Bill Nye, the former television personality who became famous as "The Science Guy," took a stance for science and critical thinking Tuesday evening in a debate with Creationist Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., and espouser of the view that the Bible, Genesis through Revelation, is infallible. As the Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) Feb. 5, Ham kept reminding the audience that God was the answer to all questions, especially the ones that continue to puzzle scientists -- like the origins of matter, the universe, and everything. Nye pointed out that one's belief in God need not obviate the validity of the scientific method and its findings.
Ham, who believes the Earth is literally 6,000 years old, that God created the planet and the rest of the universe in seven days, and that dinosaurs walked through prehistory with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (inside that 6,000-year timeline), said during the debate that he the Bible was the word of God and that was where everything started. Ham promotes the idea that science that reports theories and empirical data outside biblical truth is simply wrong.
Nye laid down the argument that there is no credible evidence that the Earth is as young as Ham and other Creationists might think. In fact, geologic core samples and fossil records indicate otherwise.
Ham said that there was a difference between "observational science" and "historical science." True enough, but historical science is unreliable and too often subjective. Observational science, if properly applied, is not interpretive but a reporting of measurable and repeatable
When a question came from the audience -- the debate was held at the Creation Museum in front of over 800 people -- asking for an explanation of atoms and matter, Bill Nye answered that scientists were still searching for the true nature of these phenomena.
Ham's answer was more direct. "Bill, I want to tell you, there is a book that tells where atoms come from, and its starts out, 'In the beginning ...,'" he said.
Ham argued that God created the universe in seven days. Nye countered by saying that teaching closed beliefs like Creationism in schools instead of evolution and science would surely lead to America's demise as a world power.
"If we continue to eschew science ... we are not going to move forward," Nye insisted. "We will not embrace natural laws. We will not make discoveries. We will not invent and innovate and stay ahead."
So who won? That would be difficult to say. CNN's Tom Foreman acted as moderator, the Daily Mail reported, and only stepped in a few times, letting Nye and Ham make their respective arguments.
But Nye made the most salient point of all during the debate when he noted that science and evolution did not have to be the antithesis of religious beliefs. "I just want to remind us all there are billions of people in the world who are deeply religious, who get enriched by the wonderful sense of community by their religion," Nye stated. "But these same people do not embrace the extraordinary view that the Earth is somehow only 6,000 years old."
At the same time, there are others who believe that Ham won the debate simply by garnering publicity for the belief system of Creationism, not to mention driving business to the Creation Museum itself. Although the museum lost money on ticket sales (covering only a fraction of Bill Nye's speaking costs with ticket sales), Ham's organization Answers in Genesis will sell DVDs of the event.
Jerry Coyne, an evolution professor at the University of Chicago, wrote on his blog (per the Associated Press) that "Nye's appearance will be giving money to organizations who try to subvert the mission Nye has had all his life: science education, particularly of kids."
Coyne and others of the same mind think Nye should never have accepted to debate someone whose life's mission has been dismissive of science.
The debate came about as a result of a video posted by Bill Nye in 2012 where he implored parents to not teach their children a worldview driven by Creationist beliefs, noting that it was fine that adults believe the way they do but they should allow their children to study evolution and science. Ham rebutted Nye's video online and subsequent interactions led to the debate being staged in Kentucky.