This is one of the worst ideas I have heard in a long while. Creationist spokesman Ken Ham will debate Bill Nye, science educator from “Bill Nye the Science Guy” on the subject “Is creation a viable model of origins?” at the Creation Museum on February 4.
This is a bad idea from both the perspective of science and that of Christian faith.
From the science side, as Jerry Coyne notes (and I have added some further observations):
- This only helps fund the so-called Creation Museum (admission is $25).
- Nye is only giving unwarranted credibility to Ham (who is not a scientist). This will enhance Ham’s resume but not Nye’s. Why would anyone who takes science seriously and wants to advance learning engage publicly with someone like Ham?
- What experience does Nye have in debating creationists? And he will be on their own ground, in a hall certain to be packed with pro-Ham supporters. This is a recipe for disaster.
- This will be almost entirely an exercise in rhetoric, not a serious search for truth.
From the side of those who love the Bible and desire a Jesus-centered and shaped faith:
- It continues to foster the false notion that the Bible speaks to the issues at hand and was given for that purpose. Genesis 1-2 (two of eight “creation” texts in the Bible, but somehow the only ones being considered) are not historical reports designed to explain how God created the universe in a scientific sense, as we understand that term. Therefore, the entire subject of the debate, “Is creation a viable model of origins?” is a non sequitur.
- By holding this “debate,” Ham continues to attempt to reinforce the impression that his opinion is the Christian worldview, that his organization is engaged in serious interaction with scientists, and that the way Christians should “engage and impact the culture” is through trying to defeat them publicly with arguments. And if you can stack the deck, hold the debate on your home field, and raise a lot of money for your cause in the meantime, all the better! Christianity’s reputation for hucksterism is taking a giant step forward with this event.
Ken Ham comments on the upcoming event here. The culture war agenda is vividly clear when he states that AIG’s theme for the year is “Standing Our Ground, Rescuing Our Kids.” Ham also tips his hand when he says, “It will certainly be a unique opportunity to be witness in person at the Creation Museum!”
This isn’t about serious debate or inquiry. This will not advance learning of any kind — whether of the Bible or our understanding of the natural world. Nor will it advance the cause and reputation of Christians in the world. It will only serve to further separate a segment of very vocal Christians into their little cubbyhole of biblicism and obscurantism. It will leave them feeling that they have witnessed to the “truth” and won a great victory over the forces of evil, unbelief, and falsehood. In fact, regardless of how it goes, it will likely be spun that way. Thus triumphalism will be reinforced and a theology of glory rather than the cross proclaimed.
All around, this is just a bad, bad, bad idea.
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Some have asked for information about previous posts in which we have dealt with creation issues. Here are a handful of some of the clearest ones:
From Michael Spencer: To Be or Not to Be: Why I am not a young earth creationist
From Chaplain Mike: The Skinny on Science and Creation
We did an entire “Creation Week” beginning on June 27, 2010. I encourage those who are interested to pull down the “Archives” tab at the top right of the page and go to “2010 Series by Chaplain Mike” to access all of them.