Today, Ken Ham, a young earth creationist, debated against Bill Nye an agnostic famous for “The Science Guy” program, on the topic: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s scientific era?” The debate was watched by over 500,000 people and generated a huge amount of interest. Here, I’ll review the debate section by section. Then, I’ll offer some thoughts on the content as well as a concluding summary. If you watched the debate, you may want to just skip down to the Analysis section. The debate may be watched here for a limited time (skip to 13 minutes in to start debate).
Ken Ham Opening
Ham began by noting that many prominent scientists argue that scientists should not debate creationists. He wondered aloud whether that might be because creationism is indeed a viable model and some don’t want that to be shown. He then showed a video of a creationist who was a specialist in science and an inventor, noting that creationism is not mutually exclusive from science.
The three primary points Ham focused on were 1) the definitions of terms; 2) interpretation of the evidence; and 3) the age of the universe is not observational science. Regarding the first, Ham noted that science means knowledge and so evolutionists cannot claim to be doing science. Regarding the second, he argued that both creationists and evolutionists observe the same evidence; they simply interpret that evidence differently. Regarding the third, Ham observed that “We weren’t there” at the beginning of the Earth and so we can’t know through observational science what happened.
Bill Nye Opening
Nye noted that the primary contention of the topic was to see whether the creation model lined up with the evidence. Thus, we must compare Ken Ham’s creation model to the “mainstream” model of science (his word). There are, he contended, major difficulties with Ham’s model, including the fossils found in layers in the Grand Canyon. He noted that there is “not a single place” where fossils of one type cross over with fossils of a different type or era. Yet, on a creation model, one would expect vast amounts of mixing. Thus, the creation model fails to account for the observational evidence.
Nye also noted that there are “billions of people ” who are religious and do not hold to creation science.
Ham again emphasized the importance of defining terms. He then presented a few more videos of creationists who are active scientists in various fields. One, a Stuart Burgess [I think I typed that correctly] claimed that he knew many colleagues who expressed interest in creationism but were afraid for their careers.
Non-Christians, Ham alleged, are borrowing from the Christian worldview in order to do science. The reason for this is because their own worldview cannot account for the laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, or the laws of nature. He asked Nye to explain how to account for these aspects of reality without God.
The past cannot be observed directly, he said, and concluded that we can’t be certain that the present is like the past. Thus, we must only deal with the observed facts that we can see now. On this point, the disagreements are over the interpretation of the evidence. That is, there is a set of evidence that both people like Nye and Ham approach. According to Ham, it is their worldviews which color their interpretation of the evidence such that they use the same evidence and get entirely contradictory conclusions.
The diversity of species which is observed is only, Ham argued, difference in “kind.” Thus, it cannot be used as evidence for evolution. The word “evolution” has been “hijacked” and used as evidence for unobservable phenomena extrapolated from that which is observed. The various species demonstrate a “creation orchard” as opposed to an “evolutionary tree.” One may observe different creatures, like dogs, each stemming from an a common origin, but none of these are traceable back to common descent, rather they exhibit discontinuity in the fossil record.
There is a major difference, Ham alleged, between “observational sciences” which looks at the things we can see in repeatable events now and “historical sciences” which extrapolates from the evidence gathered what happened in the past. We can never truly have “knowledge” regarding the historical sciences.
Nye began his presentation by noting that the debate took place in Kentucky and “here… we’re standing on layer upon layer upon layer of limestone.” The limestone is made of fossils of creatures which lived entire lives (twenty or more years in many cases) and then died, piled up on top of each other, and formed the limestone underneath much of the state. The amount of time needed for this is much longer than just a few thousand years.
Nye also turned to evidence from ice cores, which would require 170 winter/summer cycles per year for at least a thousand years to generate the current amount of ice built up. In California, there are trees which are extremely ancient, and some trees are even older, possibly as old as 9000 or more years old. Apart from the difficulty of the age of these trees, one must also wonder how they survived a catastrophic flood.
When looking at a place like the Grand Canyon, one never finds lower layer animals mixed with higher level animals. One should expect to find these given a flood. Nye challenged Ham to present just one evidence of the mixing of fossils of different eras together; he said it would be a major blow to the majority sciences.
If the flood explains animal life and its survival, one should observe the migration of animals across the earth in the fossil record; thus a Kangaroo should be found not just in Australia but along the way from wherever the Ark rested. However, these finds are not observed. Finally, the Big Bang has multiple lines of evidence which confirm it as the origin of the universe.
Ham argued that we can’t observe the age of the Earth. No science can measure it through observational evidence; rather it falls under historical sciences. One should add the genealogies in the Genesis account in order to find the age of the Earth. Whenever a scientist talks about the past, “we’ve got a problem” because they are not speaking from observation: they were not there.
Various radiometric dating methods turn up radically divergent ages for artifacts from the same time period and layer of rocks. The only infallible interpreter of the evidence is God, who provided a record in the Bible.
Rocks are able to slide in such a way as to interpose different dated objects next to each other.
Nye noted that Ham kept saying we “can’t observe the past,” but that is exactly what is done in astronomy: no observation of stars is not observing the past. Indeed, it takes a certain amount of time for the light to get to Earth from these various stars. The notion that lions and the like ate vegetables is, he argued, preposterous. Perhaps, he asserted, the difficulty is with Ham’s interpretation of the biblical text.
Nye then compared the transmission of the text of the Bible to the telephone game.
Ham again pressed that natural laws only work within a biblical worldview. There only needed to be about 1000 kinds represented aboard the ark in order to represent all the current species. Bears have sharp teeth yet eat vegetables.
Nye asserted that Ham’s view fails to address fundamental questions like the layers of ice. The notion that there were even fewer “kinds” (about 1000) means that the problem for Ham is even greater: the species would have had to evolve at extremely rapid rates, sometimes even several species a day, in order to account for all the differences of species today.
I’ll not cover every single question, instead, I wanted to make note of two major things that came up in the Q+A session.
