A group of IIT (B) students under the banner of atheists objected to Prof. Henry Schaefer’s view that recent findings in cosmology are parallel to the creation narration of the Book of Genesis in the Bible. This was reported in DNA and Times of India. Sakshi: An Apologetics Network in India extends an invitation to these students to choose a scholarly speaker from their side to debate with us on the topic- creation or evolution. Second update.
Background for the Invitation for Debate
During the recent visit of the Distinguished Chemist Prof Henry F Schaefer (Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Computational Chemistry at the University of Georgia), to the Tech Fest in IITB, a group of students at IIT (B) protested against the logical deductions of Prof Schaefer. These IIT students objected to Prof. Schaefer’s conclusion that recent developments in cosmology points towards the creator and is closely parallel to the Genesis of the Bible.
The flyer that students printed (and published online at http://homepages.iitb.ac.in/~atheist/schaefer/flyer.htm) said: We are not here to oppose Christianity itself but the scientific packaging to it. Therefore we need to discuss the scientific conclusions he offers. It further said: We are not happy with the claim “giving you an opportunity to interact” made by Techfest organisers as they have refused our request for a matched debate between Prof. Schaefer and a scholar in cosmology/evolution. Such a discussion could have done justice by representing both types of prevalent opinions among scientists. This has been reported in DNA and The Times of India.
Sakshi: An Apologetics Network in India who holds similar views of Prof. Schaefer on cosmology and intelligent design appreciates the view of these students that there should be a debate on this topic and extends an invitation to these students to debate on the topic Evolution or Creation: What does Science Say.
We hasten to add that though we have organized a few of Prof. Schaefer’s programs in India, this should not be construed as a response from Prof. Schaefer. Prof. Schafer has neither instructed nor advised us to take up this challenge. Sakshi: An Apologetics Network in India is formed to answer the critics of Christianity in India and it is only fulfilling its mission in answering the challenge of these IITB students.
Dear Dr. Nikhil Joshi and Other IITians,
Let us begin by introducing ourselves. We are Sakshi: An Apologetics Network in India, an evangelical Christian network established for defending the Christian faith through reasons and answering its critics. We have conducted open forums with renowned scientists on these subjects which includes Prof. Henry Schaefer (Intelligent Design) and Dr. Carl Wieland (Creation Institute).
We have come across your objections to Prof. Henry F Schaefer and are encouraged by the fact that you are willing to debate on the topic- creation or evolution. Our resource persons have conducted scientific talks and debate on these topics in many universities and a few times along with Prof. Henry Schaefer.
So, Sakshi: An Apologetics Network in India as a response to your desire for a debate extends an invitation to debate on the topic with a prominent speaker on this subject- Rev. Prof Sudhakar Mondithoka. His brief profile is attached for your reference and we will be happy to provide more information if you require. He has been a resource person along with Prof. Schaefer at the University of Hyderabad last year on the same topic and has conducted debates with reputed atheists in many Universities in India.
We are confident that your objections from the scientific methodology (falsification) and evidences (vestigial organs) to intelligent design were because of academic differences and not because of any other motivations. So, we hope that you make use of this opportunity and will be willing to debate with us which will be educative for the larger public.
You can choose any scholar from your side to represent your case and then we will discuss the venue, date and the title for the topic.
We will be publishing the update in this site with your responses and the date, venue, topic and speaker from your side for the said debate. We will be also publishing all our correspondences if you are willing to correspond with us unless otherwise you have an objection.
We are also sending an SMS to Dr. Nikhil Joshi (919820777286) informing him about this published open invitation. We are sending an email also to his id- atheist at iitb.ac.in. We will be publishing his response too. We are waiting to hear from you and lookin
g forward for the debate on this subject.
Jerry Thomas (For Sakshi: An Apologetics Network in India).
Profile of Rev. Prof Sudhakar Mondithoka (Speaker from our side for the debate)
Rev. Prof Sudhakar Mondithoka has three graduate degrees – M. Sc (Zoology – specializing in Entomology and Neurophisiology, M. Ed (School Administration) from Osmania University and M. A (Philosophy of Religion and Ethics) from Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, USA. After working for a short time as an Entomological Officer with the Andhra Pradesh State Health Department, he has taught Zoology for over 9 years in the prestigious Wesley and Loyola institutions in Andhra Pradesh. He is a Visiting Professor/Faculty of 'Contemporary World Religions & Christian Apologetics' and 'Ethics' at SAIACS where he teaches the M. A. 2nd Year Students and Christian Apologetics & Philosophy of Religions at SABC where he teaches the M. Div., 2nd Year Students.
