Last night, as pretty much anyone who would read this knows, Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum debated the world-famous Bill Nye the Science Guy to discuss whether or not creation is a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era. Here is a collection of my thoughts after listening to the debate twice and reviewing the posts of friends on facebook as other internet sources.
My collection of notes are on pastebin here!
Let me start by saying I am so glad this wasn’t just a recreation of debate held years back between an atheist organization and Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort. I believe there is plenty of credence to give support for the creationist view, but holding up pictures of a “crocaduck” or “jackalope” and saying that their nonexistence proves evolution is false does nothing but slander the name of Christianity and creationists. The playlist of that debacle is here.
Why I really hate Creation v. Evolution debates:
The entire premise of debating creation v. evolution is flawed. Basically, whenever you debate these two things, you might as well be comparing apples to yaks.
Creation: is a theory that explains how things came into being. It explains the start of the universe. It explains where everything began. It is not explanation of how things came to be the way they are today.
Evolution: is a theory that explains how things have changed over time. It explains how one thing, over long period of times, has become new things, adding in complexity to adapt to environment and enemies.It explains how things came to be the way they are today. It does not explain how things came into being in the first place.
A better argument to have, I think, would be intelligent design vs natural design on the creation aspect. Or, from the evolution aspect, whether the microevolution that is easily observable today can reasonably be extrapolated to the macroevolution in Darwinian thought.
Personally, I think extensive, public debates as this are just spectacles anyway. They are meant to persuade people (like any other debate), but they are unnaturally bad at it. These sorts of debates never change the opinions of other people. They only further solidify the opinions that viewers already have. Those who wish to convert others to their side of the debates would do better to not let a discussion turn into a debate in the first place.
It is unreasonable to try to tackle both topics simultaneously. However, since it has already been done with this debate, I won’t feel bad for using this blog to do the same thing.
Why neither Ham should not have selected himself to debate Nye:
Ken Ham is very personally vested in the outcome of the debate. His stated reasons for taking part in this debate were to promote Jesus Christ and the necessity of teaching children in school the creationist view. I am sure that is part of the reason, however I question the integrity of that being the complete reason. He is the founder and director of the creation museum, where the debate was held. He initiated the debate with Nye. His museum is failing, and has been for the past several years. He tried to make up for it by adding new attractions that are less to do with creationism and more to do with bringing in visitors (read revenue) — case in point being the zipline course. I’ve also heard talk of an amusement park joining to get more visitors.
My second reason is that Ham is an author, not a scientist. He reads the texts that others have written about their research and he reinterprets them for others in his own writings. His career isn’t to expand the body of scientific knowledge. He doesn’t know astronomy, he doesn’t know molecular biology, he doesn’t know radiology. Ham started his presentation by showing clips from creationist scientists. Any of these men that he showed would have been more qualified to debate creation and evolution based on their research in the field and expertise on their topics than Ham was. They would have been formidable opponents to anyone on the evolution team. Yet, Ham chose himself and simply acknowledged their existence.
Bill Nye should equally not have agreed to do the debate. If he wanted the debate to take place, he should have chosen someone more qualified in any topic of research to debate based on their expertise. I grew up watching the Science Guy, just like most people my age, and I am certainly a fan of his, however, he really isn’t an expert in any field of science. He has an incredible knowledge of the basics of all matters of scientific field and thought. However, he’s not an expert in microbiology astronomy that win a debate against a more formidable opponent. He also played right into what Ham needs. A debate with better experts would not bring the attention and visitors that a debate with the world famous Bill Nye would bring. Bill Nye fights hard to promote the education of science and technology (as he sees them) to students as young as possible, and yet he accidentally gave money and attention to a man that undermines everything Nye stands for.
Ken Ham’s arguments (according to my notes):
- Creation is not only a viable model of origins today, but it is THE only viable model of origins.
- Science can be divided into 2 parts and must be separated if you are to look into the past:
- Observational science (the scientific method) which all scientists agree upon.
- Historical science is a second form of science that mainstream science doesn’t agree with him upon, which he argues needs to be separated from observational science. He defines historical science as being based on the Biblical account of origins — basically, if it disagrees with what the Bible says, it must be wrong. You need to find a new theory and when it matches the historical text in the Bible, you know you will be able to prove it using observational science today.
- Currently science has been hijacked and is being used to indoctrinate children into the religion of Naturalism. Naturalism is a religion that teaches that all thing came to be through natural processes with no credence given to the supernatural.
- The creation v evolution debate is really a conflict between two philosophical worldviews based on differing accounts of historical science.
- Children should look to creation scientists as heroes and role models. There is an overarching opinion in the scientific community that creationists and scientists are mutually exclusive; that you cannot be both. However, Ham asserts there are creationist scientists and they have made extraordinary discoveries by looking at science through that worldview.