First, Nye’s answer to any question which challenged him on things like where the matter for the Big Bang came from was to assert that it’s a great mystery and we should find out one day. Second, Ham’s response to any question which (even hypothetically) asked him to consider the possibility that he would be wrong was to assert that such a situation was impossible. In other words, he presupposed he was correct and held to the impossibility that he could be wrong.
Ken Ham’s position was based upon his presuppositional apologetic. He continued to press that it is one’s worldview which colors the interpretation of evidence. The facts, he argued, remained the same for either side. It was what they brought to the facts that led to the radically different interpretations.
There is something to be said for this; it is surely true that we do have assumptions we bring to the table when interpreting the evidence. However, apart from the problem that Ham’s presuppositional approach with creationism is unjustified, Ham failed to deal with facts which really do shoot major holes in his theory. For example, it simply is true that, as Nye noted, when we observe the stars or distant galaxies, we are observing the past. Ham was just wrong on this regard. Moreover, other observational evidence (though not directly showing the past) does demonstrate that the Earth cannot be so young as Ham supposes. Furthermore, his hard and fast distinction between historical sciences and observational sciences is more of a rhetorical device than anything.
Ham’s position, I would argue, fails to account for the evidence which Nye raised (along with a number of other difficulties). Moreover, he continued to paint a picture of the Bible which rejects any but his own interpretation. In other words, he presented a false dichotomy: either young earth creationism or compromise with naturalism. However, I did appreciate Ham’s focus on the Gospel message. It was refreshing to have him present a call to belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and savior in front of such a massive audience.
Nye did an okay job of trying to show that there may be more to the debate than simply creationism-or-bust for Christianity. Indeed, he actually went so far as to say there is “no conflict” between science and faith. Instead, he argued that Ham’s position is the one which generates such a conflict. His rebuttals provided some major reasons to think that Ham’s creationism could not account for the evidence. In particular, the difficulties presented by the proliferation of species after the flood and the fossil record were solid evidences.
However, Nye’s presentations had a couple difficulties. First, he failed to account for polystrate fossils: the very thing he challenged Ham to present. There really are such things as fossils which are found out of sequence (thanks to ElijiahT and SkepticismFirst on Twitter for this). That’s not to say they prove young earth creationism. Far from it. So Nye seems to have been mistaken on this point. Second, he presented the Big Bang theory as though Fred Hoyle somehow came up with the hypothesis, yet Hoyle is well known for denying the Big Bang. Third, the notion that the interpretation, translation, and transmission of the Bible through time is anything like the telephone game is a tiresome and simply mistaken metaphor.
Both men were extremely respectful and I appreciated their candor. Each had several good points; each had some major flaws in their positions. The dialogue as a whole was interesting and helpful.
Readers by now should realize that I have to confess my title is a bit misleading. I was impressed by the tone of both speakers, though I thought they each made major gaffes alongside some decent points. The bottom line is that I find it unfortunate that we were exposed to a false dichotomy: either creationism or naturalism. There is more to the story. As far as “who won” the debate, I would argue that because of this false dichotomy, neither truly won. However, it seemed to me Ham had a more cohesive 30 presentation. That is, his presentation stayed more focused. Nye’s presentation jumped around quite a bit and had less directness to it. So far as “debate tactics” are concerned, one might chalk that up to a win for Ham. However, Nye successfully dismantled Ham’s presentation in the rebuttal periods. Thus, one was left with the impression that Ham’s view was indeed based upon his presupposition of its truth, while Nye was more open to the evidence. Again, I think both are wrong in many areas, but I hope that Nye’s tearing down of Ham’s position will not demonstrate to some that Christianity is false. As Nye noted, it may instead be Ham’s interpretation which is wrong.
There was much more to cover here than I could get to, so please do leave a comment to continue the discussion.
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!
Naturalis Historia– This site is maintained by a biologist who presents a number of serious difficulties for young earth creationism.
Gregg Davidson vs. Andrew Snelling on the Age of the Earth– I attended a debate between an old earth and young earth creationist (the latter from Answers in Genesis like Ken Ham). Check out my overview of the debate as well as my analysis.
Debate Review: Fazale Rana vs. Michael Ruse on “The Origin of Life: Evolution vs. Design”– Theist Fazale Rana debated atheist Michael Ruse on the origin of life. I found this a highly informative and respectful debate.
Reasons to Believe– a science-faith think tank from an old-earth perspective.
Other Reviews of the Debate
Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye post-debate analysis– The GeoChristian has a brief overview of the debate with a focus on what each got right or wrong.
Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: The Aftermath– Luke Nix over at Faithful Thinkers has another thoughtful review. His post focuses much more on the topic of the debate as opposed to a broad overview. Highly recommended.
Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: The Debate of the Decade?- Interested in what led up to this debate? Check out my previous post on the topic in which I urged Christians to write on this debate and also traced, briefly, the controversy leading up to this debate.
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.
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.
I disagree with your analysis. I thought Ken Ham got slaughtered out there.
The question was: Is Ken Ham’s creationist model tenable, given current science.
In his own presentation, Ham wandered between dogma, poorly down philosophy of science, metaethics, and some ol’ fashioned conservative politics. I half expected an alter call (and very nearly got one) several times.
Nye, on the other hand, mostly stuck on point and hit Ham with wave after wave of evidence, much of which Ham didn’t really have a response to.
The rebuttals felt a little more even. Nye clearly hadn’t expected the religion ambush (the topic was the viability of a scientific model, after all, not a discussion of “world views”) and had several missteps when he took the theological bait (for instance, the telephone metaphor). This was probably an error/oversight in his preparation: he should have known that Ham would come at home with theology (because he lacked any credible science) and boned up on that (There was some low-hanging fruit out there; none less than Aquinas denies that all animals were vegetarians at first). Ham is also better at shooting from the hip, but his admission that he was immune to evidence was damning.
Both of them had a really hard time separating several issues: naturalism vs. theism, cosmology, biology, and geology, which all kind of ran together. This may be more acceptable since the discussion was over a model taken as a whole, rather than “creation vs. evolution,” but still showed a lack of subtlety.
