Bill Nye To Debate Ken Ham Tonight On Evolution And Religion
April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Bill Nye “the Science Guy” will square off against Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum, in a debate titled “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” February 4th at the museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.
Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis, is a member of the young-Earth creationism movement – whose members share the belief that the Earth is only several thousand years old. Nye, a science education advocate, and former host of the children’s TV show “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” was named the 2010 Humanist of the Year. He is also an agnostic, who according to Pew Research, has spoken out against teaching creationism to children.
Sixty percent of Americans say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” according to recent a Pew Research survey. Another 33 percent, however, say that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Nye and Ham are at polar opposites of the spectrum, however there are other perspectives between their stands, including theistic evolution — the belief that a supreme being guided the process of evolution.
Even the nation’s churches seem divided on this issue. Evangelical churches such as the Southern Baptist Convention support teaching “scientific creationism” in public schools, while other American religious traditions – such as the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Roman Catholic Church – report that their teachings are not in conflict with evolution.
The show, touted as part science and part circus, will argue the origins of the human race in what is likely to be the biggest public splash in the 20 years since Answers in Genesis ministry was founded. The ministry opened and operates the Creation Museum, which has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors and plans to spend over $60 million on a Noah’s Ark biblical theme park in Grant County, Kentucky.
Ham says that the debate will be nerve-wracking for him.
“A little fear and trepidation, a little stress,” Ham, 62, said in an interview with Cliff Peale of The Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s really become something none of us thought it would.” He is referring to the over 800,000 people who had already signed up to stream the event live as of two weeks ago. The live audience will be around 900 people. Ham is confident about his ability to change hearts and minds, though.
“The way I work, I can do my best in convincing people because I don’t have to do the convincing,” he said. “God does the convincing.”
Nye, on the other hand, not only holds that science is the answer, he condemns those who would deny children the opportunity to understand the scientific world.
“I say to the grown-ups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine,” Nye said in a video posted online according to Peale. “But don’t make your kids do it, because we need them.”
The Huffington Post reports that Nye’s allies are asking him not to climb on the stage at all, saying that participating in the debate gives people the mistaken impression that there is any actual debate about evolution.
Creationists usually rely on their superior speaking and writing skills, which translate well into the rhetorically dominated debate format. Evolutionists, on the other hand, are usually more skilled in technical scientific argumentation — data, expertise and consensus of peers. The problem is that this approach rarely appeals to the general public. Bill Nye is the exception, being a “science entertainer” he is able to make science facts and data approachable and fun for his watchers.
In previous debates, evolutionists have “lost” because of their inability to make the “talking points” of evolution — like the reliability of radioactive dating techniques, the interpretation of fossils, or the role of “assumptions” in science — because they are too technical and dry for most. The more personable and articulate creationist debaters, such as Duane Gish at Boston University in the 70s, humiliate their opponents.
HuffPo’s writer, Karl Giberson, PhD, is a professor at Stonehill College and the former President of the BioLogos Foundation, which helps Christians make peace with science. Giberson predicts that the debate will be anything but because of the radically different objectives of the two men. “Nye will give some evidence for the truth of evolution and argue that we should believe things that are supported by evidence. Ham will spend his time on a rather different topic — convincing the audience that evolution and Christianity are incompatible.” He has some experience in debating with young-Earth creationists, himself, even debating with Ham’s followers and colleagues — Dr. Georgia Purdom from Answers in Genesis and Dr. Randy Galiuzza of the Institute for Creation Research. Both argued not from a position of data that supported their positions, but rather that their beliefs were faithful to the Bible and traditional Christian understanding and therefore couldn’t be wrong.
The real debate, according to Giberson, isn’t science against religion. Rather, it is an intramural debate within Christianity about whether evolution is compatible with belief in God as Creator. The literature available from Answers in Genesis focuses almost entirely on this, rather than disputing scientific data. Ham argues that Christians should reject evolution because it is incompatible with their faith, not that the science isn’t true.
For that reason, Giberson says Bill Nye has lost the debate before he ever walks on stage. In any case, it should be a lively debate with lots of opportunities for Creationists and Evolutionists alike to enjoy themselves.