He has also lectured at a number of other Seminaries/Bible Colleges: GFABS, NEIBBCS, Ichthous Bible College, IEM Bible College, etc. He has authored a small book God – Science and Scientists and has contributed a chapter Apologetic in a Hindu Context for a book Missiology For the 21st Century: South Asian Perspective (Delhi: ISPCK-MIIS, 2004). He has also contributed a major article Incarnation, the Mission Theology of for the IVP Dictionary of Mission Theology that will come out in September 2007 and a number of other articles for Apologia, Vidyarthi Jwala, The Answer, Harvest Times for Your Family, In Touch India, India Church Growth Quarterly, etc. He is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and Evangelical Theological Society, USA. While at Talbot, he won the prestigious Baker Book House Award for Excellence in the Study of Theology. He was ordained in their Local Church in the US, East West Community Church (part of the NABC – North American Baptist Conference) in 2001.
From 1994 Aug. to 2006 Jan. he worked with RZIM Life Focus Society (as Asst. Director, Director-Ministries, and finally as Executive Director), which is involved in evangelism (under-girded by apologetics) among thinkers and opinion makers and in training Christian professionals, leaders, and Seminary Students in apologetics. He served as the Executive Director of RZIM-India and also as the Editor and Publisher of a Quarterly Magazine Apologia: Reasoned Answers for Life, for three years from its inception.
He has spoken in over 10 countries and also in some the best Universities and Institutes of Higher Education in India, like the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, IITs, IIMs, Hyderabad Central University, M.S. University, Baroda, S.P. University, Anand, Andhra University, Nagarjuna University, APAU, NEHU, Shillong, etc. He has spoken in almost all major Denominational Church and Para-Church settings through out India.
Rev. Mondithoka is now a Free-Lance Writer-Speaker and Apologist-Evangelist. He lives in Hyderabad with his wife, Mrs. Santha Kumari and son, Shamuel Susheel.
He is now the Pastor of the English Congregation of Centenary Baptist Church, Secunderabad and also provides leadership for Sakshi: An Apologetics Network in India.
Thanks for the email and your willingness to debate the issue over the email and later a public debate. I am attaching the rough draft for the agreement which should be signed by both of us so that there will not be any misgivings at a later stage.
Regarding clarifying the opinion about Pope, we agree with him when he is speaking the truth and disagrees with him when he is in error. I am sure that the articles you read must have addressed two issues. In fact, our approach to issues has been objective and we try avoiding making personal attacks even against people whom we disagree with.
We appreciate your suggestion to make a difference between the official and personal views in Sakshi. In fact, we think that we have already done so. If you browse the section About Us in Saskhi http://www.sakshitimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=48&Itemid=37, you will see a paragraph on articles published in www.sakshtimes.com and what we believe. What we believe is the non-negotiable part and our official stand. If you cite any factual errors, we will be happy to amend the articles. However it should factual errors and not just difference in perspective.
As discussed, I am attaching the format for the paper debates and the subsequent public debate. Please review it and let me know your comments. We will discuss further on the points which we cannot agree at this stage.
I am copying Rev. Sudhakar Mondithoka for his comments on the agreement.
I am copying a few other key members of our network including Dr. Arun Gadre.
Waiting for your reply.
– Hide quoted text
–On 2/4/08, Nikhil Joshi <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you very much for your email. I appreciate your offer for a discussion. Apologetic Mr. Cyril Georgeson sometimes visits IIT Bombay to chat with some students. He said you are acquainted. I wish to keephim in the loop. My cellular phone (number 9820777286) is old and unreliable. Please do not misunderstand if you can't contact me on it.There are some issues to be tackled in this regard. Please feel free to publish them.
1. The signatories of my pamphlet concerning Prof. Schaefer's lecture at IIT Bombay were unanimous about the opinions mentioned therein. I do not guarantee the signatories' acceptance of my leadership. Last three of the signatories are not atheists. I have informed all five of them about your email as well as your website. They may communicate with you to explain their stance. If you wish to communicate with them, I will request them to allow me to disclose their email addresses to you.
2. Just for records, my objections about Christianity (in general, about all religions) are more than those noted in the pamphlet. I would be more interested in a comprehensive discussion.
3. In addition to ID, theology and falsificationism, my friends and I had also criticized Prof. Schaefer's moral opinions in context with the stand of New Testament about slavery. I would like the debate to include this issue as well.
4. To save time, we need to decide mutually accepted opinions so that no energy will be spent to research arguments in their defence. Please state such points. e.g. age of the universe, evolution of species, subjectivism, morality, etc.
