Another frustrated Humanist review of the Whitby “Decide for Yourself” religion debates

Terry Price, the Humanist I wrote about in my review of the event (who was asked to stop distributing Humanism pamphlets), has written a review of his experiences at this event. This is very worth reading. Having not attended on Friday, and having been in the audience for the Frank Sherwin talk rather than manning the Atheist/Humanist table, I missed out on a lot.

Terry writes:

My Fellow Humanists and Freethinkers:

I would like to address our community on the events that transpired at the debates on the 23rd.

Friday night I went to speak to the event organizer on behalf of the CFI to find out what the situation was with our setting up. From my understanding, we (the CFI) were supposed to be given a table on which we could promote ourselves; however, this did not happen – we were informed that we would have to pay $150 if we wanted a table or bring our own. From my understanding (and perhaps Justin can clarify here) we were to be given a table at no charge.

On the Friday I started to give out flyers (after asking if I could do so), but after 20 minutes I was stopped and told I could not hand out flyers without a table. I asked if I could move elsewhere, but I was told the only way I could give out flyers was if I had a table. This was a fair request (even if prior permission had be granted), for I was the only one handing out flyers and everyone else did have tables.

The debate for Friday night was appalling. Mr. Hunt proceed to systematically ad-hom attack the Hindu religion: demonizing Kali (A goddess representation of the Hindu god-force) implying she was evil and was a deceiver because she wears skulls (representations of ego), and is often portrayed with snakes; and stated that the Gurus promote self-worship. The moderator, Micheal Coren did nothing about these blatant ad-hom attacks.

The debates for that night as well as Saturday consisted of mainly what appeared to be Dave Hunt supporters (but the only evidence I have is overhearing several people saying that they were from his church) – who were there to (seemingly) support him rather than listen with an open mind. Please keep in mind this is a subjective observation with no empirical support.

Dr. DiCarlo put forth (in my opinion) an outstanding argument, but Dave Hunt did not respond to his arguments at all, he could not stay on topic constantly digressing into ‘proof’ of creationism rather than offering data for god’s existence. At one point he even spoke about Israel. I felt like I was at more of sermon then a debate. For those of you not there, I think Dr. DiCarlo got the best line of the night: when asked what he thinks god would say if he dies and it turns out there is a god; to this, he responded “Welcome home dude! Congratulations, you used your brain instead of being a SHEEP”.

After the debate is when the trouble started. Our table was immediately swamped with fundamentalists whose only goal was to argue with us, not debate or find out information but argue. I have great respect for Dr. DiCarlo’s , Mark’s, and Justin’s patience in dealing with these people. After some time a person approached the table and began with methodically argue with everyone who approached our table and distribute creationist pamphlets (and littering our table with them). With my experience distributing flyers without a table last night in mind, I got the event organizer. I explained to him that last night I was not allowed to distribute flyers without a table, and this man is standing here distributing pamphlets without a table and being nuisance. He said that I was standing infront of people, but I reminded him that I offered to move. To this he replied “as far as I’m concerned it’s his business cards”. I had to take a walk after that. Justin suggested we take off a get some coffee.

I think it’s interesting to note that if you look up the domain registration information (through WHOIS) on decideforyourself.net you will find that it is registered to Thomas Fairfull whose email is hosted on fairfull.com which states that they are a foundation formed to “support Christian beliefs and values around the world starting in our own back yard”, and “win lost souls for the kingdom of god” (there is also some nonsense about a Christian Zionist alliance). I think it’s a bit of a contradiction to advertise “free thinking” and “decide for yourself” when you so blatantly promote the opposite.

Just a little extra. If you look back at the archive for fairfull.com (http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://fairfull.com/) it appears that the domain has been home to a number of different businesses including “hydrogen power” (under Dynamic Fuel Systems) and weight loss suplements(under unicity networks). But an investigation into all this is beyond the scope of this letter.

I know that many of us feel animosity about the debate. I know I personally feel like we were deceived into coming to provide ‘entertainment’ for the Christians. As we were packing up a person from the documentary filming beside us came up to apologize (quite profusely I might add) about how his fellow Christians treated us. Justin said “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life”. I guess I’m still in shock.

