Regular readers of this site know that a recent article on the 80 whale fossils of the Atacama Desert set off a firestorm of controversy. The prime mover of this controversy is a resident of Glasgow, Scotland, UK, named Fergus Mason. Your editor, as the voice of CNAV, challenged Mr. Mason to a direct debate with Walter T. Brown, developer of the hydroplate theory of the Global Flood.
Terms and conditions of the recorded telephonic debate offer
In In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, Brown gives detailed terms and conditions for two kinds of debate that he offers to have with critics of his hydroplate theory. The two kinds of debate are written and oral. The written debate, as Brown explained to CNAV today, is an effort to produce a book showing both sides of the issue. This massive undertaking would need at least a man-year of work from Brown and at least a man-year from any team of opponents.
If you know any credible individuals who disagree with the hydroplate theory, but will not enter a written, publishable debate as explained on pages 485–487, here is their opportunity to show orally, before a potentially large audience, that they have a scientific case.
In fact, Brown told CNAV that he would welcome a challenge from anyone willing to abide by the terms and conditions, no matter what his or her schooling, training or experience. To reply to one persistent question, Brown will hold his written debate only with a PhD as either his sole opponent or as team leader. He also expects the team to work as a team, willing to accept its leader as a true captain and not work at cross-purposes. The reason is simple: he would not want to work so hard on his half of the book, only to have the other half be less than a scholarly effort.
The telephone debate offer is a much less time-consuming debate: a sixty-minute conversation, with both sides, plus a moderator, calling in to a conference-call server. Dr. Brown asks the would-be critic of the hydroplate theory to write him at email@example.com to:
- Request a recorded telephone debate, with further written exchanges as needed, and
- Say that he or she has read the relevant parts of Dr. Brown’s book.
Those parts are Part II, “The Fountains of the Great Deep,” and relevant citations and technical notes. (Those accepting the written debate offer must also be familiar with Parts I and III.) The challenger must also give the usual contact information, including name and mailing, e-mail, and other addresses, and at least one telephone number.
Procedure and rules
When Dr. Brown receives the letter of acceptance, he will prepare a Portable Display Format (PDF) file of his book, in its current form. (He maintains his book online, edits it ceaselessly, and was working on a key page during his interview with CNAV.) This he will “burn” to a compact disk and send it to the challenger. This will give the challenger the chance to read the most current version of the book that Dr. Brown can make available, tell him what page any particular chapter begins with, etc.
Then the two men will start negotiating where to find a moderator. The moderator must be the coach of the debate team at a leading university. Both sides must agree in selecting him, though Brown said that the third round of selection would be final. The moderator’s job is twofold:
- To enforce the rules, and
- To make sure that each side gets the same amount of time to ask questions.
This second part is important. It would forbid either side to burden the other with two many questions to answer on the spur of the moment. Some debate coaches call this argumentum verbosum (the verbose argument, proof by verbosity). Eugenie C. Scott of the National Institute for Science Education calls it the “Gish Gallop,” after Duane T. Gish, who often presents several objections to evolution in rapid-fire fashion in a debate. Dr. Brown explained to CNAV that he would not use such a technique, and that neither the format nor the moderator would allow it from either side.
The rules are simple:
The opponent must read all the material that Dr. Brown asks him to read. (He cannot challenge the hydroplate theory effectively if he does not do this.)
Neither side will appeal to religion in any way. That means that neither side will:
- Refer to the Bible or any other religious writing,
- Make fun of a deity or religious belief, or
- Use a religious writing to support a scientific claim.
Supporting a scientific claim that happens to agree or be consistent with a religious writing would not break this rule. But citing the religious writing as evidence, would.
To enforce the read-in-advance rule, the moderator must ask the challenger:
- Have you read the relevant parts of the book as Dr. Brown ask? And:
- What is the first thing you find wrong with the hydroplate theory?
Then the discussion will begin. But the moderator will stop it if he decides that the challenger did not read the material.
The hydroplate theory is necessarily complex (see below). So Dr. Brown offers to read any advance material that the challenger wants to send. Furthermore, if the issues that come up in the conversation prove too complex to settle at once, the two sides can agree to meet again, a month later, for another conference call, and to exchange calculations and other writings in-between.
The hydroplate theory in summary
The hydroplate theory is Dr. Brown’s attempt to explain twenty-five different mysteries about the earth, the moon, and the solar system. They include:
- How did the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and other ridges in the ocean form? (And what is the nature of the Black Smokers that bubble up out of the ridges to this day?)
- What produced the great heat at the earth’s core?
- What produced the trenches that surround the Pacific Ocean, and the Ring of Fire?
- What froze the great woolly mammoths? (And why does one find tropical-like vegetation in the Arctic mammoth graveyards?)
- How did the Grand Canyon form?
- Why do the continents fit together like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle?
- Where do comets, asteroids, and meteoroids come from? (And why do comets have twice the proportion of deuterium in the earth’s oceans?)
- What really formed the radioactive elements that are present on land, but never on the ocean floor?
The answers to those questions are often shocking and surprising at first reading (as your editor can directly attest). But the hydroplate theory is entirely self-consistent. Dr. Brown has refined his theory for more than thirty years.
The current challenge
Your editor challenged Mr. Mason last week, after Mr. Mason said that he had two bachelor-of-science degrees, one each in biology and astronomy, and suggested that his schooling and training were better than those of Brown in the subjects at hand. He suggested that CNAV forward his e-mail address to Brown. CNAV did, and Dr. Brown replied directly to Mr. Mason and reaffirmed his challenge.
Dr. Brown still needs Mr. Mason to reply formally to his last message, in the form that Dr. Brown has set forth (see above). He suggested that Mr. Mason should not consider his challenge accepted until he actually makes it in that form. He also suggested that he and Mason could copy CNAV on all their correspondence, an arrangement with which CNAV would agree.
CNAV also is ready to publish the transcript of the debate as soon as Dr. and Mrs. Brown prepare one, and Mr. Mason approves it as to form and content.
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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