Center for Inquiry
Mind if I call you DJ? I read with some interest the coverage of your recent seminar at the U of Toronto criticizing Intelligent Design and I have a couple of suggestions as to how to make your next presentation more effective. Forgive me for proferring uninvited advice but it's what I do best. (My friends can, sadly, attest to that.) So ... just a couple of points.
First, I like the way you dismiss the whole notion of "teaching the controversy" by saying, "There is no scientific controversy regarding the acceptance of evolution. The scientific evidence demands the verdict of evolution...."
That's perfectly accurate, of course, but it might be more effective to draw an analogy that most folks can understand. As an example, how about, "There are some people who deny that the Holocaust ever occurred, but does that mean we should 'teach the controversy' regarding the Holocaust just because some people don't accept its historical reality?" I suspect it's pretty easy to come up with other bogus "controversies" that could be used to good effect as examples here.
And, second, I think you dropped the ball rather badly based on this description of the question period:
During the question period, one vocal audience member stood up to challenge the audience's near-unanimous support for evolution. After a long introductory statement asking for tolerance and pleading to be allowed to go on without interruption, he asked four prepared questions and then read off a long statement that purported to prove the falsity of evolution. Most of his statements received chuckles from the audience but patient responses from Grothe. After presenting his point of view, the audience member advised attendees to visit the website www.evolutiondeceit.com for more evidence.
Now, it's not like I'm suggesting that you rudely cut off questioners but, well, actually, that's exactly what I'm suggesting here. As soon as it became obvious that the questioner above was launching into a lengthy, choreographed monologue, you should have immediately stopped him and pointed out that, this being an open question period, you wanted to limit each person to a single question or observation so that as many attendees as possible had a chance to make a point.
It doesn't matter that this attendee was "asking for tolerance and pleading to be allowed to go on without interruption." It was, in fact, exactly your responsibility to do just that -- cut him off. Again, since you were the speaker, it was your job to make sure everyone had a chance to participate and, quite simply, you let this wingnut run over you. Not good.
Naturally, he could have bitched and whined, going into poor victim/martyr mode about how you were somehow "censoring" his opinion, to which you could have instantly responded, "Censoring you? Not at all. Out of simple fairness to everyone here, I'm not allowing anyone to monopolize the question period. If you really do have that much you'd like to say, there's nothing to stop you from putting on your own seminar. I can even give you all the contact information you need to do just that, and best of luck. But this is not your seminar, it's mine and, because of that, you don't get any special privilege to take over the discussion period. That's just how it is."
In fact, DJ, as you can read in the very next paragraph of that news article:
"You can't go through life thinking you know everything," [the attendee] told The Varsity. "I don't know exactly what Intelligent Design is, but the debate is all about whether God exists," he said. "I think God should be taught in the classrooms." He met with hostility during and after the talk, mainly for taking up a lot of time.
But, truth be told, that wasn't his fault, was it? It's safe to say that, as long as you give a wanker free rein, they'll be happy to spew utter bullshit for as long as you let them. That he annoyed so many folks wasn't his fault, it was yours. You just need to learn how to nip that sort of thing in the bud so it doesn't happen again. (Trust me on this one -- I speak from personal experience.)
Other than that, DJ, good job. And let me know when you're in town next. We can do beers.
Jesus, Mary, Mother of God! Until I browsed, I never realized that the URL that attendee referred to, http://evolutiondeceit.com, was the work of total psycho and fruitcake Harun Yahya. This is a man who makes Weasel Boy look positively intellectual.
One doesn't dispassionately and meticulously dissect Yahya's claims. One simply points out that he is a complete lunatic. It saves a lot of time.