Ken Ham and Bill Nye Debate 2-4-14 - Evolution and Creationism

Orion Nebula

Absolutely gorgeous, the Orion Nebula - Public Domain - Nasa- Hubble
Absolutely gorgeous, the Orion Nebula - Public Domain - Nasa- Hubble | Source

Some General Thoughts on the Debate Between Ham and Nye.

Tonight I watched the debate live between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. The topic of the debate was, "Is Creation a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era?" The debate was moderated by Tom Foreman from CNN ,and he did a great job.

Following are some of my thoughts on this debate, and my goal is to be as fair to both sides of this as I can be. We all probably are on one side or the other, or somewhere in between.

Ken Ham won the coin toss and was allowed to choose whether or not he would go first, and I was somewhat surprised he chose to go first. That is likely a matter of preference, and if it were me, I think I would have let Bill Nye go first. To each his own, however, and I like that fairness in which they did that.

Ken Ham started off talking about how he thinks the words science and evolution have been hijacked by some, including and maybe in particular scientists. He talked about how it is used as a bait and switch tactic so often. I had to agree with this point, as I have seen that very often myself. So, at this point, I thought he was doing just fine, but hear me out as I am not sure he held on to the points he was trying to defend as much as I had hoped he would.

He went on to make a point about how there is historical science and then also observational science. We all can observe current science, but it is the historical science that none of us were there to observe that we disagree on. A fair point, but Bill Nye suggested that this is a rare view held by Ham, not generally agreed upon.

Had that point been driven home, and I mean brought all the way back around to how it makes a complete thought, I think it would have gained more traction for Ham in the debate. I felt like I knew what he meant, but wondered if others would agree. What I mean is that Ham could have made the very observable point that when it comes to the historical science, that belief enters in on both sides of the debate, not just for Christians that believe in intelligent design and or a young earth creationism with intelligent design. He could have driven the point home that both sides employ belief, and philosophy when it comes to the older historical science. Instead, he got kind of pinned down on his own beliefs more, than exposing those of his opponent.

Timeline of the Universe - Image by Nasa, Public Domain
Timeline of the Universe - Image by Nasa, Public Domain | Source

Did Ham and Nye Stick to the Main Topic of the Debate?

As for the topic, generally it was about evolution vs. creationism. It was supposed to be about creationism being a viable model considering modern day science, or not. I believe both got away from this point to some degree, and that this hurt Ken Ham and helped Bill Nye's side. I say this because I think it would have gone better for Ham to make the case for the idea of an intelligence or creator as being not only viable in today's world, but the better option of the two!

Instead, Ham either chose to defend, or got stuck defending a young earth creationism over just the idea of creationism vs. evolution. I think that Nye chose to try and discredit this view by focusing on things like Noah's Ark, etc. It is an easier view to discredit over just the idea of a personal, intelligent creator, and this was unfortunate, though Ham did a fair job on his own.

Ken Ham did a great job at showing how some very reputable scientists absolutely believe in young earth creationism, so showed Nye to be wrong on some counts in that regard. Still, towards the end of the debate the basis for Ham's evidence seemed to fall more towards the Bible and what it shared. I found this interesting because as much as I have studied on this topic, I am not as familiar with Ken Ham. So I felt like between the Creation Museum in Kentucky, and his debate tonight, I am much more familiar with his views now.

I wish he had focused more on the science that both sides agree on, being able to be explained more by an intelligent designer than by a materialistic philosophy that depends on random chance being the cause for all we see. One is much more tenable than the other, and one view defends the more reasonable idea than the other. Technically, one doesn't really need the bible to make the case for intelligent design, in my opinion. It is one explanation once people get to the point of realizing that intelligent design, by a personal being that is an uncaused cause for all we see, is a better choice. I think it needs to be taken in steps, however.

Ken Ham then chose to insert the gospel message a couple of times which I don't technically fault him for, but I wondered at that a little bit because of the shortage of time to elaborate on points. As for his audience, my guess is that the people watching the debate, are on one side or the other. They are either more hostile to his view, or more sympathetic to it. Those hostile to Ken Ham's view, the ones that would need to hear of such a message are likely to not be all that receptive to it at that point, but especially not twice. Also, that he spent some time explaining how he gets to his view of six thousand years for the age of the earth was time that could have been spent on something else perhaps. I hope I don't sound too harsh of Ham, but these are my honest opinions, and I am sure it has to be easier said than done to be in such a debate.

