Updated March 26 2006
I just want to make the claim!
Date Signed Contract
6, 2000 (second time)
Number of days Walt has refused to debate: 4+ years first attempt.
Time Elapsed Since Last Contract Sent (Days; Hours; Minutes; Seconds)
Update 3/26/2006: Attention Supporters of Walt Brown
This website is paid for through my own personal funds. Much has been made about a follow-up letter between Matt Foster and Walt Brown. People are claiming that Matt Foster did not approve of my posting the letter. This is patently false. Express consent was given to post the following letter regarding the 'debate':
Dr. Meert & Dr. Brown/Peggy:
I have written with some thoughts on the debate feud chronicled at Dr. Meert's site, and to an extent at Dr. Brown's site, CreationScience.com. (This email also keeps the promise I made Peggy that I would respond to Dr. Brown's position in submissions to both sides. Also, as a courtesy to Dr. Meert, I have attached the PDF file that Peggy sent me earlier today.)
As a lawyer who negotiates, writes, and litigates contracts for a living, I believe that neither Dr. Meert nor Dr. Brown has read the debate agreement exactly right. However, on the whole, Dr. Meert's reading seems much closer to correct (i.e., his misreading is minor), and Dr. Brown's reading -- particularly on the "modification" clause near the end -- seems (at best) hyper-technical and (at worst) materially and even deliberately wrong.
Dr. Brown argues that the "modification" clause applies only to "procedures," and that Dr. Meert's proposal does not deal with "procedures" -- meaning, in a nutshell, that r. Meert has not truly agreed to Dr. Brown's terms for debate. That, to use lawyer speak, is hogwash. While the modification clause does refer to "procedures," the term is not self-defining, nor is it defined in the agreement -- so what exactly the word means or includes must be determined in view of the entire document. When read as part of the agreement as a whole (and consistent with reported court decisions), "procedures" seems clearly to embrace all acts and powers of the editor listed in paragraph 8 -- including the power to "[m]ake whatever rulings will help accomplish paragraph 2 above." In other words, the editor has contractual authority to decide anything -- whether concerning submission lengths, formats, content, or anything else within the debate relationship -- if it makes the debate better or more helpful to its audience. If "procedures" does not include such items, then what exactly does the word mean? The agreement gives no clue. Against this backdrop -- and using common sense -- Dr. Meert's proposal seems easily to fall within the scope of "procedures" as the term is used in the modification clause.
On a related point, I disagree with Dr. Brown's claim that Dr. Meert has made inclusion of religion a mandatory condition of participation in the debate. To the contrary, Dr. Meert says at http://gondwanaresearch.com/hp/walt_brown.htm that he "will abide by the independent judges [sic] ruling (even if it goes against me) and will debate Walt in writing or in public at any time.")
More important, perhaps, is a different but related principle: Even if Dr. Brown's reading of "procedures" is correct, that does not free him from the separate obligation to proceed with selection of an editor under paragraph 5 -- after which Dr. Meert's proposed modification would be submitted to and decided by that editor. Stated differently, once Dr. Meert signed the contract (with or without a proposal attached), Dr. Brown had no choice but to proceed with selection of an editor -- which editor would then have sole power to decide whether Dr. Meert's proposal is proper or should be rejected. To be blunt, nothing in the agreement gives Dr. Brown any power either (a) to decide that Dr. Meert's proposal does not concern "procedures," and therefore does not fall within the modification clause, or (b) then to do nothing based on that determination, and thus kill the debate before it begins. By refusing to act in any way on Dr. Meert's agreement, Dr. Brown is effectively serving as judge and jury, as well as advocate -- which, of course, makes the "debate" inherently unfair as well as impossible. If Dr. Brown will pounce on "procedures" to avoid appointment of the editor in this case, what word will provide his next exit?
I am not an evolutionist -- to the contrary, I am a Bible-believing, creationist Christian who has attended and enjoyed Dr. Brown's seminar, and who teaches a Bible class every week at my church. In addition, however, I am a Vanderbilt-educated, naturally skeptical lawyer who wants creation science claims to be backed up by evidence, is embarassed by faulty logic and argument, and cringes whenever a creation science proponent appears to avoid instead of welcome direct engagement with an opponent. In this instance, Dr. Brown has disappointed me, because his misinterpretation and/or hyper-elevation of the term "procedures" looks like evasion. Of course, I might be entirely wrong, and I would welcome correction.
