October 22, 2014

Bad Idea. Very Bad Idea. Horrendously Bad Idea.

bill-nye-vs-ken-ham2

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.

* * *

Postscript:

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

Answers Not in Genesis

From Chaplain Mike: The Skinny on Science and Creation

My View of Genesis 1

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.

Comments

  1. You’re probably right. But like most train wrecks, it’s gonna be hard to look away.

  2. I tend to agree with you. Nye is going to get destroyed – for all the wrong reasons.

    But truth be told, Nye deserves to get destroyed. I’m from Seattle and he’s always been a smug, snotty, self-indulged, pseudo-science ‘engineer’ since before his “Almost Live” days here in Seattle.

    I don’t agree with Ham at all. But I also don’t agree with Nye’s assertion and pleading that somehow what one feels about origins impacts your ability or capability to do hard science. I know plenty of top-notch Microsoft and Google engineers who believe in a literal six-day creation. I know plenty who do not. I know plenty of Boeing engineers who design the planes you entrust your life with who believe in a literal six-day creation. I know plenty who do not.

    Nye can rail against Ham and literal young-earth creationists all he wants but at the point at which he hysterically inflates the rhetoric to he point of being dishonest and wanting to suppress a viewpoint I don’t agree with – he needs to be humbled. And he likely will be.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > he needs to be humbled. And he likely will be.

      Are you kidding? He is not going to be humbled. He is going to howled at and shouted down… and handed a big check. This is a major coup for both sides; search for either one of these trolls and the first ~20+ results are all about this. Social media is going to explode [for ~12 hours probably] about this – wait for the barrage of Facebook `Shares`. And they are both going to be able to make sizable deposits.

      Meanwhile every real issue anyone could actually do anything about will continue to be ignored.

      Aside: yes, Nye can be a snot. He seems to be escalating in snottyness recently. Snottyness probably helps fill the retirement coffers.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Loos like after the Devil’s Holiday, War on Christmas, and Rally Round the Beard, Boys (quack!), the Christian Culture Warriors are returning to an old standby: Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      ” I also don’t agree with Nye’s assertion and pleading that somehow what one feels about origins impacts your ability or capability to do hard science.”

      I mostly agree. People are very good at compartmentalization. Many of the most professedly devout Christians can read Genesis 2 while carefully not thinking about what they had read just a moment earlier in Genesis 1. This applies to scientists as well. Someone researching in, say, physical chemistry has no actual need to have an informed opinion about evolutionary biology. He therefore is free to have an uninformed opinion. This doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. The implicit claim is that the standards of fact and logic which produce valid results in physical chemistry do not, for some unexplained reason, produce valid results in evolutionary biology. Or in the alternative, there is an implicit assertion that evolutionary biologists are, and always have been, fools or liars, and we know this because they persist in failing to reach the required conclusion (though the notion of a required conclusion in physical chemistry, in contrast, is absurd and offensive). So this doesn’t really bear thinking too much about it, but that is OK: there is no need to think too much about it.

      Engineers are yet further removed from any such unpleasant necessity. An engineer uses the numbers in the appropriate handbook (or whatever the post-print successor to the CRC is). He need not concern himself with abstract notions of where those numbers come from. It is not at all uncommon to find engineers with, um…, non-standard scientific opinions. Anecdotally, aerospace engineers seem particularly susceptible to this. I don’t know why, or even if, this is true. (It is also worth noting that for purposes of this discussion, most medical doctors are more like engineers than scientists.)

      Things get trickier the closer one gets to the field in question. It is harder for a microbiologist to reject evolution, since evolution occurs before his eyes. This requires more nuanced compartmentalization, with discussions of microevolution (good) vs. macroevolution (bad). This, once the rhetoric is stripped out, is the acknowledgement that evolutionary changes that occur fast enough to be watched directly do indeed happen, but changes that occur too slowly to be watched directly do not, and that those rapid changes under no circumstances can result in two populations being mutually infertile. What is the reasoning behind this conclusion? Look! It’s the Winged Victory of Samothrace!