The Debate Between Bill Nye and Ken Ham

Some Key Points Made by Nye and Ham

The following points are some of interest that grabbed my attention in this debate. I found it interesting for instance that Ken Ham thought it was a bad idea to be teaching children what he called the religion of naturalism, as science. I would have to agree that so often what is taught in schools are not just the facts of science, but a lot of philosophy of science is also included. The textbooks and teachers don't really tell the students when they are switching gears from science we can all agree on to personally held views and the philosophy of science. In fact, many people probably don't even know there is such a thing, philosophy of science, that attempts to explain what the science must mean for us as humans. That is all well and good, but it IS speculation and personal belief often added in, where facts are supposed to reign supreme. It would definitely be more honest to present facts as facts, and philosophy and worldviews as what they are. Hopefully this is a wake up call to those that didn't realize that was happening so often. If and when it happens, then Ken Ham is absolutely right that someone could be teaching young children and college level as well, a worldview or religion and not science at some point.

I thought it was interesting when Bill Nye talked about things like the layers of limestone in Kentucky, and the long ice rods, and what can be found in each. He spoke of pine trees that are six and nine thousand years old as well, and questioned how that could be if there was a world wide flood. He spoke of layers of fossils and what he would expect to find if there had been a flood, and spoke some about skulls, etc.

Bill Nye seemed sincerely doubtful about Noah's Ark and gave his reasons why, but Ken Ham also responded to those points fairly well I thought. Of course they were not convincing to Nye, but they were fair points. Nye also requested predictions from Ham's model and Ham said at the end he gave some examples of that.

Something that was a possible missed opportunity by Ken Ham was when Nye brought up the Hubble Telescope, and the Big Bang. This would have been a perfect point to show that the idea of an intelligent creator fits in with those scientific observations. Nye spoke on stars exploding to create the elements we see in the periodic table, etc.

Speaking of stars, Bill Nye spoke of how billons of distant stars show themselves to be older than six thousand years old, and asked how can that be? There was limited time to answer all the points brought up, which was part of the reason I wondered at some of the other things Ham did spend time on. Ham did respond to the idea that Noah could have very well been able to build such a boat in that day, and that we have civilizations that we still wonder at their accomplishments.

Some repetitive words by Bill Nye were that some of the views of Ken Ham were troubling and/or unsettling. One of the things I wish Ham had responded to was regarding the idea of the bible being translated into English for us for us today, like it was some kind of put down. It would have been great to show how that isn't a problem, and that we have more reliable manuscripts from which to translate today than ever before. We have better translations from the Greek and Hebrew today than when the King James Version first came out so long ago.

One of the strangest twists I saw come up a few times from Bill Nye was the focus on singling out Ken Ham for his young earth views in particular. Nye seemed to pit him against a lot of the Christian believing population and asked him about that. I am not sure the focus needed to go to the "young" part of of creationism at all, but Ham seemed happy to oblige the defending of it.

Ken Ham did receive some laughter from the crowd when he said, "Well, there's a book out that tells us." He did make a great point when he pointed out that matter can't produce information, language, etc. Yet we see information and language. So this point was good to bring up and I wish more time could have been spent there. The question about what supports creationism besides the literal words in the bible, could maybe have been expounded upon.

How Does Consciousness Come From Matter, and More

A great question that came up was how does consciousness come from matter? Bill Nye answered honestly, that he doesn't know though he wants to find out. He then inserted what I thought was a strange point about how our country will fall behind economically in this world if we don't embrace the mainstream ideas, in essence. That was one of the more odd points brought up more than once. Ken Ham answered this question about consciousness from matter, and his worldview does give an answer for it.

This was one of the better questions that shows a weakness in the view of Bill Nye. Science cannot account for a lot of what we see. Science only takes us back so far, and then philosophy does enter in as we see, even with Darwinian Evolutionists. This is a point that could have been driven home a bit more, because it is one of the best points to be made I think.

Ken Ham did go on to say that energy and matter will never produce life,which got an interesting response from Bill Nye, as seen on his face. I was curious what he was thinking. Ham said, if you have a dead stick and apply a lot of energy and matter to it, it will just still decay. He also mentioned how nothing in our current observational science can prove the age of the earth.

