Last night’s debate between outspoken creationist and Answers In Genesis founder Ken Ham and award winning science educator and Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye left many unsatisfied, and there are stances, arguments, and concession from both sides I would have like to see happen for a more well-rounded and representative debate.
If you did not get the opportunity to watch the two gentleman debate whether “creation [is] a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era” you can watch the debate at Debatelive.org.
1. Explain that you are not representative of all Christians or creationists.
Because of the nature of the debate, Ham naturally spoke in place of all Christians, or at least that is how it was perceived. I would have liked to see Mr. Ham acknowledge that there is a great degree of speculation and discussion from the religious community regarding the creation narrative and the surrounding events such as the Gap Theory and debates on a global vs. local flood.
2. Keep it a scientific debate.
I thought Ken Ham did a great job explaining his viewpoint for the first twenty minutes of his presentation, but the final ten seemed more of a religious lesson than whether or not creation is “viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era.” Once the presentations were over, I thought the rebuttals and Q&A largely broke down into a science vs. religion debate, in which science will always win in the public opinion. By bringing in religion to the degree he did, Ham largely discredited himself in the public sphere.
3. When asked “Hypothetically, if the earth was proven to be older than 6,000 years would you still believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?” answer yes.
Ham spouted that you could never prove that the earth was any older than his assertion so there was no hypothetical in his mind. This was a complete misordering of beliefs as far as I’m concerned. If you can believe in the narratives of Christ without holding as closely to the Creation narrative of Ham does, then you allow room for evolutionists to explore the Biblical metanarrative and the hope that is found in Christ. As it stands, Ham made it seem as though Creation is the central and foundational doctrine to being a Christian and trusting in Christ, which isn’t true.
4. Counter Bill Nye’s understanding of the Bible.
Bill Nye likened the Bible to an outdated, over-translated, and unreliable book. In contrast, the Bible is the most reliable text in existence! It is not just collections of stories that were past down in a temporal game of “telephone” as Nye presumed. Scribes carefully documented the scriptures over thousands of years!
Let me offer a few examples of Biblical reliability:
- We have more far more greek manuscripts of the New Testament than any other text. There have been 5800 different greek manuscripts discovered. Homer’s Iliad is second with 664 manuscripts.
- Some of the oldest greek manuscripts we have in our possession are dated as early as 125 AD (and to clarify, that is just the New Testament, not the Old Testament).
- Scribes very carefully transcribed the scriptures. After they finished a manuscript, they would count the words to make sure there were the same amount; if there was a discrepancy, the manuscript would be tossed and another would be made. If there were the same total amount of words, then the scribes would count the total amount of letters. Again if there was a discrepancy the manuscript would be thrown out and the scribe would have to start over. If there were the same total amount of characters, then the scribe would count from the beginning and the end of the manuscript to find the central character in the document. If there was a discrepancy, the manuscript would be thrown out and the scribe would have to start again. If the manuscript matched the original after this process, then it was accepted.
Additionally, I would have liked to see Ken Ham counter Bill Nye’s misinterpretation of Ham’s “literal” reading of the Bible. Ham explained that he read the Bible “naturally,” meaning he reads it as it was intended to be read. So if it’s Ancient Israel law, you read it as Ancient Israel law , if it’s narrative, you read it as narrative, and if it’s poetry, you read it as poetry, and so on (although Ham never acknowledges that Genesis 1 is poetry! Given, Genesis 2 is not). Nye took this to mean that Ham only takes some of the Bible literally, which is a misinterpretation of what he said.
1. Acknowledge the difference between historical science and observational science.
I thought the dichotomy of historical and observational science was one of the Ham’s most reasonable points and something that Nye should have conceded. There is a distinct difference between what you can actively observe with your senses (empiricism), and what you can extrapolate from your observations. And as Ham explained, how you interpret observations historically is heavily dependent on your worldview. As it stands though, you cannot see macro-evolution taking place, and thus it falls into the “historical science” category.
2. Acknowledge the inherent belief system in evolution.
Both gentlemen came into the debate with their own presuppositions: Nye with a naturalistic worldview, and Ham with a theistic worldview. Of course science generally operates under naturalism and the presupposition that there are only natural causes of events (i.e., the dismissal of the supernatural). But once you move past observable events, you take a stance of faith on what has happened by your assumption that nature can be the only factor. Ham made this distinction in regards to the Evolutionary Tree and the Creation Orchard; once you search past the “kinds” of animals, you are assuming from a naturalistic worldview that they originated from one organism.
So, is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era? Well, yes and no. Science takes the mantle of naturalism; you could argue that anything that is not evidenced naturally is not science and discredit creation that way. But science currently lacks the answers to the origins of life, and what existed before the Big Bang, and so forth. And answers to those questions are inherently given on faith regardless of whether they seem more scientific or not. So maybe Creation deserves a dog in the fight. Either way, I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this discussion.