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Nye/Ham debate showcases the need for better science education

Bill Nye the Science Guy
Bill Nye the Science Guy
Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images

When Bill Nye "The Science Guy" agreed to debate Ken Ham on the merits of evolution versus creationism he didn't have any delusions of changing the young-earth creationist's mind. No, Nye agreed to this debate to emphasize the importance of science education for our children. The United States is lagging behind the rest of the world in science education and the push to include creationism in schools is only hurting us more.

"In short, I decided to participate in the debate because I felt it would draw attention to the importance of science education here in the United States," said Nye in an opinion piece on CNN's Belief Blog.

Ken Ham had different motives. He believes that there isn't enough debate on the topic of creationism and apparently doesn't realize that the reason for this is the debate has been over for quite some time. What Ham actually accomplished in the debate was proving Nye's motive, he proved we need to focus more on science education.

We learned last night that Ham doesn't understand scientific terms, the concept of evidence, nor the scientific method. The whole debate was pretty much as if a young child would have challenged an economics professor to a debate about why the tooth fairy should leave a dollar rather than a quarter per tooth. Nye did his best to keep his condescension under control, though, as difficult as that may have been under the circumstances.

Nye's half of the debate was extremely informative. He was able to answer every request for evidence of points we claim to know while admitting that there are some things that we don't know and can't answer yet. Ham, on the other hand, pointed to the Bible as his evidence on almost every occasion, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that creationism is not science.

Rhetoric such as Ham was proselytizing does not belong in a scientific debate, nor a science classroom.

"Exactly why God did it that way - I can't answer that question, of course, because the Bible says that God made the heavens for his glory and that's why He made the stars that we see out there, and it's to tell us how great He is and how big He is [...] that he's an all powerful God, He's an infinite God, an infinite all-knowing God who created the universe to show us his power."

When asked what evidence other than the literal word of the Bible supports his creationism, Ham tried skirting the question, rambling for a while, running out his time. His basic idea seems to be that you can't prove what happened in the past so you should just believe the Bible. He also seems to think he's at a pulpit, rather than a debate lectern.

When asked what, if anything, would change your mind, Ham was the first to address the question.

"Well, the answer to that question is I'm a Christian and, as a Christian, I can't prove it to you but God has definitely shown me, very clearly, through his word, and shown himself in the person of Jesus Christ. The Bible is the word of God. I admit that's where I start from. [...] No one's ever going to convince me that the word of God is not true, but I do want to make a distinction here, and for Bill's sake. We build models based upon the bible, and those models are always subject to change. The fact of Noah's flood is not subject to change, the model of how the flood occurred is subject to change."

Very clever, Ken. Here he made clear his view that the Bible is the only truth, but left open a loophole. That's pretty much like saying, 'As you come up with more irrefutable facts, we're going to have to change our story to fit. We accept that.'

Bill answered the question like a true scientist.

"We would just need one piece of evidence. We would need the fossil that swam from one layer to another. We would need evidence that the universe is not expanding. We would need evidence that the stars appear to be far away but they're not. We would need evidence that rock layers can somehow form in just 4,000 years instead of the extraordinary amount... We would need evidence that somehow you can reset atomic clocks and keep neutrons from becoming protons. B on any of those things and you would change me immediately.

"The question I have for you though, fundamentally and for everybody watching, Mr. Ham what can you prove? What you have done tonight is spend most of the -er- all of the time coming up with explanations about the past. What can you really predict? What can you really prove in a conventional scientific, or a conventional 'I have an idea that makes a prediction and it comes out the way I see it.' This is very troubling to me."

Ken Ham spent the entire night hijacking and distorting the meanings of scientific terms, sometimes making up new terms all the while accusing science of purposefully confusing terminology. He asserts his own limits on the abilities of science to prove things based on what he chooses to reject. This is not a man who should be allowed anywhere near the educational system.

Bill Nye closed with a plea that Ken Ham spent the night proving for him. We need to improve our science education.

"I just want to close by reminding everybody what's at stake here. If we abandon all that we've learned, our ancestors, what they've learned about nature and our place in it, if we abandon the process by which we know it, if we eschew, if we let go of everything that people have learned before us, if we stop driving forward, stop looking for the next answer to the next question, we in the United States will be out-competed by other countries, other economies. Now that would be okay, I guess, but I was born here, I'm a patriot, and so we have to embrace science education. To the voters and tax-payers that are watching, please keep that in mind. We have to keep science education in science, in science classes. Thank You."

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