Reflections on the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate

Posted on Updated on

Last night, hundreds of thousands of people watched a young-earth, biblical literalist and a committed evolutionary naturalist debate the question “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” –  for over 2 hours. And it was very, very interesting.
The first debater was Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and driving force behind the Creation Museum. The second was the popular Bill Nye “The Science Guy”. If you want to watch it, it is being hosted for free on DebateLive.org. I highly encourage you to. I guarantee you will learn something.
If you did see it, then I’m certain that’s what you are talking about today with anyone who will listen — I know I am. So here’s my thoughts: 

Nye vs Ham

1. You probably chose your “winner” before the debate ever started.
I don’t watch debates, so I have no idea who technically “won“, but after it was done, I don’t think a lot of minds were changed. If you went in believing in evolution, then chances are you think Bill Nye stomped on Ken Ham by raising questions that were never really answered. And, ironically, if you are a creationist, you saw Ken Ham do the exact same thing to Bill Nye.
If I was an unbeliever I would have grabbed onto a lot of Nye’s arguments about the impossibility of Noah’s flood (tree rings, ice layers) and the sun allowing evolution to “add complexity”. Unfortunately, Ham didn’t address either of those points well enough (though he did address it quickly). At the very least, Ham presented to gospel to a group of atheists 3 times!!!
2. They talked around, but not to, each other.
I believe the reason that there was no clear “winner” is because they weren’t really talking to each other. When Nye said, “I want you to give me just one example…”, Ham didn’t. When Ham posed an equally tough question Nye side-stepped it. Both presented their case effectively, and anyone with an open mind must have walked away seeing the opposing position, but ultimately, there was very little interaction between the two. As Albert Mohler pointed out on his blog and in “The Briefing” this morning, what the debate needed was a chance for the debaters to ask/answer their opponents questions. 
3. They have the same mission, but different world-views. 
These two guys are so similar, it’s spooky. They both have a deep love for good science. They both want to educate and inspire children to seek truth and become great scientists. They both use creative media to promote their message. They are both hard-headed and dogmatic in their beliefs. They are both interesting and inspirational. The big difference is their world-view — and it makes all the difference.

Nye vs Ham 3

4. Ham was philosophical, Nye was evidential.
Ham’s core argument was about the difference between “Observational Science” and “Historical Science” — which is, essentially, an understanding that whenever we try to draw scientific conclusions about the past, based on any evidence we gather today, we make assumptions, and those assumptions can be wrong. That’s a philosophical argument — and a very good one. Surprisingly (to me anyway), Nye refused to agree that scientists make assumptions when they interpret data. Over and over, Nye pointed to a rock he had brought with him (which had a fossil in it) and said he only trusts that which he sees with his own eyes, and the evidence he sees for evolution is overwhelming. For him, there could be no other interpretation for the data other than his own. 
5. One scientist said “I don’t know” and the other said “because the Book says so”.
I was blown away when Bill Nye said “I don’t know” to some of the big questions that were asked by the audience. He still firmly believes that some day a pure, evolutionary scientist will be able to answer them, but right now he doesn’t know. I was so happy to see that kind of humility. I was also impressed that Ken Ham was humble enough to point to the Bible and essentially say, “I wouldn’t know either… except God wrote it down for me.” The scientific / atheist community will mock him, but he stood by his convictions.
Nye kept coming back to an “I trust my eyes more than your bible” argument, and if you don’t have an understanding of Biblical Criticism, his phraseology was actually quite compelling. I wish Ham would have better addressed why he trusts the bible. Christians do have some very good reasons.
6. Bill Nye clearly didn’t go to Sunday School.
I shouldn’t be surprised how biblically illiterate most people are these days, but Bill Nye is almost 60 and was about to debate a Christian. You’d think he’d understand the basics. Apparently not. He made some errors about the story of creation and the flood, didn’t understand what difference between the testaments are, and didn’t seem to have any grasp of the gospel.
7. Yes, Christians can be really, really good scientists and engineers, Mr. Nye.
In a pre-debate interview (which I can’t seem to find now), Bill Nye said that he agreed to this debate because he wanted to get the word out to people about getting their kids into science. He’s truly worried that America is going to lose their technological and scientific edge and wants to raise the alarm. If you haven’t seen it yet, this “viral” video tells us that one of the reasons America could be losing it’s edge is because of people like Ken Ham.
It annoys me that Bill Nye seems to truly believe that a young-earth creationist can’t be a good scientist or engineer. Ken Ham stomped all over that idea by trotting out genius after genius who changed the world and believes in a young-earth. I hope Nye went home with a better perspective on that.