Ham-on-Nye debate pits atheists, creationists

 

Promotion photo for the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham.

Promotion photo for the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. Photo courtesy of http://www.answersingenesis.org/


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) Bill Nye may be “The Science Guy,” but Ken Ham is the “Answers in Genesis” man, and a debate between the two over the origins of life has nonbelievers and Christians wringing their hands.

Nye, host of a beloved television science series, and Ham, president of a creationist apologetics ministry, will meet at the Creation Museum, where Ham is also the president, on Feb. 4. In what some wags are calling “the Ham-on-Nye debate,” they will weigh this question: “Is creation a viable model of origins?”

In truth, both sides answered that question long ago — Nye with Charles Darwin’s work on the origin of species and Ham with the first book of the Bible. Yet many observers — both religious and nonreligious — say the debate is a very bad idea.

“Scientists should not debate creationists. Period,” wrote Dan Arel on the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s website. “There is nothing to debate.”

Arel, a secular advocate, is echoing the position of Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist who has long refused to debate creationists.

“Winning is not what the creationists realistically aspire to,” Dawkins said in 2006. “For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at all. They need the publicity. We don’t. To the gullible public which is their natural constituency, it is enough that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist.”

In a twist that might surprise Ham and Nye, some Christians find themselves agreeing with Dawkins.

“It is this huge stereotype that all Christians reject science and an event like this reinforces that stereotype,” said Deborah Haarsma, president of the BioLogos Foundation, an organization whose motto is “science and faith in harmony.” “It looks like science versus Christianity and it ignores the people who have accepted the science of evolution and have not let go of their faith.”

And that is a considerable number of people. A 2013 Pew Research Center poll found 60 percent of Americans believe “humans have evolved over time” while 33 percent reject that statement. Of those who believe in evolution, 24 percent say they also believe “a supreme being” used evolution to create life forms.

Bill Nye, host of the beloved television science series "Bill Nye the Science Guy". Photo courtesy of Bill Nye the Science Guy

Bill Nye, host of the beloved television science series “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” Photo courtesy of Bill Nye the Science Guy


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“A debate like this sets up a false choice” between science and religion for viewers, Haarsma said. “We don’t want them to have to choose.”

Other Christians are concerned that Nye, an inexperienced debater with a background in engineering, will not perform well against Ham, a skilled debater. Tyler Francke, a 25-year-old Christian who writes about the intersection of science and religion at the blog The God of Evolution, said he knows many “young Earth creationists,” as Ham and his supporters are called, and that the presentation of scientific evidence alone is not enough to persuade them.

“Young-Earth proponents like Ham have all kinds of tricks they play to make their view seem reasonable,” he said. “They claim they don’t ignore evidence they just look at it with a different lens.  … Bill Nye seems to be a very smart man, and I’m confident that he’ll come prepared. But if he shows up expecting a fair fight purely on the basis of what the available evidence most reasonably indicates, I think he’s going to be sorely mistaken.”

Nye may be an inexperienced debater, but he has a background in entertainment. He has hosted six popular science television shows — including the irreverent and informative “Bill Nye the Science Guy” — and appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” — where he was the first contestant to get the hook in its 17th season.

“Bill Nye is not a professional scientist; he is an entertainer and a science communicator,” said Joshua Rosenau, policy director at the National Center for Science Education, an advocacy group that discourages scientists from debating creationists. “So I am optimistic this could turn out better than some others. But don’t try this at home, kids.”

Both men have described their reasons for engaging in the challenge. Nye, an agnostic, told The Huffington Post he hopes “to show people that this belief (creationism) is still among us and it finds its way onto school boards.”

Indeed, there have been four laws introduced at the state level that challenge evolution in public school science curricula just this year — two in Missouri, one in Virginia and one in Oklahoma, according to the National Center for Science Education. Currently, laws in Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee permit the teaching of “alternatives” to evolution.

Ken Ham, president of a creation science apologetics ministry.

Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, a creation science apologetics ministry. Photo courtesy of Creation Museum


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

As for Ham, he has said he extended the debate invitation to Nye out of concern that young people are too quick to dismiss creation in favor of evolution. But critics note another reason — the financial rewards of increased media attention. The Creation Museum is up against a deadline for raising $29 million in municipal bonds to construct a proposed replica of Noah’s Ark. Even if he loses the debate, critics say, Ham wins at the bank.

In fact, the debate, which will be held in the Creation Museum’s 900-seat Legacy Hall in Petersburg, Ky., sold out its $25 tickets within minutes. The museum will stream the event live and for free.