But the fact remains: at the end of the day, one man had lots of evidence and a pretty devastating challenge (about predictions) that the other could not meet, while Ham had to fall back on red meat topics for the crowd (like his gospel presentations, which were hurried and felt badly out of place) and constant name-dropping/whining about a fight against “the secularists.”
My comment regarding Ham’s presentation part is that his presentation was much more cohesive. On rereading what I said I see how you could get the impression that Ham somehow won in some manner. That was not my point at all, but I do see an edit might be in order to make it more clear. Thank you!
I re-read it again and now edited my final comments to be more explicit. I only intended to point out that so far as debate tactics are concerned, Ham did better in the opening. I generally agree with your analysis.
Thank you for your balanced summary. I agree that it wasn’t much of a debate. I mentioned in my little snippet that I’m just thankful SOMEBODY made the point that many, MANY Christians accept a Biblically faithful view different than Ham’s. I’m just disappointed that it had to be Nye. With this much exposure, Christians can’t afford to pretend the earth is young.
I agree. I was very pleased that at least Nye mentioned other options are available. He also tried, however lacking deftness he was, to point out that Ham’s difficulties may come with his interpretation of the Bible as opposed to the Bible itself.
“With this much exposure, Christians can’t afford to pretend the earth is young.” This statement is just wrong, every bit of “scientific” (quotes because it isn’t scientific at all and relies on man made assumptions) supports a young earth theory. Anyone who doesn’t realize this is believing the secular science lie and has not done honest research.
@Rick. Actually, there is NO scientific evidence for a young earth or universe: you are dead wrong. I am a Christian who fully believes that the scientific evidences for a billions of years old universe and earth to be completely compatible with the Bible. And for the record: I completely reject Darwinian Evolution. I place Adam and Eve at around 50,000 years ago.
When next looking at the Bible, I suggest you look at these chapters side-by-side so that you get a consistent view of creation week: Genesis 1-2, Proverbs 8, Psalm 104, and Job 38-9. YECs only seem to have quote Genesis 1-2 and Exodus 20 (Sabbath Rest passage). There are over 200 passages (many chapter length) in the bible where God speaks about his creation.
You can find the list at http://www.reaons.org (just search for “creation passages”).
I thought Ham had a very effective debate tactic when he contrasted “observational science” with “historical science”. Basically anything more than a few hundred years old can be dismissed as “unknown” and thus open to different interpretations.
This also contrasts the two different world views. To Nye (and most scientists) the simplest (and hence best) model is to assume that things were similar in the past:
* The rate of radioactive decay for a given isotope has been the same for 100 years, so it was the same in the distant past.
* The speed of light has been constant for the last 100 years, so it was constant in the distant past.
Within this worldview, evidence clearly points to an old age for the earth and for the universe.
To Ham (and many Christians), the simplest (and hence best) model is to assume the literal truth of the Bible as a scientist textbook. When there is conflict, science is assumed to be wrong, and evidence must be interpreted in light of a literal reading of the Bible. The unreliable “historical science” carries no weight.
Yes, I agree regarding the effectiveness of Ham’s debate strategy. The major problem, of course, is that he is mistaken on that. Nye does rely upon some assumptions, but it seems to me those assumptions best line up with the evidence.
Thanks for this excellent summary!
Agreed. Until there’s demonstrability, creationism is just teleology, not a substitute to scientific processes, not even an equivalent. The theory that we came from aliens has more “proof” to offer when compared to creationism or intelligent design.
Religion or faith shouldn’t be subjected to the same standards as science, two are very completely different pursuits. As expected Nye won. But Ham got something better, publicity for the Creation Museum. I was thinking of taking the kids to Disney World, but think we’ll visit the Creation Museum now.
This should’ve been a debate about the literal reading vs. metaphoric reading of Genesis.
Great write-up by the way.
“Religion or faith shouldn’t be subjected to the same standards as science, two are very completely different pursuits.”
Of course it should, and it cannot meet that standard, it says something about its credibility. Whether a claim is made in a scientific, philosophical, or religious context, if it cannot withstand critical scrutiny, it isn’t plausible. If religious claims were plausible it wouldn’t be taboo to subject them to critical scrutiny, scientific or otherwise. Any claim about reality is fair game for scientific inquiry.
Another quite similar sentiment that is often heard is the idea that science can say nothing about the supernatural. This may sound reasonable on the surface but with just a little bit of reflection it becomes apparent that this isn’t true. Indeed, if indeed something proposed to exist has properties that render it incapable of being studied scientifically, science is saying something about the likelihood that it exists right there. It’s basically Russell’s Teapot. If I were to tell you there is a giant panda orbiting the moon but it can’t be seen or photographed or otherwise detected by scientific instruments (i.e. it’s existence was ‘revealed’ to you in a vision), the most reasonable conclusion here wouldn’t be that the panda exists but cannot be studied scientifically; the most reasonable conclusion is that you it doesn’t exist.
But I digress…
You predicted the firestorm that would result in your post a week or so ago, but I never imagined so many people would be tuned in. Social media was awash in comments, and while I have never been a Ham fan, I have to admit that it opened up numerous avenues for defending the faith and presenting a side of Creationism that fully aligns with both science and the Bible.
The derogatory and inflammatory comments from skeptics allowed for short and pointed interjections of reasonable apologetic, and I have to thank God for the opportunities presented by the debate, even though there were many moments that made me cringe a bit. In the end, the opportunities for presenting the Gospel – unadulterated and built upon God’s truth beyond science and dogma – still abound as a result.
Give one example of something Ken said that was wrong. I agree that he was more focused and cohesive but feel he should have used other evidence that Nye wouldn’t make fun of like he did the Bible. Other than this criticism, I think Ham was accurate.
I gave a few right in this post. For example, Ham was clearly mistaken when he said we can’t observe the past. As Nye pointed out, we observe the past constantly just by looking at things because light takes time to bounce off distant objects and reach us. Thus, when we look at stars, we are observing the past directly. We aren’t observing distant stars in “real time” because many of them are thousands of light years away (or much more).
