Wednesday, February 05, 2014

When Globetrotters play quidditch: Nye vs. Ham

I didn't watch the debate between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham the Creation Fan. But I am watching a Harlem Globetrotters game as I write this, so let me put it in those terms why the idea of this debate did nothing for me:

If Bill Nye is the Harlem Globetrotters, then Ken Ham is the Washington Generals ... if the Generals played quidditch instead of basketball.

If the Globetrotters took the court against a quidditch team, how compelling would that be? Only one side is versed in a real sport (albeit a more showy form thereof), and the other came to approximate a physically impossible game that exists only in a book. Even when you know the Globetrotters are going to win — and you're rooting for them to do so — you hope there's at least a pretense of equal competition. That's why they play another basketball team.

I like Bill Nye a lot and I appreciate his willingness to saunter into unfriendly territory and make his case. But as I've learned in my own extensive experience debating people, some methods of persuasion work better than others, and some don't work at all. Others backfire. If Nye's (or, for that matter, Ham's) intent was to persuade, this was the wrong way to do it.

Equating their respective views with each other is balancing inequivalent stances, a trend I often decry in journalism. Faith fails as science, and science does not rely on faith. They aren't two sides of the same coin any more than Harry Potter plays basketball. Let's not pretend he belongs on the court. Likewise, the Globetrotters have no business trying to play quidditch.

Leave the realism to the professionals and the fantasy in the fiction section.

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