Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham

I don't know if you watched the debate last night between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, but we did. In fact, I was surprised when I mentioned it to Robby and he was almost more excited about it than I was! I'm still trying to get my thoughts about it in order, which is part of the reason for this post. Sometimes writing it out helps me clear out my mixed up thoughts.

The first thing I think I realized about the debate is that a TON of Christians I know who take a literal stance on Creation were watching the event. There was a lot of stuff flowing through my Facebook feed this morning related to the debate, but it was almost exclusively from people I knew from the bible college I went to, or people whose beliefs lined up with the Biblical creation account. I didn't hear anything from my friends who believe in evolution. This debate wasn't even on their radar. That is sad to me. It's sad that leading up to the debate there was so much backlash against Bill Nye for even agreeing to the debate. The whole idea in mainstream culture is that it's a waste of time for "real" scientists to even listen to the creation point of view.

I think that Ham did a great job of presenting "real" scientists that hold a Creationist view point and yet still contribute with scientific discoveries. Side note: one of those scientists was my science teacher in college, Andrew Fabich! Go Dr. Fabich!! (He was the one talking about microbiology if you were watching)

My second observation is that Ken Ham did an excellent job of presenting the gospel. I think there were at least two (maybe more) times where he succinctly laid out the problem of sin, our need for a Savior, and the death and resurrection of Jesus as our Savior. That was cool.

Bill Nye spent a great deal of time presenting facts about the fossil layers, the locations of different fossils (or lack thereof) and the age of the stars that show evolution to be "fact". He challenged Ham to show him just one piece of evidence to the contrary that would line up with the Biblical account of creation. 
Ken Ham spent his allotted time talking about the difference between science you can see and observe around you (observational science) and science that occurred in history that no one was around to see (historical science). I understand Ham's point. I know that there is a difference. I know that creation and evolution are both theories. That's the problem.

Creation is presented by most as an outdated theory based on an old book. Evolution is presented as fact because it lines up with majority opinion. Ken Ham spent much of his time trying to show that both theories are just that: THEORIES, because no one was there to actually observe it. Bill Nye didn't have to spend time arguing for evolution because it is presented as fact because it is the majority opinion.

I think that was my problem with the debate. Bill Nye was asking for facts to refute his specific examples. I know there are tons of facts that show fossils that are spread across multiple layers of rock, fossils that showed up where they weren't supposed to, and that carbon dating is unreliable. But there wasn't a lot of fact presented by Ham in response to the questions Nye was asking, and I think that was purposeful to keep the debate on topic. Don't get me wrong, Ham presented a ton of facts, and he did a great job of that. Ham gave several examples of carbon dating results that were inconsistent at best, and he did a good job of presenting new research that shows that dogs are descendents of one species instead of descendants of wolves or another animal. He showed research that humans are all descendants of one race, as discovered by the scientists who mapped out the human genome, instead of levels of races and different species of man as Darwin hypothesized. However, Nye was giving evidence and asking Ham to refute the exact examples he was giving. I feel like he was trying to bait Ham into a back and forth exchange about specific things like the reliability of carbon dating or the fact that there are no kangaroo fossils in Europe, when the point of the debate was to see if there was any place for the creationist viewpoint in the world of science. My fear is that the majority of people who haven't studied this or asked the questions for themselves would see that the creationist didn't rise to the challenge presented by the science guy, therefore creationism must be bunk.

What Nye didn't acknowledge was the fact that there were a ton of facts and pieces of evidence being presented by Ham, it just wasn't the specific answer to each question he asked. Tons of information is available at Ken Ham's website if you want more information for yourself. Lots of answers to the specific questions that Nye asked can be found over there.

Overall, the undertone of the whole debate was the future of America. The battle for what we teach our children. According to Ham, presenting both creation and evolution as theories and letting students ask questions and find facts is the way to go. According to Nye, the whole future of America being able to keep up with technology and innovations requires everyone to believe in evolution.

I will say, my favorite part of the debate (besides seeing Dr. Fabich on there as a total surprise) was the question and answer section at the end. I love that Ken Ham was unapologetic in his beliefs when asked if any amount of evidence would sway his belief in the Bible. I love that when asked where the matter came from that started the big bang, or where our consciousness comes from, Bill Nye admitted plainly, "I don't know, that's the big question". I love that Ken Ham came back with his rebuttal and said, "I know a book that tells where matter comes from and where consciousness comes from, and it starts, 'In the beginning God created...'". Do I think the debate was a waste of time? No. I think that both men were very courteous and calm throughout the whole thing. I liked that. Both men were passionate, both men were unwavering in their beliefs, but both men still listened to the other person's opinion and argument. Will mainstream culture still think the debate was a waste of time? Maybe. But maybe this will encourage Christians to have honest discussions without apology for their beliefs. Maybe this will encourage others to start asking questions and looking for answers. Isn't that the point of science? Asking questions and looking for factual evidence to back it up?

Again, if you missed the debate and want to watch it, you can here. I'm not sure how long the video will be up though, so go quickly if you want to see the whole thing.

Photo 1: screenshot of debate here. Photo 2 from flickr user Joanna Bourne and found here. Photo 3 from flickr user Sweetie187 and found here. All photos used under permission of the Creative Commons License and are copyrighted by their owners.

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