Avi Davis Responds to Donald Prothero on Beverly Hills Debate - Evolution News & Views

Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

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Avi Davis Responds to Donald Prothero on Beverly Hills Debate

After the Darwinists lost the debate in Beverly Hills, Donald Prothero -- the man who cites imaginary eighteen-winged dragonflies as evidence for evolution -- tried to salvage his reputation by attacking debate moderator Avi Davis for setting up an unfair encounter. As always, thoughtful readers might want to consider listening to the debate and judging themselves who won and just how fair the battle was. Courtesy of the American Freedom Alliance website, you can listen to the entire debate here.

As the moderator of the debate, AFA's Avi Davis responded to Dr. Prothero's slurs in an email, which he gave us permission to post here at ENV:

Dear Professor Prothero:

Your posting BELOW on Panda's Thumb has been forwarded to me and frankly I am a little disappointed by it.

I wouldn't think this worthy of a man of your academic distinction and accomplishments.

So now lets get some things straight.

I had no association with Michael Shermer before I contacted him with regard to his willingness to debate the subject of evolution.

After he agreed to appear, I asked him for a reference of someone who could partner him in the debate. He mentioned your name. I readily agreed to the recommendation. I then suggested that I call you to extend the invitation personally. Michael assured me that he would call you and take care of all details. I spoke to Michael numerous times before the debate and he repeatedly assured me that he would be the interlocutor with me for all matters regarding your side of the debate.

With regard to the other side, I was only in touch with Stephen Meyer and had no contact with his debate partner, Richard Sternberg, either by phone or by email before his arrival in Los Angeles.

I do think, then, that I had very good reason to believe that Michael Shermer had informed you of the debate topic which was agreed between the principals to be "Has Evolutionary Theory Adequately Explained the Origins of Life?" This was established eight weeks prior to the debate and was negotiated in back and forth emails between myself and Michael Shermer and myself and Stephen Meyer respectively.

It was advertised as such in all our printed literature and in all our advertising and in our radio ads. The only place the debate topic did not appear was on the AFA website where the topic was deemed by our webmaster to be " not catchy enough "and so was reduced to the more accessible 'Origins of Life Debate.'"

Notwithstanding this, at 8:00 am on the day of the debate, nearly twelve hours before it. according to your own words, you were finally "informed" of the debate topic. That email contained the rules for the debate and a definition of terms, designed to avoid a conflict over semantics. Strangely though, you wrote back to me immediately that everything was "fine" -- only that you wished you had received my notice earlier. You did not protest the debate topic, nor did you mention that you had prepared a completely different presentation.

Yet notwithstanding our own tardiness, I can't fathom how it would have made a whit of difference to your presentation. After all, you were tasked by Michael with presenting a case for evolution, demonstrating how first life could have transformed over history into present organic life through natural selection via random mutation.

And that is the presentation I believe you made -- something completely in keeping with the terms of the debate. It was Michael Shermer who assumed the task of attacking the efficacy of intelligent design, contrary to the agreed debate topic. He did this, to my great surprise, despite the fact that he had confirmed the original topic with me on the phone only a few days before and knew how it was being advertised on our website.

Even with all this known, it is astonishing to me that you would be so completely flummoxed and aggrieved by the perceived change of topic.

As an evolutionary advocate of such long standing, how difficult for you could it have been to switch gears slightly and offer a defense of a theory you are absolutely certain represents the only acceptable explanation for the origins of life? How much difference would it have made to your actual presentation?

In short, if you now have complaints that you were misinformed of the debate topic, you have simply chosen the wrong address to deliver them.

As for the timing on this debate, you should know that I accepted Michael Shermer's offer to be a time keeper and it was he who offered me views of his stop watch to determine the passage of time for each presentation.

Regarding debating procedure, I will state that it is quite normal during rebuttal for the moderator to relax the rules and allow the two sides to engage in a bit of exchange back and forth since that excites interest for the audience and often gets to the core of the differences between the two sides. You had equal time for rebuttal and were given ample opportunity to make your case and debunk the arguments of your opponents. which, according to your own assessment, you did successfully.

Your characterization of a lobby " full of creationists, religious tract pushers and Holocaust deniers" smacks of prejudice and bigotry and is completely devoid of truth. The audience was a healthy mix of both your own defenders and your critics.

As for Dr. Meyer's and Dr. Sternberg's presentations, you showed them very little courtesy or deference, snickering at their remarks while making a number of condescending statements. It fell to your debate partner to correct your rudeness.

Unlike you, your debate partner was not quite so aggrieved that he had been mistreated or that we had been in anyway dishonest.

Here, in fact, are his words to me following the debate:

Hi Avi,

Good job tonight. I thought you were the perfect moderator. Things got a little testy there for awhile, but smoothed out in the long run. The audience seems pleased with the debate from the comments I heard on both sides after.

Thanks again. Someone told me there were 350 people there tonight, so that's much better than you thought might show up, right?

Michael

Michael Shermer
Altadena, CA

The American Freedom Alliance, which is a non-partisan and non-political organization and does not belong to either the right or left wing, arranged this series of debates in good faith and at every step of the way was careful to make sure that each side had an equal opportunity to present its case.

During these five weeks we presented some individuals of real class who displayed some genuine humility and respect for their opponents and for the organization hosting them.

Sadly, you were not one of them.

Avi Davis
President
American Freedom Alliance

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