My Take on the Nye-Ham Debate

First off, let me say that anyone can armchair quarterback any competition and come up with ways that the one watching the game could outdo the person(s) actually in the arena. Hindsight, lack of pressure, the view from the sideline always seems so clear. Who knows what I might do under the conditions that Bill Nye and Ken Ham faced last Tuesday evening? I might have become a babbling fool under that pressure. I have the advantage of time and distance and much mulling over to come up with what I will be sharing. Please understand that I know that I could not have outdone either man. I am simply sharing my observations and some of my “I wish he would have said this or that.”

Second, I should confess my bias from the outset. I am a former atheist who discovered the grace of Jesus Christ in the late 60s and early 70s. Even after I became a Christian, I was still a convinced evolutionist. I just figured that somehow God directed the whole thing so that He was still the ultimate Creator of all that we see. It wasn’t until I was forced (long story) in the mid-70s to read some creation science material that I began to take a second look. This led to a life-long study of the question which has led me to be a Young Earth, Six-Day Creationist. I have yet to see scientific evidence that refutes this position. So that tells you how I wish the debate had gone last Tuesday.

So what did I think of the historic Creation-Evolution Debate between Nye and Ham? I believe that the debate itself raised the awareness and profile of the debate here in America and around the world. I found that both men were very effective communicators, they knew their audiences, they exposed the audience to a wide range of very important arguments for and against creation and evolution, and each accomplished the purpose that they set out to accomplish. Bill Nye came in with the agenda of debating the question put before them – “Is Creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”  Ken Ham seemed to be debating a different question as he never really tackled this question head on.

His purpose was primarily to present the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. If you doubt that, Ham’s discussion with Dr. Georgia Purdom helps clarify this (watch here). In addition to making sure that no one left the debate without knowing how to trust Jesus as their savior, Ham seemed to argue questions more like, “Does the Bible argue for a young earth?” or “Why is Creation important for us as human beings in such desperate need for God?” The thrust of his arguments seem aimed at Christians who have embraced evolution or some mix of the two models with millions/billions of years in the mix.

When I taught English at a suburban high school I was asked to volunteer as a debate judge and given very simple training. One of the things we were to do was keep score as to what propositions were laid out for each side and see which ones survived intact after the rebuttals. Also, we were to keep track of the attacks from each side and see how well they were rebutted. Points were scored based on these very simple principles. Using this method, I would have to say that Bill Nye won the debate on the question at hand. There were a good number of points he made against a young earth that weren’t rebutted and attacks made that weren’t responded to.

I was disappointed with the debate since I know that Ken Ham’s organization has answered every one of Nye’s assertions. Whether it was the demand for fossils that defy the neat and tidy geologic column presented by evolutionists, the question of 100s of thousands of years revealed by ice cores or the number of rings on an ancient tree predating the date for Creation, etc., Answers in Genesis has an abundance of articles that address these issues. Ham should have rattled off these objections from Nye and responded to them, even if only indirectly. Something like, “It is easy for Bill Nye to rattle off these attacks like _______ (name them), but time does not permit me to thoroughly debunk them. However, tomorrow morning you will be able to find the answers to all of these things on our website. (Show the address on the screen.) Let me just say, Nye’s statements have been very misleading.” From the massive amount of articles now listed as “Debate Answers” on the AiG website, it was clear that this was the strategy. (See Debate Answers page here.) Ham did say that if he tried to answer everything, he’d be there millions of years. That was a good laugh line, but he should have gone just a tad farther. When Ham said little or nothing it left the impression that there are no answers to Nye’s assertions. (By the way, debatelive.org is now playing the video of the debate with links to answer each of Nye’s points as they come up. This annotated version is very handy for those who really want answers to Nye’s attacks on Young Earth Creationism.)

Bill Nye also got away with a damaging point – he claimed there is no predictive value to Biblical Creationism. Since this is a key determining factor for scientifically accepting a theory, it should have been responded to. And the response is easy. Creationism has proven much more valid in predicting scientific outcomes than evolutionism. When Ham pressed Nye to give us examples of the predictive ability of evolution, the best he could do was to show a fossil of a supposed missing link between two life forms. So what is the predictive value for Creation? If one believed in Creation what might that scientist discover? We don’t have to look far for that. Major scientists down through history have amply demonstrated this:

