The fun continues in the run-up to the Bill Nye-Ken Ham ‘debate’

These two men will perpetuate the false idea that young-earthism is worthy of debate on Feb. 4.

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.

Comment meme

Tyler Francke

  • T. Woolford

    I’m a little concerned (OK, a LOT concerned) about the debate because its familiar ground to HAM, and he has learned very well the tricks of the creationists debate, Nye on the other hand, does not have the skills, and probably will get creamed. Ham will flood you-tube with out of context clips showing how stupid evolutionists are. I’m afraid its going to be a bloodbath. I would rather have seen Dawkins or Harris take him on.

    • Hey, thanks for your thoughts! I, too, am quite unconvinced that Bill Nye really understands what he has gotten himself into.

  • TogetherWeStand’s brilliant response to the comments above:

  • Personally I am hoping that someone did get ahold of a ticket, and tweets the hell out of the event. I’ve heard its going to be live streamed as well..not sure, so that will hopefully get some honest assessments.

    Bill Nye is no slouch when it comes to debating naysayers. I wonder why he’s doing this, but he’s smarter than many give him credit for. He is saying nothing about the debate that I’ve seen, allowing Ham to have his way. I am wondering if part of the deal was Nye to also have a complete recording, audio and video of the event. I know I would insist, as well as bringing my own trusted staff to ensure that would happen.

    • No doubt! I agree. Surely, Bill Nye has been around long enough to know better than to put complete trust in someone like K-Ham and Answers in Genesis. And, I’m not sure how reliable this information is, but we were told by a commenter that a few Redditors have confirmed Nye will be recording the discussion with his own videographer.

  • TogetherWeStand

    Thank you again Tyler for confirming my point. Your religious frenzy seems to have gotten those holier-than-thou secular priestly robes flashing everywhere. It is interesting that what can be so obvious to others some people simply do not see. I am available to talk anytime. Your friend Jim.

    • Your religious frenzy seems to have gotten those holier-than-thou secular priestly robes flashing everywhere.

      How indecent of me.

      It is interesting that what can be so obvious to others some people simply do not see.

      What, you mean like the overwhelming evidence in a multitude of overlapping fields of science? Yes, it’s truly bewildering, isn’t it?

      I am available to talk anytime.

      No thanks. Your online comments here have been illuminating enough for me.

  • me

    I’ll not ever forget how I went to one of these debates 30 years ago with a friend, when in college. A couple of our biology professors were debating a couple of creationists (who were also on the faculty of a nearby college but did the debate thing as something of a sideline).

    I was a science student (biochemistry). My friend was a student in the business school. I certainly didn’t know much about either evolution or creationism back in those days. We just went to the event for something to do.

    It was an interesting debate, but I didn’t think the creationists had much going for themselves. Their arguments were slick and well-rehearsed, but lacked substance. For example, “a feather is so complex and so perfect to the task, only God could have created it.” Even I could sense that was a bit of a leap.

    In terms of scoring the debate, I didn’t think my biology professors won so much as the creationists lost. The creationists failed to persuade me with their arguments. Even without a grasp of specifics, the holes in their logic were easy to spot.

    My friend had a completely different reaction. She was blown away by the creationists arguments and marveled at the grandeur of what they proposed. The two of us sat side-by-side and could not have reached more opposite conclusions. But we also had very different backgrounds. Among other differences, she grew up Baptist in a rural area, whereas I grew up as a urban Catholic.

    Since that day, I’ve been very interested in evolution and in the whole creationist/evolutionist drama. I’ve even organized a symposium on the subject, which was a lot of fun.

    Though I wouldn’t want to be in one such debate myself, I don’t see the harm that comes from these things. Especially today, when “the debate” can be found anywhere on the internet.

    Increasingly, it seems the pro-science side would be well-served by having a point man, a go-to guy, who is willing to carry the standard of logic and reason in the popular media. Much the way the Gould’s and Sagan’s did years ago.

    I assume Bill Nye is popular for the same reason most media people become popular these days: because people like and trust him. If Bill Nye is willing to be that guy, I think we rationalists should give him a chance and support his efforts. He’s used to being in front of a camera and he’s used to talking about science in terms normal people can understand. He’s almost sure to be a lot better at it than a science professor.

    • Very interesting story! Thanks so much for sharing!