An Unsatisfied Response to the Ken Ham and Bill Nye Debate

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.

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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.

Bill Nye

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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.

Conclusion

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.

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4 thoughts on “An Unsatisfied Response to the Ken Ham and Bill Nye Debate

  1. But you see Ham couldn’t have said that the earliest manuscripts come from 125 AD, because immidately before he made the claim that any and all dating systems were totally inaccurate. ;). In short, I think Ham tried to do too much and ended up saying a lot of things quite vaugely. It might have gone better just to focus on one or two very factual things (historical accuracy of the Bible could have been one) and present his point clearly throughout. When he simply assumed the accuracy and authority of the Bible he lost everyone and got ripped for it by Nye and probably thousands on Twitter and elsewhere.

    1. I agree, it got to broad, and I think that is evidence by the latter half of the debate being a “science vs. religion” debate that Ham cannot win in the public sphere. If he’d of kept it scientific and focused on a few things (second law of thermodynamics, and increase in genetic material, the origin of life, etc.) he’d have been better off.

      1. I agree guys. It was good, and Ken did a good job. The biggest thing in my mind was the dichotomies that were brought to the debate. But, that was the point OF the debate. So, by Ham setting definitions at the beginning would have helped had the two played by those definitions.

        Also, when there was an answer that was too hard to explain in 2 minutes, they kept pushing that the OTHER person had no answered that yet.

        Overall, a well done debate.

  2. I agree guys. It was good, and Ken did a good job. The biggest thing in my mind was the dichotomies that were brought to the debate. But, that was the point OF the debate. So, by Ham setting definitions at the beginning would have helped had the two played by those definitions.

    Also, when there was an answer that was too hard to explain in 2 minutes, they kept pushing that the OTHER person had no answered that yet.

    Overall, a well done debate.

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