An Open Letter to Dr. Hugh Ross - June 26, 2003
Dear Dr. Ross:
Today a friend told me about your June 24 update to your website article of last August, “Why won’t Hugh Ross debate Russ Humphreys?” I’m pleased to see that you are finally hinting at why my March 2002 offer to debate you at Los Alamos National Laboratory wasn’t satisfactory to you. That offer still stands.
Your phrase “his [Humphreys] apologetics group at Los Alamos” suggests you have misunderstood an important fact. I “have” no such group up there. I live in Albuquerque, ninety miles to the south of Los Alamos, where I worked for a different National Laboratory before joining ICR. The sponsoring group I proposed, the Megaviews Forum, is not associated with me at all. It is an independent group of Los Alamos scientists who meet once a week at the Laboratory to discuss origins issues. Their membership covers a wide spectrum: Intelligent Design advocates, theistic evolutionists, a few creationists, and others. As I pointed out in my offer, many of the Megaviews members are supporters of yours.
You may also be under another misconception about how many of the general public would attend. It is true that the Physics Auditorium I proposed is just outside the Laboratory classified area. That makes it convenient for speakers without security clearances (such as yourself, perhaps). But its location in the central technical area of the Laboratory also makes it convenient for Laboratory personnel to attend. It is not so convenient for members of the general public, who would have to travel several miles from town. In the jam-packed seminars by Intelligent Design advocates Phil Johnson and Michael Behe recently, the audience appeared to consist mostly of Laboratory personnel, with at most 10 to 20 percent being the general public. Also, the live closed circuit TV hookup goes only within the Laboratory, ensuring that the total audience would be almost entirely technical. As I mentioned to you in my offer, many astrophysicists and physicists work at the Laboratory, so the audience at our proposed debate would have far more of those specialists present than the minimum of fifteen you wanted. At the Behe and Johnson seminars, most of the questions came from scientists. I would guess that over 50% of the audience would be initially sympathetic to you, and the others, by tradition, would treat you politely, as would I.
Your counter-offer is not attractive to me. The main reason I want to debate you is to be able to demonstrate the deficiencies of “progressive creationism” to your supporters and to make a good case for young-earth creationism. I would not be able to do that effectively under your conditions. Here’s why:
1. Your proposed locations are on your home turf. As you may know, academic institutions and their associated research organizations are far less open-minded about origins issues than the National Laboratories. Academic faculties are mostly anti-theists or theistic evolutionists. An academic audience in the astronomical sciences (as you propose) would be highly committed — economically and religiously — to the big bang theory. They would find your views neither new nor a threat, but they would react strongly to mine. The odds would be: One creationist versus hundreds of people who earn their living from the big bang theory.
2. Most of the questions would be “hardballs” directed at me. Since only my ideas, not yours, would differ from the basic worldview of the audience, we can count most of the several hours of questions as helping your view. Thus the time each side would get would be: Ross: 2 hours and 45 minutes (80%); Humphreys: 45 minutes (20%)
3. Little chance of getting my case out in the open. Since you insist on a “closed-door” debate with the general public excluded, the main way your less-committed supporters could hear about the outcome would be through you and your committed friends.
In summary, your offer is: twenty percent of the time to present my case to a roomful of people very biased toward your side, with the results reported by your friends. That deal is not very tempting to me! You’ll have to do better than that.
However, I’m not sure your counter-offer was in good faith. That’s because, though I made my March 2002 offer to you by private e-mail, the only way you have answered is on your website (twice) to your audience. Not only have you failed to contact me directly, but your organization didn’t even tell me about your website posts. It appears that you are more concerned with what your audience thinks of you than in actually debating me.
Nevertheless, my original offer still stands. Now that I have alleviated some of your misunderstandings about it, I hope you will reconsider it. Though I’m making this an open letter to get your attention, I am also sending it to you privately. I’m open to any reasonable counter-offer you might care to make.
Sincerely in Christ,
D. Russell Humphreys, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Physics
Institute for Creation Research