  • Matthew Maury made an important discovery because he read Psalm 8:8 where it describes the “paths of the sea.” This provoked him to launch a huge scientific experiment that led to the discovery of the ocean currents.
  • Louis Pasteur discovered the Law of Biogenesis and pasteurization as a result of his belief that life could only come from life and not through “spontaneous generation”, since he believed in a Creator God who created life.
  • Johann Kepler discovered the Laws of Interplanetary Motion due to his conviction that there must be order to all these seemingly random movements since the Bible revealed to him that the Creator was a God of order and not a God of chaos.
  • Likewise, Isaac Newton was moved by his faith to discover the law of gravity and the principles of physics by which we guide our missiles and spacecrafts. In his dedication of his great work Principia Mathematica, he wrote: “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being….This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God.”
  • The Wright Brothers were convinced despite ridicule that they could make a heavier-than-air flying machine because they knew that someone had already created one—God had made a bird. Therefore, they worked and worked to (in our language today) reverse engineer what allowed the birds to fly and navigate.
  • Two medical scientists, Ignaz Semmelweis and Joseph Lister, were convinced of the need for proper cleansing of doctors between patients, proper cleansing of wounds and surgical rooms, etc. due to the Bible’s teaching that people become unclean upon contact with an issue of blood.
  • The Creation account in the Bible would also predict that there must be massive graveyards of billions of dead things all over the world as a result of a global flood. These graveyards have been discovered and are now the sources of our “fossil” fuels.
  • Similarly, a global flood would predict that there would be sedimentary material covering the whole earth except for areas where other material was thrust through this sedimentary mantle through plate tectonics or volcanic eruptions. This is true for our earth.
  • A global flood would lead us to predict that we could find sea fossils atop high mountains. We have found this to be true.
  • George Washington Carver, in his diary, described how a philosophical discussion with God resulted in his discoveries in Botany, most notably his discovery of over 100 uses for the peanut.
  • The list could go on to other scientists like Tycho Brahe in astronomy and Michael Faraday in chemistry and electromagnetism whose Christian faith drove them as individuals and as scientists.

Ken Ham should have referred to at least three of these, along with making the comment that a belief in Creationism did not prevent the practical scientific value of these individuals. Their contributions to modern science, emerging from their faith, have been legendary. Therefore, Nye’s fears for the future of science if children are allowed to be exposed to Creation are unfounded.

In addition to these things, Bill Nye made many false generalizations that were “left on the table” without response. In a debate, these are seen as points scored. Some of these were: the mischaracterization of modern Bible translation being the equivalent of a game of “Telephone,” a depiction of Creation Science as “Ken Ham’s view of the Bible”, Bill Nye’s claim to be the Reasonable man, his statements that the Creation Science position was unreasonable, his mischaracterization of Ham’s distinction between observational science and historical science claiming that Ham was saying that Natural Laws had changed, and the construction of a false dichotomy—Evolutionists have a joy of discovery, while Creationists don’t share that joy.

The challenge is that none of these attacks can be easily addressed under the time constraints of the debate. Any debater knows this and the tactic of throwing up a lot of red herrings to see what sticks is common. To some extent, Ken Ham should have done something similar. There are so many weaknesses to the Evolutionist position that could have been thrown up and some that should have been hammered home. Chief of these would be the two main problems for the evolutionary biologist—where did life come from and what mechanism allows for greater and greater complexity to develop in the DNA of living organisms? Ham did refer to this several times when he was arguing that information must come from somewhere, but I think the audience missed the connection to the supposed “progress” of living organism from the lower biological forms up to the complex animals, such as primates, mammals, etc.

There are very simple problems with an old age of the earth that can be easily explained and understood in this setting, like the abundance of hydrogen in the atmosphere when we know that it leaks out of our atmosphere at a steady rate or the relatively low level of sea salt in the oceans when we know that it accumulates in the ocean at a steady rate. If the earth was indeed millions of years old, how does an old earther account for these phenomena’s?

Then it would have been good if Ham had attacked the Reasonable Man position at the end by asking if Nye is really a Reasonable Man.

  • How reasonable is it to believe that matter came into existence from nothing?
    • How reasonable is it to believe that an explosion of this bit of matter created all that we see in the universe, including all of the highly complex scientific laws we have discovered in this universe?
    • How reasonable is it to believe that life came from non-life in direct contradiction of the Law of Biogenesis?
    • How reasonable is it to believe that the incredible complexity of living organisms is simply a product of time, chance and random processes?
    • Is it reasonable to assume that the bioengineering marvels of the human eye and human hand came into being without any intelligent source?
    • Is it reasonable to accept that living organisms evolved requiring more and more information to be inserted into DNA without there being any mechanism to accomplish this?
    • Is it reasonable to believe that the belief in Creationism is a detriment to science when so many of the founders of branches of modern science were Creationists in their beliefs?

My conclusion from this is that it is not Ken Ham but Bill Nye who is the Unreasonable Man.

Many Creationists watching the debate probably wish that Ken Ham had been harder on Bill Nye. Some probably tuned in hoping to see Nye trounced and humiliated. However, this is not Ken Ham’s style nor could it be considering his objective. Ham sought to present the good news of Jesus to Bill Nye and the audience. Estimates are that nearly 5 million people around the world tuned into this debate. I cannot fault Ken Ham for seizing this opportunity to present the need for a savior and God’s forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ.

I simply wish that there was a way to do this without leaving out the solid science behind the Creationist position. If we were to reintroduce Creationism as a viable model for origins into our public education, perhaps the thrill of “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” might spark the same search and hunger for knowledge that the early founders of modern science possessed. Perhaps we would see new greats like Pasteur, Carver, Newton, Kepler, Faraday, and Brahe rise up to make amazing discoveries in physics, chemistry, astronomy, electronics, botany, microbiology, interplanetary travel, and who knows what else.

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