      As for Bill Nye, I don’t have a strong impression of him. My sense is that he is one of those guys who do flashy science demonstrations for school kids. There is nothing wrong with that, but what makes him qualified to debate evolution is quite beyond me. My guess is that behind this some combination of ego and filthy lucre.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > I mostly agree. People are very good at compartmentalization.

        Or a much more charitable phrasing: people are, wisely, comfortable with some level of paradox. This is wise because “I don’t know” can often be the best response to a question. If A is evidently [to me at least] true in some sense and B is evidently [to me at least] true in some sense – okay, A & B seem to have some conflicts between them, that does not nullify either one. It simply means “I don’t know” about something; maybe I’ll get to contemplating that issue further, after other priorities have been sated. That’s life.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        It gets very, very difficult to maintain the cognitive dissonance if you area geologist…

  3. Not sure I see what the fuss is all about. Let nature (pardon the pun) take its course. In the end, no minds will be changed, anyway. Net sum gain = 0. Besides, it should be entertaining.

  4. I don’t like events like this — but if Bill Nye is an atheist, he’s certainly wrong in his views about creation. God was involvred.

    • “he’s certainly wrong in his views about creation. God was involvred.” its comments like this that cause people to push so hard against creationists. You BELIEVE he is wrong. To say that he is certainly wrong based on your belief system is saying that you believe yourself to be infallible, because it doesnt leave open the option for you to have been misled or incorrect. You could have been misled, therefore there is no certainty of gods involvement because there is 0 evidence either way.

  5. ::headdesk::

  6. This debate is going to be like a train wreck. I see no serious purpose. We need to send Ken Ham back to Australia why is the US a magnet for his kind of crap.

    No this is going to be a train wreck. Maybe something like this BNSF train wreck on Youtube

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LpCIiwarOk

    I just wish Ken Ham would go away…..

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Maybe something like this BNSF train wreck

      In defense of BNSF – they are required to clean-up after themselves [and they have no interest in train wrecks, they are expensive and attract unwanted attention].

      So BNSF is nothing like these two.

    • No thanks you can keep him – we don’t want him back! We disowned him a long time ago. Thankfully, the church in Australia has not fallen victim to the creation wars in the same way as you Yanks. Then again, the church is a much quieter organisation here – the culture warriors are stirring but get a big “yawn” in response most of the time. We are a much more secular society than the USA.

  7. Andrena LeBlanc says:

    /headdesk

    This is gonna be a train wreck, and circus roled into one… God help us all.

  8. Cedric Klein says:

    Nye has at least one incident of needlessly alienating audience members by talking about the Bible being wrong in describing the moon as a light in Gen 1 instead of it reflecting light. He could have been nice or less divisive about it but he chose not to be. And his rant about Creationism crippling children when it comes to learning about hard sciences was pretty much shot with logical fallacies. So I have trouble siding with one self-promoting extremist over another.

    • Agreed. The literalism of the Darwinists is as bad as the YEC crowd. NEITHER of these guys has a clue about poetry, symbolism, the conventions used by Hebrew writers, the purpose of the writer of Genesis, or anything else, frankly. People who really care about such matters can find plenty of serious scholarly work by literary scholars and by scientists. This is nothing but hype and grandstanding that must be condemned as loudly as possible.

      • Agreed +1. And one need only read the comments at Chaplain Mike’s “Jerry Coyne notes” link to see this clearly.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The reason Sun & Moon are described as “greater light” and “lesser light” was at the time Genesis was written down, the only names for Sun & Moon were the names of the local Sun God and Moon God. And the order they are mentioned (with the stars as an afterthought) is the reverse order from the importance of Stars, Moon, and Sun in Mesopotamian mythologies.

  9. Two sides of the same fundamentalist coin, imho.

  10. There are already a couple of comments where folks say that evolution has no relationship to “hard science.” So it should be pointed out that engineering does not equal “hard science.”

    Engineering is about building a bridge or a system. At its core, it’s applied science and mathematics. This is distinct from those branches of science which are exploratory, open-ended and ultimately tasked with creating new knowledge. Evolutionary theory doesn’t bear directly on the practice of applied science; it it is more important to those who do theoretical work. Its a really important theory that bears on a lot of things. You can’t dogmatically refuse to think about it or use any of its suppositions. (Well, you can. But you probably shouldn’t.)