Hi JW, thank you for your summary, where I live the debate took place during the night so I was in the land of snooze. Re fossils out of sequence I would suggest that it’s not actually the fossils but the strata that contain them that are actually out of sequence, therefore one might find Devonian strata on top of Permian, but not Devonian fauna mixed with Permian fauna, that’s a big big difference. As far as I’m aware this has never been found e.g no rabbits found in the Cambrian if you get my drift. When on field work it’s great working out what has occurred in these cases. In the highlands of Scotland this problem lead to the discovery of the shallow angle ( Moine) thrust fault which results in this effect. Many others times though a much less complex reason is over folding etc..Regards.
Thanks for the comment! I think such things are fascinating as well. That’s why I really like to read some paleontology books at night before I go to bed. I also really recommend checking out Naturalis Historia, because he looks at all kinds of cool geological or biological finds and puts them in context of young earth creationism (that is, in context of showing YEC cannot account for them).
Morning, the Sun is just rising here ( Southern England) and I’m up early finishing off my astronomy article for the local paper, I see you too are keen on the subject! Yes geology is fascinating, after astronomy I love it. Best wishes, Steve.
I just want to express my appreciation of your fair analysis. Too many results in my search for a summary were completely one-sided, disrespectful and immature. No one has genuinely come to Christ by being dragged by the ear. No one, regardless of spiritual beliefs will change their views by being insulted and ridiculed. It’s like dragging a dog to the vet by the tail. He wants to get away and the fastest direction is the opposite of where you want him to go.
I’ve had one thought that I wanted to get out there for some time: what will people 1000 years from now think of our current scientific method? Will that method, and the resulting documentation, be inadequate to be considered reliable? Will greater peer review be required or additional criteria need to be met, criteria that we do not even know about, yet?
I know that people can be fooled by what they see but I do respect the documented eyewitness accounts of the events that occurred in the Bible. Also, I may be willing to consider that it was written after Christ’s life if Judaism did not have an identical doctrine contained in the Old Testament citing hundreds of prophecies, all fulfilled by Jesus.
Those questions have been on my mind for some time. The main point of my comment is that civilized conversation is what is needed. Regardless of the truth, why in the world what I want to associate myself with anyone who ridicules or makes fun of me, no matter which side I am on?
Thank you for the excellent summary.
Thanks for watching for all of us. It’s clear from your description that the primaries came to debate different thesis. Nye took the thesis to be “Which model – young earth creation or evolution – fits the evidence better?” To which his answer was the second by default since it was at least consistent with the geological evidence where creationism contradicted the evidence. There he was successful, especially since that was the official topic of debate.
Ham, however, cane to debate whether science is able to know anything about natural history. His answer is evidently “no”, because (1) we can have no direct knowledge of the past, (2) methodological principles that are used to make conclusions about the past – like the uniformity thesis – are nothing but unsubstantiated assumptions, and (3) the interpretation of evidence is strongly determined by the pre-scientific presuppositions of the scientists. The conclusion of this is that whatever science is, it is not an inquiry that aims at greater knowledge. And as a bonus, Ham claimed that we have Christianity to thank for “science”. As a matter of principle, Ham could only assert and not argue for his claims.
No doubt, if Ham had invited Nye to debate whether science is a form of inquiry, Nye, as a scientist and not a philosopher of science, would have declined. As it stands, we have an otiose debate between Nye’s Locke and Ham’s Hume.
Hi, read your post with interest and I have one question. Can a philosopher of science be more than happy without a doubt in asserting the Earth is 4.6 billion years old ? Regards.
Appreciate the summary. Quite helpful and a different perspective than that offered by Albert Mohler. I couldn’t watch it and am sorry it ever took place for reasons which I explain here: http://fallingoffacliff.com/2014/02/05/the-nye-ham-evolution-vs-creation-debate-what-makes-me-sad/
Nice post yourself! I honestly don’t think Bill Nye, at least in this debate (I don’t know much of how he talks or acts outside of this experience and the TV show back in the day), came off as very anti-religion. He did claim some things about the Ark, etc. were ridiculous, but he didn’t come off as measuring up against a Dawkins in any form.
Polystrate fossils, or upright fossils, are not out of sequence fossils. The Wikipedia article you linked to explains that fairly well and how it is that the fossils could extend through one or more (contiguous) layers. If they were out of sequence, you would find the roots of the trees in vastly different layers. So Nye was not mistaken on that.
I suppose it depends what you mean by “out of sequence.” They do cut through multiple layers. I admit I am no expert in this area. I was reading the book “Oceans of Kansas” by Michael J. Everhart recently and he noted that occasionally dinosaur fossils will be found amongst the layers of mososaurs and the like, but this serves as evidence that they could die, float out to see, and then fall and be buried among the sea creatures. This may not be a case of out-of-sequence but I’m sure that a YEC would tend to use this as evidence for “mixing” from the flood.
I would note that my claim about such fossils is not that they provide evidence for YEC; I’m simply noting that I am fairly confident at least one such fossil has been found. I could be wrong, and I’m willing to admit that. I’m not sure that polystrate fossils wouldn’t qualify, though.
There are many things I could say about the debate, but your overall analysis covered the subject well.
The one thing I will say is that the debate demonstrated that for a Christian seeking to make peace between the Bible and evolution, it is not sufficient just to agree than Gen 1 doesn’t have to be taken literally. You will, sooner or later, have to return to face practically the very same opponents when it comes to the Flood, Babel, the Red Sea, and so on. The people who deny supernatural origins for the universe are virtually the same people who deny the supernatural at all others times as well.
Paul put a backstop to all this when he wrote that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then our faith is in vain. Therefore, any believer who concedes that Gen 1 is not history has to decide where in the Bible he will start believing in history again. For if he hasn’t done so by 1 Cor 15, it’s too late after that.
I have the hardest time getting evolution-believing Christians to tell me where, if not in Gen 1, they think history starts. I did hear Peter Enns say that he doesn’t think we have history until well into Israel’s monarchy – the time of Omri. That’s conceding an awful lot of history just for the sake of seeking intellectual respectability.
