Christianity and Science, Creationism, Science, Young Earth Creationism

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye- The Debate of the Decade?

bnye-kham-debateWhy 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.

Be Prepared

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.

False Dichotomy

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.

Other Problems

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.

Conclusion

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.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

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.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

11 thoughts on “Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye- The Debate of the Decade?

  1. Hello J.W.

    “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”

    You’re entirely right, this is what I pointed out in a review of Ham’s claim that Christianity is declining due to a lack of Young Earth Creationism.
    There is little doubt he is driving many people away from God.

    “ill 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.”

    Forbidding parents to teach that God is the ultimate creator would be a horrible affront against liberty. This is what many militant atheits want to achieve.
    But forbidding parents to teach harmful religious beliefs, like God desiring suicide bombing, does not ring wrong to my mind.

    Posted by lotharson | January 20, 2014, 9:08 AM
  2. Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

    Posted by Truth2Freedom | January 20, 2014, 3:30 PM
  3. Excellent synopsis of “what’s to come”. I too agree with your assessment that both sides paint a picture that there are only two options to choose. I am a old earth creationist and actively share my beliefs with others, believer and non-believer alike. I tend to share with non-believers that there examples of “micro” evolution (small habitual changes in species and adaptive changes in appearance and tool usage, no changes in the DNA structure); however, “macro” evolution (species change DNA structure to become a new species) is inconclusive and unprovable. I take this route to build a bridge of engagement that draws the argument away from the exclusive belief of empirical data, to a more philosophical discussion about the logical conclusion of the current facts. But I find that talking with believers there is a more difficult struggle (young vs. old). Among believers, I remind those participating that this topic is not a salvation issue, and we should “keep the main thing, the main thing”, the spreading and living of the gospel of Christ. I am looking forward to the debate and the many discussion that will follow. Keep writing and thinking my brother in Christ!

    Posted by Casey Roberts | January 20, 2014, 4:01 PM
  4. Reblogged this on Captain Lawson.

    Posted by caplawson | January 21, 2014, 10:15 AM
  5. I have a hard time with these types of debates because each side usually just talks right past each other with smug attitudes. Then both walk away feeling like they “won”. Then the rest of us go online and yell at each other incessantly until we feel like we’ve “won.” I’d rather have a friendly discussion however passions run high on this topic so it’s nearly impossible. Everyone should just remember that there are smart people on both sides.

    Posted by Jeff | January 21, 2014, 12:14 PM
  6. Neither Nye nor Ham is well qualified to debate the science. And Ham breaks his own rules of interpretation by ignoring the ‘literal’ sense of the first two verses of the Bible. Calvin has a wonderful comment about Genesis and science at the end of this: http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/in-the-beginning/

    Posted by Michael Snow | January 24, 2014, 4:37 PM
  7. Obviously, as you noted the spikes in google searches, this is all about PR. On the other hand, here is an example of a good debate: http://www.thegreatgoddebate.org/#.UttJFEM6H-g.facebook

    Posted by Michael Snow | January 24, 2014, 4:40 PM
  8. I have questions about how fruitful this will be for evangelism. More importantly — is evangelism even in mind here? Or is this just a debate to rile up each side’s constituency?

    Posted by christiannewsnow | January 31, 2014, 1:07 PM
    • I agree to some extent. I’m not sure how fruitful the event itself will be. However, tons of people are thinking about these issues now and I think it is vastly important to get out there and critically engage with them. People are searching for answers, and when news stories like this pop up, it will direct attention towards specific areas. Thus, we need to be responding and providing answers ASAP. So even if you don’t think this debate itself will be helpful (and I agree–I doubt it will do much more than just “rile up” people), you’ve got to admit that now people will be thinking about and searching for answers to these questions.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 31, 2014, 6:31 PM

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