    Likewise, sure, students given a heavy dose of creationism go into science all the time. But creationism is not one bit helpful in guiding them toward that goal. Its a massive distraction, and it presents a terrible model for doing science,

    It might also be noted that Ken Ham is a terrible example of doing theology, and that evolutionary theory also doesn’t cripple your ability to have faith or think constructively about Christianity. But that is another discussion!

    • I should have said, “There are already a couple of comments where folks say that evolution has no relationship to one’s ability to do “hard science.”

      The subject and the practice of it are two different things. (Can I blame the fact my coffee maker isn’t on?)

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Actually I see only one other comment that even mentions the E-word. And it doesn’t say anything about Evolution other than not believing in Evolution is not logically crippling [which is a true statement, people engaged in Logic before anyone believed in Evolution].

        Aside, for clarity: I `believe` in biological Evolution [I do not like to use the word "belief" for that, I'd prefer "convinced" as there is train-loads of evidence]. I am not a YEC.

        • To be clear, I wasn’t commenting on Cedric or Jeff P’s views of evolution. In fact, I agree with their main assertions (ignorance/denial of evolutionary theory doesn’t necessarily “cripple” students, or prevent engineers from accomplishing excellent work). I haven’t read his statements, but it sounds like Nye may have a habit of overstating his case.

          However, what I do mean to point out is that what Nye lacks is finesse — the point he’s chasing isn’t too far off. Adamant denial of the possibility of evolutionary theory being true won’t harm work in applied science, but it is important to those doing theoretical work. For this reason, it does harm students who are in a subfield to which evolutionary theory is important — or who would have been interested to that field, but will be motivated by their convictions to pursue another branch of science to which evolution is less important. Further, insofar as Ham & co. tend to describe evolutionary theory badly, even high school students are impaired by his materials to some degree.

          • Forget evolution. A big dose of creationism makes physics, astronomy, and astrophysics hard fields to master.

            And anthropology if you’re into the world is only 6000 years old.

    • flatrocker says:

      Danielle,
      Very well stated that we understand the difference and purpose in applied vs. exploratory science. However, your statement “those branches of science which are exploratory, open-ended and ultimately tasked with creating new knowledge” raises an issue.

      Exploratory science is never tasked with “creating new knowledge.” Discoverying new knowledge – yes. But creating it – no. Not sure if this was a slip on your part, but if we look to science to provide enlightenment through scientific method, then we must always hold it to rigorous examination. And that includes the rhetoric we chose in describing its purpose.

      Also, while we may want to see science as purely “exploratory”, it is normally alot more applied than we want to admit. Gallileo stood on the shoulders of Copernicus. Newton stood on the shoulders of Gallileo. Einstein stood on the shoulders of Newton. Etc, etc, etc. Very little of science is truly exploratory without applying what we have already been shown.

      And it is precisely when we apply what has been revealed to us that we must be acutely aware of our bias.

      • I’d have to stick with Danielle on the idea that scientists are indeed tasked with creating new knowledge. Creating new physical laws, “principles”, facts, etc., no – but discovering, yes. Knowledge only exists when we (humans) become aware of facts, laws, principles, etc..

        Nonetheless, I agree with the general consensus here that no new knowledge will be created at this event.

        • flatrocker says:

          Jason,
          Having the imagination to ponder what exists beneath a stone or having the curiosity to actually lift the stone and peer underneath does nothing more than illuminate what already exists. Be cautious in elevating knowledge as the creator of what already is. That is not its purpose.

      • I think you and I use the word “knowledge” differently.

        Jason explains my understanding of it very well.

        • I see no flaws with Danielle’s and Jason’s propositions. Flatrocker’s use of the word “knowledge” appears to lack the rigor he or she advocates. “Knowledge” is the acquisition of facts, understanding, information, or comprehension of what is. It is semantically correct to say that scientists are tasked with causing to exist (to create) new understandings or comprehension (knowledge) of what pre-exists.

          • flatrocker says:

            Patrick,
            We acquire knowledge, we don’t create it. The reason for the sensitivity to this point is tracing back to Danielle’s original point that science is “ultimately tasked with creating new knowledge.” This line of thinking lends itself to feeding our post modern thinking by ascribing more power to the scientific method than it deserves.