@Mike. You should check out Reasons To Believe website here: http://www.reasons.org.
They accept the scientific evidence points to the God of the bible, but 100% reject Darwinian Evolution. I found them to be a great resource that has greatly strengthened my faith in Jesus Christ, and given me the confidence to share the gospel.
First when I read your review I was disapointed a bit thinking that Ken did not do a good job on presenting creationism and young earth theory. But after I have watched the debate I can say Ken did very good. He made strong and clear about difference between observatory and historical science. He showed it cleary that religion is not a stop to progress even though Bill continued to play that old card. Overall I am encouraged by this debate. I feel me beliefs become stronger. But ofcourse I want to find if there are mixed fossils. And also the notion of Bill about science that studies the past, stuff like light from distant stars (that was strong point for Bill, I will admit).
It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to see that Ham’s position is viciously circular. Several times throughout the debate (particularly at the end), he admitted outright that he interprets the evidence to fit his creation model, and rejects evidence that does not fit. In other words, he begs the question in favour of his argument by assuming the very premises he’s meant to test. Nye’s performance aside, it is obvious that Ham’s answer to the question up for debate (”Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s scientific era?”) must be: NO!
Actually, the debate would have been quite easy for Ham to win had he only stuck the question asked. To do that, he would have merely needed to represent all creationist views (not just YEC, but also OEC, ID, etc.) and show that theistic worldviews no more inhibit the discovery process which Nye said so invigorated him than naturalistic worldviews do. In fact, Ham could have waxed even more enthusiastic about discovery than Nye did because of the faithfulness of a Creator who sustaining all the natural laws being studied. Ham could then have put the nails in the coffin of Nye’s argument by citing not just the theistic scientists who are doing good science today, but the great theists from the past who gave science it’s footing – such as Newton, Faraday, Pasteur. Love of the Creator is as great a motivation for study of the creation as can anyone imagine. On naturalism, by contrast, what’s the point?
For extra measure, Ham could have asked Nye if he ever considered that the U.S. might have the lead in science that Nye kept bragging about for the very reason that a greater percentage of its population believe in theistic origins than any other nation. To shut those theists out of science (i.e. to deny that creation was a viable model of origins) would doom the U.S to the very scientific decline Nye kept saying he was fearing.
In short, Ham could have demolished Nye on the question at hand. I wish he had.
Mike, to be sure, Ham took a far-too-narrow view of what the “creation model” entails (no surprise there). To Ham, creation = YEC. Full stop. I wish there had been a clearer picture of what was being debated, though. Was it the reality of common descent? Or was it the reality of ontological naturalism? The two aren’t synonymous, but in listening to Ham and Nye, one might be excused for thinking they were. It’s a shame.
Mike, Ken Ham views any Christian worldview different from YEC is not only wrong, but compromises the Bible and thus the Atonement of Christ. He might say that Creation isn’t a salvation doctrine, but everything he says about OECs like Dr Hugh Ross shows that he does.
What we Christians need to realise is that the secular world views Christianity as a fairytale that isn’t worth considering. Since we Christians believe the Bible is 100% true, they naturally conclude that we’re idiots. YEC reinforces that belief to them, which makes evangelisation even more difficult.
I once attended a Buck’s party where I was grilled for 6 hours straight by the guys in attendance on every subject. They were all scientists, and did their utmost to expose my beliefs as not just untrue, but ludicrous. Had I attempted to defend YEC, I would have been eaten alive, and my faith would have been shattered. Their evidentiary arguments were sound, but their conclusions were wrong. I defended the OEC (which doesn’t support Darwinianism), and I was able to answer every scientific question with a scientific answer (accompanied by scripture each time). They were stunned. What planned to be a day of drinking, womanising (with a stripper), swearing, gossiping, and other immoral actions, turned into a civil discussion about God, the Universe, the Bible, and His creation. In the end, the guys told me that for the first time in their life, a Christian (me) was able to give them credible scientific answers to the questions they had. They knew deep down that God was real, but all they’d heard from other Christians was “Were you there?” – a typical non-answer from a YEC.
What I learned from this experience is that non-Christians who “attack” you with scientific evidence in an attempt to discredit God and the Bible are desperately hungry for the truth. No other truth satisfied them. Clearly the notion that we’re nothing more than evolved apes from naturalism was the only conclusion about their existance they could draw, until I was able to offer them something meaningful, namely: that they “were fearfully and wonderfully made” by the Creator of this universe, that He is intensely personal (cares deeply for them), and that He loved them so much that He allowed His son, Jesus Christ to die for their sins. Some of them were in tears, and the others just sat there quietly.
YEC is an enemy of evangelism, in my view. It builds an impenetrable wall between Jesus and the secular world. I, for one, will do all I can to re-educate my brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Author of the Bible and the Creator of the Universe are one and the same God. YEC is nothing more than pseudo-science, and I’m tired of being called a heretic by them.
” I defended the OEC (which doesn’t support Darwinianism), and I was able to answer every scientific question with a scientific answer (accompanied by scripture each time). They were stunned. ”
Ok, I am intrested, how then you explain that Bible says that vegetation on Earth was already there before sun and stars were created?
I am quite sympathetic to your view (and quite happy about the outcome of your party). To be able to hold up the banner of Christ in a secular setting and have it considered rather than denigrated is indeed a wonderful thing.
That said, let me offer some additional thoughts which will take longer for you to digest.
I fully concede that Hugh Ross has a more winsome persona than Ken Ham. I also concede that Hugh has a point of view that’s a lot easier for physicists to accept. His view of human origins, however, is not materially different from Ken’s (both eschew Darwinism), and therefore will be just as unacceptable to most biologists. Therefore, I can accept your argument that YEC may put more barriers in the way of Christ for scientists than OEC does, but it’s not the case that OEC comes without barriers. By your logic, theistic evolution would be one step closer to the evangelistic or apologetic ideal than OEC. I’m guessing, however, you don’t believe in taking down barriers if Christ Himself has left them there.
