Consider the Following – Ham Vs Nye Debate

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Ken Ham (of Answers in Genesis) and Bill Nye (the ‘Science Guy’) debated whether or not creation is a viable model when it comes to the question of origins. The debate happened last night (Feb. 4th, 2014) and the blog-o-sphere is erupting with people tossing their opinions in.
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I’ve read a lot of these blog posts and I’m going to point you to several that I think are quite good. However, you should watch the debate first.
You can find it here.

Why are they debating? Great question.
It is because Bill Nye said some stuff about creationism that Ken Ham didn’t agree with, and the stork came and delivered a debate.
The debate was announced on Ken Ham’s Facebook page on Jan. 1st.

My first impression was that this debate was going to be rather silly, because neither Ham nor Nye are known for their good debating skills. Ham is an unwavering young earth creationist whose approach is unapologetically presuppositional. Nye was the frontman for a kids’ science show and is currently a science popularizer.
– I would have rather had people a little more qualified talking about this topic.
– I was afraid that people might assume all Christians agree with Ken Ham’s approach.
– I was concerned that this would continue the false “science vs god” dichotomy.
But! The world doesn’t revolve around me, so the debate happened anyway.

Now that you’ve watched the debate, here are some good reviews that I think you should read. By my selections, you’ll be able to figure out my opinion on the debate as well.

5038J. W. Wartick
“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… 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 by Ham’s interpretation which is wrong.”

Casey Luskin from Evolution News and Views
“People will walk away from this debate thinking, “Ken Ham has the Bible, Bill Nye has scientific evidence.” Some Christians will be satisfied by that. Other Christians (like me) who don’t feel that accepting the Bible requires you to believe in a young earth will feel that their views weren’t represented. And because Ham failed (whether due to time constraints, or a fundamentally weak position) to offer evidence rebutting many of Nye’s arguments for an old earth, young earth creationist Christians with doubts will probably feel even more doubtful. Most notably, however, skeptics won’t budge an inch. Why? Because Ham’s main argument was “Because the Bible says so,” and skeptics don’t take the Bible as an authority. They want to see evidence.”

Melissa Cain Travis at ScienceReasonFaith
“An event such as this gives the non-believing community the impression that Ham’s creation model is representative of all Christian scholarship on the matter, and that to be a “biblical” Christian rather than a “compromising” Christian (to use Ham’s rhetoric), you must believe the earth is about 6,000 years old, universal common descent is false, and Noah’s flood explains most of geology and paleontology. This paints a picture of extreme polarization that is not reflective of the realities of Christian orthodoxy.”

Pastor Matt Blog
“I want to hear the opinions of experts like George Will when it comes to politics or Ben Carson when it comes to medicine or Thomas Kidd at Baylor when it comes to history.  So, if I want a debate over science and faith, I want professional scientists not well-meaning ministers or someone who played a scientist on TV.  In other words, I had no desire to watch the Ken Ham–Bill Nye debate.”

Biologos
“Debates like this perpetuate the misconception that you have two choices: an atheistic view of evolutionary science, or a young earth interpretation of the Bible. We wish the audience could hear about another, better way.”

James Hoskins at Patheos (before the debate)
“If the goal of a debate was to promote deeper public understanding of the compatibility between science and the Bible, you would call in true experts who can help the audience make careful distinctions, give credit where it is due, and show that there are multiple valid viewpoints within which there is freedom to disagree. Instead, we have a new “trial of the century” with two culture war celebrities who are almost guaranteed to oversimplify the issue. A spectacle is more entertaining and draws more publicity than a charitable dialogue that enhances our understanding of a complex and nuanced issue.”

Reasons to Believe (before the debate)
“Convinced that both the world of nature and the words of Scripture come from the same Source, our scholars’ goal is to integrate the words of the Bible with the record of nature in a way that preserves a faithful interpretation of both.”

Ultimately, I’m glad that both participants recognized that there are positions outside of their own. Ham mentioned that non-YEC Christians exist, and Nye made it clear that the problem is Ham’s approach, not Christianity as a whole.

If you found any reviews that you thought were just really stinkin’ awesome, post them in the comments!

ElijiahT

Ps. Did Bill Nye ever say, “Consider the Following” during the debate?

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12 thoughts on “Consider the Following – Ham Vs Nye Debate

  1. Skepticism First (@SkepticismFirst)

    I don’t understand the idea that viewers were exposed to a false dichotomy. Imagine if Nye had debated Michael Ruse instead – would people be saying that they were exposed to a false dichotomy between naturalistic evolution and theistic evolution? Or consider William Lane Craig’s debates – do they create a false dichotomy between Christianity and atheism? Should people just never debate at all?

    Reply
    1. ElijiahT Post author

      I don’t think it was that they were explicitly exposed to the dichotomy… but that the dichotomy is oftentimes assumed by those in the audience. On the issues of science/evolution/big bang, the dichotomy is taken almost as fact.

      Just look at Comfort’s whole “evolution vs God” thing.
      And Ham’s position regarding the age of the earth; old earth christians are ‘compromising’.

      I don’t think its a real dichotomy, but some do. And due to the publicity of this debate, I imagine ignorance being far more pervasive than an informed understanding of the whole issue.