Many thanks for the opportunity to give my thoughts. Please use them however you wish.
McMains Foster & Morse, P.C.
9000 Guaranty Building
20 North Meridian Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Telephone (317) 638-7100
Telecopier (317) 638-7171
Subsequent letters were exchanged on the issue. You may read them in the following document (Adobe Reader Needed) e-mails.
Update 2/16/2006: Attention Supporters of Walt Brown.
I continually receive e-mails and private communication from Brown supporters to remove this privately funded personal website. Some have even gone so far as to try and make trouble for me with my employers. If Walt Brown has a problem with the content of this site, or if he disagrees with the content of this site, then he may contact me directly. I will simply delete any e-mails from Brown supporters from this point forward. I have also asked Walt Brown and true origins to remove my private e-mails from their site. I offered to let them summarize the content, but have asked for the actual e-mails to be removed. They have refused (so far) to do so. Oh for those who constantly whine that Walt's story is all about science and not about religion and that we should leave it out, I wonder what they think of this section of Walt's book.
Update 7/18/2003: True Origins Article
Several people have inquired as to whether or not the e-mails quoted on the TrueOrigins site are correct and taken in full context. Indeed, they are faithfully reproduced on the TrueOrigin website (albeit without my permission). The chronology is also correct and quite important with regard to the 'controversy' regarding this debate. The debate 'challenge' was originally provided to me by a student in one of my classes. The student gave me Walt's e-mail and claimed that Walt had good evidence for a global flood using only scientific research. I was also informed that Walt wanted to debate an old earth evolutionist regarding the validity of his model and wanted only to debate the science. Hence, my first e-mails to Walt stating the 'no theology' stipulation (note however that these e-mails were NOT a signed debate agreement, but merely an inquiry with my initial bias). Walt did send me a copy of his book. At that point, I realized that the basis of his argument was not at all scientific, but based on a literal reading of Genesis. As a scientist, I feel it is imperative that we lay out the basis for our findings and in the case of the 'hydroplate theory' it was easy to understand that in the absence of the Noachian story in Genesis there would be no hydroplate. So, once again, Walt has the signed agreement and if the editor decides that my request has no merit, then I agree to proceed with the debate as stipulated by the editor.
I would also like to remind everyone visiting these pages that Walt was likely to change the debate agreement. Indeed, I was absolutely correct. I saved a copy of the original (http://baby.indstate.edu/gga/pmag/debate.html) just in case. What's relevant? Point #22 in the original debate agreement includes an opportunity to modify point #4 in that agreement. The new debate agreement no longer contains point #4. Neither Walt nor Peggy mention this change in their letters! I wonder why?
Update 4/19/2002: Walt lashes back! Walt's Home page now contains the following:
One evolutionist is so upset that a written debate will not include religion that he now misleads by saying that Walt Brown has refused to debate him. (Correspondence in our files shows how he no longer wanted a strictly scientific debate after reading the 6th edition of this book.) Dr. Brown has consistently maintained his position for 21 years: the debate should be limited to scientific evidence.
Below are my requests to Walt, in 2001, he changed the agreement in order to maintain his 'image'. As of this date, I remain committed to my signed agreement and continue to await the decision of independent arbitration. One might ask Walt why he is afraid to have someone 'outside' judge the merits of my request. I fully understand that the arbiter could decide against my argument and I am prepared to go ahead. Walt is afraid of the decision and is afraid to commit 2 PAGES to the document. For someone who claims the sanctity and truth of the bible, I can only wonder why he is so deathly afraid of discussion. However, I find it more interesting that Walt has refused an invitation to submit his article for review in a scientific journal. Despite all the back-and-forth rhetoric regarding the pseudodebate, Walt has been afraid to submit his work for critical review. Why? You be the judge!
Update 08/27/2001: Walt Brown has changed the debate agreement! The language and format of the debate have changed because the previous wording had caused Walt some trouble. The original debate agreement can be found here. This is interesting for two reasons:
I suspected he
might change the rules (read below) and saved the original agreement.
(2) As far as I can tell, Walt has removed his lengthy religious discussions from his home page (also see the link below).
