Science blogs, Christian websites, and even mainstream media outlets have been abuzz the past week regarding the news that prominent science educator Bill Nye will “debate” prominent Christian science-denier Ken Ham. For sites like ours, which are entirely centered around this specific issue, it’s an excited — and apparently, terrifying — time.
Since I’ve been immersed in the fallout of the aforementioned announcement more than I expect any of you would ever like to be, I thought I’d make myself useful by sharing a brief rundown of a few of the more interesting responses and developments.
In my opinion, Benjamin Radford of Discovery News gets the win for the most succinct but thorough, polite but appropriately pointed explanation of why scientists should generally avoid debating creationists. Radford condensed my thoughts exactly in the following, very neat little nutshell:
This is not an issue of censorship. Anyone is free to hold whatever beliefs or opinions they like, no matter how unscientific or false. But there is no obligation to portray both sides as having equally strong or valid scientific arguments, when by any measure they do not.
This was my main concern of Nye’s decision to humor K-Ham with a debate: that it would convey to the general public that the idea of a complex variety of life forms poofing into existence on earth a few thousand years ago, along with the rest of the universe, is an unsettled question worthy of debate, when in fact it is as scientifically dead and ridiculous as the World Ice Theory.
Eight-hundred tickets for the spectacle went on sale a few days ago and reportedly sold out within minutes (yes, of course, they’re selling tickets for it; everyone knows you can’t really expect to acquire knowledge and truth without paying $25 to see it hashed out on a stage). Apparently, K-Ham’s careful, regular Googling of his name and online ministry produced some evidence that “atheists” were crying foul at the quick sell-out, prompting him to respond. Here’s what the great man had to say:
But it seems there are atheists who must believe we have a computer program in place that can somehow detect secularists and block them out. We just had to shake our heads when we read many comments on atheist blogs about the tickets to the debate being sold out in 120 seconds!
What ludicrous nonsense! K-Ham, being the level-headed Aussie that he is, scoffs at such crazy, unfounded conspiracy theories. Now, he did recently lament to prospective investors of his “Ark Encounter” project that the venture has endured “impediments such as atheists registering for the offering and disrupting it,” according to Bloomberg. But that’s not a conspiracy theory, K-Ham would no doubt assure us. That’s different. He would tell us that atheists are known for attempting to twist the truth in favor of their worldview — really, they can’t help themselves — but a respected Christian organization like his would never do such a thing.
Moving on. The hard-working folks over at the Christian Post have been all over the “debate,” covering everything about it that’s newsworthy, and many things that are not — some of which, in fact, have no relevance to the debate whatsoever. A Facebook post by K-Ham prompted a CP reporter to write this, in which the great man’s online words are quoted extensively, as is the original article that provoked his ire, though the author of that piece, Dan Wilkinson, is not credited by name.
In the CP story, K-Ham is quoted as describing Christians who accept evolution, like Wilkinson and myself, as “more dangerous to Christianity than the atheists,” because “any attack on the WORD [he’s talking about the Bible, FYI] is an attack on Christ the WORD.”
My thoughts were that K-Ham is not really concerned with so-called “attacks” against the Bible (if he were, one would think he’d be upset about this). What really drives him nuts is any criticism of his personal views of the Bible. The problem is that he thinks the former and the latter are one and the same.
However, I’m sure an ethically minded and straight-laced media outlet like the Christian Post wouldn’t have quoted Ham on the matter unless they were sure he was being honest, and not just trying to play the martyr.
Well, I think you’re about up to date. We’ll share a brief response, in snarkiness and truth, to one of our commenter’s predictions about the upcoming debate, then let the matter rest. Please feel free to offer your own thoughts on the debate, or any of its related hubbub, in the space below.