The Rhetoric Guy Live Blogs Bill Nye vs Ken Ham

Hey Readers!


[Stay tuned for a wrap up!]

A good friend of mine suggested that I put a little of my rhetoric muscle to use live blogging the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham in just a few hours.

Before I get started, you should know that I am a full time novelist with a degree in Rhetoric and Writing from the University of Texas at Austin.  I studied critical thinking, public argumentation, and persuasion during my time there, and I will be using those techniques here to comment on the debate as it happens, with a post-debate wrap-up to follow.  Let’s start by looking at their opening salvos though.

Let’s begin with Bill Nye, who threw the first punch, arguably, with his video entitled “Creationism is Not Appropriate for Children” which you can see here:

Rhetoric Score:  89%

Why It Works:  Bill Nye keeps the dialogue largely centered around himself and his own experiences.  He presents his own beliefs, and the reasons he believes it is important to educate young thinkers to his way of thinking.  He argues that it opens up certain understandings and advocates for moving forward from these understandings.

Why It Doesn’t Work:  Nye does not do an adequate job of characterizing his opposition.  He doesn’t address their position, and while you might argue that since he wasn’t intending debate but expression of position he was alleviated of the persuasional burden, I would judge that the original video was presented, from the title onward, as an attack on creationism, rather than a support of evolution education.  That means that in order to be persuasive, Nye needed to spend time really ethically demonstrating that he understands and can address the concerns raised by creationists.

And now for Ken Ham and co.

Rhetoric Score:  47%

Why It Works:  Ken Ham raises some interesting points.  He demonstrates a strange understanding of Bill Nye, but at least he makes an attempt at ethical characterization of the opposition.  He uses specific examples from Nye’s video and from Nye’s body of work to raise concerns about what Nye states, and he creates a useful distinction between historical science and observational science which surprises me in that it permits Nye to retain a modicum of respect (he knows this other KIND of science) without necessarily resorting to calling him a quack or an idiot.

Why It Doesn’t Work:  The largest problem arises in the “so what” phase of the arguments presented here.  I think there are some good points raised about History versus Observation, however the conclusions DRAWN from these concerns (IE that because there are problems with Evolution, Creationism deserves equal time) are not very sound.  But because the concerns sound reasonable, the proposed solution does as well.  However, by this same logic, ANY theory could be taught in the classroom so long as evidence against the prevailing theory were sound enough.  What I’m saying is they don’t make an effective argument for why Creationism is the SOLUTION to their raised concerns.  They just point out “here is a problem with Evolution, so Creationism should be taught side by side”.  Also, they do not address the fact that Bill Nye is not making an argument that information about Creationism should be limited, but rather that is should not be taught alongside Science in the CLASSROOM.  At no point does Nye state that he wants Creationism banned.  He simply states that he wants to see science classrooms focused on science and the theory of evolution is a huge underpinning of science.

I could go on with problems with the reasoning of Ham, but I think the major rhetorically objectionable points have been made.  Stay tuned for my live blog, which will begin at 7:00 PM EST.

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Upon An Anniversary: Five…wait…SIX Lessons On Living Life Freely

Dear Readers,

I know that it has been a few months since I last updated the blog, and I’m sorry for the absence.  In the past month I have literally held the hand of a dying man at the end of his life, and cradled a newborn only twelve hours after they were born.  I’d like to say that I’ve been on a journey from end to beginning, and death to rebirth, but if I’m honest, I’ve mostly been facebooking between typing bad paragraphs which I promptly delete in my novel.

However, I woke up today and realized that I had come, quite unexpectedly, to a rather important anniversary.  I haven’t talked much about it here on the blog, but readers from other sources will know that one year ago today I walked out of a ten year relationship that had become pretty toxic, and left my home in Texas to begin an unintentional period of wandering and rediscovery of self.  Today, I find that I’d like to reflect on that time period, and the lessons and adjustments I’ve made in myself.

Because I now know myself in a different way, as a writer (and have also come to detest the phrase “as a writer” as much as I use it…), of course my chosen medium is both textual and public.  How could it be anything else?  But this post, more than any of the others I have posted on the blog until now, is for me.  I’m writing it, as a letter to my future self.  But you can read along too!

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On Taking Your Own Advice, And Asking For Some

Is this the moment?

Is this the moment?

