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Ken Saladin Saladin Gish2 Preface


Kenneth Saladin

This is a transcript of my second debate with Duane Gish, which took place on 10 May 1988 at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, before an audience of about 800 people. (My first debate with him was at the Montgomery campus of Auburn University on 24 March 1984.)

I have taken the time to transcribe this debate primarily for two groups of people: future debaters and my students. It is immensely helpful to those who debate creationists to have transcripts of past debates, especially those involving creationists they have not personally confronted on stage. The National Center for Science Education distributes tapes and transcripts of several past debates. Many of the transcripts, however, only give the anticreationist’s side of the debate (since it is easier to provide a copy of one’s prepared manuscript than to transcribe a debate from recordings), and what a debater perhaps most wants to know is, "What is the creationist going to say? What do I have to be ready to answer?" Thus I have fully transcribed both sides of the debate. NCSE audio tapes give both sides of the debate, and audio tapes convey nuances of the debate that a written transcript may not. Written transcripts, however, are much easier to study and review.

Many of my students have been interested in these debates and have benefited from the transcript of the 1984 debate, both for personal edification and for certain seminars at Georgia College dealing with this controversy. Thus it is in large part with them in mind, and perhaps students elsewhere who may be interested in such transcripts, that I have taken the time to transcribe the debate in entirety.

This debate was videotaped by two of my students, John Howard and Ammar Razzak. Audio cassettes were subsequently made from these video tapes, and this transcript was made from the audio cassettes. I have made it a very literal transcript, even to the point of including all the hesitations, false starts, asides, and vocal stresses of both speakers. I feel this gives the reader a feeling for the overall atmosphere of the debate as well as for the oratorical techniques, nuances, and flaws of the speakers. So literal a transcript, while not always flattering to the transcriber, is virtually as effective as an audio recording for capturing the tone of the debate.

Material enclosed in square brackets — [ ] — was not actually spoken but is inserted for clarification. The same is true of subtitles of segments of the debate and identification of who is speaking. The bracketed slide references are especially important to the written transcript of my part of the debate, because my technique was to have slides changed by a projectionist familiar with my material and following along on a duplicate manuscript. I used 96 slides in my opening and first rebuttal (i.e., the average slide was shown for about 38 seconds), and if I had had to call out "next slide" 96 times and wait for it to come up I would have lost a fair amount of speaking time! One could scarcely tell from the audio tapes that I had shown any slides at all. I also use square brackets where I could not reconstruct what was said due to the quality of the audio tape. If only one word is unintelligible on the tape, I generally insert "[?]" in the sentence. If two or more words are unintelligible I indicate this fact within brackets. If I have some idea what was said but cannot be certain, I give, in brackets, the probable wording and a question mark.

Another type of brackets — { } — is used to identify footnotes, references, and annotations. In my own parts of the debate I sometimes provide literature citations to substantiate my statements. Some of these notes are clarifications or elaborations on what I said, or corrections of errors made during the debate. In Gish’s parts of the debate I use such notes to offer comments or rebuttals that were not possible within the time constraints of the debate. I feel some of his points need to be answered, even to the relatively few people who will read this compared to the number who were at the debate.

In writing such annotations, one must have an imaginary reader in mind, and mine was the "average" student who came up from the audience after the debate to ask me for clarifications of what I might have said or responses to some of the things Gish may have said. Since I am writing from that standpoint, and considering what other students may read this in the future, experienced debaters or scientists who read it will undoubtedly find many of my annotations to be self-evident, or be able to think of better references and responses that could have been made. Preparation of this transcript was very time-consuming as it was, and I did not have the time to ferret materials out of the library which might have better served the purpose at hand. Although I did do a little bit of library probing in writing these annotations, for the most part I used materials that came readily to hand in my own office. I gladly welcome suggestions and literature references from readers who know of more cogent or effective examples of citations.

I must express my gratitude to several people for contributions to this debate and the success I enjoyed in it. Above all else, I am grateful for the existence of the journal Creation/Evolution, published by the American Humanist Association. Its eight years of rebuttals to the standard polemics of "creation-science" have been an invaluable tool in preparation for debates such as these. Many very accomplished scientists fared poorly in the early debates against creationists because of inexperience with this forum and format of discussion, and because it is a daunting task to be prepared against the many bizarre creationist claims that may arise in debates which range from astrophysics to molecular genetics, from paleontology to thermodynamics. Creation/Evolution has made it possible, now, even for those of us of more modest accomplishment to do well against the creationist polemics.

Thanks also to Frederick Edwords, the editor of Creation/Evolution, Karl Fezer, the editor of Creation/Evolution Newsletter, and Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, for giving me useful materials and advice in the weeks leading up to this debate, and to Ed Friedlander for his compilation, provided to me by Dr. Scott and Mr. Fezer, of Gish’s distortions of the scientific literature in his book Evolution? The Fossils Say No!

I particularly wish to thank five of my students who attended the debate and assisted in various aspects of its production: Dave Peck familiarized himself with my debate text in advance and did an excellent job at the debate as projectionist. Some parts of my presentation called for well-timed slide changes as many as three times in one sentence, and he carried this off very smoothly and saved me from having to say "next slide" 96 times an hour. John Howard and Ammar Razzak videotaped the debate, without which it would have been impossible to produce this transcript. Windy Jefferson and Jane Knight staffed a literature table for the National Center for Science Education, so in addition to what was spoken during the debate, we were able to distribute a considerable amount of literature on the fallacies of creationist polemics and the functions of the National Center for Science Education.

I was not the first person the organizers asked to appear as Gish’s adversary. Dr. Delos McKown, Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Auburn and an accomplished debater in his own right, recommended that the organizers get a scientist instead and provided my name among others. Auburn chemistry professor Mike Friedman also demurred because the organizers insisted on running the debate on Gish’s terms rather than the terms most scientists would recommend. Thus the ball passed to me. Although I accepted with mixed feelings, in retrospect I am grateful to Dr. McKown and Dr. Friedman for providing me this opportunity to give Dr. Gish a good public drubbing.

If I can extend any wishes to Dr. Gish, they are for good health and a long life, so my colleagues and I will have many more opportunities to publicly reveal the mendacity of America’s most capable spokesman for "scientific" creationism, and the vacuity of the technical polemics against evolution.

8 July 1988

Kenneth S. Saladin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology

Georgia College

Milledgeville, Georgia 31061

(912) 453-5290

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