It is very important for us to recognize that we did gain from this. We handed out quite a few flyers and pamphlets , and many people were exposed to Free-Thinking that hadn’t even known about it before. We stood up, with our little table with the shaky leg and said “Hey! Here’s something different! Just take a look!” And in the end, it brought a smile to my face to see Free-Thinkers, Atheists, and Humanists from all walks of life sit down at a little Tim Horton’s in a suburb outside Toronto and share their minds. I don’t think I could be a Free-Thinker without the CDRH and people like them.

Love, Peace and Freedom to you all

-Terry Price

Terry {dot] price (at} gmail [dot) com

Note: I have edited my original review, correcting my slight misreporting of the pamphlet issue. I had written that he was said that he couldn’t hand out pamphlets, not that he was denied this option because he did not have a table.

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14 Responses to “Another frustrated Humanist review of the Whitby “Decide for Yourself” religion debates”
  1. Mark says:

    Excellent review Terry.

    I too was confronted at every turn by fundamentalist and literalist Christians. However, much to their surprise I was armed with more Biblical knownledge and questions they couldn’t answer or hadn’t thought about. I attribute this to the past several years of constant studying of religion and Christian appologetics as well as my previous life as one a Christian of a similar type to those in attendance.

    I spoke to one of the people representing ICR (Institute for Creation Research) who said he was a specialist in “human development”. When I proceeded to ask him questions pertaining to the recent report by the National Academy of Sciences on Science, Evolution, and Creationism, he didn’t even know what the National Academy of Sciences was. That was telling!

    Even as I was leaving the building, a man from the ICR came over to me to proselytize. I even surprised myself at how fast I was able to suppress him. The first question he asked me was “If you were going to die right now, what do you think would happen to you?”, for which I clearly replied, “Nothing.” He asked me about three times, “Nothing?” for which I consistently replied “Yes.” I think he was expecting, “I’m not sure.” at which point he had his next line setup, but that didn’t happen. Then I informed him that I used to believe as he did, but I was no longer a Christian. He was quite taken back by this, and suddenly became ‘interested’ in how I could leave Christianity. I spent about 5 minutes giving him concise answers for which he largely didn’t respond but rather just listened. I threw in a few Bible quotes and detailed stories in the Bible in my explainations to assure him I wasn’t a fake.

    Additionally, I must have spent about 20 to 30minutes speaking to a younger man who said he believe in creationism, but he wasn’t sure, and he was getting suspicious that he was being “duped”. We had a good talk, and I even gave him my email address if he had any followup questions.

    So, I do agree with your assessment that the staging of this even was highly biased, I was happy to have attended to be able to spread (however small) freethinking in a way in which I could connect with these people because of my background, but also, as you state at the end, to hang out with my fellow freethinkers is always a joy!

    Cheers,
    Mark

  2. ronbrown says:

    Mark:

    I would love it if you could write up a review of your experiences. I’ve heard of snippets of your day. I’d love to be able to read and present your full story.

  3. John says:

    There could not have been many supporters from Dave’s church in attendance . I have been to the church Dave attends in Bend and there are only about 40 -50 during worship. My son is now living there attending missions training and he spoke of no one traveling to Toronto to attend. Dave did not bring a booster club with him. Since creation is the first and greatest general revelation of God’s existence it is often necessary to speak on the creation to convince the foolish. I noticed that you had only criticism for Dave and presented nothing profound or compelling from any of Dave’s opponents, with the exception of a sophomoric and irreverent comment offered by an obviously struggling debater who referred to God as dude. I dare say he gives himself too much credit when claiming to be one who, as he said used his brain. If he would take an honest look at the human brain, eye or the entire body human he would know that there is a God who created him.

  4. Terry says:

    here is some pictures from the debates.

    Infidels 1
  5. Mark says:

    Dear John,

    The notion of “the eye is too complex” has been refuted too many times to bother repeating here. I came from the creationist side, and I know what the creationist points are. Are you deeply familiar with the argument against design? Please investigate.