5. I am making our opinions open to you. It will be speedy to arrive at central points of dispute if your arguments are made known to me in advance. I am requesting this as it seems that your opinions differ from the conventional clergy. In particular there are articles on your website criticizing the Pope. Therefore if our expert prepares his arguments considering the Vatican, he is likely to miss the target.
6. Please clear some ambiguities in your opinion. e.g. One post of your website criticizes the Pope while one praises him, one post claims Christianity's superiority while one debunks it, etc. There are some factual errors on the site as well. e.g. Claim about appendix, etc. Also, please distinguish personal opinions from official opinions of sakshitimes.
7. Prof. Schaefer was planned to speak in yet another esteemed institute in front of gullible students. We needed to nullify effects of his speech. Therefore we requested an oral debate with of Prof. Schaefer. We stood to lose if we were to let Prof. Schaefer leave uncontested. On the other hand, we don't seem to gain anything even in case we win debate with you as the status quo with Prof. Schaefer will be undisturbed. Still, we are making inquiries about our expert's availability for your debate. We will have to convey terms of debate to him in detail.
8. I am thankful to you for using modern methods of communication like email, blog and SMS to offer chance to debate. It will be great if we can conduct the debate by means of email/blog. This way, presentations skills will not affect the performance of the speaker. It will eliminate need of all speakers being free at same time at same place. It will provide chance to correct silly mistakes, slip of tongue, etc., which may brutally damage the case in oral debates. Also, it will allow contribution of more than one brain to e
ach side in debate. If you want to hold a proper non-virtual debate on a grand scale with publicity, I am ready to get our speaker speak all the points (already offered by our side in email) and re-run the entire email debate in a single oral debate session (like the staged reality shows on television channels).
PS: I appreciate that you oppose global warming frenzy, yoga and astrology, at least from the summary of the articles.
Sakshi Apologetics Network wrote:>
Dear Dr. Joshi,> >
We are /Sakshi: An Apologetics Network in India/.
We have come across > your objections to Prof. Schaefer's view on science and Christianity. We > hold a similar view to Prof. Schaefer and have conducted programs along > with Prof Schaefer too.>
We have seen your desire to conduct a debate. We extend an invitation > from our side for the debate. We have published the invitation to you in > our site www.sakshitimes.com http://www.sakshitimes.com>>> Hope you would kindly respond to this initiative in positive.
Thanks and regards,>>
For Sakshi: An Apologetics Network in India
Debate on Creation or Evolution Agreement.doc29K View as HTML Open as a Google document Download Second UpdateThanks dear friends, Jerry and Nikhil for all the hard work you have already done and all the e-mail exchanges (I have been receiving). I just got to see the latest mails. But it is already 1 am (6th Feb.). I have been working on some notes for my students (on logic and worldviews) and I have three classes tomorrow. So I will respond tomorrow, particularly on those points on which Jerry wanted my inputs, probably in the afternoon. Sudhakar – Hide quoted text – Sakshi Apologetics Network <email@example.com> wrote:– Hide quoted text –Here is my reply. Hereafter let the correspondence be restricted to the agreement to save time for both the parties. Also, I request Rev. Prof Sudhakar Mondithoka to respond from point 10 onwards ( also see the point regarding number of rebuttals). On 2/5/08, Nikhil Joshi <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: Thanx for a very quick reply. 1. Core issues seem to be acceptable.
Second UpdateThanks dear friends, Jerry and Nikhil for all the hard work you have already done and all the e-mail exchanges (I have been receiving). I just got to see the latest mails. But it is already 1 am (6th Feb.). I have been working on some notes for my students (on logic and worldviews) and I have three classes tomorrow. So I will respond tomorrow, particularly on those points on which Jerry wanted my inputs, probably in the afternoon. Sudhakar – Hide quoted text –
Sakshi Apologetics Network <email@example.com> wrote:– Hide quoted text –Here is my reply. Hereafter let the correspondence be restricted to the agreement to save time for both the parties. Also, I request Rev. Prof Sudhakar Mondithoka to respond from point 10 onwards ( also see the point regarding number of rebuttals). On 2/5/08, Nikhil Joshi <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: Thanx for a very quick reply.
1. Core issues seem to be acceptable.
Response: Good to hear this.
2. Please rest assured about me ha
ving read articles about ID. I wonder why you offered me a chance to debate if you doubted my knowledge. Also, as I requested in my earlier email, I wished to know depth of difference of opinions between us. You know, there still are some creationists who believe that earth is 5000 years old. I just wanted to confirm that your official stand is not so. Also, I wish to debate the phrase "ID scientist" itself (a contradiction). Therefore please do not use it till we resolve about its truth. At least please put inverted commas around it. I am ready to do the same to the word evolutionist.
