Ken Ham and Bill Nye Debate Recap

My wife and I were still out making our monthly run to CostCo while last night’s debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye was going on. It was not like the SuperBowl or anything, but somewhere between a half a million to a million people watched the YouTube version online.

I only caught the closing statements near the end and rewinded to the beginning to catch their opening statements. I actually thought the exchange went better than I thought it would, and it did turn out a little different than I expected and predicted here on Veracity.

Instead of focusing on the harm evolution education he reports is causing in our schools, Ken Ham focused more on the distinction he was making between historical science and observational science. His main argument was that he and Bill Nye actually share the same perspective on observational science that gives us things like modern technology today. The disagreement is over historical science. For Bill Nye, historical science gives us genuine knowledge about the past. For Ken Ham, science can not give us reliable knowledge about the past. We must look to the Bible for that.

Likewise, Bill Nye surprised me, too. Though he clearly has an agnostic orientation towards the Christian faith, he made some approving mention that not all Christians share Ken Ham’s Young Earth Creationist views.

If you missed the debate, should you watch it? Mmmm….If you are not terribly familiar with the subject matter, I would encourage you to watch it, but with a strong caveat involved: Take the time to look into what other Christians are saying about the issue. For example, Reasons to Believe, the premier Old Earth Creationist ministry, made a statement about the debate beforehand, and interestingly references a number of the resources we here at Veracity have talked about representing their position. At BioLogos, the most prominent Evolutionary Creationist think-tank, a group of scholars offered their post-debate reflections. Then you might consider this evaluation of the debate from Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological seminary, and a Young Earth Creationist.

From a more secular perspective, a young reporter with Time magazine did some live blogging coverage of the debate. The general take away of this blogger is that last night’s event was a throwback to the “creation culture wars” of the 1990s. She has a point here, but what is different now is that  through the advances of the Internet, you can interact with a variety of perspectives and get access to information (some good, some not so good) easier than ever before, something that simply was not available to me when I had my first crisis of faith experience on this issue some thirty years ago.

About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

18 responses to “Ken Ham and Bill Nye Debate Recap

  • John Paine

    I missed the first ten minutes, but watched the rest of it through to the end. There wasn’t much presented in the way of substance–but then it’s hard to take anyone seriously when they tumble into leprechaun logic. While I admire Ken Ham’s zeal for defending the Bible, I wish he would engage more than emotional biblicism in being an ambassador for Christ.

    Christianity is all about the truth. Ham’s approach is to denounce science, which has the undesirable consequence of turning off rational, objective thinkers. His arguments are often irrelevant and purposefully off-topic: “Here’s a guy with a Ph.D. who built part of an expensive satellite, and he’s a young-earth creationist, so even smart people believe in young earth creationism.” Ham came back to these soft endorsements multiple times during the debate, but never in substantive context to the point at hand. As you have written previously, he continues to offer as ‘evidence’ laboratory dating of rocks that came with very important disclaimers about the limitations of the testing (which he ignores out of hand because he needs the flawed results to make his point).

    “Science has no way of proving the age of the earth.” Really!? Any eleven-year-old can disprove that in five minutes of searching on the Internet. So…if Ken Ham cannot tell the truth about the age of the earth, why should we trust what he says?

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  • John Asby

    Clarke
    I watched the entire debate. The pivotal point was the accuracy of ancient dating methods and both debaters agreed concerning the weight it plays. Ham pointed out the flaws and discrepancies in radiometric dating and Nye basically said that the determined age of materials found was why he believes the way he does. I had to spend lots of time in sub atomic physics in college (my brain has never recovered) so I did a paper on radiometric dating and Ham is absolutely correct. There are many discrepancies (history verses dated materials) and many assumptions that have to be made to allow for radiometric dating to be accurate. For instance, there was a lava flow that had occurred in Hawaii and when radiometric dating was used, the tests dated the flow to have happened around 2 million years ago. Actual historical documents were found and proved that same flow to have happened in the 1800’s. These types of things happen all the time including the instance Hamm brought out ,in the debate, concerning the 45000 year old wood encased in materials dated to be millions of years old. It is easy to wrap scientific data and methods around something and sell it with a slant. It is done all the time even in my current business of engineering controls. When you sell something without all the facts or with a bias, folks who do not understand the material in enough depth will buy it. This, I believe, is why quite a bit of academia is atheistic. Ben Stein’s documentary makes an interesting case for the exclusion of all the facts in academia due to a liberal and atheist majority. A little slow but worth watching. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expelled:_No_Intelligence_Allowed

