Tonight, Bill Nye (that’s right, Bill Nye the Science Guy) debated Ken Ham (President of the Creation Museum) on the subject “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era”. I watched the debate, I enjoyed the debate, I critiqued both sides of the debate. Here’s a rundown. As and aside, the title of this blog was borrowed from a Facebook post by my friend Kevin Kennedy ’16.
First, a little personal background. Some people would say that I am coming at this from my own worldview, being an agnostic atheist. “Of course you would agree with Bill Nye, you hate religion, right?” Not entirely. I used to be a believing Christian. Catholic, in fact. I attended Catholic school for a few years, and attended the subsequent masses and theology classes that go along with a religious, private education. When it comes to religion, I, like many others in my age group, have experienced both sides of the “belief” coin. I would also like to point out that I don’t hate religion. I don’t have a religious vendetta. I am actually a religion minor, more interested in religious studies than theology, but my point still stands. I just don’t believe in gods and, in turn, creationism; simple as that. Now, for particulars.
Ken Ham began his debate by drawing this false dichotomy in science. He wants to separate “observational (experimental)” and “historical” science. Historical science is this science that we haven’t observed, or seen, with our own two eyes. “Molecules-to-man evolution” is a “historical science”, because we haven’t physically observed it. If I had a dollar for every time Ken Ham said “you weren’t there”, I would have enough money to buy a ticket to his ridiculous museum (I hear they have a dragon exhibit, now. Sweet).
Ham also continuously falls prey to using the appeal to authority fallacy. The first half of his time, and intermittently, he would bring up scientists (most of them engineers, and not natural scientists), to exclaim that they were young earth creationists and Bible literalists, BUT ALSO SCIENTISTS. So that makes it okay. Because they do science, too. I don’t find this type of debate effective, and nor should you.
Two more unrelated points. Firstly, Ken Ham says “I believe secularists have hijacked the word science”. He later goes on to add “evolution” to the list of words that secularists have “hijacked”. I mean, can we just talk about how loaded the word “hijack” is in post-911 United States, anyway? C’mon, Ken. Secondly, Ham throws in “God invented marriage, by the way. That’s where it comes from”. I mean, Mr. Ham, I am disappointed. That is just a factually, objectively incorrect statement.
Now, I like Bill Nye. He’s a very intelligent man, but he is no evolutionary biologist. He, like many of the scientists that Ham had displayed, was educated as an engineer. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know his stuff! I’m all for being well-rounded as an individual (a liberal arts education is a good education). Because of this, I think the points that he tried to make about biology were great, but too broad. There are much finer evolutionary biological resources that he could have used. However, perhaps he just wanted to keep the biology talk broad and simple enough for the layman to digest.
The other thing about Bill Nye that I wanted to mention is that he really should have kept the jokes to a minimum, or not at all. Having seen Bill Nye in other interviews, and his TV show of course, he seems like a fun, friendly guy. However, he knew that he was not on home turf because the debate was being held at the Creation Museum. If he didn’t know, he came to the quick realization after both debaters gave their opening statements and Ken Ham was met with roaring applause while you could have heard a fly sneeze after Bill Nye finished. Nye’s jokes fell on the deaf ears of a deadpan audience. It was actually kind of hard to watch at some points, because I was laughing right along with Bill, but the audience wasn’t having it.
I have many more notes and points about this debate, but I think I’ll leave it at that. I hope that you watched it or, at least, are open to watching it. The link can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kgvhG3AkI