I have to admit, I don't think the evolution v. creationism debate is worth having. There is simply no version of creationism, from young-earth creationism to intelligent design theory, that has the scientific merits to warrant a scientific debate. Still, if people must have such a debate, can't they at least try to do so civilly? All of the evidence speaks to the contrary. A case poin point is one of the latest installments (link via Brian Leiter), in which defenders of evolution are not-so-subtly compared to the September 11 hijackers. In the past, defenders of evolution have used Holocaust deniers as an analogy to characterize intelligent design theorists, while intelligent design and other creationists have compared "evolutionists" to Hitler and Stalin. I understand that, since this debate cannot be about science (due to the fact that, on one side, there simply is no real science), and is thus largely about public opinion, but I can't imagine anyone hopes e to get anywhere with tactics like these.
The scientists and philosophers, at least, should know better. Given the creationists' penchant for misrepresenting facts for rhetorical purposes, such heavy-handed tactics are likely to do nothing more than provide material for their lockeroom bulletin boards. Furthermore, since this debate is about public opinion, and survey after survey shows that the American public, by and large, believes in some form of creationism, scientists and philosophers must realize that participating in a mud-slinging contest in which creationists are compared to such unsavory characters as Holocaust deniers can only hurt their cause.
The gulf between scientists and creationists is great, and the animosity palpable. Knowing this should cause the participants in the debate to choose their rhetoric carefully, but instead, they've let their emotions get the better of them. The political consequences, particularly for those on the side of science and reason, cannot be good. My only hope is that if scientists insist on continuing to participate in this debate, as it appears they will, they can at least begin to do so in a way that doesn't make them, and by association, science, look bad.