Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Don't Debate, Just Bet: Some Resources

It's frustrating debating online with denialist windbags who move goalposts, repeat falsehoods, or disappear when something incontrovertible (even to them) has shown them to be wrong. So find the loudest among them and make a bet! They either take the bet, or they shut up (often announcing a moral problem with gambling, which interestingly is exactly what a person trying to avoid accountability would say). And who knows - when there's money on the line, you might even find yourself wondering if you've thought critically enough about some of your beliefs. Would that be so bad?

A good site I just ran across today is LongBets.org. It makes the whole thing public and above-board. Good bets can be "social meta-bets" - that is, they're not just about the disagreements themselves, but about the measurable effects of the beliefs about those effects. Case in point: a bet about evolution can be about the natural world itself, or about public acceptance of evolution. That is to say, if evolution is really a theory in crisis, we'll be able to measure that. Anybody want to take me up on that? (crickets) Anybody?

In a quick search, I did find one bet directly about American education and critical thinking, and indirectly about evolution (so far with no takers): "By 2015, standardized tests for high school students in every state of the United States will directly evaluate students' understanding of the differences between scientific laws, scientific theories and the kinds of things often called theories outside the scientific community."

Come on guys, let's get Casey Luskin and Ray Comfort on there! What's the matter guys? Cold feet all of a sudden?

An even better one might have to do with good and bad behavior: "The most religious 10 American states will continue to have higher per capita divorce and murder rates than the least religious 10 American states through this date in 2050."

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