The 'Science Guy' Bill Nye recently debated young Earth Creationist Ken Ham in Kentucky on issues ranging from the age of the Earth, Evolution and scientific to biblical theories, all before an audience at the Creation Museum.
The debate between Nye and Ham answered a number of questions that have lingered on the minds of both scientific naturalists and young Earth Creationists for years. Both men presented their arguments in a five minute opening, which led to a 30 minute presentation, a back and forth response and finally, questions from the audience.
Ham, who is the CEO of Creationist Ministries in conjunction with his website answersingenesis.com, took the first five minutes saying, "I know that not everyone watching this debate will necessarily agree with what I have to say." Ham then proceeded to present a short clip of a fellow creationist scientist briefly voicing his agreement to Ham's creation model.
Ham went on to attack everything from secularists, school science text books and atheism. He also argued that there was a difference between what he called observational science which could be observed in the present, and historical science which he claimed is impossible to study.
His repetitive point which stretched from his first five minutes at the podium until his last words were, "When we're talking about our origins...we weren't there, you can't observe that." With a few biblical quotes accompanying his faith, and little to no science to counter his opponent, this set the stage for Bill Nye to present.
Author and television host Bill Nye's opening statements went into a central question, "Does Ken Ham's creation model hold up? Is it viable?" Nye immediately countered Ham's claims of a difference between observational and historical science, "Natural laws that applied in the past, apply now...that's how we made all these discoveries that enabled all this remarkable technology."
Nye seemed to have a fascination with the flood of Noah story, particularly Ken Ham's view of the flood. Ham believed the flood was world wide and happened as early as 4,000 years ago. To counter this claim, Nye used the Grand Canyon as an example for this late world wide flood being an erroneous account.
"The fossils in the Grand Canyon are found in layers" said Nye. "When there was a big flood on the Earth, you would expect drowning animals to swim up to a higher level. Not any one of them did...if you could find evidence of that...you could change the world."
Nye also made it a point of his to remind the audience that billions of religious people in the world did not agree with Ken Ham's understanding of biblical creation. He also argued that dividing sciences would not keep the United States ahead scientifically of the rest of the world.
When Ham returned to give his 30 minute presentation, it seemed to be an extension of his first five minutes. Ham brought on more video clips of creationist scientists, separated observational science from historical science and attacked science school text books once again. He also questioned radioactive dating and Charles Darwin.
"I admit, my starting point is that God is the ultimate authority" said Ham. He then went back into what many would say is his signature rebuttal concerning historical science, "You need to understand, we weren't there." The most controversial part of Ham's entire 30 minute speech however came from his ideas on how to reform public schools, "I believe the Creationists should be educating the kids out there, because we are teaching them the right way to think."
Ham closed with more biblical quotes concerning God establishing man and woman being united together, biblical morals and that children should know that there is a God who loves them, and that they were created in His image. These statements hold up surely from a spiritual perspective, but did not seem to answer some of the glaring contradictions Bill Nye had for him concerning science.
Nye's 30 minutes were mainly spent questioning Ham with scientific issues that directly affected his 4,000 year old world wide flood. Nye used the example of ice rods that were pulled out by scientists who drilled into the ice in Antarctica. The drilling produced cylinders of 680,000 layers of ice. Nye then set up a mathematical equation using Ham's 4,000 year flood to show a major discrepancy.
"How could it be that just 4,000 years ago, all of this ice formed?...That would mean we need 170 Winter Summer cycles every year, for the last 4,000 years...wouldn't someone have noticed that" said Nye jokingly. He posed a number of problems to Ken Ham's view that went mainly unanswered the whole time.
Another example Nye gave was the number of species on the Earth today. He estimated that there were 16 million species present today, and questioned through another mathematical equation how 7,000 kinds of animals on Noah's ark just 4,000 years ago brought forth these 16 million. "We would expect to find 11 new species, everyday" said Nye. "People would have seen these changes among us...but we see no evidence of that."
During their statement and response session, Ham finally presented to the audience how he calculated 6,000 years in the bible. He calculated that from Adam until Abraham there were 2,000 years, from Abraham to Christ there were 2,000 years, and from Christ until the present, there were 2,000 years. This model would work if it weren't for the unknown generations in between these events that the bible skips over in order to get to central figures in the texts.
Ham also takes the Hebrew word Yom which means Day in English, and explains that it referred to literal days of creation in the bible. Although the word Yom does translate to Day, the same word has been used to denote long periods of time in the bible as well. An example of this is in the fifth chapter of Genesis that states, "And the (Yom) days of Adam, they came to pass which he lived, 930 years, and he died." Here, days are compared to years.
Ham also challenged Christians who believe in millions of years. "There's a lot of Christians out there that believe in millions of years but I'd say they have a problem...In the fossil record there's evidence of animals eating each other, the bible says originally all the animals and man were vegetarian. We weren't told we could eat meat until after the flood." Ham poses a glaring contradiction here.
He says first that there is actual evidence in the fossil record showing carnivorous activity, but he still says the bible called all animals and man to be vegetarian. The first chapter of Genesis does say that God gave both man and animals herb as food, however, this vegetarianism only occurred within the Garden of Eden as explained in the second chapter. Outside of the garden would have been a reflection of the fossil record of both herbivore and carnivore.
The final audience questions seemed to stump Bill Nye as well. "How did the atoms that created the 'Big Bang' get there?" "This is the great mystery" said Nye. "You've hit the nail on the head." Another question from the audience seemed to evade Nye of an answer as well, "How did consciousness come from matter?" "Don't know" said Nye. "This is the great mystery" he repeats.
Another question as stated as being profound by the moderator asked, "What if anything, would ever change your mind?" Ham's response to this was, "Well, the answer to that question is, I'm a Christian...no one's ever going to convince me that the word of God is not true..." Ham then turns the question to Nye who then returns a question back.
"The question I have for you though fundamentally...Mr. Ham, what can you prove? You have spent all of the time coming up with explanations for the past. What can you really prove...?" Many would agree that for Ken Ham, from a scientific bases, the man with the answers in Genesis, couldn't seem to match the answers in science.
Over all, the debate was tasteful, respectful, civil and sure to spark amateur debates amongst both sides that have a point to prove, depending on where their worldview leads them.