Response: Rev. Prof Sudhakar's view is not same as the young age creationist view. This is mentioned in his writings.
3. I do not benefit by reading the book- Darwin on Trial by Philip E Johnson, unless that book is your official stand.
Response: It is just a recommended book for those who are interested to know the core issues on evolution creation debate.
4. I am very much willing to accept the word limit to each article. But I can not accept limit to number of articles. Two is an arbitrary choice of yours. What to do about some unproved claims made (to support some arguments in earlier rebuttal) in the second rebuttal?
Response: First, paper debate is a suggestion from you and not from us. We agreed for it. We are aware of the frauds among scientists (http://www.sakshitimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=79&Itemid=39) So we should be worried about this as there were many atheists who misled the public. However, considering the manageability, more than two rebuttals are not possible. What could be done instead is to reach an agreement on an alternative way of addressing this concern. I propose that whoever publishes the articles and rebuttals should give their opponents website address along with it. If you are going to publish it, you should give Rev. Prof Sudhakar Mondithoka's and Sakshi website id. Similarly we will also do that.
5. I have read about Christianity and Prof. Sudhakar. However you never asserted that Prof. Sudhakar's opinions are going to be your official stand. Response: To re-reconfirm, Prof. Sudhakar is our representative.
6. Accepting the truth and rejecting the lies is what we must do. I just wanted to confirm that you do not conform to stereotyped Christians (as there was an article praising the Pope as "distinguished scholar and leader of the Catholic Church"). Also, as far as I know, Protestants do not accept any central authority. Therefore I want to know your opinions (to know how much we agree and how much we differ so as to save time of the expert) as you are free to interpret Bible in own unique ways.
Response: I am glad that you got it right now. However, calling Pope as distinguished scholar and leader of the Catholic Church I think is a correct description. He is a distinguished scholar irrespective of whether I or others like me agree with him or not. Distinguished scholars can be in error at many times.
7. I hope that this freedom to interpret Bible does not constitute post-modernist subjectivism as I hope we both agree on objectivism. Response: We hold the view that truth has a capital T.
8. I do not wish to burden my evolution expert with negotiation skills' work. I will ask him to communicate once we finalize the terms of debate. Response: Hope he is the loop and should not raise reservations after we reach the agreement.
9. We can not start a debate unless we finalize the terms. It was you to ask me to show factual errors. My terms of debate have been left unanswered by you.
10. The terms I wish to resolve are:
• State your objectives that you currently hold and plan to convince me but are ready to forgo if I manage to refute them. (as per my request in earlier email "please go through my email as well as http://homepages.iitb.ac.in/~atheist/schaefer/flyer.htm and the links therein to state all your differences with our opinions")
• Also, "What we believe is the non-negotiable part and our official stand." is your claim. This official stand includes beliefs that I plan to challenge. If they are non-negotiable, then you offer me no chance to convince you, thereby making the debate purposeless. Please help me reinterpret this quote of yours if you find the conclusion wrong.
Response: I thought we are discussing science and not theology. To be on record, Dr. Francis S Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and the author o
f the Language of God believes in evolution and God. His book is about that. Between both of our views, there are many other views. If you would like to discuss theological issues mentioned in What we Believe, we can take it up at a later stage. Let us first discuss evolution or creation.
• One example of your factual errors is the claim of appendix being present only in "few marsupials such as the wombat and South American opossum, a few rodents (rabbits and rats) and human beings". Please comment. Response: Please cite reference. It will be gladly updated.
• Please clarify the meanings of 'science' and 'philosophy' in the agreement just like the clarification of terms like 'offerer' and 'offeree'. (Are we are going to accept falsificationism, Occam's Razor, etc. in the debate?)
Response: 'offerer' and 'offeree' are legal terms for the agreement. Other points may be answered by Rev, Sudhakar Mondithoka. I hope you are not developing any bad feelings about the debate proposal.
Response: We are glad that we are going to save some souls. At the end of of the debate, we would like to see you having eternal joy. Thanx
Reminder request, especially to those getting a BCC email from me: Please inform me ASAP if you do not wish to be in the loop.
Sakshi Apologetics Network wrote: Hi,Thanks for your reply.The core focus of the debate could be whether this universe and life originated through undirected natural selection or was it designed by any intelligent designer outside the observed dimensions of this universe. To further clarify our focus, I am giving you a few questions that have been identified Hugh Ross on which we can debate:
1. Is our universe finite or infinite in size and content?
2. Has this universe been here forever or did it have a beginning
3. Was the universe created?
4. If the universe was not created, how did it get here?
5. If the universe was created, how was this creation accomplished, and what we learn about the agent and events of creation?
