Creationist debate

Hugh Wilson wilson at BIO.TAMU.EDU
Sat Sep 27 10:02:15 CDT 1997

Hello - emergence of the flowering plants, in terms of time,
available data, and pattern of origin-dispersal, is similar to that
of the mammals in that extant 'end products' are well defined but
info gets a bit sparce as you move toward the base of the tree.  Its
probably best to review info available in any intro biology/botany
text (college level - J. D. Mauseth 'BOTANY' ISBN 0-03-096842-9 is
*very* good).  For detail, you might check on the web:

You should be aware that the community of academic taxonomists that
*should* be prepared to deal with this problem is essentially
non-functional as a source of support, i.e., the Ivory Tower offers
comfort for the timid.  Also, as compared to the supportive
infrastructure available for pro-creationist debaters, (see:


for a look)

various academic groups that position themselves as
'anti-creationist' centers will - at least from my experience -
offer no substantial help for colleagues willing to engage
creationists (often pros) in debate (as indicated by the web).

Thus, you are pretty much on your own with regard to preparation.  I
have had good luck with the following approach:

1.  Open with the importance of basic biology to medicine and
agriculture (items the *audience* can appreciate) and the fundamental
position of evolutionary theory in basic biology as reflected in
college-level intro texts (would be nice to use K-12 texts but
advances by the creationists have made this difficult).  Move from
this to *education* and the need to train - especially physicians -
using the most current data and theory from the biological sciences.
This could also be expanded to *energy* via oil exploration,
geology, the stratigraphic record, and dating techniques.  Focus on
the complexity of living systems and the need to *rely* on
*scientific* specialists (geologists/biologists).

2.  Attack the academic credentials of your opponent.  If they are
academics, they are usually engineers or chemists with no background
in either geology or life sciences - get their cvs - *show* the
audience their publications - *establish* their ignorance/bias at the

3.  Don't follow paths that they expect.  These folks are usually
well prepared but this preparation is based on past interactions
with novice academics expecting a legitimate debate.  Don't allow
the discussion to move toward detail that is usually not appreciated
by the audience.

The general 'take home' message for the audience would be, in
essence:  We are discussing education in the biological sciences for
future generations of physicians.  If you or your family encounter a
terminal disease, do you want your physician to have an educational
background in modern biological science or the old testament?

That is at least one tactic.  I will copy this to a taxonomic
listserve that includes some subscribers that might offer other
perspectives or help on the 'flowering plant' issue.  Good luck with
the debate.  Am glad to see someone from the academic community
with the guts to engage - unfortunately, a rarity.

On 25 Sep 97 at 17:20, nokazaki at <nokazaki at> wrote:

> From:          nokazaki at
> Date:          Thu, 25 Sep 1997 17:20:26 -0500 (CDT)
> Subject:       Creationist debate
> To:            h-wilson at
> Organization:  Southeastern Louisiana University

> Dear Dr. Wilson,
>   I am an instructor at SLU, a small university in Louisiana.  I
>   have embroiled
> myself (!) in a debate with creationists who are trying to pass a
> disclaimer against evolution, in the public school.  They asked me
> explain the appearances of the flowering plants.  I am a geneticist
> working with crustacean and have no idea about plants.  Is the
> origin of the angiospems well established? If so, is there a fossil
> record documenting it.  Do you have any references to that effect?
>    I hope that I am not intruding in your time.  I would appreciate
>    any help.
> I thank you for the time taken for reading this letter.
> Dr. Nicole Okazaki
> nokazaki at

Hugh D. Wilson
Texas A&M University - Biology
h-wilson at (409-845-3354)

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