But while some of the strongest voices against the debate have come from the non belief community, some nonbelievers are looking for a silver lining.

Maggie Ardiente, director of development and communications for the American Humanist Association, went to so far as to say she wishes the debate had been her idea.

“It is very simple,” she said. “I am looking at statistics (like the Pew Research Center’s poll) and they tell me people like Ken Ham and other creationists are being very effective and that is a serious problem. We can’t just ignore that. We have to challenge people like Ken Ham so I support the debate 100 percent.”

Debbie Goddard, director of outreach for the Center for Inquiry, another humanist organization that supports science education, is less certain. She said she was “originally on the fence” when she heard about the debate, concerned it would only attract the already convinced, but has reconsidered.

“If we don’t let their ideas see the light of day we can’t develop the tools to address them,” she said. “And we don’t just need the tools of facts and evidence, but also of understanding their views and compassion for them if we want to be effective at changing their minds.”

YS/AMB END WINSTON

The post Ham-on-Nye debate pits atheists, creationists appeared first on Religion News Service.

15 Responses to “Ham-on-Nye debate pits atheists, creationists”

  1. debate On political Parties

    Very energetic article, I liked that a lot. Will thefe be a part 2?

  2. nickbatt

    Catholic teaching since at least the time of Thomas Aquinas has maintained that revelation cannot conflict with fact. Hence we take no doctrinal position on evolution. It’s still a great scientific question. So I’m going to see it.

  3. Christy Besozzi

    Any religion that rejects the findings of truly applied science is in danger of becoming mere superstition. From the Baha’i writings:

    “The fourth teaching of Bahá’u’lláh is the agreement of religion and science. God has endowed man with intelligence and reason whereby he is required to determine the verity of questions and propositions. If religious beliefs and opinions are found contrary to the standards of science they are mere superstitions and imaginations; for the antithesis of knowledge is ignorance, and the child of ignorance is superstition. Unquestionably there must be agreement between true religion and science. If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible and there is no outcome but wavering and vacillation.” Written by ‘Abdu’l-Baha

    Rejection of the boundaries to human behavior set by the laws of religion can result in science becoming a monster.

    In Baha’i-speak: religion and science are the 2 wings of a bird. Both wings must be healthy and strong for the bird to soar.

  4. nickbatt

    Patrick; I guess that what I find puzzling is the passion of your argument combined with your apparent apathy about whether or not your position is true. You started with “If (sic ‘it’) would make more coherent sense if Nye ‘debated’ with a Barbary Ape. Might get a more sensible result, as well” . To comjpare the creation protagonist to a “barbary ape” seems a pretty harsh and passionate comment if “Nor do I personally care if any of these theories are considered ‘proven’ or not.I will cheerfully live with those of them that I currently agree with …”. How can you be so sure Mr. Ham will give a less coherent debate than a barbary ape if you don’t personally care whether Mr. Nye’s position is considered proven?
    By the way, I’m half through “What I Believe”. It’s well worth the read. I do find his (and I believe your) ambivalence on the ultimate questions of life hard to grasp. Maybe I’ll get it after I finish ill understand better.
    Your final comment about the vibrancy of Christianity in the third world in the face of it’s decay in Europe (I think the US is a different case) is fascinating. I think it’s an example of the parable about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven Matt 19:24.

  5. Patrick

    “No pressure to be right about anything. Not business decisions, not romantic or fraternal pairings, not policy questions that require you to vote yes or no, not candidates between whom you must choose. To be governed by passing fancies—how lovely. “
    If you think that’s how I live my life Nick, one of us is living in a dream world – and isn’t me.
    I thought you were smarter than that. Oh, well. Maybe you are governed by ‘…a passing fancy,’ yourself. After all, Christianity has only been around a couple of thousand years, and already the Church is looking to the Third World to bulk up the flagging numbers of devotees in the ‘developed’ world. (Or so I read.)

  6. nickbatt

    Patrick; Being a skeptic sure makes things easier :”Nor do I personally care if any of these theories are considered ‘proven’ or not.I will cheerfully live with those of them that I currently agree with – having have considered them at some length – until more compelling evidence persuades me that I am mistaken.” You strongly believe something till you don’t. I wish the world were that simple. No pressure to be right about anything. Not business decisions, not romantic or fraternal pairings, not policy questions that require you to vote yes or no, not candidates between whom you must choose. To be governed by passing fancies—how lovely.
    ps As I noted above macro-evolution is inter species eg the transformation of a lower primate into a human whether by natural selection or intelligent design.