I did notice also that Ken Ham spoke a couple times regarding the believers that don't believe in a young earth. He said they have to explain death, disease and suffering before the fall, to believe in an older earth, and I have never heard it put that way before. If I could ask him personally, I would love to hear his answer to this, for the reason he said that.

Ken Ham did respond to one question, and said that he doesn't always take the bible literally, but naturally, as it was intended to be taken. When it is historical, that he takes it as such, and when it is poetry, he takes it as such.

In Conclusion

Well, it was a long debate but I am so glad I watched it. It was a fairly calm debate, and no one got too rude which can sometimes happen in debates like this. The closest it got to engaging in put downs were when there was some suggestions by Nye regarding something in the U.S. Constitution, and how people won't survive if they don't follow more of a mainstream view. He seemed to indicate it would be problematic for kids to be taught in a way different than he believes, but so did Ken Ham. Nye also seems to think we will fall behind economically if we don't change our views to be more mainstream, but didn't explain how this would occur. It does seem a little bit strange of a suggestion.

I appreciated the moderator, Tom Foreman, and the two debaters, Ken Ham and Bill Nye. I think the debate can still be viewed in an archive if you wish to see it. I will also share the Youtube version below. I would be very interested to hear your honest thoughts on the debate. To me, it is hard to declare a winner, but I think Ken Ham was put a little bit more on the defensive, which didn't need to happen. To me, it was educational in the sense I learned a lot more about both of these men with very opposing viewpoints.

A Unique Response from Christian Hugh Ross on the Debate

Ken Ham and Bill Nye Debate - Poll

Who do you think won this debate, if you watched it?

  • Bill Nye
  • Ken Ham
  • I didn't watch it, so I can't fairly say
  • It is a tie, a draw between the two
  • Neither of them did that great
See results without voting

Creation Museum - Where the Debate Was Held

A markerCreation Museum Kentucky -
Creation Museum, 2800 Bullittsburg Church Road, Petersburg, KY 41080, USA
[get directions]

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Comments 7 comments

swordsbane 2 years ago

"That is all well and good, but it IS speculation and personal belief often added in, where facts are supposed to reign supreme."

You HAVE to use speculation and personal belief in science. Otherwise, science rarely has any breakthroughs and almost never has very big once.

The thing that happens then (and what most creationists and those who harp about 'scientific philosophy' forget) is that those speculations and beliefs are the TESTED to see if they're true.

In Intelligent Design, speculation reigns supreme. It survives under the cover of "You can't prove me wrong." instead of trying to prove themselves right. It lives in the grey area of hypothesis. In science, nothing is true until you prove it. This is why Theory wears a capital 'T' in science rather than the small 't' that most people incorrectly associate with science.


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 2 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Hello Swordsbane, I do understand that there is a level of speculation and personal belief that enters into the scientific method. I am not speaking of the times where it is then tested to see if it is true, unless I am unaware of what they do with the results, because the things in question are not really testable in the cases I am speaking of. Maybe you can share something in particular that you want to discuss where there is a charge made that ought not to be made.

As for intelligent design, I think if you hear the cases made for it, they don't rely on things that are just speculation, though I have seen that kind of response many times. You have probability, and reason for example. Some things, when all things are taken into consideration, seem nearly impossible or unreasonable to even entertain over another idea.

In fairness to you, the science you are speaking of where NOTHING is true until proven, well that falls out of the realm of examples I would say speculation and belief are being employed like is suggested. We could discuss particular examples if you like, but what I am often referring to are the ideas being put out there as fact and science, that upon closer inspection is very much filtered through a lens or two of personally held belief and philosophy, and not science at all. It is that I have concern with, especially when teaching students of any age. Even more when some of a different philosophy or belief are being actively put down for holding theirs.


IDScience profile image

IDScience 2 years ago

@swordsbane

"The thing that happens then (and what most creationists and those who harp about 'scientific philosophy' forget) is that those speculations and beliefs are the TESTED to see if they're true."

That is how science is theoretically supposed to work but in fact does not. Evolutionary science teaches chemical evolution of the first cell is true, not based on any testable evidence for it, but based on the fact the proposed intelligent designer is not falsifiable (or incapable of being proven false) , therefore because we can't prove God is not the designer, abiogenesis is affirmed to be true by default, which has nothing to do with empirical science. This is why atheist physicist Leonard Susskind said

"Science is the horse that pulls the cart of philosophy"

Evolutionary science has abandoned the objective empirical observational method/ "attack the theory", in favor of a philosophical position bent towards atheism. All other areas of science except for evolutionary science is based in attacking the theory , attacking the theory of Darwinian evolution is strictly forbidden, which makes it a subjective philosophy and not true science. True science must be based on attacking the theory.

