Exactly three years ago today, the arguably most recognizable popular advocate for modern science, Bill Nye, debated one of the most controversial leaders in evangelical Christianity, Ken Ham, of Answers and Genesis, on the topic of creation. Since then, this debate has received nearly 6 million views on YouTube, which is a lot for a two-hour debate on science and the Bible.
This past year, Bill Nye returned to Kentucky to take a tour of the new Ark Encounter exhibit, just days after its opening. Cameras were rolling as Answers in Genesis recorded the casual, yet often heated, discussion between these two iconic men. Bill Nye and Ken Ham represent two very opposite ends of the pole on this topic, so I frankly found the discussion rather frustrating and exasperating. It felt like the two sides were just talking past one another. Nevertheless, it gives a good example of the type of challenges Christians face when defending their faith, with skeptics who are enamored by the prospects of modern science.
UPDATE: April 2018. I originally posted a 2o-minute edited version of the discussion, which has since been taken down. Here is the full 2-hour version, from Answers in Genesis:
What do cultural celebrities like Bill Nye, Richard Dawkins, Neil de Grasse Tyson, Bart Ehrman, and Bill Maher all have in common? In different ways, the represent different forms of skepticism about the Christian faith.
In a recent Sunday School class on “Personal Discipleship,” I was asked this question: Who are the most influential skeptics today?
How does one go about answering such a question? According to Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, in his magisterial A Secular Age, a few hundred years ago it was virtually impossible not to believe in God. But nowadays, the shift is remarkable: for many in 21st century Western culture, it is very easy, almost inescapable, to not believe in God. Skepticism defines the current cultural mood, something that would have been mostly unthinkable just a few centuries ago.
Instead of trying to come up with some type of “Top Ten” skeptics list, I think it best to list out some of the more skeptical personalities today, each person representing a different type of skepticism that an evangelical Christian believer might encounter in their conversations with their neighbors, co-workers and even family members. So here we go…. Continue reading
For Bill Nye, “creationism” means believing in a Young Earth that is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old. Other forms of “creationism,” including Old-Earth Creationism as articulated at Reasons to Believe and Evolutionary Creationism as articulated at BioLogos simply do not count as “creationism.”
For Bill Nye, the science of evolution does not allow a reasonable person to see any divine “plan” in nature… at least for him.
If you accept the black-and-white categories laid out by both Bill Nye and Ken Ham, it leaves very little room for talking about harmonizing the God of the Bible’s Creative activity with contemporary science without compromising either the Biblical authority on the one hand or modern Science on the other. I was not very thrilled with the debate as it just seemed as though the participants kept talking past one another, something that comes out in the Answers In Genesis video linked below.
What Michael Behe and Hugh Ross said was refreshingly encouraging. While both disagreed with the view of Darwinism held by the folks at BioLogos, and both nevertheless continue to try to persuade others to their point of view, both men still count a number of their critics at BioLogos as being friends.
Wow. What a novel concept: Embracing fellow believers in Christ as friends, even when you strongly disagree with them on a particular non-salvation issue.
Perhaps if others in the creation/age-of-the-earth/evolution debate within the Body of Christ had that type of attitude with one another, then when you have debates with folks like Bill Nye, it would not seem like you were always talking past the other person.
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.
Ken Ham and Bill Nye debate tonight. Do not expect a lot of nuance or substance, but there will be a lively discussion.
Some of you may know about the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham tonight. Ken Ham, the director of Answers In Genesis, has challenged Bill Nye, the Science Guy, to a debate on the following topic: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” The debate will be held at the Creation Museum in Kentucky at 7 P.M. and will be accessible over the Internet via live streaming.
I sometimes run into Veracity readers who find that some of the content on the blog goes over their heads. I get that. Tonight’s debate will definitely not be that way, as Bill Nye is a very popular science educator for children. Ken Ham is an effective communicator for what is popularly known as “Creationism”.
On the positive side, the debate will give a 10,000 foot overview of the Creation vs. Evolution controversy that has continued to rock American Christianity ever since the spectacular Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1920s. The downside is that it will not really be a “debate” at all. Bill Nye, as an engineer who has a love for science, has a great deal of concern about America’s future ability to compete in an ever expanding technological world. He will be trying to convince his listeners in Kentucky that the belief in “Creationism” is harming our kids, and thus harming America’s future. Ken Ham, on the other hand, will argue that Bill Nye’s approach to science is closed-minded and promotes censorship, and that the modern view of science that Nye is championing is ultimately responsible for the moral decay and spiritual ruin of America and America’s churches.
Unfortunately, the rhetoric on both sides tonight will greatly oversimplify the real fundamental issues at stake. More than a few will boycott the debate out of principle. Others will be relieved that FINALLY someone is standing up for the truth. True, there will be some facts presented, but the emphasis will be on emotional appeal and not very much on genuine substance. This is why John Paine and I are so passionate about what we are trying to do on Veracity. Veracity is about substance. If you do view the debate tonight and find yourself frustrated, exasperated, or bewildered, regardless of what position you take on it, you will know exactly what I am talking about.
John and I have toyed with possibly live blogging the debate, but the current logistics perhaps make that unlikely. If you have a comment on the debate, please add one below. We would like to hear from you.