Nye, Ham go head-to-head in debate on evolution, creationismWritten by David Yonke Editor, ToledoFAVS.com | | David.Yonke@ReligionNews.com
Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) snuck in a “Go Seahawks!” cheer, but his debate with Ken Ham on Feb. 4 was more like an episode of “Dancing with the Stars” than a Super Bowl smackdown.
The topic was, “Is creation a viable model of origins?,” and for 2 ½ hours each of the debaters professed his views while dancing around the other’s questions and challenges.
The debate over origins is as old as the Earth itself – and even that was up for debate. Nye, arguing for evolution, asserted that the planet is 4.5 billion years old, while Ham, a biblical creationist, put the age of the Earth at about 6,000 years.
The 2 ½-hour program, labeled by some wags as “Ham on Nye,” was moderated by Tom Foreman of CNN and started with each presenter giving a five-minute opening statement. That was followed by the speakers each having 30 minutes for more detailed arguments. The final segment featured responses to written questions from the audience.
Nye, 58, is the well-known TV personality who began his career as a mechanical engineer at Boeing in Washington State (hence his Seahawks cheer).
Ham, 62, is an Australian native and former science teacher who is president of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum. Both organizations advocate a literal interpretation of the Bible regarding the origins of Earth and humanity.
The program was held at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., and streamed live for free over the Internet – including a screening that, despite a looming winter storm, drew about 200 people to Calvary Church in Maumee.
Nye frequently spoke of science being able to make predictions based on evidence and observations. The evolutionary tree had a gap between lungfish and amphibians, he said for example, and scientists predicted a missing link would be found. That was accomplished when the fossils of a transitional species, Tiktaalik, were discovered in Canada in 2004.
He made numerous arguments against “young Earth” assertions that the planet is just thousands of years old, citing core samples of snow-ice layers taken at the poles that reveal 680,000 years of winter-summer cycles.
He said there are pyramids, trees and people groups older than Ham’s estimate of the Earth’s existence.
Nye said he doesn’t have an answer to where the atoms came from before the universe began with a Big Bang, nor did he have an explanation of the origin of consciousness, but he asserted that science is seeking the answers.
“This is the great mystery; you’ve hit the nail on the head,” Nye said. “What was before the Big Bang? This is what drives us, this is what we want to know. Let’s keep looking. Let’s keep searching.”
Ham said it’s no mystery.
“There actually is a book that says where matter comes from: It’s called the Bible,” he told Nye. As for the origin of consciousness, “There’s a book that says where consciousness comes from, too,” Ham said. “Bet you can’t guess what that is.”
Ham drew a distinction between “experimental or observational science” and “historical science,” asserting that no one has direct observational evidence on the origin of the universe, so secular scientists interpret and extrapolate the evidence to reach their conclusions. These interpretations are manipulated to match their atheistic worldview, he said.
He said much of the debate hinges on definitions.
“The word ‘evolution’ has been hijacked,” he said, and it is now being used for both observable changes and unobservable changes. As a result, generations of students are being “indoctrinated” into believing evolution as fact.
He said he believes in evolution, but only within species — such as the beak changes in “Darwin’s finches” from the Galapagos Islands. A finch can evolve with different traits, but a fish cannot evolve into a mammal, for example.
Countering the assumption that respected scientists cannot believe in biblical creation, Ham showed brief videos of scientists who are also creationists, including Raymond Damadian, inventor of the MRI scanner; astronomer Danny Faulkner; biomimetics engineer Stuart Burgess; and microbiologist Andrew Fabich.
Nye said several times that Ham’s faith in the Bible over observable evidence is “troubling” to him.
“I get the feeling, Mr. Ham, that you want us to take your word for it, that your interpretation of a book written thousands of years ago as translated into American English is more compelling for you than everything I can observe in the world around me. I think this is where you and I, I think, are not going to see eye to eye.”
David Yonke is the editor and community manager of Toledo Faith & Values (ToledoFAVS.com), a website that provides in-depth, nonsectarian news coverage of religion, faith and spirituality in the Toledo area.