The debate on evolution vs. creationism by
Bill Nye &
Ken Ham on 2014-FEB-04
The personalities. Why does the evolution/
creationism conflict exist?
Comparing what scientists and the general public
believe about evolution and creation.
debate between Ham and Nye a good idea?
Bill Nye (1955 -) is an American science educator, comedian, television host, actor, writer, and scientist who lives in Washington DC. He is often called "Bill Nye, the Science Guy" after the name of his children's TV program which he hosted from 1993 to 1998. He remains active in numerous projects as an author, TV host, and TV guest promoting science knowledge to the public. Recently, he has expressed concern that belief in creationism is threatening science education and innovation in the U.S. He is also concerned that climate change is not being adequately addressed. He is an Agnostic -- a person who has no opinion on the existence or non-existence of God, and on the scientific method of analysis to reach conclusions about the universe, and believes that that the universe is about 13.8 billion years-of-age.
Ken Ham (1951 -) is the president of the conservative Christian ministry "Answers in Genesis" (AiG) and the president of the Creation Museum in
Petersburg, KY 41080 -- near the Cincinnati, OH airport. Ham is a conservative evangelical Christian who believes in the literal interpretation of the Bible, biblical inerrancy, and a young Earth/Universe that was created by God about 6,000 years ago.
The debate was moderated by Tom Foreman from CNN's Washington DC bureau.
Why does the conflict exist between supporters of evolution and creationism?
Ken Ham described the basic cause of the conflict between promoters of evolution and promoters of creationism. In Chapter 2 of his book "The New Answers Book 2," he wrote:
"... it’s not a matter of 'their facts vs. ours.' All facts are actually interpreted, and all scientists actually have the same observations -- the same data -- available to them. Creationists and evolutionists, Christians and non-Christians, all have the same facts. Think about it: we all have the same earth, the same fossil layers, the same animals and plants, the same stars -- the facts are all the same.
The difference is in the way we all interpret the facts. And why do we interpret facts differently? Because we start with different presuppositions; these are things that are assumed to be true without being able to prove them. These then become the basis for other conclusions. All reasoning is based on presuppositions (also called axioms). This becomes especially relevant when dealing with past events. 1,5
Almost all scientists have agreed on the same basic model of evolution, involving a universe that is 13.8 billion years of age, an earth that is 4.5 billion years of age, the development of the first life form perhaps 3 billion years ago through natural causes, and the evolution of this single life form into the full diversity of today's animal and plant species. However, Christian creationists are promoting various models, all based upon their differing interpretations of the Bible.
Creationists are generally members within the conservative wing of various religions, like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Many base their beliefs on the inerrancy of the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament). In particular, they believe in the historical accuracy of the creation stories and the account of Noah's Flood in the book of Genesis. Internal evidence from Genesis allows them to estimate the date of the creation of the universe between 3616 BCE and 8000 BCE. Their interpretations of observations made of rock strata, fossils, species of life, DNA, etc. arise from these foundational beliefs. With such a "young earth" of less than 10,000 years, everyone agrees that evolution would definitely not have been be possible. It is much too short for evolutionary processes to have caused the diversity of species of life that we see today. Creation is the only possibility if the Earth is that young.
Scientists originally started with no preconceived beliefs about origins, and based their initial hypothesis upon observations of nature. When the science of geology was in its infancy, some geologists noted that in the many areas of the world where extensive rock strata are exposed, the simplest forms of life are located in the oldest strata. These were almost always the lower levels of strata, unless rock folding had occurred. As they studied the younger strata they found that the fossils of life forms were more complex. Further studies found that a given species is always found in the certain strata, and never in others. That observation led scientists inevitably to the concept of evolution of the species over extremely long time intervals. Specialists in other sciences, from biology to cosmology, made other observations which led them to a consistent picture of a 13.8 billion year-old universe and a 4.5 billion year-old earth in which evolution of the species of plant and animal life was not only possible, but which had actually occurred.
