While working a local event at the Ask an Atheist booth we host, I had a slew of questions and more than a couple looks of utter disgust. But, let’s talk about the two types of people I ran into.
Atheism isn’t science. Science is science. And consequently science isn’t atheism. Science does reaffirm atheism in a very special way, but unless there is evidence provided that a god exists, one does not affect the other.
First, let’s look at the “atheist have to know all of science or they’re wrong” people. They assume that we are scientists. They must, otherwise scientific “fallacies” wouldn’t be one of the first things they utter in a debate. Science is solid and completely open for anyone to test it’s proven theories to prove otherwise. But that proof doesn’t come from a debate with an atheist. If I don’t know something about macro evolution, that doesn’t mean that there is a god and that macro evolution didn’t happen. It means that I don’t have the time or money to go study macro evolution with Richard Dawkins, though I wish I did. They didn’t prove anything but my ignorance on a specific detail. When you debate a Christian about science, just be prepared for them to try to take the high ground because you don’t know a scientific fact or can’t cite a specific research paper. If you know the subject matter ahead of time, research it and provide the best evidence you can. But remember that just because you don’t know and even if science doesn’t know yet, it does not mean that God did it. Politely tell them that if you haven’t answered their question fully that they should ask a biologist or physicist.
This one is my favorite headache inducer: the science denier. Yes. Science denier. Even when you CAN provide sufficient knowledge on a subject and the community of scientists have proven whatever theory in question time and time again, this person refuses to believe that it’s accurate based on zero to little evidence. But they will believe that there is an invisible man in the sky and that “stars will fall from the sky” in the end times. To them I ask that they write down their evidence, get it peer reviewed and I’ll shake their hand when they get their Nobel Prize. I used to think that there was no hope for these kinds of people until I realized that I was once one of them. The first stage is denial. The second is curiosity and the third is remorseful acceptance of the truth. Believing evolution, for example, to be fact just takes a person to read about it and see the evidence. That’s the start of it. But it has to take time to set in. Some people never let it get that far in their mind because they have been brainwashed since birth. Don’t lose your cool with these people and let them take the moral high ground because you’re screaming at them for being an idiot. Present the facts in such a way as to make them curious. That’s all it takes and that’s really all you can do. They have to concede the truth on their own.
This isn’t really a how to on debating. It’s just a few snippets of thoughts I had after working that booth, which I look very much forward to doing in the future. I’m not a master level debater, but I know some stuff. I’m not a college level scientists but I love science. What I have learned from the experience is to always keep your cool and present your side with the utmost accuracy and integrity.