When I first heard about the evangelicals vs. atheists debate scheduled to be televised on ABC, I had little interest. Kirk Cameron is a joke, and learning that he would be part of it really told me all I needed to know. I saw no reason to blog about it because everyone else was. And yet, I somehow found myself watching it anyway. Maybe I was simply a victim of the hype. After watching the episode of Nightline which aired the debate, I am not sure who I am most embarrassed for: Cameron and Comfort, the atheists, or the show that aired this.
As absurd an unoriginal as everything Comfort said was, I have to give him some credit for at least trying. He presented the tired argument from design in the same way you have heard it presented countless times. It was not any more compelling this time than any other time I've encountered it. But until he started showing artists renderings of "transitional animals" to attack evolution, he at least managed to keep it together for the most part.
The same cannot be said for Cameron. I couldn't help feeling embarrassed for him. He did not even seem to have the intelligence or interpersonal awareness to realize that he was doing little more than spouting gibberish. It was hard to watch because I couldn't help feeling sorry for him. He's devoted his life to argue something false, and he lacks the skill to mount an even mildly respectable argument.
The atheists, part of the Rational Response Squad, delivered effective arguments and obviously won from a technical standpoint in that they quite easily dismantled the arguments Cameron and Comfort threw at them. However, they lost points for their manner of presentation. With reason and science on their side, the atheists did not need mockery or the overly aggressive attitude. Remember, broadcasts like this are all most of the American public sees of atheists. This creates an additional burden on atheists utilizing such forums to break public stereotypes rather than reinforce them. Had the atheists remained calm and concealed their personal distaste for the evangelicals, they would have dealt anti-atheist stereotypes a major blow.
But the real losers here have to be the people at ABC for terrible moderation and the worst editing job I have ever encountered on this type of show. The end result was that something which could have been entertaining was turned into something barely watchable and which gave a distorted perspective of the actual debate. The best stuff from the debate never aired - see for yourself.
Tags: Nightline, debate, Christian, atheist, Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort, Rational Response Squad, ABC