Dear Readers,

Many of you may have been following my Dirty Little [Writing] Secrets series.  It is a series I am writing which is inspired by a critique group I belong to.  The series involves, I think, at its core, the idea of what it means to have your writing exist in community.

I am currently involved in writing a novel.  It is a novel very close to my heart, as silly as the premise may seem (a premise you can now view here!).  I have heard some conflicting advice as to when to start sharing your work with your readers.

Some people say get it out early and often, let the readers see your process, give them a struggle and a stake in the finished product.

Other people say to keep it hidden for awhile, get the first draft done totally, and maybe start sharing somewhere around the second or third revisions.  Make sure you are putting your best-ish foot forward, and never release something that isn’t as polished as you can make it.

I can see the wisdom on both ends, but I am torn as to which wisdom applies here.  Should I post the first drafts, in all their ugly glory, and give you the chance to journey with me as I revise and tweak and edit?  Should I wait until I know the story, start to finish, and am in the process of making it all shiny and sumptuous to the reader?  Should I just tease you for the next year, as I look for my publishing options and then spring the finished thing upon you all at once?

For once I am stumped.

I can, of course, see how you would enjoy seeing the ingredients I blend to create my Goblin Fashion Designer, the magnificent Gazzletini.  I think you might enjoy my struggles to find the right historical model of organized crime I am looking to emulate for my underworld element in Castle Gallifrax.  It would probably be intriguing to follow my own learning process as I study math and science in an attempt to generate an inspiring and also educational system of wizardry that for once does not merely rely upon “bibbity” “bobbity” or “boo” as an explanation for its inner workings.

However, I can see you rolling your eyes if the first draft seems tedious, or confusing, or just plain uninteresting.  And if I can’t grab you, as a reader, you won’t follow me on this journey.  More than that, I know that first impressions are everything.  Can I gamble your interests on the first words that happen to find themselves onto the page?

Recently, I happened to post my first DLWS entry on Reddit, and had the very surprisingly experience of having it read and then receiving nothing but downvotes.  If you don’t know how Reddit works, that means that people read my work and then thought it was bad enough that they voted to bury it further down on the page.  It was quite the sobering experience, and has made me, perhaps more inclined to believe that you need to delay your entry onto the literary stage until you are really “ready”.

What I’d like to propose is that you, within the comments section, give me your feedback.  What would you like to see, from me, as an author?  Do you like following an author on their drafting process?  Is it useful for you to see all the steps along the way?  Or is the “under-the-hood” process a tedious mess, done too many times, that needs to be swept under the rug until something beautiful has grown from it?

Basically, shall I post about my current work or keep it to myself?

What do YOU think?

Dirty Little [Writing] Secrets: Write Shop #1: Required Course Materials

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the first elective course in the Dirty Little [Writing] Secrets Curriculum!

The lessons in the curriculum so far have been about how to view another writer’s work and the distinction and rules necessary for providing useful critique about that work, which we have called “craft based” critique.

However, I highly doubt anyone is looking to train themselves on how to give feedback simply so their friends give them ever growing stacks of short stories to review.  No, I think we all sense, intrinsically, that the real reason behind learning to say something helpful about another writer’s work is so that we can learn to improve our own craft.

Today’s entry is not about critique.  Today’s entry is about the hands on, nitty gritty nuts and bolts of writing.  It is about the literary lathe, the synonym circular saw, the comma calipers, the freestanding paragraph planer!

Today’s entry is your first elective course in the DLWS curriculum:  Write Shop!

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Dirty Little [Writing] Secrets: Homework #1: Become a Rubber Band; Man.

Dear Reader,

We are now two lessons into the Dirty Little [Writing] Secrets curriculum, and like any good student, you may have neglected to show up to the first two classes.  If that’s the case, never fear; you can catch up here.

Having caught up, you now know that there is a big difference in critique based around content (i.e., I liked this character or I didn’t like this character), and critique of a writer’s craft (i.e., I thought you showed the heroes bravery on page 3).  You also know just how important the ability to provide useful critique is to your own development as a writer.  And finally you’ve learned the five basic rules for providing said useful critique.

So, after all that yummy learning, we can’t just laze about on the side of the pool, waiting for our sandwich of literary awesomeness to digest.  No!  Finger cramps be damned!  Now is the time to leap in.

Today I present your very first Dirty Little [Writing] Homework!

It’s called The Elastic Sentence Continue reading