            When we talk of science, simply acquire the knowledge and draw conclusions, rinse and repeat – nothing more. Leave the creating to the philosophers, poets and lovers.

          • We acquire knowledge, we don’t create it.

            I don’t know if I agree with that. I’m fairly sure that calculus doesn’t exist anywhere in nature outside of the mind of man.

    • Andrena LeBlanc says:

      Ken Ham and AIG in general need to hire real biblical scholars and theologians sometime. The claims they make and blunders they make about the Bible and their theological understanding turned me off of young earth fundamentalism. What’s funny is it turned one I started going to theology school that was taught by actual scholars lol.

    • I understand the distinction being made between applied and exploratory science, but I’d be careful saying that engineering doesn’t equal “hard science”. I’d say an engineering core curriculum contains a lot of basic science. It’s just generally not in the life sciences. My major was Architectural Engineering, but even in that, I took quite a bit of chemistry and physics. I really didn’t have to biology because of AP credits, so I never really had to deal with evolutionary theory head-on in college.

      All I’m saying is that we do need to be a bit careful about calling all YEC people dumb or portraying them as unsophisticated. I have unfortunately met my fair share of them who would fall into those categories, by I also have met some doctors who are young earthers.

      • Yes. Designing micro circuits is way more than plugging in numbers and getting a circuit out at the end of the day. You really have to know your quantum physics and chemistry and do lots of research to design current high density chips.

  11. On a semi-related note, I think it’s a little funny that this face-off is between a guy with a BA in science only (the honorary degree from Liberty University doesn’t count), and an engineer-turned-entertainer. They really are made for each other.

    Actually, I wonder if Nye is really blundering here. Think about it: he’s getting his own moment in the spotlight, which will help his own career as an educator/entertainer. He won’t convince anyone in the room. But this is going to get broadcast, right? If so, I’ll put money on the fact that he’s playing for the virtual audience. Less is also lost if Ham lands some jabs, since Nye is not a first-class scientists. He’s more like a science evangelist. And since this is nothing more than a war of words and flourish of wit, perhaps Nye would do better than someone who has more hours in the lab.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > ’ll put money on the fact that he’s playing for the virtual audience.

      Oh, goodness, yes. My Angry Atheist and Smug None friends are going to ***devour*** this like candy from a Christmas stocking. The social media feeds I have are going to blow up with clips and quotes making Nye a vilified hero and Ham into a barbarian-at-the-gate.

      Other than being annoying it will not amount to anything. No one will change their minds [that is never the intent of a debate between partisans]. And as the the reputation and name-brand of Christianity? That is already a smoldering ruin – a village burned and pillaged by its own inhabitants – viva la Reformation!

      > perhaps Nye would do better than someone who has more hours in the lab.

      Certainly. The very last person you want in a partisan debate is an actual qualified expert; that is like Al Gore in a debate. “Wait, please, the relevant data-points are…” slap… “Wait, please, the relevent data-points are…” … slap… “Wait, please, the relevent data-points are…” ….slap …. Such a debate quickly turns into a blood-bath, usually with full audience participation and all decorum goes out the window. I’ve seen that too many times. How quickly wit can trump content is a frightening thing to behold [and there are entire radio and TV channels dedicated to that].

    • You’re right. I’m sure Bill Nye knows EXACTLY what he’s getting himself into. I only wish that somehow both of these hucksters could lose the debate.

  12. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    Ugh. Simply, Ugh.

    > This will be almost entirely an exercise in rhetoric

    Yep.

    >Why would anyone who takes science seriously and wants to
    >advance learning engage publicly with someone like Ham?

    Nye has been trending more political and specifically anti-creationist for at least a couple of years.

    He is a comedian and an entertainer; just a rare one who has managed to carve about a space around science rather than some specifically political center. I’d expect that course to ultimately leave him in as ugly a space as the other talky edutainment types. You cannot mix comedy and something serious without ultimately ending up in yuckville.

    This is be *very* good for Nye’s career. If the Creationist treat him badly – all the better for him.

