Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rabbi Slifkin challenged to debate evolution

Dr. Isaac Betech has challenged Rabbi Slifkin to a debate (see entry at Rabbi Slifkin's "rationalist" blog). Dr. Betech wrote:
Dear Natan.
I am Isaac Betech, as you know, I am a physician ...

In your post you wrote:
“…a PhD in mathematics (not one of the natural sciences) and a physician - have declared that my science (referring to my belief in the antiquity of the universe and evolution) is wrong! The mathematician and physician are not disputing me; they are disputing the entire scientific establishment. And they have zero credibility in doing so.”

Since I have many times publicly stated that I do not know scientific evidences that prove the evolution of the species, and I do not want “to dispute the entire scientific establishment”, I invite you to a public, intellectual, respectful, protocolized debate; then our rationalist audience will not have to rely on my “zero credibility”, but they will be able to arrive at their own fact-based conclusions.
Please let me know when and where this scientific encounter will take place so I will B”N make all my personal arrangements.
Isaac Betech
P. S. By the way, your statement that I am disputing “the entire scientific establishment” is not accurate…
Rabbi Slifkin refused the offer to debate Dr. Betech. Somehow, in Rabbi Slifkin's mind, Dr. Betech is too biased to debate --- whereas, somehow, Rabbi Slifkin does not have these disqualifying biases. This is despite the fact that Rabbi Slifkin acknowledged Dr. Betech's biological expertise in one of his books. Of course, a rational approach would be too admit that we all have our biases and then attempt to debate the issues on its own merits.

However, Rabbi Slifkin did offer the following:

Meanwhile, I am not accepting his proposal of a scientific debate about evolution. I am instead offering a counter-proposal, and I am also accepting another proposal of his.

The counter-proposal is to publicly debate the scientific theory of his creation model. After all, he claims that his beliefs about the development of the world are not only based on Torah, but also on science. And he claims that such debates are important for reaching truth, and that pursuing truth is one of his main mottos.

I propose a format for such a debate as follows: Dr. Betech would first describe his model in detail, explaining when and how each major group of animals (Paleozoic fauna such as ammonites, Mesozoic fauna such as Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs, mammals, birds etc.) appeared and disappeared. Then I would pose ten question to him about his model. Then he would respond. Then I would pose further questions about his responses, to which he could again respond. Then I would make a brief closing statement, and then he would do the same. I would be generous and allow him to have the final word.
Something different can be proposed that is fair to both parties. Why not compare on scientific merits 

  1.  the billions of years of blind, purposeless, evolution advocated by R. Slifkin
  2. the Torah account of sudden creation via a transcendent intelligence proposed by Dr. Betech. 

The precise protocols of the debate would have to be discussed, but the first step is to obtain a clear description of (1) and (2).