- Mainstream science borrows ideas from creationist science — ideas like the laws of logic and natural laws cannot exist without a God to create them. Molecules do not develop into logic by themselves.
- You cannot directly observe the past. We cannot observe creation, we cannot observe Adam and Eve. We cannot see the flood. Therefore, you can not use observational science (previously acknowledged as the agreed upon scientific method) to study these.
- The only way to study these are through historical science — the Bible.
- We can observe that things happen they way the do today. That is why we use observational science for things like technology. However, since we cannot observe that things happen today the way they did 4,000 or 6,000 years ago, we cannot use the scientific method to study them.
- I believe his argument is that you extrapolate past data from present data. Something along the lines of correlation doesn’t equal causation.
- Again, Ham reminds that the difference between viewpoints is philosophical. “We believe the Bible is the authority on the evidence’s interpretation. It’s a difference of starting points.”
- If the Bible’s account of human origins is true we should be able to make predictions that we can test.
- intelligence produced life
- evidence confirming after their kind
- confirming global flood
- confirming 1 race of humans
- confirming the tower of Babel
- evidence of a young universe
- The one thing I noticed in his list is that with this viewpoint we can only predict and test past events. It doesn’t offer opportunity to predict future events; what will happen based on what has happened. Perhaps, this means there is a “futuristic science” and that historical, observational, and future science are 3 separate bodies that can’t be used to predict things in each other’s fields? Pure speculation here.
- Darwin’s finches are more alike than breeds of dogs. However, we group dogs as one species and Darwin’s finches as many species.
- Creationists agree with observable evolution (such as dogs or finches), but disagree with the unobservable — the evolutionary tree. We cannot see any previous stages of evolution, therefore, we cannot use observable science to say that the evolutionary tree occured.
- instead of an evolutionary tree, creationists believe in an evolutionary orchard. There are several kinds of animals and we can watch them change. Therefore we can say this animal was made after its own kind using observational science.
- Creationists have determined that kind is NOT species. Kind refers to family (if you look at the scientific naming of things). Things never switch families (and presumably no new families are ever created) though they may become different species within the same family over time.
- The 7 C’s: Starting with Christ, they are God correcting the C that correlates to the same theme of the C on the other side of Confusion.
- science arbitrarily defines science as naturalism and outlaws the supernatural.
- You can go into space and observe that the earth is a sphere. Therefore observational science can be used to prove that the earth is a sphere. However, you cannot observe the age of the earth, therefore, you cannot use observational science to prove the age of the earth.
- Christians who believe in an old earth have a fundamental problem. They are Christian, that’s all dependant on the work of Jesus Christ, not on their belief of evolution. The first death occurred in the Garden of Eden when God killed a lamb. When you look at fossils, you’re looking at death. The Bible says man was around when the first death occurred. If you place these fossils before the coming of man, than death wasn’t the result of sin — and you disagree with the Bible about sin and death. If fossils of animals eating other animals are older than the flood, then you disagree with the Bible about the origin of carnivorism.
Summary: Science is an all encompassing word but should be divided into observation and historical science. When things cannot be observed today so we have to make assumptions that they were the same before we observe them, which is not allowed in science. You cannot make assumptions about how natural laws used to act. You must be able to observe that natural laws 4,000 years ago or 6,000 years were the same as they are today before you can say that they are the same. They may be the same, but they may not be the same, and it is impossible to prove or disprove. As a result, you can not use observational science in any way when it comes to earth and human origins. Since this cannot be done, you must use historical science. Since God is the only witness to the event, we must take him at his word and consider it fact, knowing that the true answers of science will line up with God’s word.
Bill Nye’s arguments (according to my notes):
- Ken Ham’s model of creation isn’t viable. It doesn’t hold up when put to scientific rigor.
- All it would take to change the world of science and disprove everything that Bill Nye believes is for someone to find evidence of 1 animal buried where science hasn’t predicted it to be. An animal that we know from fossils we found to be buried after an animal that we know to have come after it. Just 1 example, anywhere in the world, would change science.
- Whoever finds this piece will be considered a hero in the world of science. They would win a Nobel Prize and revolutionize all scientific thought by finding just 1 example. Nye believes it will never be done, but if someone can do it he challenges them to do it, get their paper written, and change the world.
- What makes the US a world superpower and leader is that the United States has a history of being on the front lines of innovation. If we askew science, by teaching children models of science that do not hold up against the scientific method, then the United States will lose it’s spot as world leader in technology and innovation.
- The fossil record is evidence of evolution. Kentucky (where the debate was held) is on top of layer after layer of limestone with coral fossils that lived their entire lives there. A flood 4000 years ago would not have been enough time for these to live out their whole lives, as evidence suggests they did, and become buried in thousands of layers of rock. There just isn’t enough time.
