the real astronomer failed (even if I had won, he and his fans would have thought I'd lost),
>> Don't be so worried about what anybody else thinks. Just make your case. People are quite capable of sorting it out.
so this shows that the geocentrist position is correct, just like they'd suspected! In fact, if we had been debating something that wasn't completely crazy, there might have been people on the fence, and my failure might have pushed them off the wrong way. Not good.
>> In other words, a real astronomer couldn't address the Axis observations which he never even suspected existed until he heard about them from the geocentrist who, we are asked to believe, can't possibly know anything about science because..........he's a geocentrist, for crying out loud!
I have to agree.
Your position is not compelling.
Because a large number of Americans (republicans and democrats) believe that the earth is a few thousand years old,
>> Let's discuss that. Have you heard about Mary's Bones? You know, the supposedly 70,000,000-80,000,000 year old dino bones with blood cells, collagen, and soft tissue, that have been carbon dated to relatively modern ages?
You won't debate "creationists" either.
How conveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenient! :-)
You were the one who marched in to this debate trumpeting your scientific credentials, and you were- and are!-the one who steadfastly refuses to address any scientific data except the data that fit your preconceived theory.
I'll keep the light on for your WMAP team friend, or for your Bill Craig.
If they come to fight, it'll be a good one.
If they come to truthfully address the observational challenges to Darwinism and the Copernican Principle, it'll be even better.
Thanks for the debate.