      Reply
  2. Ray M

    I am also curious to know where exactly Ken Ham’s approach is wrong. Are you denying that the earth is as young as he claims? I feel if you take the Bible literally (which Ken Ham does) then his view with regards to a timeline and young-aged earth is exactly right. I thought his points about historical science were good when he said that we don’t know how things were in that time. We cant necessarily draw from the present and assume about the past, especially pre-flood. I also dislike when people feel that they need to prove the Bible with science. God is the ultimate authority and we cannot prove God through science. We should be comparing our science with what we already know to be true, which is the authority of the scripture. If anything, science gives me a greater appreciation for the omnipotence of God. Many people have tried to use science to disprove the Bible and they have failed. The only way that one can feel they have been successful is if they were to use flawed data such as the list of dating methods that Ken Ham had in his presentation. Those are just a few of my thoughts.

    Reply
    1. ElijiahT Post author

      Hey Ray!
      Yes – Ken Ham and I do not agree on the age of the earth. I do not believe that the creation story needs to be understood as creation in an actual, 7-day week that consists of 6 24-hour periods of creation. In fact,I believe that is a very anachronistic interpretation, ultimately leading to a false conclusion. I’m not a fan of either YE or OE concordism when it comes to interpretation. I believe the best interpretation of the creation story is that of a theological polemic, largely in response to ancient Egyptian cosmogony. If you’re interested in looking more into that, check out a book called “In The Beginning We Misunderstood” (http://www.amazon.com/In-Beginning-We-Misunderstood-Interpreting/dp/0825439272).

      Additionally, I do not believe that the Bible teaches the existence of a flood that covered the entire planet. I do believe there was a flood, but a combination of obviously first-person perspective language (the waters covered the mountains) and a perspective of the word “worldwide” that takes all of its biblical usage into account… I don’t think there is any warrant to default to a planet-wide flood, as many YECs have.

      As you may know, I used to be a proponent of the young earth perspective. It wasn’t actually the science that changed my mind, but the fact that the Bible does not require a young earth interpretation
      Although I did find it incredibly difficult to adequately answer even the most basic questions regarding the evidence for an old earth. The ice core data, coral reef buildup, seafloor spreading, mountain formation, plus the high degree of reliability and similarities of the dating methods, when done properly… all point away from a young earth. Not to mention the speed of light!
      And nearly all of my objections to an old earth had totally reasonable answers. The receding moon, the assumptions of the dating methods, the salt buildup in the oceans… all have reasonable answers.

      Ham’s apologetic methodology is exclusively presuppositional; which means that he assumes the truth of his perspective a priori, and then proceeds to discuss things in light of his perspective. The idea that his point of view could be wrong simply never occurs to him… and I think that’s incredibly dangerous.
      And I also believe his position on the flood issue is incorrect. He presupposes that the entirety of planet earth was flooded 4000 years ago, and based on that idea… everything else follows, no matter how strange. Of course things would have been different in a pre-flood world, but if a flood like that never happened… then we have no reason to think anything has ever been different.
      Additionally, things couldn’t have happened in the way that he proposes. Take, as one example, the radioactive decay that he says happened during the time of the flood. Based on the numbers given by YEC scientists, other scientists have done calculations that show the heat given off by that amount of radioactive decay in that short of time would have been enough to boil the oceans.

      And lastly to suggest that we cannot know things about the past is a horrible epistemological approach to the past. He says it is about “man’s word vs God’s Word”, but we’re still forced to trust “man’s” interpretation of God’s word… something that I believe Ham (and the other young earthers) got wrong. Our goal is not to interpret the Bible in a literal way. Our goal is to understand the message of the Bible; and that entails understanding it how the original author meant it and how the original audience would have understood it.
      This was a long comment. Sorry if it sounded like rant; I didn’t intend for it to be a rant. Its just… Genesis is not an easy book to understand. And taking an overly simplistic approach to it, presupposing the truth of that perspective and not allowing that to be challenged is a very dangerous combination.

      Reply
  3. Tyler

    I agree that the debate itself was not presenting a false dichotomy, but it I’m sure it did create the illusion of one for some/many. Ken Ham’s views are often used as a straw man against Christians in general.

    Reply
    1. ElijiahT Post author

      I agree… and that’s one of the more frustrating things about this debate. People who are not as well-informed about the wide ranging views within Christendom will be left with the false understanding that all Christians hold to views identical (or similar to) Ken Ham.

      I am glad that they both mentioned alternative religious perspectives. But I’m still concerned with the possible misunderstanding of an uninformed audience.

      Reply
  4. Pingback: The Big Fail Debate | Focused and Free

    1. ElijiahT Post author

      Hi Ryuzaki,
      I believe the earth is somewhere around 4.6 billion years old.

      As for uniformitarianism, I think it is a reasonable approach to inferring things about the past, barring any reasons not to.

      For example, nothing in our experience shows that we should think that the ice-core buildup was the result of anything other than uniform processes. Therefore, uniformitarianism is justified.

      However, strict uniformitarianism may not always be justified. For example, the moon is receding at a certain rate currently. This entails that it was closer in the past. If we assume uniformitarianism, the moon would be in contact with the earth well after the earth was solid. However, that assumption of uniformitarianism is invalid because it does not take into account the changing gravity that would have occurred when extrapolating into the past.

      Reply

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