As PZ noted yesterday, Lawrence Krauss and Ken Ham both appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show last night and the YouTube video is now up (and PZ’s take on the subject appeared online just as I started typing this post, along with a transcript and some comments by Jason Rosenhouse). In case you haven’t seen it as yet, here it is;
Ham opens up with a classic bit of Gish gallop, all of the false claims he sputters out (especially about the creation museum being “mainstream science”) requiring more time to refute than is given to Krauss. Krauss doesn’t do a bad job overall, but (being the O’Reilly Show and all) the debate seemed more about religion than responsible science, and I think Krauss’ statements on the intersection of faith and science could have been better. I know it’s a hot topic (do we really need another round of calling people militant atheists or appeasers?), but for my own part I don’t have a problem with concessions like God started off the universe, knowing man would be created and intervened at a later point; as Krauss rightly notes that’s a religious notion and not science.
What irked me about Krauss’ response was his use of the term “purpose”, which immediately conjured up (at least in my mind) the phrase “purposeful arrangement of parts” and other ID catchphrases. I know this isn’t what he meant at all, but he needed more time than was given to explain (you can’t tackle an issue like this in sound bites). I’m not saying that everything else said by Krauss was therefore worthless, but when I hear the term “purpose” show up during these debates I do cringe, as it seems to make some room for intelligent design. Of course, I can’t guarantee that I would have done any better, and although I was not at the rally from what I’ve seen Krauss has done a wonderful job organizing people in response to the house that Ham built. It’s easy to be critical on my own blog without remembering the good, so I don’t want to primarily come across as a crank or malcontent.
In any event, it was a rather crappy interview. It was good to see the conservative newscaster side more with Krauss than Ham, but by the same token he was more concerned with Krauss’ allowance for God than with good science. In that way it reminded me of many debates about “science” on television that were really about religion, being able to drive gas-guzzling cars, etc., so it seems that unless science seems to be running in conflict with certain beliefs or market practices, many people just don’t care. Even so, that doesn’t mean we should stop trying, and I am thankful that there are people who are willing to confront creationists in the media even though the odds are stacked against them.