    Ham did a great job of inserting the Gospel and the only thing I wished for was a statement like “The evidence of God is also proven by many changed lives, supernaturally, after accepting Christ.” This evidence comes , not from religion, but from a real Spiritual conversion and power that can’t be explained any other way but for a loving and powerful God.

    I hope I can find that research paper as I have forgotten most of what I wrote. Getting to old to remember things these days. A little foggy this morning and I hope I am making sense in this post. haha

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    • Clarke Morledge

      John,

      Thanks for your feedback!

      Just a little confused though: Are you saying that you agree with Ham that the discrepancies in radiometric dating are sufficient enough to question their overall reliability? My understanding from my geologist friends is that these discrepancies in radiometric analysis are merely anomalies.

      https://sharedveracity.net/2013/11/13/dinosaurs-in-hell/

      I read Davis A. Young’s book, _Christianity and the Age of Earth_, back in college in 1983 when I was going through my crisis of faith regarding this issue. In that book, Young was advocating the position as an Old Earth Creationist geologist regarding radiometric dating methods that made sense to me. I could understand it back then because I was immersed in my physics classes at the time. I am too fuzzy after all these years to remember it all now (and that does not address the starlight travel problem, which is a much more difficult to solve from a Young Earth perspective).

      Probably the best and most current discussion among Christian believers about radiometric dating methods and their accuracy that moves beyond the question of anomalies surrounds the RATE project (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth) that was conducted by the Institute for Creation Research from 1997-2005:

      http://www.icr.org/rate/

      Here the RATE people concede that the whole Young Earth model can only work if the radiometric decay rates actually change over time.

      Responses to the RATE project from Reasons to Believe can be found here:

      http://www.reasons.org/articles/comments-on-the-rate-project

      and from BioLogos here (particularly see the references in the footnotes):

      http://biologos.org/questions/ages-of-the-earth-and-universe

      This stuff is super technical. I would advise a Veracity reader to look into this only if they have a lot of time on their hands and brain cycles to spare.

      Clarke

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    • John Asby

      Clarke
      From the research I did, 25 years ago, I remember there were a few cases of evidence that shows dating discrepancies after a later found historical event proved otherwise. It has been so long that I only remember the Hawaii event in some detail. I do think that some science is suppressed due to the conclusion that a creator may have been involved. Again, the Stein documentary is enlightening concerning that conspiracy.

      I do remember finding some evidence concerning the rate of change in dating. One experiment showed, concerning carbon dating (which is more of a short term dating method), where the decay rate was increased 10 fold with only a small amount of voltage applied to it (6 V). This opens up an interesting dialogue on what was happening in the environment and we can’t know all the environmental/atmospheric factors in any situation if we were not there. I am guessing the links you have given here dive in to that pretty deeply.

      Again, scientists are always dumbfounded when a strong held theory is proven wrong. The amount of space dust on the moon was supposed to be very deep due to gathered data over a period of time therefore the spacecraft had longer legs to account for that. The astronauts were surprised when they walked on solid ground. I had read some articles concerning Mount St Helens and scientists had to rethink theories as the aftermath made geological changes that were supposed to have taken millions of years to develop. These are things I have read but in no way am I an expert or did I dive to deep. You probably have heard the same data. If I am in error , let me know.

      I love science, that is my field. God made science and there is plenty of evidence that points to Him depending how it is presented to you. There are plenty of PHD scientists that would agree to a creator and even a young earth. Unfortunately, I feel that we are fighting a spiritual battle where confusion is the main tool from the enemy. This confusion sometimes consumes us(me) and takes us(me) away from the most important facts. The historical evidence shows that Christ lived , he died, and he rose again. The historical evidence shows he made some remarkable claims and did remarkable miracles. Historical evidence shows that many have died for only trusting in Christ and continue to do so today. We see changed lives when folks are saved. We see folks loving the unlovable. We see peace in folks that have the incredible power of the Holy Spirit when they have lost everything. I know He lives for a fact! It is as clear as day!

