Well, it’s over. The debate to end all debates has been held, and the question of whether the ultimate truth of the universe is most readily found in the evolutionary model or the young-earth creationism model has been settled, once and for all.
Not really. If anything, the most likely result is that Generals Nye and Ham will have whipped their troops into a frenzy, firing them up to fling themselves even more savagely into a divisive culture war that already generates enough animus to power a small city.
I did watch the “debate,” the entire thing, from the epic introductory score I’m pretty sure Answers in Genesis ripped off “Lord of the Rings” and the — surprise! — cartoon ad for the Creation Museum (kids under 12 get in free in 2014!) that preceded the spectacle to the very last cringe-worthy comment by a certain Aussie.
Really, it’s been an interesting past couple days for me. I spent Sunday being very surprised (but delighted) to see the Seattle Seahawks utterly humiliate the celebrated Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos; last evening, I was not at all surprised to see Bill Nye run circles around his similarly outmatched opponent.
However, I was a little surprised — pleasantly so — by how well the Science Guy performed. The worries of many — that Nye has little debate experience or formal training in the biological sciences — were quite unnecessary. In his trademarked bow tie, the lanky television figure from many a childhood afternoon was well-informed, well-prepared, charming and polite. He was an effective communicator and fulfilled the role of Emissary to the Unscienced — in what was, no doubt, a hostile environment at the Creation Museum — about as well as anyone could have hoped (even if he did use the phrase “traditional fish sex” one too many times).
What’s more, he conveyed a genuine love of scientific inquiry, and repeatedly invited — pleaded even — for kids, adults, Christians, non-Christians — anyone — to join as equal partners in the pursuit of knowledge.
Nye’s overall demeanor, and this last point in particular, made for a sharp contrast with Ken Ham, whose entire line of argumentation was underlied by the accusation that mainstream science is a vast conspiracy designed by “secularists.” Hammy came across as defensive, crotchety and arrogant — as though he genuinely couldn’t understand why he was having so much trouble getting through to Nye and the rest of the world (“I mean, come on…BIBLE! Hellooooo?”)
His presentation was childish and moralistic and — appropriately — illustrated almost entirely by cartoons. He had no real evidence to support his claim that his particular brand of young-earth creationism is a viable model, other than a few recorded interviews by “real scientists” (at least one of whom works for Ham) saying they think creationism is A-plus science.
By the way, K-Ham, how many videos would Bill Nye have to show you of “real scientists” saying young-earthism is nonsense before you would be convinced? Because you name a number, and we can make that happen.
Bill Nye presented, literally, an ark-load of evidence that Ham’s viewpoint is scientifically untenable. He asked K-Ham why we can see starlight that took millions of years to reach our planet, if the universe is only 6,000 years old. Hammy didn’t answer. He asked why the fossil record shows such a predictable progression and division of life (including extinction events!), if every species that has ever lived was alive at the same time and died and was buried in the same Flood. No response.
He asked why we can find Arctic ice cores that show up to 680,000 distinct summer-winter cycles in their layering, complete with “primordial” air bubbles (pockets of air whose composition doesn’t match our modern atmosphere), if there was a worldwide flood just a few thousand years ago. Ham replied that, “Well, snow can pile up real fast sometimes.” He mentioned devout Christians and accomplished scientists like Francis Collins and said he sees no incompatibility between religion/spirituality and science — ultimately offering a more accurate picture of the Christian faith than Ham managed to do.
Through the onslaught, ol’ K-Ham did little more than stick to his guns about the whole “conspiracy” thing and his similarly outrageous claim that it is “impossible” to scientifically determine the age of the earth or, really, anything that happened in the distant past. Why? Well, because…it is, that’s why! Now read yer Bibles!
But though, yes, “my guy” won out — undeniably — I see it as a hollow victory. Because, while my mind has no trouble recognizing the overwhelming evidence and logic Nye presented, which points to evolution and an ancient age of the earth, my heart belongs to Jesus, and thinking about the convoluted trainwreck of the Christian faith that Ham preached last night — and the lasting damage he may have done — makes me sick to my stomach.
Ham generalized frequently. He made sweeping statements to the effect that all evolutionists are naturalists (false) and that all Christians agree with him (at least all the non-COMPROMISING ones), in an apparent effort to reinforce the Christians vs. atheists paradigm, even though the facts (which Ham cares little for) show that the picture is far more nuanced.
He brought every question back to the Bible, which he said is the only book he’s aware of that explains where things come from (he should check out the science and comparative religions section of his local library, maybe?) and that Genesis must be literally true because it tell us why we wear clothes. On multiple occasions, he intimated that the gospel falls apart (he even trotted out this old fib again) if the earth is old, and yet, he failed to address Nye’s perfectly valid question as to why — if it’s so obvious and “foundational” and all — millions of believers all over the world reject AiG’s view of Genesis.
In short, Ken Ham made Jesus look as ridiculous as he himself did. And though I’m not normally much for threatening divine retribution (I’ll leave that to Hammy and his roster of “PhD’s”), I’d guess God would be more offended by someone speaking in his name and opening him and his word up to ridicule, than those who use the brains he gave them to follow the evidence he left in this infinitely large and very, very, very old creation we call the cosmos.