    Consider, is it intelligent design that the human respiratory and digestive tracts share a little plumbing at the pharynx? In the United States alone, this intelligent design feature lands tens of thousands of children in the emergency room each year. Some hundreds choke to death. Many others suffer irreparable brain injury.

    So called “miracles of nature” do not prove Jesus or the validity of the Bible any more than they prove a number of other gods. When we look at the natural world, we see extraordinary complexity, but we do not see optimal design. Our own bodies testify to the inefficiencies. As embryos, we produce tails, gill sacs, and a full coat of apelike hair. Happily, most of us lose these charming accessories before birth. This bizarre sequence of morphology is readily interpreted in evolutionary and genetic terms; it is an utter mystery if we are the products of intelligent design. Men have a urinary tract that runs directly through the prostate gland. The prostate tends to swell throughout life. Consequently, most men over the age of sixty can testify that at least one intelligent design leaves much to be desired. A woman’s pelvis has not been as intelligently designed as it could have been to assist in the miracle of birth. Consequently, each year hundreds of thousands of women suffer prolonged and obstructed labor that results in a rupture known as an obstetric fistula. Women in the developing world who suffer this condition become incontinent and are often abandoned by their husbands and exiled from their communities. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that more than two million women live with fistula today (http://www.unfpa.org/mothers/fistula.htm). The cure for obstetric fistula is, as it turns out, a simple surgical procedure – not prayer.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  6. L. Ron Brown says:

    John:

    I posted a review of the DiCarlo – Hunt debate: https://theframeproblem.wordpress.com/2008/02/26/review-of-atheism-christianity-debate-between-christopher-dicarlo-and-dave-hunt-at-the-decide-for-yourself-religion-debates-in-whitby-on/

    As for the eye, yes, as Mark said, this argument has been rebutted quite thoroughly. Just look around the net. A quick thing that you may or may not find is that artificial life computer simulations of evolution have reproduced the eye. How these simulations work is by starting with a small light-sensitive patch of skin and setting the program to probabilitically favour changes that result in such improvements as differentiation of the world, depth perception, improved acuity (versus blurriness), etc. With these settings, in a natural selection simulation the light sensitive patch eventually became nearly identical to the human eye.

  7. L. Ron Brown says:

    John:

    I forgot to mention: I really don’t understand how you could view DiCarlo as having been struggling in the debate. Where did he struggle?

  8. adrian says:

    Hi guys,
    From the feedback i hear, I feel for all of you on the way your group were treated at the debate. I believe that it would be good for you to write in a kindly worded letter to highlight it. Debates ought to be hosted in a cordial manner, regardless of the topics in discussion.

    Alright, I was just wondering about something. This is regarding intelligent design. Isn’t it true that it takes years of building up of a good working knowledge of the human body and then a team of brilliant scientists to finally come up with an artificial eye? Would you be able to agree with me that it required an ‘intelligent design’ (by humans) and well honed scientific minds to actually fabricate it? Even to build a working bionic arm, you’d at least need a well functioning brain capable of doing some critical thinking and crunching data (and a sizable budget too). The very best science of today is still trying to come up with replicas of useful parts of the body. Even if they are rank atheist, they obviously think it’s worth retaining parts of the original design.

    While it may be maintained that we may think there are design flaws or maybe even defects in our current physiology (i do not discount it), does it unequivocally prove that there was no intelligence behind the ‘any’ part of the design? Actually the biblical answer to disease, suffering, pain in child bearing (the pelvis issue), the myopia i’m stuck with, cancer (mutations), even ‘death’ is as a result of the fall (recorded in Genesis, which i know most have already read through). Let’s not get into that for now. Even amidst all that, i hope we can see that despite our deficiencies, we’re still quite a work of art, pretty amazing specimens of nature. Take a look at yourself in the mirror, and say “You my friend, are an accident.” Even it were true, i think big bang did a great nose job.

    With regards to the eye, although we may have a blind spot, does it discount the fact that you and I enjoy the gift of sight? I think it was quite a good design to not merely have an eye, but 2, for spacial and depth perception. Despite my liking for monochrome photography, I’m thankful that i get to see my world in color. So, I’ll still put my bet on it that there’s a sparkle of intelligent design behind the human body.