Comparing what scientists and the general public believe about evolution and creation:
A 2009 study by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press 2 showed that:
- 97% of "scientists" believe that "humans and other living things have evolved over time." That number is probably much closer to 100% among geologists, biologists, and cosmologists who have specialist knowledge of evolution or the ages of the earth and universe.
- 61% of the general public agree with the majority of scientists. Some of these believe that evolution happened due to purely natural causes; others believe that God guided and controlled evolutionary processes.
- 2% of "scientists" believe that "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time." Again, we suspect that this value would probably be close to 0% among geologists, biologists, and cosmologists.
- 31% of the general public agree with the minority of scientists.
Is a debate between Ham and Nye a good or bad idea?
The question that was debated is: "Is creation a viable model of origins?" Some jokers call this the "Ham -on-Nye debate"
Kimberly Winston of the Religion News Service writes:
"... both sides answered that question long ago — Nye with Charles Darwin’s work on the origin of species and Ham with the first book of the Bible. 3
Nye is “frightened” by the push for creationism in science textbooks and instruction. He said:
“I’m not going in really as a scientist as such. I want to remind everybody — I’m a mechanical engineer. I’m going in as a reasonable man and I think that to just call attention to this belief system has value. ...”
"The guy challenged me to a duel. What am I gonna do? ..."
"If the United States produces a generation of science students who don’t believe in science, that’s troublesome. We want to raise the most scientifically literate students that we can." 4
Ham also favors the debate. He said:
"I just think it’s really healthy for the public to actually hear two people like this that are really polar opposites in many ways, because what you believe about, who you are, [and] where you came from, affects your whole worldview." 4
"Yet many observers — both religious and nonreligious — say the debate is a very bad idea."
'Scientists should not debate creationists. Period,' wrote Dan Arel on the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s web site. 'There is nothing to debate.'
Arel, a secular advocate, is echoing the position of Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist who has long refused to debate creationists.
'Winning is not what the creationists realistically aspire to,' Dawkins said in 2006. 'For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at all. They need the publicity. We don’t. To the gullible public which is their natural constituency, it is enough that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist'." 3
Deborah Haarsma, president of the BioLogos Foundation -- a group that tries to harmonize science and religion -- said that there is a:
"... huge stereotype that all Christians reject science and an event like this reinforces that stereotype. It looks like science versus Christianity and it ignores the people who have accepted the science of evolution and have not let go of their faith. ... A debate like this sets up a false choice [between science and religion]. We don’t want them to have to choose." 3
Tyler Francke, who writes for "The God of Evolution blog," said:
"Young-Earth proponents like Ham have all kinds of tricks they play to make their view seem reasonable. They claim they don’t ignore evidence they just look at it with a different lens. ... Bill Nye seems to be a very smart man, and I’m confident that he’ll come prepared. But if he shows up expecting a fair fight purely on the basis of what the available evidence most reasonably indicates, I think he’s going to be sorely mistaken." 3
This topic continues in Part 2 with a video recording of the
debate and a discussion of the main points raised by the debaters.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Ken Ham, "Chapter 2: "What is the best 'proof' of creation?" Answers in Genesis, 2010-MAR-18, at: http://www.answersingenesis.org/
- "The Origin and Development of Life,"
in "Section 5: Evolution, Climate Change and Other Issues," Pew Research Center, 2009-JUL-09, at: http://www.people-press.org/
- Kimberly Winston, "Ham-on-Nye debate pits atheists, creationists," Religion News Service, 2014-JAN-30, at: http://www.religionnews.com/
- Billy Hallowell, "What has Bill Nye so 'frightened'? ..." The Blaze, 2014-JAN-23, at: http://www.theblaze.com/
- Ken Ham, "The New Answers Book 2. The book contains over 30 questions on Creation/Evolution and the Bible. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Available in Paperback format for $12.43 plus postage, or Kindle format for $8.98.
Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2014-FEB-02
Latest update: 2014-FEB-10
Author: B.A. Robinson