  7. Patrick

    “The scientific method is one way (to ‘prove’ things..”)
    Oh. yes, Nick? What possible other way is there to ‘prove’
    anythingon this sorry, wretched, miserable, God forsaken, illogical, murderous planet?

    Oh, yes… Faith.</I.
    I'm afraid (..not really) that I'm getting bored with this "proving" idiocy. I keep repeating it over and over.
    …Might as well be whistling 'Dixie.'
    How can we "prove" the sun will come up tomorrow?
    We can’t.

    “Macro evolution,” whatever that is – will never be ‘proved’ by science, or anything else.
    Nothing ever is, except some mathematics and formal logic – and those mostly tautological.

    If, as I suppose, what you really mean is Natural Selection – neither will that – or the theory of gravity, or string theory, or the theory of racial superiority, or that of Natural Selection, – or the theory of the size of men’s noses considered as an indication of that of the size of their sexual organs – ever be ‘proved’.

    Nor do I personally care if any of these theories are considered ‘proven’ or not.
    I will cheerfully live with those of them that I currently agree with – having have considered them at some length – until more compelling evidence persuades me that I am mistaken.

    …Then I will change my view.

  8. nickbatt

    Patrick; Thx for the reply. The difference between gravity and evolution that I’m drawing is that I can test the Theory of Gravity by a reproducible experiment. Gallileo dropped two balls of different weights from the Tower of Pisa and they accelerated at the same speed. I could do the same experiment off the High Level and measure the results. They would be the same. Until somebody can conduct an experiment to test inter-species evolution Until that is done macro-evolution is unproved by the scientific method. It”s all a question of epistemology. How do we know things. The scientific method is one way. The evidence for macro-evolution is the observation of the fossil record. That’s a valid epistemological method, just not the scientific method. As for quantum mechanics, as I understand it from watching Big Bang Theory, is in a state of flux. Some experiments show matter acting like waves and others acting like particles. Neither is yet proved. This doesn’t mean that macro-evolution isn’t true. Accepting a theory as a working hypothesis until proved should be easy for a skeptic. Taking it as a fact still seems to me to be to be faith. You may argue that knowledge from observation is sufficient. With that I would agree—sometimes. So I guess were both skeptics. That’s why I’m going to the debate.

  9. Patrick O'Gara

    What your question ‘proves’ is simply that you don’t understand what ‘proved’ means, Nick. Gravity is, after all a theory, as is quantum physics (whatever that is).
    Natural Selection is a theory and as such open to falsification. So far it has not been, and I am confident that it will not be. Every scientific advance has verified it so far, the most significant being in the field of DNA.
    However – if and when Darwin’s Dangerous Idea is falsified, I will gladly stop believing in it.
    ‘Faith’ does not come into it.
    Hope that helps, but doubt it.

    (For further study, I suggest, “An Introduction To The Philosophy Of Science,” by Carnap.)

  10. nickbatt

    Denis; I get where you’re coming from but I’d pose to you the same question I put to Patrick. Isn’t macro-evolution unproved through the scientific method? Doesn’t that mean it is a matter of faith for those who are agnostic or atheist? If you make it to the event, we can introduce ourselves to each other. I’ll be the guy dragging his knuckles like a barbary ape. lol.

  11. Denis Eble

    If would make more coherent sense if Nye ‘debated’ with a Barbary Ape.
    Might get a more sensible result,

    Exactly!

  12. nickbatt

    Patrick; While Catholics have no theological objection per se. They could be called theistic evolutionists if the accept macro-evolution (ie inter-species evolution). Neither view evolution or creationism is a doctrine of faith. Still I find the topic interesting. The scientific method depends on the ability to conduct reproducible experiments. To my knowledge, science has been unable to do that. micro-evolution (ie within species), on the other hand, has been demonstrated by the scientific method.
    From a philosophical standpoint, macro-evolution by natural selection (Darwinism) seems to be a necessary article of faith for the agnostic or atheist. I’d be curious what you think that my proposition that Darwinism must be an article of faith for you.

  13. Patrick O'Gara

    If would make more coherent sense if Nye ‘debated’ with a Barbary Ape.
    Might get a more sensible result, as well.

  14. David Yonke

    Nick, that is correct — YES-FM will be hosting a live broadcast of the debate at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Calvary Church, 1360 Conant St. in Maumee. I’ve added a link in this story to a listing in the ToledoFAVS calendar.

  15. nickbatt

    I understand that this event will be shown at Calvary on Conant. Can anyone confirm that?

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