I am not scientifically-minded, but I have learned that scientifically-minded believers can be plotted along a vast spectrum of beliefs about how science integrates wiith the Bible. I’ve mentioned a few of them, but there are more. I’m told John Lennox holds to a different view of OEC than Hugh Ross does. I’m also told that there are varieties of YEC’s. Even on BioLogos (the Francis Collins site), you have proponents like Tim Keller who hold to the historicity of Adam and Peter Enns who does not. And then there’s the ID guys. The points on the spectrum are more than I can count. I do not know enough science to say which ones are right and which are wrong. My standard is the Bible. What I will therefore commend in all these folks is that they are seeking to correlate the Bible with science. I wish they all held the same view because that would help scientifically illiterate people like me, but they don’t. Nevertheless, I assume each and every one of them to be sincere.
This brings us back to Ken Ham. I may not enjoy his personality, but I thoroughly respect his willingness to stand up to an unbelieving world and state unequivocally that he believes the Bible to be the word of God. Of course, Hugh Ross does, too, but it was Ken Ham who called Bill Nye to account for the offensive video he released last year criticizing parents who teach any form of creationism to their children. And it was Ken Ham who took the arrows for the cause of Christ Tuesday night. Don’t think for a minute that if Hugh Ross had been standing in his place that the arrows would have been orders of magniftude fewer.
I hope you can continue to carve out a place for yourself on the spectrum of creation/science without feeling like you need to join in the world’s ostracism of Ken Ham and YEC. I’m not asking you to spend time defending him; I’m just saying that the world doesn’t need any help from us in attacking him. They are doing fine on their own. Any man who’s willing to use his 15 minutes of fame to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and the Bible as the word of God is a man I want to be standing with at that moment – not against.
Appreciate you taking the time to do a review of the debate, JW! (I expected one. And you know I’m a YEC geek.)
I’m still currently watching the debate, so I can’t do a review myself. I’m a fan of both Nye and Ham. In fact, I even showed one of Nye’s videos in my astronomy classes just this week. However, from the parts I have seen, I think it would be important to note that Bill kindly and covertly accused we creationists of denying natural laws, implying that we somehow believe they change*. This was shocking to me, especially since the first 9 minutes of Ken’s 30-minute presentation included the unchanging laws of natures as one of the foundations for doing science. But whether we believe in creation or naturalistic explanations for the origins of everything, there comes a point where natural explanations fail, like the life-from-nonlife dilemma, which naturalistic explanations can’t account for.
I’d also like to say that I’ve read and watched some reviews by atheists and evolutionists who think Bill beat the crap out of Ken. As far as I’m concerned, they are wrong and either ignorantly or purposefully overlooked the reason why Ken did the things he did and said that things he said. For instance, why he kept showing videos of actual creation scientists was to show that, yes, creation is a viable model today because there are many creation scientists doing real “science” and making great contributions and advancements to society and technology. For example, he showed video of Dr. Raymond Vahan Damadian, the inventor of the MRI, an unashamed YEC, who said in his short segment that the idea that creationism is not viable is ridiculous (he himself being living proof that it wasn’t).
Bill also chanted the mantra of “creation science isn’t real science because it doesn’t make predictions”. That’s a false statement. Although I won’t accuse him of being deliberately deceptive, it just shows that he probably hadn’t read the work of any single creation scientist. There are many such predicions, like Humpreys’s predictions about the strength of magnetic fields of other planets in a young solar system (which turned out to be correct); the predicted rate of helium leakage from zircons in granites by the RATE group (which turned out to be correct); the predicted existence of water vapor on celestial bodies by Walter T. Brown Jr. (which was just verified in a scientific report highlighted by Nature; in fact, the very dwarf planet Dr. Brown predicted would release water vapor in light of the biblical record, Ceres, was the very object that it was seen to be shooting from). Bill also called all the highly educated and credentialed scientists employed by Answers in Genesis “bad scientists” during the debate. What should we think of that? Is he just uninformed? Is he deliberately staying that way?
(*Note: I’m aware that some creationist models dealing with the distant starlight problem that you mentioned in your review do require a change in the speed of light. However, most recent and serious creationist physicists and cosmologists, like Dr. John Hartnett [just finished his book “Starlight, Time, and the New Physics”] and Dr. Russ Humphreys [just finished two of his scientific papers on the subject] for example, propose very interesting solutions to the problem that don’t require a change of natural law. Nevertheless, they would both maintain that those who would propose an entirely naturalistic origin of the universe are stuck with the same problem, given the uniformity of cosmic background radiation, etc.)
Thanks for taking the time to read this response, my brother! Hope all is well…
He never showed videos of Young Earth Creation Scientists doing anything. He showed Scientists who believe in YEC doing things completely irrelevant to YEC. For instance, the man who invented the MRI? Inventing an MRI confirms YEC? The geologist, what specific experiment or discovery did person make? It was not communicated during the debate. He pointed out some YEC who worked on Mars missions, their work did nothing to lend credibility of the viability of Creationism as a model for Origins which was the topic of the debate. You fell for the bait and switch Ham threw at you. It was a great con job on his part, but that is all it was.
No, I didn’t fall for anything. I actually read creationist literature. What what about you?
Please read my previous comment again and consider why Ken showed the videos in the first place: To show that there are real scientists working in the scientific field who believe in creation. The sample of the predictions I gave can be seen as an extention of their belief in creationism.
To accuse Ken Ham of conning people is pathetic and shameful.
“here are many such predicions, like Humpreys’s predictions about the strength of magnetic fields of other planets in a young solar system (which turned out to be correct); the predicted rate of helium leakage from zircons in granites by the RATE group (which turned out to be correct); the predicted existence of water vapor on celestial bodies by Walter T. Brown Jr.” How do any of these predictions relate to Creationism and prove that it is a viable model? Unrelated science by people who believe in Creationism that do nothing to lend credibility to creationism.
