In a previous post, I analyzed the evolution debate between militant atheist Aron Ra and Christian creationist Kent Hovind. In short, I thought it was very unproductive, so I wanted to write a follow-up post describing how these debates could be done better. Plenty of “evolutionists” have written refutations of creationist arguments…but in a sense, that’s exactly the problem. Despite all these refutations, the same arguments keep coming up again and again.
Evolutionists call these PRATTs—short for “Points Refuted A Thousand Times.” PRATTs are statements that are easily proved to be fallacious and sometimes even factually false, and yet are still used over and over again in debates about creationism. “There are no transitional fossils” seems to be the most common example. Evolutionists consider these points to be not worth bothering with and therefore put little effort in refuting them, which makes their arguments appear weaker. You also don’t really see people try to engage with creationists over why they continue to use these false statements or really pin them down and force them to address the inconsistencies in their arguments.
Based on the Ra-Hovind debate, I thought it would be possible to dig down and ask specific questions to try to pin down flaws in creationist arguments in a fair way that gives them a chance to defend against them, but also does not give them space to evade them. That’s what I initially wanted to do in this post, but after investigating carefully, I don’t think I had the right sense of it. When you really try to steelman creationist arguments—when you try to understand them and frame them in a fair and charitable way, creationists have answers to many of the questions that are raised. They’re not necessarily correct or even logically sound answers, but they do have them.
So I think I’m going to take a different tack and try to address why PRATTs are a thing. Why, in these debates, are the same points brought up over and over again, long after being debunked, making them never seem to go anywhere useful? Aron Ra insists this problem is simple dishonesty—even claims he has had creationists tell him to his face that they know they’re lying—but I choose to take them at their word that they believe what they say.