Editorial Submission re: War of the Worldviews religious debate event in Whitby, ON
Here is the final draft just sent to the Durham Region News, for publication as an op-ed:
Local Creationists Stage Slanted Religious Debate Weekend
The recent War of the Worldviews event on religion was little more than a deviously mislabeled 2-day long endorsement of Christian literalism and sanctioned bigotry toward everyone else. This event was slanted to favour Christian literalism seemingly wherever possible, while attempting to keep up the appearance of semi-neutrality. It was run by Christian literalists, hosted at a Catholic school, and employed Christian moderators. The question-answer sessions did not allow people to question speakers directly, but required that questions be submitted to Christian literalist event organizer, Paul MacGregor, who freely admitted that the purpose of the event was to spread the word of Christ, and he would select which questions got asked and, more importantly, which didn’t.
The bias didn’t end there. Each of the non-Christian groups were subject to extensive bigotry, primarily from Christian literalist debater Dave Hunt. In terms of outright slander, Hunt ruthlessly lashed into Islam and Hinduism, accusing both of genuine evil. The bias against the humanists/atheists commenced before the debates even began. The event organizers attempted to revoke their earlier promise to the humanists for a table on which to present their pamphlets. Prior to getting a table, a humanist who was handing out pamphlets was ordered to stop as only organizations with tables could do so. The next day a Christian literalist who did not have a table was not only passing out pamphlets, but also forcing his pamphlets onto people and spreading them across the humanists’ table (they eventually got one). The organizers let all of this happen, even after the humanist who was ordered not to hand out pamphlets brought it to their attention. In addition to the bias against the humanists on the part of the organizers and Dave Hunt, there was the second-class treatment by many of the Christian attendees onto this group. Given the treatment received both from the organizers and many of the Christian attendees, a few humanists on hand claimed that they felt that the main reason they were invited was to serve as entertainment for the Christian organizers and attendees. So put off by the treatment that they received, the humanist organizations and many of the humanist attendees left the event well in advance of its conclusion. There was some solace, however, as a number of Christian attendees made a point of expressing their disappointment in the conduct of many of their fellows.
A brief comment is order regarding the pulling out of the evolution debate with Creationist Frank Sherwin. It is not uncommon practice for evolutionists to decline debates with Creationists on evolution. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it gives Creationism an undeserved air of scientific credibility and creates the illusion that there is actually a genuine scientific debate taking place. Secondly, the Creationists are not interested in having a scientific debate. Regardless of the counterarguments they hear on Monday, they continue to make the same points on Tuesday. They are not engaging in scientific debate. They are pushing their cultural-political agenda to expand Conservative Christianity. Hence, they deliberately misrepresent evolutionary biology, paint a picture of a dogmatic scientific community and victimization of Christian literalists, and act as if the scientists who oppose them are militant atheists. They ignore the fact that numerous church organizations (most notably the Catholic Church), the majority of religious scientists (most notably Francis Collins, evangelical Christian and director of the Human Genome Project), and the American court system are unified in the science-based conviction that evolution is real, and that Intelligent Design/Creationism are dishonest anti-scientific attempts to inject Conservative Christianity into the public education and political systems. They also fail to acknowledge that the only supporters of ID/Creationism are religious literalists. If evolution is so weak and ID/Creationism so strong, where are the atheists, agnostics and religious moderates standing up for ID/Creationism and opposing the supposed dogma of “Darwinism”?
Justin Trottier, Director of the Centre For Inquiry Ontario explains why the CFI declined to participate in the evolution debate: “The Centre for Inquiry Ontario, which was proud to supply Dr. Di Carlo as an atheist representative, declined the evolution debate for a very simple reason. Debates between ID/Creationism and evolution are political, religious or sociological debates – not scientific. They are a clash of world views, not a clash of rival science theories. What the debate ought to focus on is whether ID is science, since over 99% of biologists say it is not. By appropriating for themselves the title of science and demanding a “science debate”, the debate organizers attempted to win at the start on the very central issue that ought to be the focus of the debate. CFI was not prepared to hand them their victory by walking in the door.”
To read a collection of humanist reviews of the War of the Worldviews event, go to https://theframeproblem.wordpress.com.
Director, Centre for Inquiry Ontario
This article has been endorsed by:
The Centre for Inquiry Ontario (http://www.cfiontario.org)
The Canadian Secular Alliance (http://www.secularalliance.ca)
The Clarington Durham Region Humanists (http://www.cdrh.humanists.ca)