Why care about something written about a debate that hasn’t happened yet? Well frankly, because you need to be prepared for whatever happens afterwards, and the best way to do so is to reflect upon the issue at hand. I decided to do a little research, and I put together this post to help frame the upcoming debate. I also have a few comments on it throughout.
Fellow Christians, we need to be prepared for this debate. We need to be posting on it beforehand, during, and afterwards. Why? A simple look at Google Trends shows that the search traffic for Ken Ham has spiked hugely since the debate was announced. Side-by-side comparison of Bill Nye and Ken Ham shows both have seen an increase of search traffic from it. To put it simply: people are talking and thinking about this. We need to have a response ready throughout so that the we may demonstrate the reason for the hope within us.
Bill Nye Starts the Fire
The origins of this debate go back all the way to the 17th and 18th century, but we’ll go a bit more modern here and start with Bill Nye’s strong words against creationism. In a video, he began by saying that “Denial of Evolution is unique to the United States…” Such a denial is like “trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates.” A worldview which denies billions of years, which explains much of the data we see, becomes “untenable” and “inconsistent.” He then addressed the “grown ups” and said “if you want to deny” the scientific evidence for the age of the universe… “that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it… we need scientifically literate voters [for the future].” Regarding the case for a young earth “there’s no evidence for it.” Nye noted that he believes the young earth worldview won’t exist within a couple centuries.
Answers in Genesis Responds
The young earth creationist group, Answers in Genesis, was quick to respond to Nye’s comments. In a video entitled “Ken Ham Responds to Bill Nye ‘The Humanist Guy,’” Ham was quick to denounce Nye’s attack on creationism. First, he called out Nye for having an “Agenda to teach children not to believe in God…” He went on to say that Bill Nye doesn’t actually understand science. Tying evolutionism to engineering, Ham argued, is nonsensical. Ham felt that Nye’s comments made creationism seem equivalent to child abuse. Instead, he said one should view the teaching that children are “just animals” and there’s no God is the real child abuse. “It’s really people like Bill Nye that are damaging kids. Creationists are telling children that they’re special… made in the image of God.”
Ham alleged that if evolutionism were true, then people should just be able to see it. Instead, he argued that people like Nye have to protect children from hearing any alternative theories so that they don’t question what they’re being taught. “You don’t teach them to think critically… you just want to make sure they only hear about evolution.” Creationists, Ham said, should be happy to teach their children about evolution so that they are able to think critically about it.
My primary issue with this debate is that it seems both sides are putting forth a false dichotomy: the only two options, it is alleged, are either naturalistic evolutionism or young earth creationism. However, this does not even begin to exhaust the range of possibilities regarding the origins debate. There are theistic evolutionists, old earth creationists, progressive creationists, and more.
The problem is that when the average person on the street sees a debate like this, they’re going to assume the options they observe are the only positions out there. Suppose Ken Ham gets beaten badly in this debate; in that case, Christians who now think young earth creationism is the only option will believe that it cannot stand up to scrutiny, and–by extension–their faith cannot stand up to scrutiny either. Similarly, suppose Bill Nye gets beaten badly; in that case, Christians may attach their belief to young earth creationism, a position which does not seem viable.
Bill Nye’s comments regarding what parents should or should not do sounds quite a bit like indoctrination. That is, he urged creationist parents not to teach their parents creationism. Now, even though I disagree with Ham’s form of creationism, I do think that parents should be allowed to pass their beliefs on to their children. To say otherwise seems to me an affront to freedom of expression.
As far as Ken Ham’s comments go, I’m not convinced by his assertion that one’s desire to teach evolution must be linked to a desire to teach kids not to believe in God. After all, later in the same video he urges creationist parents to teach their kids about evolution. Surely he’s not saying that creationist parents are trying to teach their children there’s no God when they teach them about evolution! Ham’s comments seem to do the same thing Nye’s did: paint a picture of a false choice between naturalism and his brand of creationism.
I’m not secret about my views regarding young earth creationism. I simply do not think it accounts for the biblical text or the natural record. Neither do I think a naturalistic perspective is capable of dealing with all the data at hand. However, whatever your view, I still strongly encourage you to consider 1) writing on this topic from your perspective. The more Christian voices we have talking about this, the better. Also, 2) don’t fall victim to the false dichotomy offered by this debate. The extremes are not the only options.
Check out the live stream of the debate here (the debate is on 2/4/14 at 7PM ET).
The image used in this post is was retrieved at Christianity Today and I believe it’s origin is with Answers in Genesis. I use it under fair use to critique the views. I make no claims to owning the rights to the image, and I believe the image, as well as “The Creation Museum” are copyright of Answers in Genesis.
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