The debate was on debatelive.org, and was between Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”, and Ken Ham, CEO of Genesis Answers. The facility was the Creation Museum in Kentucky which Mr. Ham apparently runs. Bill Nye is well-known as a so-called science expert, and Ken Ham is a young-earth creationist. The young-earth creationists say that the earth is only about six thousand years old as opposed to the scientific view that it is four and a half billion years old.
The debate was a classic exchange of evolution arguments against Biblical based creation. Bill Nye used fossil evidence, radiometric evidence, and other things like genetic findings. He tried to concentrate his presentation against the young-earth hypothesis of the creationists. In doing so he repeatedly made a mistake in expressing that people who believe the Bible don’t understand science, or scientific principles. I agreed with him about the young-earth hypothesis being incorrect, but thought it was beyond the pale to imply that Christians, especially Christians in southern states, are ignorant of science and mathematics. That was pretty shallow of him.
The young-earth creationist view comes by counting Old Testament generations from Adam to Jesus who lived at at a known time. I think they believe it was two thousand years from the world’s creation to Moses; two thousand years from Moses to Jesus; and two thousand years from Jesus to the present. There is uncertainty in their method, but I don’t feel like delving into all those scriptures and counting generations and years.
Of course, the four and a half billion year age of the earth comes from estimation using geological and astronomical data. Ken Ham’s retort to this sort of measurement was to define two types of science; present day observational science and historical science. His point was that since we were not present when the earth was created, we cannot ascertain age using current scientific methods. Ham says that all we are doing is making unwarranted assumptions.
In this Ham is wrong. Science is science, and it should always be based on observational data. The way we estimate the age of things formed in the past is by using well known constants that were valid in antiquity, and are valid now. Think Carbon 14 dating, radioactive decay of uranium or other elements. There are many methods of physically dating rocks, bones, and vegetable substances. However, there are uncertainties in many methods, and these are usually expressed as a plus and minus accuracy. Ken Ham argues that none of them are accurate, and I think his argument is based on wishful thinking rather than any concrete evidence.
Nye did not classify the uncertainty of many of the dating methods. It is things like that get lost in so-called debates. He pointed out that there were lots of physical things that are dated older than the six thousand years of Ham’s creationist world. For example, the well known Bristle Cone Pine trees of California can get very old. The age of these trees is measured by counting tree rings, and involves very few assumptions. At least one is nine thousand years old. Ham had no reply to this example.
Ken Ham was absolutely consistent. If he didn’t have a physical explanation, he relied on the Bible. When Bill Nye said he didn’t know how matter was created, Ham pointed that there was a book that explained all that, and the book is the Bible. That got a few laughs in the audience.
Nye also exhibited a good deal if ignorance about the Bible and Christianity. For example, he accused Ham of being inconsistent when Ham explained that the Bible had many parts, not just a description of creation and laws. Bill Nye had no knowledge of the Book of Psalms which is poetry and songs.
Mr Nye also seemed to have no appreciation of the way science is always changing. Not all science changes, but almost every day some theory or scientific finding is overturned. That’s the way science works. Nye spoke of science as if it were a monolithic, unchanging thing. Science is a process designed to use evidence as its basis. When new evidence becomes available, older theories are many times invalidated. Trusting in science for an ultimate truth is risky, indeed.
Bill Nye has a degree in mechanical engineering, and as such, is an intelligent person. Unfortunately, his knowledge is lacking in some cases.. Ken Ham is nothing but stubborn, and it is sometimes disappointing when he hides behind the Bible rather than give an answer other than the evolutionists make too many assumptions.
The purveyors of evolution do make a lot of assumptions, and then tout those assumptions as science. For example, they fossil record is not satisfactory to me to explain evolution. What is more convincing are the genetic records. Even though I am a Christian, I accept the principle of evolution.
I don’t believe evolution detracts from the glory of God. When you look into the miracles of nature with science, it is hard NOT believe in God. Mr Nye would be well advised to thank God for our ability to scientifically explore all creation. Mr Ham would be well advised to keep an open mind.
Note: You may be interested in this article on the Federalist blog by Cathy Resienwitz. She calls creationism as believing in the “God of the gaps”. Interesting, and I agree with her.