6. Who or what governs the laws and constants of physics?
7. Are such laws the products of chance or have they been designed?8. How do the laws and constants of physics relate to the support and development of life?
9. Is there any knowable existence beyond the apparently observed dimensions of our universe?
10. Do we expect our universe to expand forever, or is a period of contraction to be followed by a big crunch?I hope that you have read some articles on Intelligent Design before you objected to it. There is no contention with the evolutionists and ID scientists on the question of the age of the earth. If you want to know more about the point of contentions between evolutionists and ID scientists, I highly recommend you to read the book- Darwin on Trial by Philip E Johnson, former Professor at Berkeley. It is not possible to debate without limited rebuttals and without word limit. It is neither manageable nor advisable. It is not advisable for at least two reasons- it might create an unequal situation where one person writes 10 pages and the other write 40 pages.
The audience also will not be able to read any such lengthy dialogs. So we suggest two options- (1) Narrow down the focus to one or two core and fundamental issues (2) Increase the length of the presentation and rebuttals within the manageable limit. The format you suggested is not a format at all!!!I strongly suggest that you connect your representative (Professor from Pune) to our representative (Rev. Prof Sudhakar Mondithoka). Let them speak over the phone or correspond through the email and decide the core issues and agree on a manageable format. At the beginning of this mail, I have already mentioned about the 'could be' focus. But this is best left to the representatives. We would like to see the paper debates and public debates so that the same audience who heard and read your objections will see the truth.
Now coming to the question of Pope. If you
were well-read about the Christianity and then read the profile of our speaker, you would have not raised this question in the first place. Rev. Prof. Sudhakar Mondithoka now pastors at Baptist Church which has nothing to do with the Catholic Church. It comes as no surprise to me that your are shallow about Christianity- your musings have already exposed that you have formed your opinion of Christianity by the prejudiced stereotypes and not by any objective study. What surprises me is the fact that you missed on making a logical deduction from what I wrote- if we oppose Pope when is wrong and support when he is right then how do we ' follow the chain of command under the Pope'. I am leaving the rest of your email without pointing out such mistakes for the fact that we are not here to discuss and debate such issues. Let us stay on the focus of the discussion. Regards,Jerry On 2/5/08,
Nikhil Joshi <email@example.com> wrote: Thanx for the quick reply.
Here is a tautological and therefore uninformative claim of yours: "Regarding clarifying the opinion about Pope, we agree with him when he is speaking the truth and disagrees with him when he is in error."
You are avoiding to state whether you follow the chain of command under the Pope or are independent 'Christians'. If latter, please state your objectives for making debate (i.e. list the 'truths' that you currently conclude and are ready to get challenged and are ready to abandon if successfully refuted in the debate) so that I may find out how much of our opinions differ (I know that the Vatican differs from us but wish to confirm about you). It is possible that we don't have anything to debate and thus there will be no need to debate. Thus, please go through my email as well as http://homepages.iitb.ac.in/~atheist/schaefer/flyer.htm and the links therein to state all your differences with our opinions (thus I will know that you agree with rest of my opinions). Then we shall go on to debate on each of the disputes, one by one.
Also, "What we believe is the non-negotiable part and our official stand." is your claim. This official stand includes beliefs that I plan to challenge. If they are non-negotiable, then you offer me no chance to convince you, thereby making the debate purposeless.
One example of your factual errors is the claim of appendix being present only in "few marsupials such as the wombat and South American opossum, a few rodents (rabbits and rats) and human beings". Even if I accept your reference of a site that I find biased, still you distort even their opinions too. They were referring to a 'worm shaped appendix' while you used it as generic appendix. Please refrain from such attempts in the intended debate. I am prepared to confront ALL such filibuster statements. Nevertheless, as I am an hobbyist and not a full timer, my responses are going to be slower than yours. Please excuse the possible delays. If you wish to save time, please promise not to make any statements directly necessary to support the basic point of the article.
Also, one post in debate should contain support for only one disagreement. Next article should start only after both parties run out of rebuttals and accept one answer to the point of contention. Please clarify the meanings of 'science' and 'philosophy' in the article just like the clarification of terms like 'offerer' and 'offeree'. There should not be a limit to the number of rebuttals or number of total words.
Please tell if you can modify the draft according to these requests.
PS: I have clicked 'reply all' option to compose email. If anyone finds my emails to be spam, please instruct me to drop you from further communication.