Speaker Series 2016: The Rhetoric of Intelligent Design

Christine Shellska is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication, Media and Film, Faculty of Arts, at the University of Calgary. Her areas of study include the history, philosophy, and sociology of science and rhetorical methods. In this presentation of competing cultural perspectives, Shellska uses rhetorical analysis, as well as contemporary and classic debate theory, to examine some recent and high profile science-versus-religion debates between prominent science supporters and religious apologists. Some of the debate examples presented will include Bill Nye versus Ken Ham (2014), Christopher Hitchens versus William Lane Craig (2009), and Michael Shermer and Sam Harris versus Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston (2010). By examining a group of debates, commonalities and differences can be identified in the claims and debating tactics employed by Creationists, Intelligent Design Proponents, and New Agers. Although the presentation will focus primarily on the rhetoric, logic, and styles of Ham, Craig, and Chopra — prominent spokespersons for creationist, religious, and new age beliefs, respectively — Shellska also comments on the methods, styles, and counter-arguments used by the other debaters.

The primary purpose of this presentation is to explore rhetorical strategies used to debate cultural issues, especially claims that are inconsistent and / or incompatible with scientific findings. Shellska also explores discussion techniques employed by scientists and others when encountering those who reject scientific findings.

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