My thoughts on the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate

I agree with Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins that debates with creation science folks probably does more bad than good. The same thing goes for journalists reporting on evolution issues in society. Journalists are (as far as I know) taught to provide sides of an issue. And since there really is no good “other side” to evolution, they discuss creation science. That only falsely demonstrates that creation science is a viable alternative to evolution. Debating the two can also do that. But, since it happened, here are a few of my thoughts.

I thought Nye spent too much time on discussing evidence of evolution. Evidence seems to be irrelevant to Ham, who said that despite radiometric data, fossils found in certain layers, tectonic plates, sedimentation buildup, ice core data, “missing link” fossils, and really really old trees (several things specifically mentioned by Nye), there is absolutely no way to age the Earth accurately. Ok, fine, no amount of evidence will convince Ham otherwise. I think Nye should have spent more time discussing what science actually is. He kept challenging Ham to explain how Ham’s theory is predictive of anything, but didn’t explain why being predictive is important. As my good friend Jeff from Central Michigan University said, “the ‘measure’ of the strength of a scientific theory is its ability to predict”.

Nye also seemed to lose a lot of headway whenever he was asked a question he couldn’t answer, like how does consciousness come from matter. Ham was quick to assert that because science didn’t have an answer, it must be god doing. Well, now that I think about this, I guess it falls back on the evidence is irrelevant bit. Just like geocentrism and spontaneous generation, scientists may not have the answers at that moment, but given enough time will figure out what’s really going on.

I think my favorite comment by Ham was when he said just because a vast majority of scientists don’t believe in young earth origins doesn’t make them right. That’s a stark contrast to the: “84% of the world is religious, how can that many people be wrong?” comment often heard on that topic.

There are lots of other interesting things that happened in the debate, but I’ve already spent enough time on this. If you watched the debate and have something you’re itching to discuss, post a new article or throw it in the comments below. I look forward to it.


About Pat Cain

I like discovering things that are non-random. I'm fascinated when my dog remembers how to do a trick after a year of not doing that particular trick, or when I know to wear a jacket tomorrow when it's warm and windy today. As a biologist, I suppose that's my main job: to find and describe occurrences of non-randomness.
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7 Responses to My thoughts on the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate

  1. Divya says:

    I think you make interesting points in ideas that Nye could have focused a bit more on. But what I found just plain annoying was why and how Ham did not answer a single question or comment raised by Nye, whether it was about the age of trees or what evidence creationism has to offer as explanations. It was not a debate, not even close. I would have liked to see stronger arguments, from both sides, something I could have learned anew, something, anything that was just not the same old broken record.


  2. Rob says:

    I actually think Nye did quite well. I mean, how can you debate with someone who concedes that no amount of evidence will convince him to change his point of view. Nye seemed to focus on the audience instead and assuming Ham was a lost cause, stressing the importance of science education, especially in their state (Kentucky). A few years ago Tennessee passed a bill that basically forced public education science teachers to point out to their students that creationism is an alternative to evolution. That was shortly before I left the state, thank darwin for that!! He also seemed to focus more on Ham’s “evidence” since the only documentation he has is a book that is essentially a collection of stories written by many different people over a span of thousands of years, and he felt that just wasn’t enough. I respect and give praise to Bill Nye for having the courage to debate this topic on the home turf of creationism where I’m almost certain most of the audience members were followers of Ham’s logic.


  3. Pat Cain says:

    I think Bill Nye could have done better focusing on the audience. He kept coming back to points that Ham made and using current evidence to refute points. I think the goal in any situation like that is to help the viewers understand what science is and how creationism is a pseudoscience. Ken Ham is going to make his Noah’s Ark full of money either way, so try to make everyone else know why it’s ok not to know the answer to something and how science overcomes that.


  4. Pat Cain says:

    The BuzzFeed questions and responses are hilarious!


  5. Pat Cain says:

    When Pat Robertson thinks you’re crazy, it’s time to think about things some more.


  6. Pat Cain says:

    This couldn’t have come out at a better time:


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