Hello? Did you even read my comment? If you did, may I kindly encourage you to work on reading more carefully and not half-cocked, ready to go off on someone. Bill said creationists don’t make predictions. I gave three examples of predicions DIRECTLY RELATED TO creationism. I thought that was clear enough.
So your empty statement about “unrelated science by people who believe in Creationism” allong with calling Ken Ham a con man in a previous comment shows you aren’t really interested in dialog, but just a forum to practice insults and baseless accusations. Please don’t waste your time responding to me. I thought people came here for serious discussion, not to see grade school tactics in action.
PS – Just wanted to add that Bill Nye’s main contention with creationism was that it stops scientist from doing science. He was almost frantic, worrying that if people stop believing in evolution, the scientific community would stop producing results. (How’d science make it all those years without the theory, I wonder?) The videos are evidence that it didn’t and it doesn’t.
PSS – Bill Nye’s statement at about the 1:25.00 mark that Kentucky, the state in which they were debating, doesn’t offer a degree in nuclear medicine technology is false, according to Dr. Georgia Purdom in her post-debate, informal discussion with Ken Ham. He probably didn’t purposefully overlook the fact that there is one, but the intention, as far as I can gather, was that Kentucky didn’t have one because of its strong creationist leanings.
YECs believe that the sun, moon and stars were created on day 4. OECs do not.
The text says, “let the light be” which means that these celestial objects light was revealed, not created.
In Genesis 1:2, we are told that “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep [water], and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters”. Why was it dark? According to YECs, it was because God hadn’t made the sun, moon and stars yet.
That is ludicrous since Genesis 1:1 says that God created the Heavens and the Earth. If the sun, moon, and stars don’t constitute the “Heavens” or Universe, then what does? Clearly, God made these objects before day 1…
To get a clearer picture of what God was doing during creation week, compare Genesis 1 with Proverbs 8, Psalm 104 and Job 38-39. They all give an account of creation that provides us with much more information.
Why is the water dark? In Job 38:9, God tells us that he wrapped the earth in thick darkness with clouds, like a garment. This made the atmosphere opaque.
Then on day one, God says “let there be light”. Where is God? He’s hovering above the waters on the surface of the earth. Light suddenly penetrates this thick cloud layer in the atmosphere. In other words, God changes the atmosphere to be translucent. The cloud layer is now thinner, but it remains unbroken.
Why does God do this? Look what he does on days 2 and 3.
He first creates a stable water cycle, and then he gathers the waters into separate places allowing dry land to appear. Then God created vegetation of all kinds. Plants need light for photosynthesis, but don’t need to be able to identify the source of it (just like hydroponics). All they need is light.
On day 4, YECs interpret the passage to mean that the sun, moon and stars were created, but this is incorrect. The passage says “let there be the lights in the sky”, or to put it another way, let them become visible. Visible to who, and where? To God who is hovering over the surface of the earth. We can assume he hasn’t moved because the text maintains this perspective throughout the entire chapter. The atmosphere changes from being translucent to being transparent. Why does God do this now? Well, look what he does on day 5…
On Day 5, God creates living creatures in the water and on the land. Animals don’t just need the light, like plants; they need to be able to identify the sun, moon, and stars to regulate their biological clocks, know when to migrate, and when to hibernate.
To get a more detailed answer, I can recommend two websites: http://www.reasons.org and http://www.godandscience.org
Both are excellent, and give you much more scientific information than I did.
I hope this answered your question adequately. If you would like to ask me anything else directly, my email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
God bless you!
Do you necessarily agree with Ham’s distinction of observational/historical science?
Assuming you’re addressing your question to me… No, I don’t agree with Ken Ham’s false dichotomy.
Bill Nye was correct concerning Astronomy. I find it completely astonishing that Ken Ham and countless other YECs insist on the view that Astronomy doesn’t directly observe the past… even Jason Lisle, an astronomer, holds this view.
All an astronomer can do is observe the past because light takes time to travel the enormous distances through space at the constant speed of 300,000 km/sec. It takes light 1.33secs to travel from the moon to the earth, and 8.5mins from the sun to the earth, meaning that if you look at either of these, you’re seeing them at 1.33secs or 8.5mins into the past. The further in space one looks, the further back in time we see.
Pardon the pun, but you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see this.
I hope Dr Hugh Ross gets an opportunity to debate Bill Nye. That will be worth seeing.
Actually it was to the original blogger.
But what is your stance on evolution?
Evolution is impossible for many reasons. I recommend you visit http://www.reasons.org as they have heaps of information why it is so. A 13.7 billion year old universe is far too short an amount of time to give an evolution any opportunity to occur, even for the simplest of lifeforms. Biblically, I don’t think you can make a case for it either.
Ken Ham and AiG believe that just 2000 “kinds” of animals bordered the ark. There are over 13 million distinct species (or kinds) today. Based on their 6000 year old earth model, rapid evolution must have had to occur in order for two dogs that we originally on the ark to produce (over time) all the different species of dogs we see today.
Apply this to all the different “kinds”, and we’d be seeing dozens of new species! So Ken Ham rejects evolution on one hand, but with his YEC model, he has to endorse it! His supporters should be feeling duped!
What Bill Nye demonstrated during their debate exposes just how ludicrous Ken Ham’s interpretations of science really are, since he correctly stated that Ken Ham’s model has to impose rapid biological evolution to make it work!
Side note: I wanted to put out a good word about Answers In Genesis. Although they graciously offered the entire debate free on Youtube for online viewing, many of us (myself included) thought that the expense of putting on a debate like this (and who knows how much Bill Nye received for his speaking fee) deserved some financial feedback. So, we wanted to purchase a copy of the DVD or one of its digital downloads. The response to the debate was so overwhelming that their servers couldn’t keep up with the demand, which caused many people to be unable to download the debate they paid for (myself included). However, they wrote each of us a kind e-mail, inviting us to accept a free upgrade to a free DVD copy of the debate to make up for it.
I, for one, really appreciated that. And the fact that they would make it available for free, too, says a lot about their stance on the importance of the origins issue.
Hello J.W. thanks for your thoughtful analysis.