Many ID proponents understand this biased error in evolutionary science and have proposed to "teach the controversy" (teaching the many recent problems in evolutionary theory, but not teaching I.D. ) in schools, which is based on the scientific method, but Eugenie Scott, Ken Miller and others have vehemently opposed this effort, which tells me they are not interested in true science, but in a pet philosophy

Intelligent design (not creationism) is based on biological systems having the appearance of design, even Dawkins admits this. Therefore I.D. uses the logical inference of , that which has the appearance of being X, can not be rejected as being X.

However evolutionary science says, the proposed designer of X is incapable of being proven false (which means it could be true) , therefore we must reject the logical inference of design because we can't reject (falsify) the designers existence. Which is patently illogical to say the least


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 2 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

ID Science, thank you very much for your thoughtful response and explanation for that response. Identifying what is exactly going on, what is observable, is more important in this case than what ought to be. What ought to be is often not what is being disagreed on, and is the case in this case. I am on the side of people that are in favor of practicing true science over philosophy, when discussing scientific matters especially. I would hope and would think all would be on that side. When they are not, one must ask why that is. In this case, does the philosophy they hold to explain the somewhat strange behavior, or the does the philosophy behind what is being gone after, give an explanation? That is a whole other angle to look at, that might give explanation to this behavior held and practice observed by people that usually esteem facts, logic and reason.


bBerean profile image

bBerean 2 years ago

Oceansnsunsets,

Thank you for a great review. One comment you made was regarding wishing Ken Ham had elaborated a bit more regarding why believers who don't accept a young earth must give account for death, disease, suffering, etc. before the fall. Perhaps I can help, and will try to do so as concisely as possible.

God said "it is good". Ponder that for a min.

We are told that by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men. (Ro 5:12) It is a very clear teaching that man was at the beginning, and nothing died until the fall. We seek that reset when again the lion will lay down with the lamb.

Just because it is the first thing that seems to pop into folks heads when told nothing died before the fall, allow me to address two questions:

What did man and animals eat? All were vegetarian, free to eat of any tree of the garden, sans one.

What about the plants that died then? According to biblical definition, that the life is in the blood and there is a breath of life, plants and even insects are not "alive" but simply self replicating food sources.

In another hub you comment that the young earth perspective is not a foundational tenet of Christianity, but I disagree. If death began with Adam, Adam was at the beginning. Death was because of sin and God made the first sacrifice of an animal to cover Adam and Eve, and so it began. Our sin, salvation, Jesus coming, everything was based on this. I contend the bible does indeed make the case that there is a Creator, and that his creation is young. If so, then if we cannot trust God regarding our origins, how can we trust Him in regards to our destiny?

There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that can only and conclusively be assessed as proof of an old earth or evolution. Remember who is behind the lie, and don't sell him short either for his genius, his resourcefulness or his persuasiveness if perpetuating lies that man's ears are already itching to hear. There is a way that seems right to man, and in their minds it frees them from accountability. Acquiesing to the world's view regarding our beginning is the easy row, but it contradicts scripture literally and philosophically. Besides, when were we promised an easy row?

I enjoyed your hub. Hope this helps.

Thank you.

For readers who may want to comment further, I am not looking to open a debate within Oceansnsunsets' comment section, and therefore will not respond. My only purpose here was to give her something to consider. ty ;)


Doctor Kim profile image

Doctor Kim 23 months ago from Denver, Colorado

I also thought that both Bill and Ken got off topic. I thought, at the basic level, the topic was whether creationism is a valid/viable science but they just ended up debating what was "true". As any good scientist knows (and Bill is a science educator, not a scientist), we always accept that there is a possibility that our theories could be wrong- however small.


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 23 months ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Hello Dr Kim, Yes I hear you. Debating what is true is a good thing to debate, and the core of so many other debates. Many anymore don't value truth and how we come to know it, why it matters so much, etc. Yet this wasn't a debate about that as you say. I wonder at looking at it with fresh eyes to see how it went there, as sometimes I have found it is needed. Yes, theories could be wrong, no matter how small, so true. Thanks for your comment!

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