    • cermak_rd says:

      Actually did you know thats why Professor Dawkins started being a much more vocal atheist? He kept encountering students who wanted to derail his classes by arguing for the creationist view (in his case, they were Muslim students, I believe). It’s also why Professor Coyne wrote “Why Evolution is True.”

      Teaching a child to believe that a Divine somehow created the Cosmos is one thing. Teaching a child that Genesis is literally true and therefore they can’t believe the various molecular dating systems (Carbon 14 only works for relatively short term dates, other isotopes are used for longer ones, IIRC), and therefore can’t believe anything an archaeologist says or a geologist and the images from Hubble aren’t really things that happened so long ago because of some tortuous explanation regarding the speed of light, etc. And we have to throw Linnaeus and DNA right out as well.

      All in all, no one will be illuminated by this spectacle, but it might be fun. And it will be archived forever.

      • cermak_rd says:

        OH, and if the non-literal interpreters of Genesis among the Christians had any PR sense, they’d be pointing out that their theology doesn’t force anyone to believe such folderol. Many non-Christians don’t know the distinctions between say the United Church of Christ and the Church of Christ, or for that matter the Community of Christ, and even I have no idea what the theological differences are between say the Wheaton Bible Church and the Berwyn Bible Church. So non-Christians can often just lump the various strains of Christianity together into an ugly mess of Fundamentalist/Literalist stew and decide it’s unappetizing. I guess much the same as non-Muslims do with the Shiite, Alawite, Sunni, Druze, Ismailism, Sufism…

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          “OH, and if the non-literal interpreters of Genesis among the Christians had any PR sense, they’d be pointing out that their theology doesn’t force anyone to believe such folderol. ”

          We point this out to anyone who will listen. It is hard to get the message out. The Evangelicals captured the word “Christian” about thirty years ago, and are still holding on tight. Consider how willing the mainstream media is to assign the “Christian view” to all sorts of narrowly sectarian positions. During these thirty or so years the constant message has also been that the mainline churches are irrelevant at best, and not really Christian at worst. The marginalization has been so successful that when the UCC tried to run an ad campaign a few years ago with the message that everyone was welcome, this was considered so controversial that networks wouldn’t run the ad. I have many times had discussions with atheists who refuse to believe that utterly conventional traditional mainline theology is actually a thing, and that I’m not making simply making it up. The narrative capture is nearly complete.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I have a solution:

      Put Ken Ham and Bill Nye in a sealed room where they can go for each others’ throats as much as they want.

      And leave all the rest of us free to live our lives.

      • To my mind, this would also be a viable method for choosing between presidential candidates.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          That was actually suggested during Indecision 2000 — “We get Bush and Gore into the ring for a Steel Cage Smackdown!”

      • Can I give them swords??? Please, please, pretty please with ice cream on top??????

  13. On science and faith, I keep recommending Edwyn Bevan’s 1936 lecture series called Symbolism and Belief. Although I rarely see evidence that many do. It is a tour de force on the subject of the material universe and the spirit age.

  14. I think I’ll pass. I would prefer a real circus with clowns and tightrope walkers. Well, there are two clowns in this circus.

  15. I don’t understand why the idea that Genesis 1-2 aren’t historical records keeps getting repeated. There is absolutely no evidence that they are anything other than historical. The grammar, the genre, the syntax, all of it indicate that they were intended to be historical records. Regardless of Ham and Nye (which sounds like a sandwich, a really bad one), can we at least do away with this nonsense?

    • We’ve dealt with this thoroughly in other posts. Sorry, you are simply wrong.

      • C.M. – And if you’ve said it once, you never have to say it again?

      • Well Chaplain Mike, the full weight of Hebrew syntax, grammar, and genre are on my side. Your links seem to be broken, but unless you have changed them since the last time I read them, they are still wrong and poorly argued. They lack facts. So it is you who are wrong based on Hebrew language, and you haven’t dealt with it thoroughly if you don’t recognize that. Your research is lacking. Of course, you have been told that before and you show no signs of humility to reconsider, and that is most unfortunate. I will leave it at that.

        But I agree with you that this debate is a silly idea.