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  • John Asby

    oh , and by the way, thanks for all of the neat stuff you guys uncover concerning science in relation to our Faith. I still love digging in to it sometimes.

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    • Clarke Morledge

      John,

      Hey, thanks for the interaction. This is what it is all about. We are not so much about getting all of the answers spelled out as we are about getting the conversation going.

      John Paine might actually give you an award for the longest blog comment we have had in a long time. It cheers a blogger’s heart 🙂

      Keep it coming!!

      Clarke

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    • John Paine

      Veracity's Top Scorer Award I think John and Janet both wholeheartedly deserve our highest recognition—the coveted “Veracity Top Scorer Award” for their engaging comments and thoughtfulness.  Thank you and congratulations John and Janet!

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    • John Asby

      I never win anything! I am going to screen shot this and use it as a wallpaper. haha

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    • Clarke Morledge

      Wow! You did get the “Top Scorer Award”.

      They don’t just give those away……

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  • jriddett

    So much to say on this and hard not to criticize these debaters .
    The closing remarks could really be picked a part.
    I liked how John pointed out the miracles and changed lives.
    So some main things I noticed :
    In closing marks bill nye is more excited than ken. Bill nye is excited about discovery and answering good questions too bad or his source. Ken have no real life experience as if he was leaving out emotionality of the gospel.
    Bill nye commonly said ken had followers. Sad I believe for secularists and anyone for that matter to see or think. But good that bill pointed out that not all ” religious ” people believed the same as ken.
    Surprised people are still using words religion and religious so freely without defining those words.
    The word reasonable thrown around a lot.
    Bill ” why accept your word?”
    As if ken could now be authority / word.
    He wants a persons word?
    Look to Christ. Which is what I was hoping “Christian” would point out.
    Bills point of needing innovation for economy , plugging voting etc ..
    We need these people he would say., to keep America on top.
    As far as I know, America is not on top in many ways.
    Bill had good questions:
    Where did we come from?
    Science is part of me he said. State of knowing he defined as science. That is a part of him?
    He also addressed the need of not being alone ? Good questions and
    Ken did point to separation from God , but maybe could have done more with God coming in flesh as Jesus.
    Bill did point out joy of discovery. It just what is his object of discovery?
    He pointed out deep within us desires. Very good points. And what is the point of discovery ? To know that you know more of the physical earth?
    Or does fear of falling behind economically drive ? It seems that was a reaccuring fear.
    Ken did say ” if the bible is what it is says it is “… He said this at least twice.
    ” if “, is not a word for someone standing on Gods truth and miraculous power. That’s like the old reasoning what if all of this is not true , what’s so bad about living the Christian life? What if you took that risk? You lived a good life anyway.. Such a backwards and false mentality. Sorry don’t like ” ifs”
    And bill asked what can you prove ? I believe many are asking Christians that question. And we need to be ready for that answer. It should be natural. What was kens personal miracle or amazing grace? That’s what bill is looking for , real life ( under his scientific persona)

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    • jriddett

      I know it’s not as simple to say , ” look to Christ “, many times. Jesus is The way the truth and the life. The book of John of course. However , people are looking for more and want to see real life. What people’s faith really is in their life.

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    • Clarke Morledge

      Thank you for your commentary.

      I am curious to know something: Do you think the debate helped to promote the cause of proclaiming the Gospel, or was it a distraction?

