Why James Tour Lost the Origins Debate to Dave Farina

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

Something that keeps getting slipped over the transom in my study is news about Dr. James Tour. He is a professor of several things including chemistry at Rice University, and friendly with the Discovery Institute, an Intelligent Design organization. He makes Darwin sad by refuting claims of materialists on the origin of life.

No, I refuse to accept the claims of Darwin's acolytes on social(ist) media and elsewhere that the OoL has nothing to do with evolution, as that has been handily refuted many times over.

Dave Farina attacked Dr. James Tour on the origin of life. They had a live debate that did not go well. Tour won on science but lost for other reasons.
Background image by Cowboy Bob Sorensen, photos from James Tour's YouTube post, then modified*
Dave Farina considers himself an educator on science topic and has made good use of the popularity of YouTube. His channel is Professor Dave Explains. (People call themselves whatever they want, but in science and academia, claiming titles like doctor or professor is akin to stolen valor in the military.) Like other atheists, he presupposes a materialistic view of origins.

Dr. Tour did not even know about Farina until someone flagged him that he was being attacked in one of Dave's videos. Something else that is common among militant atheists is resorting to ad hominem, genetic, and poisoning the well fallacies like he did here. Essentially, if someone is "religious", then they have no business discussing science. Not only is that an anti-knowledge, anti-science belief, it is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

Farina also conflates evolution with science; the ol' bait 'n' switch. Those of us who question or even reject evolution are, therefore, science deniers. Such a trick is sneaky and dishonest. It is something else common among professing atheists. He also made use of straw men and red herrings.

Dave seems to have not blipped on the radar of biblical creationists, but his pot shots at the Intelligent Design movement and its proponents finally got him some attention. When he attacked Dr. Stephen Meyer, Dr. G√ľnter Bechly responded with a lengthy series of posts dismantling Farina's material. (Bechly was attacked for responding to Dave's rant against Casey Luskin.)

Let's move forward two years from Farina's previous diatribes against James Tour. He made a generous offer so that Dave Farina could debate him in person. I do not know how much of the offer was accepted, but a debate was indeed held at Rice University. It did not go well.


The debate was structured reasonably well. The actual content was a cacaphony, and the moderator did not do his job effectively. Whether Tour and the moderator knew about logical fallacies or were simply unwilling to call Farina out, I am clueless. Dave use ad hominems again, and added elephant hurling, straw man, and appeal to motive (among others) to his fallacies. Also, he used the false "Gish Gallop" claim, which I have refuted here.

Farina called Tour a liar, which regular readers know gets me on the prod. Not much chance that Dave will see this, but listen up: Disagreement is not lying! Nor is having reached a conclusion that Dave dislikes. Nor is being wrong. Nor is simply disliking the evidence someone presents. For an accusation that someone is a liar, it is necessary to indicate that they are attempting to deceive. Assertions of liar are only assertions. Indeed, making them without evidence makes you the liar. You savvy that?

Dave gives the impression that he has a huge ego. Anyone who disagrees with him is stupid, and he denigrated the audience several times — even though he had supporters. He even cursed at them; apparently the f-word is appropriate for academia now. A very stupid assumption he made is that the audience (who came to this science debate) could not understand, and anyone who supported Dr. Tour approved of his "lies". Farina fancies himself smarter than Dr. Tour, and insulted his intelligence numerous times (Prov. 27:3). He also claimed to have reduced Tour's credibility to zero, but quite the opposite happened (Prov. 29:9, 18:2, Psalm 14:1).

James Tour spotted Dave Farina several important steps in the origin of life to shorten the discussion. He said that he was going to treat Dave like he would one of his own graduate students. (If that involves both parties shouting over each other, I'm not into it.) Even so, Tour demanded several times that Farina write the chemistry on the board. Dave insisted that the evidence is there in his citations, but he never made an effort to show that he knew what he was talking about. It reminds me of when Darwin's disciples say there are "mountains of evidence for evolution" and then expect everyone else to go and look.

Why Dr. Tour Lost the Debate

ID proponents are saying that James won the debate on science. I know what I heard in the debate, and that Dave didn't meet the challenges. Otherwise, I'm qualified to carry Dr. Tour's briefcase but nothing pertaining to that kind of science.

James is a devout Christian, but it is indeed unfortunate that he is unaware of several important things essential to the Christian life. First, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ, and this affects every area of our thinking. He should not have done the "neutral ground" thing and leave God out of it. Although Dr. Tour apparently does not espouse what is called Intelligent Design Theory, I must remind people that the ID movement has very serious limitations.

"Does that mean you wanted him to use the Bible as a science reference, Cowboy Bob?"

Not hardly! Atheists presuppose materialism, and Christians should be presupposing the truth of Scripture in all areas. We cannot be neutral. However, we can and should present evidence in a presuppositional framework. 

Dave has a fundamentally-flawed epistemology because he hates God (Rom. 1:18-23) and needs to repent (John 3:16, Luke 24:46-47, 2 Peter 3:9). By taking the God-free approach, he lost the debate because he denied what God says about the unbeliever and about knowledge! The irony is that the origin of life is a matter of faith and it is philosophy, not science. Indeed, knowledge itself is impossible without God. Yes, we use operational science when discussing historical science like origins, but the whole picture must be taken into account.

I'm asking a lot because I want people to understand. Please read (or reread) "Evidential or Presuppositional Apologetics?"

I strongly recommend that James reads The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle. It is not a "smoking gun" or "knockout punch" to drive unbelievers to their knees in repentance, but is a powerful apologetics method. Also, Dr. Lisle has several videos on the subject that are available on YouTube and other places. If Tour had been up on this (and on calling out logical fallacies), the debate would not have been painful to endure.

Apparently Dr. Tour does not believe in recent creation, so he may have trouble explaining the global Genesis Flood.

The Intelligent Design People are Thrilled

Something I wonder if people consider when they agree to a live debate is that people will be studying it. These people can review and check on the material. Bill Nye the Propaganda Guy was nowhere near as off the rails as Dave Farina, but he probably did not realize that he would be humiliated by facts afterward (scan Answers in Genesis for some of their articles.) To conclude, here is a series of links to articles at the Discovery Institute that show Farina's dishonesty. They are making hay, and more are promised. I will add them as needed. Be aware, though, that several of these have technical material.
* My photo had a watercolor painting effect added with FotoSketcher. The screenshot of the presentation page of the YouTube video was removed using RemoveBG, then placement and title effects were placed using Paint.Net.