Here are some of Carroll's objections:
...It’s too easy to guess at what someone else is thinking, then argue against that, rather than work to understand where they are coming from. I tried to lay out my own thinking in the Grid of Disputation post. Namely: if BH.tv has something unique and special going for it, it’s the idea that it’s not just a shouting match, or mindless entertainment. It’s a place we can go to hear people with very different perspectives talk about issues about which they may strongly disagree, but with a presumption that both people are worth listening to. If the issue at hand is one with which I’m sufficiently familiar, I can judge for myself whether I think the speakers are respectable; but if it’s not, I have to go by my experience with other dialogues on the site.
What I objected to about the creationists was that they were not worthy opponents with whom I disagree; they’re just crackpots. Go to a biology conference, read a biology journal, spend time in a biology department; nobody is arguing about the possibility that an ill-specified supernatural “designer” is interfering at whim with the course of evolution. It’s not a serious idea. It may be out there in the public sphere as an idea that garners attention — but, as we all know, that holds true for all sorts of non-serious ideas. If I’m going to spend an hour of my life listening to two people have a discussion with each other, I want some confidence that they’re both serious people. Likewise, if I’m going to spend my own time and lend my own credibility to such an enterprise, I want to believe that serious discussions between respectable interlocutors are what the site is all about.
Some time back I was surprised to discover that I am a rabid anti-creationist. I had a discussion with my brother-in-law about the "teach the controversy" doctrine and wound up foaming at the mouth, more than a little bit. This seems to be one of those things where I would think that I'd be fairly tolerant of harmless error, but I really don't think that it is harmless. Creationism actively encourages kids to think unscientifically, which will turn them away from scientific or technical careers. It contributes to bad public policy (cf. stem cell research bans). And, by being so relentlessly political, it corrodes the foundations of secular government.
So I am somewhat sympathetic to Carroll's distaste at being associated with a site that has any tolerance for airing these kinds of ideas. Best not to give them any oxygen, right? By engaging them or debating them, you only legitimize their ideas, no?
The problem with this line of reasoning is that creationism is already legitimate. Take a look at this incredibly distressing poll from a few years ago. When you have roughly half of the country, in all demographics and age groups, believing that "God created man in his present form," the legitimacy cat is out of the bag and has been drinking from your toilet for some time.
Now, it is almost useless to debate creationism with creationists. You're not going to change their minds, and it's unlikely that pure reason will change the minds of the creationism-believing chunks of the viewing audience. Per Shaw, "never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it."
If you can't debate 'em, what's a scientific body to do? The answer, I think, has a lot more to do with talking points than it does with winning debates. To discredit creationism, you need to get the media to pay attention. The media only pay attention to things that are so artfully crafted that people enjoy watching them enough to watch commercials at the same time. That's a job for PR folks, not scientists, not even debaters. But the scientists have to show up, or all the pretty words that the PR folks provide them will come to naught.
And that's the problem with the Carroll approach: it fails to appreciate that creationism is not a scientific issue but rather a political one. And debate and reason have a fairly small place in the toolkit required to affect attitudinal change on political topics.
One of the larger chunks of that toolkit is consistent, long-term, willingness to engage on the issue. That means that you have to respect the consequences of your opponents' opinions, even if you don't respect the position itself. You have to show up, over and over and over.
So Carroll's decision to take his bat and go home is an incredibly bad one. He has telegraphed an unwillingness to engage, to say nothing of leaving the impression that the issue is so trivial as to be beneath his notice. That's a big-time win for the creationists, when they can drive a rational human being off of a site that is largely a boon to other rational human beings.
As for BH.tv, here's what they can do to atone: Let's see a discussion, by two reputable evolutionary biologists, on the best way to combat creationism. Those talking points have to come from somewhere, don't they?