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  • jriddett

    It may have helped someone in regards to the Gospel. However, I believe distraction is a better word. I believe most would look at this man his speaking and take him as a whole picture. Did he seem excited about God’s grace and Son Jesus Christ? If he was, he needed to let his face know. Hardly a bit of emotion seen and he repeated ” theres a book” Did not stress that the bible is God’s Word. He could have repeated that and use John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word. and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. I believe he had opportunities to present more of this. And how God was made flesh through His Son Jesus Christ. Right after Gen 1:1 is the Word of Spirit of God hovering over the over the waters… This was not mentioned.
    I believe he wanted to speak too much like the man the “scientist” he was debating. But I’m not sure, I don’t know his intention. I believe getting rapped up in these dates with out coming back to the fact that we are not God and we don’t have all the answers may have hurt and yes a distraction maybe to the gospel.
    Furthermore, time is a human concept. God is Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end. He has ways and thoughts that are not ours. As in Gen we can easily slip over that line as in the garden of Eden and eat of the forbidden tree or think to know more than God. There are plainly things that won’t be revealed until God reveals them. And honestly, Ken just looked plain dull to what is going on around him. So if that distracted from the gospel, I believe it could.
    I believe Ken could have answered better than just “we have this book”. What’s his story? How does he know that he knows to be true? He said because he was Christian, but how and why? What’s his real answer? I believe we as Christians need to remember why… and need to be ready to explain real life and really look at our lives. More than we need to answer questions about carbon dating and geology.
    There is so much I could go on about how he could have intertwined a true love and desire for God. God does give us that gift of desire as Bill spoke of. Unfortunately Bill’s desire may be directed in a worldly physical way, but that could also change of course.

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  • jriddett

    Thanks Clarke for the question! I did skirt away before, I was trying not to criticize….And thanks for the score award! I did have quantity , but not sure on the quality that time… I was typing of my phone and things looked pretty sloppy.

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  • jriddett

    They defined science as state of knowing,
    Ken could have presented God is All knowing and the separation and fall of us thinking we know more, or can think like God.
    He also stated the desire to be a part of something and that’s a true human desire. However Bill said a part of science. Ken could have explained the hope and desire of Jesus to be a part of us and have relation with us. I believe at one time Bill set him up for that type of response, but Ken answered plainly with, we have a book. I’m sorry that is not enough for many to hear. If they do not except God or HIs Son or reject they are not I believe going to accept or have a good attitude towards the bible or what it says. So answering with ” we have a book”. I believe doesn’t do enough justice in these days. Just my opinion I guess. I did not need to go on so…

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    • Clarke Morledge

      In Ken Ham’s defense, the debate topic was “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”, so for Ham to roll through an in-depth Gospel presentation, he may have considered this to be off-topic. To borrow a football analogy, Ham is smart enough to know that in the debate over science and the Bible that simply to go for the long touchdown pass on fourth-and-long too much would give an opportunity for his critics to say that he was evading the issues and should just stick with the science-related discussion. But perhaps this is part of the problem.

      You do raise a very perceptive question that I did not think about before. You said:

      “I believe Ken could have answered better than just ‘we have this book’. What’s his story? How does he know that he knows to be true? He said because he was Christian, but how and why?”

      Sometimes I wonder about this regarding Ken Ham and his followers. He clearly has confidence in the book; i.e. the Bible, but how much is it in the Author of that Book?

      I will surely give him the benefit of the doubt that he does honor the Author of the Book, but his presentation took you off-course just as much as it did for me. And that has nothing to do with radiometric dating.

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    • jriddett

      Clarke,
      As soon as I sent that I was thinking the same thing – that ken was probably sticking to the debates focus. I guess I still think he could of slid some other biblical knowledge in there. Yes , I want to give him the benefit of the doubt too. Maybe I shouldn’t be too critical ..

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  • John Asby

    Did the debate help the cause of the Gospel.? Clarke, I am neutral on this. I think folks who were never exposed to some of the scientific material may have been surprised that there are some things in science that need questioning and some things that are invalid and presented as fact. The debate did not do much for me, technically, because quite a bit was left out that makes the argument more solid for creationism. I think these arguments can open the door for folks to question the existence of God but nothing will ever be resolved as even the secular scientists can’t even agree on matters amongst themselves. Lee Strobel opened the door technically in his mind but the real power of persuasion and conversion came from the Holy Spirit shining through his loving wife and penetrating his heart. The unexplainable love and calling from God is the number 1 undisputed scientific fact. There is plenty of data to support that one. This is the real F=ma !

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