Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Factual Discrepencies

One of my biggest criticisms of those crazy conservatives is that they refuse to admit when they're wrong - whether it's debating the theory of evolution or whether or not being 'gay' is a liberal conspiracy.

But that being said, it would be totally hypocritical of me to not admit when I'd made a booboo. Like the one I made on Monday, when I complained bitterly about the wretched misinformation site Conservapedia misrepresenting the verdict of a 1986 Oxford University Debate featuring 'Darwin's Rottweiler,' professor Richard Dawkins.

The debate was The Huxley Memorial Debate, a celebration of the 1860 debate between the Bishop of Oxford and Thomas Henry Huxley - debating the theory of evolution.

The 1986 rematch featured widely discredited creationist Arthur Ernest Wilder-Smith debating with Richard Dawkins over the hypothesis "That the Doctrine of Creation is more valid than the Theory of Evolution."

After three hours of debate, the motion was defeated and Richard Dawkins clearly won the debate - but things get fuzzy when people try to work out by how much.

The actual records of the debate from Oxford University have inexplicably gone missing, which means it's pretty tricky to get an accurate gauge of the margins to which Dawkins won the debate. Wilder-Smith claims that 'a third - almost one half - of those attending supported creationism' while the American Association for the Advancement of Science only adds to the confusion by recording 198 votes in favour of Professor Dawkins and only l 5 supporting creationism.

The letter 'l' followed by the number 5. On Monday, I had misread this as '15.'

Because of this typo, I can't really accuse the likes of Conservapedia of misrepresenting the number of 'aye' votes because the AAAS clearly didn't record them accurately.

However, I'm also loath to believe Wilder-Smith's claims that 'almost half' of those attending the debate voted in support of creationism. After all Wilder-Smith was a pathological liar (proven by his involvement in a scam to forge dinosaur and human tracks at Paluxy River in Dinosaur Valley State Park - in order to support the theory than man and dinosaur walked the earth at the same time.)

Fortunately, the correct answer was easy enough to find - on Professor Dawkin's own website.

The adamant atheist provides his own take on the voting - admitting that a significant number of people supported the creationists (far more than the 15 I'd surmised) and then provides MP3 recordings of the debate itself, which clearly feature the votes being counted and 115 'ayes' being acknowledged.

Finally, to support Dawkin's account of the debate, the actual number of voters was estimated to be around 300. If the AAAS had been correct - and only 15 had supported the creationist motion - around 100 voters would have abstained (which is unlikely.)

Therefore, I have to hold up my hands and admit I was wrong.

This doesn't mean I support Conservapedia. I still think they're a wretched mine of misinformation. Their entry on Richard Dawkins, for example, has a single paragraph on the man's belief and background and pages of discussion over whether or not he's a 'real' Oxford Professor (since he's on the Oxford University payroll, listed as a professor, I'd say the answer was 'yes.')

Discrediting Dawkins seems far more important to Conservapedia clowns than actually writing an encyclopedia entry on him.

1 comment:

PQG said...

MG,

I agree with you that there's no God. However, don't get all goofy like Dawkins and start thinking that jettisoning God will help mankind in any way. We'll always find something bigger than ourselves to slavishly follow and give our lives "meaning". This something bigger not only provides meaning, it's indispensible in that it gives a good justification for dominating, stealing stuff from, or killing other groups of human beings who don't know about it or don't believe in it.

Here's an atheist who has the right idea...

http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/politicsphilosophyandsociety/story/0,,2265446,00.html