The debate on evolution vs. creationism by
Bill Nye &
Ken Ham on 2014-FEB-04
Video of the debate. Who won the debate?
What arguments were used?
Ken Ham's best arguments.
Video recording of the debate:
Duration: 2 hours 45 minutes.
The debate was broadcast over the Internet via live streaming video. One channel was via You Tube; there were as many as 532,000 simultaneous viewers at one time.
You can purchase the lecture in DVD format from DebateLive.org
Who won the debate? What arguments were used?
The Christian Today web site asked their visitors:
"Who won the debate tonight?"
41,521 persons answered the poll. Response was: Bill Nye 92%; Ken Ham 8%;
The results are not particularly reliable, for two reasons:
- The poll appears on a Christian web site. Thus Christians were probably over-represented among the site visitors. A larger percentage of Christians believe in Creationism than the general population.
- The people who answered the poll were not a random sampling from all of the visitors on the web site. They were individuals who were sufficiently motivated to answer the poll.
Christian Today wrote:
"Prior to the debate, Nye told CNN he is taking part in the debate in order to educate people on the 'scientifically illiterate' view of the earth's origins. He said the debate would 'highlight the fact that so many young people are dismissing the Bible because of evolution, and even many young people who had grown up in the church decided to leave the church because they saw evolution as showing the Bible could not be trusted'." 2
Rebecca Savastio, writing for Liberty Voice, said:
"Some may be surprised that the stunning victory was recorded on a specifically Christian web site, but anyone who watched the debate might have a difficult time defending Ham, who offered no scientific evidence to support creationism. Instead, he stuck mainly to the Bible, Jesus and the concept of salvation." 3
Tyler O'Neil, writing for the Christian Post, said:
" 'Creation is the only viable model of historical science confirmed by observational science in today's modern scientific era,' Ham, a Christian, proclaimed at The Creation Museum Tuesday night. The creationist argued that science supports his view of a historical six-day creation, as outlined in the first chapters of Genesis. He also listed a great deal of prominent scientists who believe in the creationist model.
Nye, an Agnostic, retorted that such ideas are fanciful. 'If you insist the natural laws have changed, for lack of a better word, that's magical,' the 'science guy' declared. 'Your interpretation of a book written thousands of years ago, as translated into American English, is more compelling for you than everything that I can observe in the world around me'." 4
Josh Rosenau, a Public Information Project Director at the National Center for Science Education wrote a note titled: "How Bill Nye won the debate." He said:
"On the way to the venue, he picked up a piece of limestone from the roadside, with a fossil in it, to show how the rocks beneath the auditorium themselves show the evidence of evolution. He opened by undercutting the core of Ken Ham’s claim to authority, emphasizing that Ken Ham bases his claims not on the empirical evidence, but on a very particular reading of Genesis. And that way of reading Genesis is very specific to Ken Ham, not to most of the world’s religious people, or even Ham’s fellow evangelicals. He never stopped emphasizing that Ham’s theology is an outlier, and that he doesn’t speak for religious people, Christians, evangelicals, or even all creationists." 5
Webmaster's note: Evangelical Christians hold a wide range of beliefs about evolution and creationism. They may be young earth creationists, old earth creationists, believers in evolution guided by God, believers in evolution that happened due only to natural forces; day-age creationists; believers in creation spread over six days, etc. I do not believe that Ken Ham' beliefs are unique to him; they are probably shared by a small but significant percentage of evangelicals.
The creation stories in Genesis are clearly ambiguous, because they have been interpreted in so many different ways by various evangelical leaders and other Christians. It is difficult to understand how the Bible can be considered to be inerrant -- without error -- if it is so ambiguous.
Much of the discussion centered around the age of the Earth: Ham estimates this at about 6,000 years -- as based on the Bible. Other young earth creationist Christians estimate up to 10,000 years -- again based on their interpretation of the Bible. Nye's estimate is 4.5 billion years of age, as based on actual radiometric measurements of the age of rocks.
I think that the debate was a good idea, because it exposed viewers to "the other side." Supporters of evolution rarely watch a TV program where creationism is explained and discussed. Deniers of evolution rarely watch a program where evolution is explained and discussed. This debate exposed everyone to both belief systems.
Ken Ham's best arguments:
O'Neil from the Christian Post prepared a list of what he regards as Ken Ham's "best" arguments for his Creationist model which is based on a young Earth and universe created circa 4004 BCE. 4 He also lists
Bill Nye's five best arguments against each of Ham's arguments:
- 1. Nobody was alive to observe and record events from the distant past:
- Ham said: "We observe things in the present, and we're assuming that has always happened in the past. ... You've got a problem, because you weren't there. ... I claim there's only one infallible dating method – a witness who was there and who knows everything, and who told us -- that's the Word of God."
- Nye responded:
"When [scientists] make assumptions, they're making assumptions based on previous experience. Why should we accept your word for it that natural law changed 3,000 years ago and we have no record of it? ... There are human traditions that go back farther than that."
He also referred to counting tree rings, ice layers, annual varve deposits (layers of deposits of clay and silt in lakes) which enable scientists to actually count the age of the trees, ice layers and varve deposits. The data shows that the earth's age exceeds Ham's belief.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Bill Nye debates Ken Ham," You Tube, 2014-FEB-04, at: http://www.youtube.com/
- "WATCH Bill Nye vs Ken Ham debate ... Who won Creation vs Evolution debate? [POLL]," News Briefs, Christian Today, 2014-FEB-06, at: http://www.christiantoday.com/
- Rebecca Savastio, "Christian Today Poll Says Bill Nye Won Debate With Ken Ham," Liberty Voice, 2014-FEB-05, at: http://guardianlv.com/
- Tyler O'Neil, "Science vs. Bible? 5 Arguments for and against Creationism From the Ken Ham, Bill Nye Debate," The Christian Post, 2014-FEB-05, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
- "What Happened When Bill Nye Debated Ken Ham Last Night," Science and Religion Today, 2014-FEB-05, at: http://www.scienceandreligiontoday.com/
Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2014-FEB-02
Latest update: 2014-FEB-10
Author: B.A. Robinson