- In Greenland and Antarctica they’ve bored holes into ice and found ice that’s 680,000 layers deep. It takes a full winter-summer cycle in order for a new layer to form. It would take 170 winter-summer cycles every year for the last 4,000 years to produce that many layers of ice.
- There are trees that are 6,000 or even 9,500 years old. A flood 4,000 years ago would have killed those trees. It is impossible for them to survive submerged under water for a full year and survive.
- The Grand Canyon is filled with layers of ancient rocks. For them to have been formed by a flood 4,000 years ago there would have had to be charring and boiling and settling at a rate that just isn’t possible. It takes sand far too long to turn to stone for something like the grand canyon to be built in less than 4,000 years. And if a flood created it, there would have been Grand Canyons on every continent. It’s much more likely that over millions of years the Colorado River cut through the rock to expose it like we see today.
- Fossils of specific animals are always found in the same layer. They are never intermixed with fossils from a different layer. If a flood had occurred 4000 years ago to create them, there would mixing all over the place.
- If Noah put 7,000 kinds of animals on the ark that turned into the 15 million species we know today, it would require 11 new species coming into existence on a daily basis for the past 4,000 years.
- The best boat builders in the world with modern technology can’t build a boat as big as the Ark. How is it possible that an unskilled man and his family could 6,000 years ago. How was the knowledge of that ability lost?
- The key to science is the ability to predict. Science is just observations if you can’t use those observations to predict. We can predict how much space an elephant needs because of science. We can predict that a creature that has characteristics of a lizard and a fish would be found in a specific marsh. The creationist viewpoint doesn’t have the ability to make predictions — it’s not science.
- Science builds off itself. Hubble discovered stars are moving away from each other, Hoyle suggested it was a big bang. Wilson found the radio evidence that science predicted would be left behind if a big bang occurred. Science can make those predictions, creation can’t.
- You have to ask yourself, would a reasonable man believe this? Is it reasonable to assume there are trees older than the flood, rocks older than the earth, starlight that has travelled for longer periods than creation? Nye says these aren’t reasonable.
- The US constitution specifically states in article 1 to promote the progress of science and useful arts. Voters and taxpayers need to vote to keep science in schools to keep the United states’ place in the world. Convincing children to ignore all scientific reason in favor of creationism develops generations of children who will not be able innovate because they won’t even understand how science works.
- Bill nye can’t see anyway for Ham and himself to agree if Ham insists that natural laws have changed in the last 4,000 years without evidence.
- All things we observe are in the past, even things we observe now are simply remnants that happened, if even moments earlier. To say you have to throw out all observational science in order to look at the past is to say you have to throw out all science.
- Nye finds no reason to accept Ham’s interpretation of the Bible in English today, after 3000 years of being constantly translated and assume that his interpretation has more authority and objectively more correct than what we can observe today. It’s unsettling for Nye to think that people can follow that logic.
Summary: Bill Nye says that geological, biological, and astronomical evidence proves that the earth must be older than 6,000 years. To separate science into 2 categories, the scientific method and the Biblical account and saying you cannot use the scientific method to study the past hurts America and the field of science. The creationist view is not science, it’s religious. There is tons of evidence to support an old earth and nothing but the idea that you can’t assume the evidence to be true because you didn’t observe it to argue against him. The most important part of this debate for Nye is that voters and taxpayers realize how much their votes are necessary to ensure that children learn real science and that children know that the world needs them to understand science so that the US can maintain it’s position in the world.
Some final thoughts:
This debate was not so much a scientific debate as it was a rhetoric debate. Ken Ham did a huge disservice to his side by saying that science needed to be split into the scientific method and the Biblical account, and that when studying anything not directly observable we have to unquestionably accept the Biblical account as fact. In the Q&A he said there is no piece of evidence that could ever convince him that evolution is true. Any piece of evidence that contradicts the Bible must be false and therefore can be ignored without investigation. He set himself up for failure with the intro, and guaranteed it when he answered that question. The absolute worst way to win any debate with an atheist is to give them Bible verses and say they are true because they are true and anything that says otherwise is false because you already determined the Bible to be true. You can’t win a debate by saying that you won’t even investigate claims that you already disagree with.
Now to the creationist viewpoint, Bill Nye said that it would only take 1 piece of evidence to change his viewpoints about science. That one fossil that swam up to a higher layer. Proof that stars only appear to be far away but are actually much closer. Proof that the earth can’t be billions of years old. Proof that the Big Bang theory is wrong. So anyone on the creationist side who wants to be the guy that proves Bill Nye wrong, that’s all he requires. 1 piece of evidence that discredits what science already says. He would consider you a hero, you would revolutionize the world and science, and to top it off, you’d win a nobel prize!
