Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

God, the Devil, and Darwin

There was a debate at ETSU in 1996 regarding Evolution and Intelligent Design.

The ID person was Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation Research.

Speaking for science was ETSU professor, Niall Shanks. Here is an account of the debate by Shanks in an article of his:
Fighting for Our Sanity in Tennessee: Life on the Front Lines. He offers a flavor of East Tennessee.

Back in 1996, when the state legislature was considering the Burks-Whitson Bill to restrict the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools, I was invited to debate Dr. Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation Research. The debate was held here on campus in an auditorium that seated about nine hundred people. We had a full house, with about three hundred more folks listening on loudspeakers outside. Gish had insisted that I go first. Sensing that this was a cunning strategy to put me at some form of disadvantage, I took the trouble to obtain some videos of his previous debates from Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education. (By the way, I learned that Gish is nothing if not consistent; his presentation did not appear to have evolved over time. The same arguments were stated in the same way, time after time. No punctuation, just equilibrium.)

Well, I thought, if I have to go first, I may as well state Gish’s main arguments clearly for him, making sure they were equally clearly refuted. And to keep the attention of the audience, I also used most of his one-liners and jokes—so he had to quote me to work them back in again. All in all it was tremendous fun. And even a representative of Campus Crusade admitted that Gish had been disappointing and that I was clearly “well prepared” (I assume this is a Christian euphemism for doing an excellent job of baloney eradication). Not bad for a day’s work. And I am happy to say that the Burks-Whitson Bill also failed to get legislative support, thereby preventing Tennessee from becoming an international laughingstock again.

Shanks has moved on to Kansas. But while at ETSU he did some great work.

He wrote one of the first books to provide a critique of Intelligent Design, entitled,
God, the Devil, and Darwin. Here is a review.

In his acknowledgments, he credits the adult forum of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton. Here is what he wrote about us:

"I am also grateful to Julia Wade and the members of the adult Sunday school at First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee. These good people made an unbeliever welcome and kindly commented on a series of lectures I gave on these matters in the long, hot summer of 2002."
That was before I arrived.


  1. Hey, guys,

    This has absolutely nothing to do with the post, but I saw from visiting Dr. Monkey's blog that he has a cardiac procedure scheduled for today.

    I want to ask everyone to uphold him, and his cardiologist in prayer.

  2. Thanks for the heads-up, Grace. Will do.

  3. From Shanks:

    "In a real sense, then, those of us who care about science education are not just facing the challenge of teaching interesting and exciting scientific ideas, we are also fighting the battles of the Enlightenment all over again. Medieval ideas that were killed stone dead by the rise of science three to four hundred years ago are not merely twitching; they are alive and well in our schools, colleges, and universities."

    ...and God's peace to Dr. Monkey.