    Now, I’ll admit that my argument might sound way too simplistic and lacks some sophistication. I also can’t guarantee you a great answer for every curve ball you may throw my way. I’m really just a simple man, so it’s still a simple argument I’m proposing.

    I’ve also got to say in sincerity that all of you guys who have contributed here obviously have the smarts, many of you write very well and are obviously very intelligent. I just want to give credit where credit is due.

    *sorry for using up your comment space, Ron.*

  9. L. Ron Brown says:

    Adrian:

    Greetings.

    “From the feedback i hear, I feel for all of you on the way your group were treated at the debate. I believe that it would be good for you to write in a kindly worded letter to highlight it.” [I’ve meant to write a letter to the local papers, but have been lazy… Who else did you hear feedback from?]

    “This is regarding intelligent design. Isn’t it true that it takes years of building up of a good working knowledge of the human body and then a team of brilliant scientists to finally come up with an artificial eye? Would you be able to agree with me that it required an ‘intelligent design’ (by humans) and well honed scientific minds to actually fabricate it? Even to build a working bionic arm, you’d at least need a well functioning brain capable of doing some critical thinking and crunching data (and a sizable budget too). The very best science of today is still trying to come up with replicas of useful parts of the body. Even if they are rank atheist, they obviously think it’s worth retaining parts of the original design.” [You’re gonna find this really cool: computer scientists have shown that non-intelligent evolutionary algorithms can often produce better design than teams of smart AI programmers and engineers. They’ve run various types of AI programs in which they start something (e.g., a computer program designed to serve a particular function, a simulation of the human eye) off at a certain impoverished point of development and then they create an ecological simulation. There are actually many simulated “organisms” beginning at this impoverished starting point. The ecological simulation involves simulating certain ecological challenges, having the simulated organisms go through reproductive cycles, allowing for random mutations in simulated genetic transcription to occur, and according differential probabilistic odds of reproduction based on the beneficiality of the traits of each organism (e.g., for the human eye simulation, the program would be programmed to give probabilistic advantages to things that promote enhanced 3-d vision, visual acuity, and the like). What these AI studies have found is that complex functionality evolves over many generations (e.g., one human eye simulation study which began at the impoverished state of a simple light-sensitive patch of skin cells evolved into an eye that was nearly identical to the human eye). What is even cooler is that in a number of these studies, the non-intelligent evolutionary program produced better design than intelligent human designers. Thousands of generations of multi-variable trial and error can produce better solutions than intelligent humans. And it makes sense. Human cognition has difficulty reasoning with regard to many simultaneously operating and interacting variables, computer programs (and nature) do not.]

    “While it may be maintained that we may think there are design flaws or maybe even defects in our current physiology (i do not discount it), does it unequivocally prove that there was no intelligence behind the ‘any’ part of the design? Actually the biblical answer to disease, suffering, pain in child bearing (the pelvis issue), the myopia i’m stuck with, cancer (mutations), even ‘death’ is as a result of the fall (recorded in Genesis, which i know most have already read through). Let’s not get into that for now. Even amidst all that, i hope we can see that despite our deficiencies, we’re still quite a work of art, pretty amazing specimens of nature. Take a look at yourself in the mirror, and say “You my friend, are an accident.” Even it were true, i think big bang did a great nose job.” [I agree with you on numerous things here. 1) design imperfections do not prove that we weren’t intelligently designed – though it does put into question claims of omniscience and omnibenevolence (though one could say that God programmed imperfections so that his dominance and ability to be the moral ruler would not be challenged); 2) We are amazing specimens, no doubt.]

    With regards to the eye, although we may have a blind spot, does it discount the fact that you and I enjoy the gift of sight? I think it was quite a good design to not merely have an eye, but 2, for spacial and depth perception. Despite my liking for monochrome photography, I’m thankful that i get to see my world in color. So, I’ll still put my bet on it that there’s a sparkle of intelligent design behind the human body.” [Recall my points above about how non-intelligent evolutionary processes can produce wonderful complex functionality—and better than human intelligent designers. Also, belief in an intelligent designer doesn’t really make things any epistemologically easier. In fact, it makes things harder. Because instead of having to deal with how an eye could have been, you have to deal with pondering how an omnipotent and omniscient infinite designer living outside of time and space could just be there.]