Now Bill Nye also got something deeply wrong. He acknowledged that there are many scientists who are devotedly religious. But he misunderstands the Biblical context of an Old and New Testament. He assumes they are mutually exclusive — that by having to create a New Testament, that the Old Testament was somehow flawed, which he joked about towards the end of the debate. It’s not flawed, nor is the New Testament an “improvement” to the old one. They tell two different parts of the same narrative. The first covenant (which is made in the early chapters of Genesis) and then articulated through the rest of Pentateuch. The second covenant was the one made by Jesus at the start of the New Testament and later shown through the early church (acts and epistles) and promised to be the covenant that would endure forever.
There seems to be a misunderstanding when it comes to the Old Testament, that I think escapes Bill, but Ken understands. It’s that not every portion of the Bible was written to us today. The laws of Israel were abolished for the gentiles in the book of Acts, so the common arguments of Levitical law, don’t apply to Christians today. One of the questions during Q&A brought this to mind for me, and I think it’s a concept many Christians don’t actually understand. The Law according to Moses doesn’t always apply to us today the same as it applied to Israel during the founding of the nation. The only Law that Christians must follow is the Law of Jesus.
When asked, he said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. The second was to love your neighbor as yourself. So what about the other laws? Do we just get rid of them? I say no. In Matthew, Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Therefore, we don’t do away with the Pentateuch, but we embrace it as the embodiment of what we can’t fulfill, but what Jesus has already fulfilled for us.
So where does this leave me?
This is a very difficult question for me to answer. As far as this debate goes, Bill Nye came in firing facts and evidence while Ken Ham only came in saying that since you can’t go back and observe it, you can’t use science to say what happened in the past, even 4,000 years ago — at a time when we all already agree that man was around and at least somewhat sophisticated. The winner of the debate was without a doubt Bill Nye.
As for my beliefs on evolution (which didn’t change, just like everyone else after watching the debate) is that some evolution has without a doubt occurred, Even as recently as 50 years ago, the best scientific evidence wasn’t really all that convincing. But hundreds of fossils from all over the world discovered by people looking for evidence of evolution and people looking to discredit it have made the argument that no evolution has occurred irrational. Even Ham admits that evolution has occurred, which is how we’ve gone from a few thousand kinds of animals to the millions we know to exist today. I believe in an earth that is more than a few thousand years old, because all evidence suggests there is. I do not agree much with Ham’s position, because I interpret Genesis differently than he does. I can accept that we didn’t all originate from a single cell organism. But I can’t buy that millions of species have evolved over just a couple thousand years from just a few kinds of animals and now have seemingly all simultaneously stopped evolving.
I think there is a misunderstanding of the Genesis phrase “day,” Having personally talked to an ancient Hebrew scholar, I am convinced that the word originally was a period of time and over centuries of translation has become the word day in english. So I don’t think it took just 144 hours to make all creation. I believe God could have done it that way, but that he didn’t. Why, I don’t know.
I feel like it puts a great hinderance on God’s powers to say that he couldn’t have used evolution as a means of creation; as if God were incapable of correctly picking out which alleles and which mutations should be passed from one generation to the next to reach the point where we are. The Bible is very clear that when it came to making man, he stepped in and changed things. He made man in his image with the breath of life; he made man a truly living being with a soul like his own. When man sinned and death entered the world, couldn’t God have been talking about spiritual death — a separation of his soul from ours? Clearly, God didn’t mean a physical death otherwise Adam and Eve would have died when they ate the apple, not gone on to live a full (ridiculously long) life with many children.
But what if I’m wrong?
Well, that’s ok. If Bill Nye is right, then I am still in the clear — no harm, no foul. If Ken Ham is right, then I’m still in the clear. Like he said, if he’s right about a literal 6 day creation and I am wrong about an old-earth creation it doesn’t affect my salvation. The only thing that affects that is my belief in Jesus. If he is right, then I’ve misunderstood scripture, but I haven’t committed the unforgivable sin. If I’m right, then I’m obviously still in the clear.
I think there is a sect of Christianity, a very vocal sect in fact, that believes that Christians must all believe the exact same thing. Coincidentally, they believe they have infallibly got it correct themselves, which is a huge miracle since Christianity has differed in opinion since before they first stopped calling themselves a sect of Judaism. New theories have been made, and even some (like the old Team Calvin and Team Arminius problem) have become some vocalized that Christians accuse each other of not being Christian at all because opinions that didn’t even exist during the days of the apostles.
There are only a few things that you must believe to be Christian. Apart from those things, there’s wiggle room. Evolution falls in the wiggle room.