The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Winning over the Etch-a-Sketch

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The debate between evolutionists and creationists has become so specialized that the average person with basic knowledge of biology cannot follow the argumentation. How many educated Americans know anything about pseudogenes,[1] Haldane’s Dilemma,[2] transposons,[3] abiogenesis,[4] junk DNA,[5] RNA,[6] exons,[7] introns,[8] pharyngeal slits,[9] and other terms too numerous to list here? Even knowing what these terms mean definitionally does not immediately translate into understanding how they apply to the creation-evolution debate.

Lance Griffin, a reporter for the Dothan Eagle, had this to say about American Vision’s creation-evolution debate that was held at the Dothan Opera House in Dothan, Alabama, on November 27, 2007. “Often the debate ascended above the heads of normal, everyday people. It was an Etch-a-Sketch crowd, but the debate was mostly Rembrandt.”[10] I have to agree. One debate participant summed up her experience: “There was a lot of information given. Yes, with most of it going right over my head.”

Debates often become forums for specialists with the average person shut out. The Christian apologist, no matter how well trained and informed, should resist trying to win a debate on technical points for the simple reason that the majority of people in the audience will never know how to ascertain who won. Christian scholars need to learn how to make the complex understandable without sacrificing accuracy. Former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr offers some helpful comments when he described a legal opinion on the Second Amendment that was written by Senior Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman of the federal Courts of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit:

While many modern-era opinions issued by federal courts, including the Supreme Court, are distressingly complex, Silberman’s published decision is not. His 58-page majority decision is remarkably lucid; legally sound and historically based. It is written for the layperson as well as the law school honors graduate; and, most important, it is written to appeal to the modern among the Supreme Court’s nine.[11]

Rarely do debates win over the debaters. They arrive with an opinion, and they leave with the same opinion. A debater should work to make his points to those sitting in the audience keeping in mind the “10-10-80” rule.[12] Generally speaking, each side has well informed specialists of about 10 percent with the remaining 80 percent as a spread of opinion between the two opposing sides. It’s this 80 percent that is looking to be moved by sound argument. But if this middle group can’t understand what the debaters are debating, no movement to one side or the other will take place.

Of course, there is time for bringing in the big guns of specialized knowledge, but this must be followed immediately by some quickly grasped illustration to make the same point in a non-technical way that is memorable and easily transferred to others.

Footnotes:
[1]
Pseudogenes are said to be defunct relatives of known genes that have lost their protein-coding ability or are otherwise no longer expressed in the cell.
[2]
Haldane’s Dilemma refers to a limit on the speed of beneficial evolution, first calculated by J. B. S. Haldane in 1957.
[3] Transposons are sequences of DNA that can move around to different positions within the genome of a single cell, a process called transposition.
[4]
Abiogenesis (Greek a-bio-genesis, “non biological origins”) is the formation of life from non-living matter.
[5] In molecular biology, “junk” DNA is a collective label for the portions of the DNA sequence of a chromosome or a genome for which no function has yet been identified.[6]Ribonucleic acid or RNA is a nucleic acid, consisting of many nucleotides that form a polymer.
[7]
An exon is any region of DNA within a gene that is transcribed to the final messenger RNA (mRNA) molecule, rather than being spliced out from the transcribed RNA molecule.
[8]
Introns, derived from the term “intragenic regions,” are non-coding sections of DNA.
[9]
Pharyngeal slits, characteristic of both hemichordata and chordata, are used by organisms in feeding. The wall of the pharynx is perforated by up to 200 vertical slits, which are separated by stiffening rods.
[10] Lance Griffin, “Dothan turns out for evolution-creation debate,” Dothan Eagle (November 28, 2007), 11A. The article can be read online at www.dothaneagle.com/gulfcoasteast/dea/local_news.apx.-content-articles-DEA-2007-11-28-0003.html
[11]
Bob Barr, “Court must take very careful aim at Second Amendment,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (November 28, 2007), A23.
[12]
The “10-10-80” rule is adapted from Os Guinness, The Gravedigger File: Papers on the Subversion of the Modern Church (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1983), 21.
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