        • Sorry, Anon. I have studied Genesis for over 30 years. I once held your position and a long time ago came to see that it is unfeasible. If you really understood “the full weight of Hebrew syntax, grammar, and genre” you might actually reconsider. In fact, syntax and grammar actually prove little with regard to interpretation. What the text says grammatically and syntactically is pretty straightforward and not in question. The main issues for interpreting what it means are genre and context in Genesis and the Torah. And on that, you are mistaken.

          You might try reading John Sailhamer, Bruce Waltke, John Walton and other fine evangelical scholars who take different views than you do. I won’t claim to know Hebrew like any of them do, but I have learned at their feet and from their books.

          By the way, the links work fine. I just tried them.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      The link:
      http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/category/creation-wars
      – provides a view of many of the creation oriented articles.
      Specifically:
      http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/why-i-am-not-a-six-day-creationist
      – and –
      http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/pete-enns-on-mistakes-in-the-adamevolution-discussion
      Those at least serve as a start, I may have missed better choices.

    • Sorry. This commenter has graduate work in both literature and theology, and “grammar, genre, and syntax” clearly indicate poetry, not history.

    • Anon –
      The rub is in what a person means by “historical” or “literal.”

      Example-

      My literal and historical statement: This morning, because it was Monday, after I woke up I went right to work.

      YEC take on my statement: This must mean that he did nothing else but roll out of bed and begin working in his pajamas.

      Atheistic Evolutionist’s take on my statement: This statement can’t be true because we know his work place is at least 20 miles away and we know that his work has a policy against coming in pajamas.

      They both miss the point. The point is that it is Monday morning and so the focus of the morning is the return to work. Just because I didn’t mention that I shaved, showered, dressed, ate, and used mu car to travel to work doesn’t make my statement false.

      Like you, I believe that Genesis is a historical record. But that doesn’t preclude a 14 billion year old universe, a 4 billion year old earth, or evolutionary process.

    • Except that it isn’t. I would add that among historians “history” has a specific meaning which could never be applied to Genesis one and two. But I suppose that is getting off in the weeds.

  16. Scott Fisher says:

    I agree. Good analysis and painful to consider.

  17. Where o where is John Polkinghorne when he’s needed?

  18. Sounds like two literalists on opposite sides of the coin.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “Literalist” is giving them too much credit. “Partisans” is a better term.

  19. It never bothers me when people get together and change exchange ideas, freely.

    No matter how goofy they might be, on either side.

    It goes on every day in our colleges and universities, in business, in our families, in our churches.

    • “Exchange ideas, freely” is the key point, Steve, and that would be most welcome.

      This is more like “batter the other side unceasingly,” and both sides will be engaging in this.

      • That happens, too, Mike, all too often in all areas of life.

        Turn on any news program on Fox, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS or NBC.

        What do see happening, every day of the week?

        • You’re absolutely right. Our world is far too full of this kind of confrontational exchange.

          Christians would do better not to contribute to it.

          • Agreed.

            Good luck, though.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Confrontational exchange (as in Kill or Be Killed) comes with the territory when you reduce something to Power Struggle. And that’s what has happened. Creation/Evolution is only a weapon in Power Struggle, a weapon to use on the Other to make sure You Win and He Loses.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        This is more like “batter the other side unceasingly,” and both sides will be engaging in this.

        Because the zero-sum rules of Power Struggle are now in effect.
        “I WIN! YOU LOSE! HAW! HAW! HAW!”

        “In the Devil’s theology, the most important thing is to be absolutely right and to prove everyone else absolutely wrong.”
        — Thomas Merton, “Moral Theology of the Devil”

  20. I won’t take either of these guys seriously until I see them square off in the freestyle round of DWTS.

  21. Man, some of you folks need to chill out. The more you rail against these “debaters” the more attention you give them, the more the interest grows. Stop feeding the critters, already, and they might just go away. Are there no other subjects of higher importance/relevance to discuss here?

    • +1

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      But IM is the one pin-hole in my defensive perimeter!

      Otherwise all things Evangelical are nicely filtered out; and the Angry Atheists do not have as effective a media machine [they really do not need one - the Evangelical machine serves them nicely]. Without IM I’d never know this is coming – nothing I otherwise read would deign to even look askance at such a `debate` [more appropriately termed "a shoutin' match"].