Walt continues to sit on a signed agreement and refuses to abide by his own rules. In fact, he changed the rules in order to avoid the debate!
Update: 12/21/2000 (See Below)
Creationist Walt Brown claims that in over 15 years no evolutionist is willing to enter into a debate with him. Just how true is this claim? Nearly 4 years ago, I began a dialogue with Walt Brown to discuss the possibility of debating him. Walt is afraid of discussing the Biblical basis for his 'flood model', yet it is clear that without the Noachian flood story, there would be no hydroplate theory. In fact, his book is titled "In the beginning: Compelling evidence for creation and the flood". You may be surprised that someone who claims he is not able to discuss theology discusses theology in relation to his hydroplate hypothesis. This is in direct contrast to some of the things he includes in the FAQ's section of his home page where theology is discussed in detail.! His home page also clearly states:
Have you ever wondered about the evidence for creation and against evolution? Have you ever considered the possibility that the earth is less than 10,000 years old? Was there a worldwide flood during Noah's lifetime? Where did the water come from? Where did it go?
So what is Walt's real position on the concept of a debate with an evolutionary scientist? There are several important points in his 'contract'. You can see the original here, but in case he changes it in the interim, I have downloaded the original and have it stored.
The first point is that, despite the fact that Walt's entire thesis rests on theological grounds, he is afraid to discuss the basis of his idea. He claims "I am not a theologian", but has seen fit to interpret the Genesis story of the flood to fit his model. The most interesting clause in the contract is point #22: It says:
This agreement can be modified by mutual consent of the two sides.
[INITIAL IF APPROPRIATE] I wish to propose a modification to the above conditions. However, I am willing to have the editor decide the matter after my opponent and I have presented our positions. I will abide by this ruling and participate in the written debate. My suggested changes and their justification are listed below.
It was precisely this clause that led me to begin a dialogue with Walt and engage him in his debate. 4 years ago, I signed the agreement with a clause requesting that we be able to discuss the veracity of the Noachian flood account. This issue is germane to Walt's entire thesis and is valid debate material. In nearly 4 years, Walt has refused to have the editor decide the issue. Recently, when I pointed this out to a creationist, he e-mailed Walt Brown and asked him why he would not debate. Walt did not reply directly, (he seldom does) but his secretary is adamant that clause #22 in the contract is meaningless: She wrote that I have been taking the statements out-of-context and that I was not reading objectively from the web site.
Unfortunately, Peggy seems to not understand the clause in the written contract. As of today (11/6/2000), I have resent the signed contract with the appropriate box checked and requested that the editor make the decision based on my explanation for why I think the veracity of the Noachian flood story is fair game. Will Walt abide by his own rules? 4 years of history say no, but I am willing to be surprised. Here is a pdf copy of my request. Stay tuned......
Walt Brown responds to my request:
Walt Brown has once again refused to have the issue decided by a neutral third party as set out in my signed agreement. You will note that Walt claims I am angry at the Bible. I am not sure where that was indicated in any communication with him as I merely asked him to commit 2 PAGES of the entire book discussing the origin of his hypothesis. I can only conclude that Walt is afraid of the very document on which he bases his religious viewpoints. For what it's worth, here is Walt's response. It's also interesting that Walt did not have the courage to respond himself choosing to route his answer through an intermediary. He accuses me of being angry at the bible.
Walt Brown, like Kent Hovind (who offers $250,000 for 'proof of evolution) like to make the claim that nobody will meet their challenge. At the same time, it should be quite clear that Walt Brown is afraid to spend two pages discussing the foundations of his pseudoscientific hypotheses. I remain willing to abide by the decision of an independent arbiter regarding my request and for my part, the signed agreement stays in effect. Apparently, Walt just likes making the claim that no one will debate him. Next time you see him, ask him what he is afraid of!
I have also invited Walt to submit his hydroplate hypothesis for publication in the journal Gondwana Research in the following e-mail. He continues to whine about bias, but has never submitted the paper.
I would like to invite you to submit your hydroplate hypothesis paper for possible publication in the peer-reviewed journal Gondwana Research. Specifically, your discussion of the breakup of the supercontinent and the mechanisms for that breakup (highlighting the Gondwana continents, of course!). Instructions for the author can be found at the web site Gondwana Research.
Other pages by the author: