This week my husband decided to get involved in a friendly Facebook debate with a friend of his who is a creationist. Being new to skepticism (as in active skepticism as opposed to driving his wife around to do skeptical things) and not a seasoned debater, he did his best to hold his own but made some rookie mistakes. He tried to address every red herring thrown at him and within 9 comments the discussion went from Evolution vs. Creationism to murder, morality, Hitler, 9/11, the existence of God and war. I felt dizzy from watching the debate whip around and devolve into what I can only imagine Facebook would look like if Ben Stein’s brain barfed on my friend feed.
What could have been a calm discussion about science and a chance to teach someone the difference between propaganda and fact ended with two friends walking away happily disagreeing on philosophy. And it made me sad. But he had asked me to stay out of it because he wanted to see how he could fare on his own, and I did.
I don’t blame my lover face, though. Years of skepticism and active discussions on the topic of evolution and studying the tactics and talking points of the ID crowd have taught me how to deal with these people, and I don’t even do it particularly well compared to most.
What advice would you give an unseasoned debater or a fledgling skeptic for when they unexpectedly encounter The OppositionÂ® in conversation? How would you have handled the situation in Brian’s shoes? And, if you were me, would you have been able to resist the temptation to jump in?
(In the interest of full disclosure, I actually had to unfriend my husband for 12 hours to stop myself from getting involved.)
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.