      At least, thanks to IM, I am forewarned to the coming onslaught. I appreciate the connection to the Evangelical zeitgeist but without all the hate-n-fear.

  22. Something about Ken Ham is not kosher….

  23. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    And the next battle of the Creation Wars begins.

    Culture War Without End, Amen.

    • The culture wars reminds me of “La Marcha” (“The March,” a Mexican wedding dance/march). Participants march around in a single file all over the wedding reception area to a seemingly endless tune played over and over again, the only variation being the instruments.

  24. Every time some craziness like this comes up from our friends on the fringes of the faith, I am left wondering why more reasonable voices within Christianity never seem to come forward to point out the circus for what it is. I mean, just once I would like to see other voices point out how these things are distractions from the faith, from who Christ is and what he taught, from what the arc of Scripture is about.

    Is it because no one has thought to do this? Is it because what they would have to say is not as “media-friendly” (e.g. doesn’t feed the outrage beast that passes for discourse today and would get buried? Or is there some other explanation?

    The longer all this stuff is allowed to go unanswered by more reasonable, centered Christian voices, the more and more the faith and its practitioners will be seen as a bunch of nutcases, unworthy of consideration, by the population in general. The ground Christianity has lost in the last 20 years or so, with the rise of the outrage industry and the Internet in general, is astonishing.

    I work in a university setting, and people are continually astonished that I am a Christian, because I am not a complete jerk focused on the culture wars. For many outside the faith, people like Ham ARE the face of Christianity.

    • Final Anonymous says:

      Who are these voices? The fringes seem to speak the loudest and are thus the most well-known, unfortunately.

      • That’s kind of my point. Are there no moderate Christian voices focused on the main tenets of the faith and how it is to be lived out? Is there no one out there to raise their hand amid all the nonsense and say, “excuse us, but this stuff is just a sideshow and not the focus of the faith?”

        Do these kinds of voices not exist? Or do they exist and they don’t have the courage to speak up? Are they focused on other matters? Why are we reduced to only the fringes? What are the non-fringers doing, and where are they?

        • “… focused on the main tenets of the faith and how it is to be lived out?”

          Well, there’s Pope Francis. Thank God.

          By the way, why is it that, so often in this country, the guy with the most bigoted, loudest, and most misogynistic voice in the room is the one who’s so sure he’s speaking up for Jesus?

        • Do these kinds of voices not exist? Or do they exist and they don’t have the courage to speak up? Are they focused on other matters?

          Is it really the calling of Christians to get in the face of other “Christians” and tell them they are wrong, can’t read, ignorant of the truth, and may not be Christians?

          In other words are we really supposed to act like “them”?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        From experience in Furry Fandom, the fringies are usually True Believers who have no life to get in the way of their advocacy. Keeping a high profile 24/7/365, the fanboys are able to outlast those of us with jobs and/or lives. And they are always able to scream louder and longer than anyone else, because The Cause is all they have and all they are, how they live and move and have their being.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          P.S. and the fringies seek out media like do-it-yourself Reality Show stars.

        • Do you think that in today’s media/internet climate, there is no paradigm that could move discussion in a more reasonable direction? Are we doomed to having all discussion dominated by fringies and the topics they want to keep everyone focused on?

          It does seem like that.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > Do you think that in today’s media/internet climate, there is no paradigm that
            > could move discussion in a more reasonable direction?

            Yes, I think exactly let. Civil discourse is terminally ill. I see no possible path upwards.

            I hope I am wrong. But that hope, for me, is extremely dim.

            > Are we doomed to having all discussion dominated by fringies and the
            > topics they want to keep everyone focused on?

            Yes.

          • Final Anonymous says:

            Yes.

            But that may work out yet. I’ve seen a few instances now, mostly in political races, where the Christian Holy War contingent declared the fight won, then watched agape as common folk, mainline Christians, and centrist voters take to the polls. The more loud and obnoxious the fringes get, the more mainline folks will separate from them. Ken Ham is really laying the ground work all for us.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Every time some craziness like this comes up from our friends on the fringes
      > of the faith, I am left wondering why more reasonable voices within Christianity
      > never seem to come forward to point out the circus for what it is

      They do. Like right here. But the civil and the moderate always suffer from the same handicap – nobody repeats them. The extremes are – you know, extreme – they make hot news.

