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Evolutionists refuse Mastropaolo's "Life Science Prize" challenge (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Evolutionists refuse Mastropaolo's "Life Science Prize" challenge (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.


Claim CA343:

Many prominent evolutionists have declined to participate in Joseph Mastropaolo's "Life Science Prize" challenge. According to the terms of this challenge, the evolutionist and creationist each put $10,000 in escrow; they present their evidence in a courthouse to a mutually agreeable trial court judge; the judge decides which side has the science and which is religion; the side declared science wins the $20,000.

Source: Mastropaolo, Joseph. 2003. Life science prize


CreationWiki response:

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)


1. Never wrestle with a pig; you both get dirty, and you soon discover that the pig enjoys it. The challenge itself reveals that Mastropaolo is scientifically inept. (A scientist would know that one does not need a courtroom to debate evidence. And one term states that "Evidence must be scientific, that is, objective, valid, reliable and calibrated." Calibration applies to equipment, not evidence.) People who ignore the challenge are labeled "Debate Dodgers" who practice a "pagan Cebelese religion" (Brayton 2004). Such statements remove the challenge from the field of life science and place it squarely in the realm of crackpottery. Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of the theory of evolution, once accepted the challenge of another crackpot, John Hampden, to demonstrate the earth's curvature. Wallace did so, but Hampden's subsequent legal and other harassment caused Wallace to consider accepting the challenge a big mistake. (Raby 2001, 206-207)

The author complains about all sorts of things in the challenge, including the venue. Joseph Mastropaolo does not say that a courtroom is needed to debate evidence; that's just where he wants his debate to be. The author also complains about the fact that all evidence must be calibrated, which he says only applies to equipment. The dictionary definition of calibrate is: "To check, adjust, or determine by comparison with a standard." Although the word is often used to describe calibration of equipment, it does not just apply to equipment. Then, because Mastropaolo lists all the people who have "dodged" the chance to debate with him, he labels Mastropaolo a crackpot.

The author makes a poor comparison with the other case, as it is possible to clearly demonstrate the Earth's curvature using just science. One cannot, however, demonstrate the validity of the theory of evolution without making naturalistic, uniformitarian assumptions about the history of life. If someone disagrees with that, then why don't they just make an easy $20,000 and prove him wrong?

2. The challenge is legal invalid. Two people cannot simply decide that a court of law will decide their case. Cases come to court only when one party sues another, and then they get no choice of judge.

Note that the author may want to change "legal" to "legally". And obviously, this is not intended to be a standard court case, which is why Mastropaolo challenged the scientific community to a debate rather than suing the state.

3. An equivalent challenge has been met. The McLean vs. Arkansas case hinged on whether creationism is religion or science, and Judge Overton ruled that it is religion.

Where does the author get the idea that this was an equivalent challenge? The McLean v. Arkansas case was never intended to be a debate between creation science and evolution, but rather a standard court case to see whether teaching creation science in schools is constitutional. The ruling was that it was unconstitutional based on the Constitution, not unscientific based on the scientific evidence.

4. According to the challenge, religion is always the losing side, which makes Mastropaolo inappropriately hostile to religion.

Yes, Mastropaolo disagrees with an atheistic, evolution-based religion. Note the difference between disagreement with and hostility to a belief. Mastropaolo, after being dodged by hundreds of people and groups, has good reason to be confident that he is right.

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