    Lastly, many thanks for your kind words. Quite flattering. And no problem at all for using the comment space. ’tis what it’s for.

  10. antiochagent says:

    Hi Ron,
    Regarding the debate, I’m not from around where you are (never been to the US of A), and was only reading first hand information from the postings you put up here on the account. I still think it best to let your grievances known.

    It’s understandable that you’d want to more readily believe an AI model of light sensitive patches than the possibility of intelligent design. That’s great. But what we’d like to see is a working organic model (no mechanical parts), then we’ll lay that one to bed. With regards to what you said about “Because instead of having to deal with how an eye could have been, you have to deal with pondering how an omnipotent and omniscient infinite designer living outside of time and space could just be there.” Yes, while I do understand it takes faith in order to believe in a creator, it isn’t blind faith. I’d propose that it takes a an equal (if not greater) deal of faith on your part in evolutionary science to explain the question on origins. It’s a matter of perspective. When I study every field of science from astronomy, biology, microbiology, physics … human sciences, languages, even psychology (your pet field !) I see thoughtful planning by a creative agent. However, when you see the beauty and intricacies all around , because the concept of an omni-everything God is so baffling, you’re be left in wonder about how amazing probability upon probability could come up with that. That’s still faith because you can’t conclusively prove it even by empirical reproducible science but still believe it. I can’t prove God in a laboratory experiment too. The bible’s definition goes “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I’m suggesting that placing the destiny of mankind for eg. on little ‘pichaia’ takes greater faith, despite how logical and objective we’d like to seem to be (they’ll change their evolution theories as and when convenient). It’s still imaginary science to me.

    The evolution process mainly has every group struggling for it’s own survival and evolving to get on top of the other. It sure must have taken a good concerted effort to come into such grandiose harmony in nature. It’s amazing that they took time to get creative and artistic in the process too. It’s amazing how women look the way they do, and men too. But if we compartmentalize human beings to mere functionality, we lose the wonder of life. There so much more to it. Cognitive ability and the ability to reason, to me is a God given gift because we were created in image of God (though marred as a consequence of the fall). Despite the mess we humans have put ourselves in, this world is still a beautiful place. I still holding out for a trip to the Grand Canyon someday. Formations, the raw fury and power of nature, colors, taste, biodiversity, simplicity and complexity, testify of a brilliant creative force behind it. I’m forced to see the evidence of a creator everywhere i turn. It’s still about the eyes.

    There’s one thing I’d actually wonder if evolutionary scientist will ever come up with. Life. Once you’ve got all the components right, make the object come alive. They’ll put it down to a couple of decades, maybe a few hundred years down the road to get that done, i think. Where do you and I figure our first heartbeat and subsequent ones come from Ron? You’ve said that you believe that when we die, we become nothing. It’s a statement of fact, but you won’t be able to prove it for yourself until your heart says stop. I say it takes a great deal of amount of faith (the word again) in yourself to say that. Life, despite what freethinkers make of it, is precious (though not to many). We can evade taxes, but never death. The bible says God breathed life into man. I know, i know, it may sound ridiculous for now, but it wasn’t I that came up with that.

    Ron, thanks for entertaining my thoughts. By the way, I’m interested to see the evolutionary scientific research being carried out in this field to find the origins of the eye. It would be great if you could provide me with the link sources so that I could personally check the model they are using too.

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Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Terry also wrote a review of his experiences of this event which I have re-presented here. It is well worth a read. There was much that Terry reports on that I did not observe. His […]

  2. […] less heavy handed, was consistent with the first two reviews collected and presented here and here. To readers who attended the events: If you would like to write a review (good, bad, whatever), […]

  3. […] February 26, 2008 — L. Ron Brown For general overviews of the event, go here, here and here. These reviews are all written by humanists who were strongly disappointed by the slanted […]

  4. […] the Durham Region newspapers this week. The event was also covered extensively on this blog, here, here, here and here. My letter to the editor on this event can be read below. I will be sending the […]



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