I believe Nye clearly won the debate.
I think that Bill Nye has clearly to be congratulated for his warm and kind tone during the whole debate.
I offered my own progressive Christian thoughts on the debate here .
I would be glad to learn your take on my own contentions.
Cheers from Europe were Creationism is really fringe.
Nye presented a math problem which showed that species would have to differentiate at a rate of 11 per day. I was really disappointed that Ham did not do any similar math, which shows that he was probably not the most suited to be arguing scientific points. For example, for a small protein 200 peptides long would have 22 (number of possible amino acids) X 2 (for left handed or right handed) to the power of 200 possible combinations. Divide that by 4.5 billion years (the age of the earth) and you realize that for that protein to have evolved, the genome for that protein would need to be gaining information at a rate of 3.45X10^311 mutations per second. If this were again divided by the number of bacteria on the planet earth (5X10^30) each bacteria would need to mutate at a rate of 2.3 X10^309 mutations per second. Clearly this is not supported by science, especially when you think about how many proteins are thousands of peptides long and even the smallest organism is composed of many proteins. I think I would need more faith to believe this happened than 11 new species per day from 16000000 current total species.
The fact that people here comment “Evolution is impossible” simply makes your comments invalid and rejected. It seems the majority of people here haven’t read up on evolution. Evolution is not impossible, it’s a fact. And it’s complicated. So unless you have a degree in bilogy or similar and can provide experimental evidence that evolution is impossible, it is beyond arrogant to make that statement. This is mostly the reason why I personally hold a low opinion of creationists. The lies and misrepresentation of scientific facts. It disturbs me that adult people want to undermine mankinds achievements. If evolution is impossible, then anti-biotics would not exist. And don’t tell me about micro and macro evolution. That argument is weak and old. They are both the same thing, only difference is time. The only reason you reject evolution is because you think that it disproves your faith. You are correct, it does and so it should do. But it doesn’t matter. It comes down to why anyone would reject evidence against their default position. It shows you are no honest with yoursekf and not at all convinced you are right. Any honest human being would change their minds if the evidence suggested that. Ken Ham does not and is not honest with himself or his peers. Think about that before you go online to reject what we know to be true.
Kent, evolution is impossible on scientific grounds.
13.7 billions years is woefully too short an amount of time for evolution to work. When you consider that 3.9 billion years ago when the earth’s surface was capable of supporting any kind of life the Cambrian explosion occurred, and myriads of land and sea creatures emerged. Evolution had zero time to explain this sceintific FACT.
There is 0 scientific evidence for a young earth (6000yrs), and there is 0 scientific evidence for evolution. You’re as ignorant and blind as Ken Ham.
You want to call me arrogant when you trash Christianity and the Bible as a fairytale? Go right ahead. You’re simply being a hypocrite.
There is no scientific evidence that states 13,7 billion years is not enough time. And evolution on Earth has occured for the past 3 billion years, so why you mix the age of the universe with evolution is strange. The evidence supports evolution wether you agree or not. You can shout “no evidence” as much as you like, but I’ve seen the evidence. And yeah I can call you arrogant, because you claim to know something nobody else knows.
When I state that evolution is impossible, I’m looking at the scientific evidence that demonstrates the conservative probability that life could appear through natural causes.
Currently, that figure is less than 1 chance in 10^20million that life arose without divine intervention.
The probability that 1 life sustaining planet like earth formed without divine intervention is 1 chance in 10^1032.
The list where these calculations were made can be found at http://www.reasons.org
I was not stating my own opinion here, but I am accepting the evidence presented as proof beyond reasonable doubt. The evidence for supernatural design is overwhelming. Could God have used an evolutionary process for creating life on earth? Yes. Did he? The evidence suggests that he didn’t.
I look forward to your ongoing discussion, Paul and Kent. Just a quick reminder to both to try to keep it civil here! Be wary of diving into accusations about “honesty” or hypocrisy. We can’t claim to know others’ mental states, so please be aware such comments are generally ad hominem. Let’s stick to the arguments, all!
Thanks brother! Will do.
Oh, and by the way: Evolution doesn’t disprove my faith.
God could have used evolution, but as more scientific evidence is showing, the odds of naturalism occurring has ballooned out to less that 1 chance in 10^20million (this number was calculated very carefully).
Seems to me that your faith in Atheistic Evolution is at least 20 million times stronger than my faith in the God of the Bible is. I recommend you swallow your pride, and visit http://www.reasons.org … I dare you!
It partially disproves your faith. What disproves your faith with 99% certainty is this: “man say god exists, man fails to describe what god is, man fails to provide evidence such a thing exist”. Conclusion: The premiss is false. And the fact that you say “atheistic evolution” just proves you have no idea what evolution is and you are ignorant of science. I don’t have faith in evidence. Either it’s evidence or it’s not. What you believe is irrelevant. Facts do not lie. You do.
Kent, you have made many inflammatory remarks about me and many assumptions. I am a scientist and I can assure you that I’ve studied this stuff for 20+ years. I am a Christian because the overwhelming evidence for supernatural, superintelligent design points to the God of the Bible. The Bible itself has over 200 passages where it not only specifically describes the characteristics of the universe (including Big Bang Cosmology and Dark Energy), but it has predictive power as well.
In the book of Job, God asks him 52 questions about the universe and his entire creation to which only 11 of these scientists can answer thus far. By atheistic evolution I mean “Darwinian Evolution”, “Naturalism”, “Biological evolution”. Evolution that occurs by strictly natural causes and does not invoke any supernatural intelligence at any stage throughout.
Non-Christian scientists who’ve looked for evidence of the primordial soup from which life was said to have arisen have conceded that it never existed. If UV doesn’t destroy the amino acids and proteins that life requires, oxygen does. That’s why we’re spending millions of dollars looking for life elsewhere (i.e. Mars), because they’ve ruled out earth as the place where life could have started.
If you are so convinced that evolution is true and the God of the Bible is false, then at least show me your scientific evidence.
Have you looking at the RTB website yet? (www.reaons.org)