Bill Nye “the Science Guy” made headlines last year in a “Big Think” appearance when he claimed that it’s wrong to teach creationism to children:
“We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.”
Evolutionists — particularly young adults who grew up watching Nye’s popular PBS show — applauded his statement, and shared his “Big Think” clip and associated memes widely across social media. Many used his statements to equate teaching creationism with child abuse. If legislators agreed, this would cause serious problems for Christian parents who hold a creationist viewpoint and choose to shield their children from lessons that contradict their beliefs.
Despite criticism from his peers, Bill Nye kindly agreed to debate young-Earth creationist and “Answers in Genesis” CEO Ken Ham in his Creation Museum, an elaborate institution that features a petting zoo and animatronic dinosaurs earnestly set in the Garden of Eden. Museum guides teach visitors and their children that the Earth is 6,000 years old, and that God created the universe and all its life over a seven-day period. To evolutionists, Ham is a subject of ridicule, and certainly no match for his Cornell-educated, Emmy-award winning opponent.
800 audience members from 29 states watched the event in person at the museum’s sold-out theater, while hundreds of thousands watched a live stream online. Ham, having won a coin toss, began with a presentation refuting Nye’s well-publicized quotes from the “Big Think” video. He criticized secularists for “hijacking” the words “science” and “evolution” as though they are incompatible with creationist beliefs.
Ham played statements from other young-Earth creationists — including Dr. Raymond Damadian, whose invention of the MRI scanner revolutionized modern medicine — to prove that people can indeed make scientific breakthroughs regardless of how they think life originated. Ham challenged Nye to name one technological advance that couldn’t have been discovered without a belief in molecule-to-man evolution.
In his presentation, Ham pointed out that some evolutionist theories are as faith-based as creationist views, if not more so. For example, he compared a creationist “orchard” (the theory that new species arise from similar species) to an evolutionist “tree of life” in which all life arose from a primordial form. Ham asserts that observational science supports the orchard model: “Dogs will always be dogs, finches will always be finches.”
Nye’s presentation focused on the logistical fallacies of a young-Earth viewpoint. He questioned how trees could have survived for a year under flood water, how an ark of that size could have been viable, and how kangaroos from Australia could have gotten onto an ark in the Middle East. It was an intelligent and well-researched talk that asked many thought-provoking questions, but the focus was completely off from what Ham presented earlier.
Nye closed with a plea to the audience:
“Kentucky voters… voters who might be watching online… please, you don’t want to raise a generation of science students who don’t understand… natural law. We need to innovate, to keep the United States where it is in the world.”
As Ham’s earlier presentation was a direct rebuttal to that plea, perhaps he should have opted to go second. (To be fair, both clearly prepared their statements ahead of time, without knowing what their opponent would be discussing. The debate would have been much more cohesive and satisfying if they left out the young-Earth component and focused on creationism vs. evolution.)
“I am not a theologian,” Nye admitted, and in the short rebuttal period following the two presentations, Ham’s Bible-based defense of the ark and creation stories were not going to convince anyone on the opposing side. The debaters’ cultural gap limited productive discourse at this point. Ham admitted that the Bible contains poetry, which Nye (apparently unfamiliar with actual poems in the Bible) took to be a hypocritical admission of cherry-picking what to take literally. While an online audience mocked Ham for using his Bible as a crutch, Nye was unable to prove how life emerged from non-life, or to give an example of why one needs to support that view in order to make scientific advances.
After the debate, we’re back to square one. Neither could prove the molecule-to-man evolution theory or the creation theory to the other side’s satisfaction. But to be fair, Ham did disprove Nye’s earlier statement: the “myth” that creationists can’t be good scientists.
For the next few days, you can watch the debate for free here.