      People speaking specifically and deliberately are sooooo boring. Your understanding of Genesis 1 & 2 requires five paragraphs to explain? Ugh, next!

      The `media` and doubly so Social Media amplify the extremes and squelch the nuanced.

    • You might try looking into the American Scientific Affiliation.

  25. I suppose we can hope and pray that, somehow, some good will come out of this event. Stranger things have happened – maybe it will be conducted in a genial, good-humoured way, with all participants making a commitment to listen to the others actually say, and not just what they think they are saying. And maybe some of the audience, or the speakers will find their belief’s challenged, their mind’s enlarged, and their appreciation of nuance significant;y improved.

    • Ben I’ve often been called a rather hopeless idealist, but even I cannot conceive of this coming to pass. Perhaps my faith is weak.

    • Or perhaps the sound system will break, which would be very funny. :)

    • Another option in the “good” dept.: some 40 (or so) yrs ago when a group I was with sponsored a Ken Ham debate on the campus of UMKC (university of missouri, kansas city), I concluded after the event that there HAD to be a better option out there for believers…. I did this only because Ken was (at that time) strongly doubting the salvation of anyone who saw things differently than he. Even as a fervent young-earther, and a new believer, I knew that was out of bounds.

      If that could happen to me (and I was part of a team that sponsored that event), it could happen to others.

      • Final Anonymous says:

        As far as I know, doubting the salvation of someone who is not YEC is still part of the AiG curriculum.

        • Just done with more tact than blunt statements. They now ask a series of rhetorical questions which imply you must agree with them or you are not a Christian.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > maybe it will be conducted in a genial, good-humoured way, with all participants
      > making a commitment to listen

      Is anyone willing to make wagers on that? Those are some long odds – but you could win big! If you want to wager on that side please send the money to my paypal account.

    • You do realize, don’t you, that optimism can be terminal? Be careful, at those levels, you run the risk of dissociating from reality! :P

  26. Seems to me the only real loser in this event will be the gospel of Jesus Christ. Fortunately we know He’s victorious with or without stupid events like this one.

  27. God keeps preoccupied minds preoccupied, one just has to know who.

  28. Vega Magnus says:

    This is gonna be hilarious. Can’t wait. Yeah, it is an overall bad thing for everyone involved, but it is still going to be amusing in a sort of MST3K kind of way.

  29. Patricia Stewart says:

    PLEASE direct your attention to http://www.reasons.org for a wonderful scientific approach to the biblical creation account

    • Patricia, in my view Hugh Ross and his people make a valiant effort to present a plausible concordist approach to science and the Bible. However, in my view, it can’t be done. I simply don’t think the Bible was written to give us information about the natural world like that. By maintaining that it does, we keep focusing on the wrong topics.

      • I got to spend a weekend at a retreat where Hugh Ross was the speaker. Even got to sit around a table for a few discussions. I was the ignorant one in the group. The rest were mostly MD’s or students almost MDs with a smattering of other bright people thrown in.

        On things about HR, he seems to keep up with EVERYTHING. Either he’s a real life Sheldon or he has no life. He reads and learns or at least does a good imitation of that all kinds of journals.

        I may not agree with all of his conclusions but he is not slouch when it comes to science.

        • I wish I had the opportunity that you did. Having read many author’s on this subject for many years, Hugh Ross is certainly the best I’ve come across.

          • Check out their web site. His speaking schedule should be there. Much of it is at churches.

  30. Sorry… I think you all have it all wrong…. they are not going to debate… they are going to have a dance off in front of a panel of three judges. All eyes will be on the host who will pick the style of dance they will perform…will it be the Samba or the Tango or the dreaded Jitterbug? Only God knows because it says so in the Bible… or can t be proved out through DNA sequencing … you will get to decide!

    Personally I can’t take any of this seriously.But I do remember my kids watching Bill Nye. Some of it was pretty entertaining. A creationist Museum I would find pretty entertaining as well. Takes my mind off of Obamacare and the like. Not end of the world stuff though and virtually unnoticed in my neck of the woods.

  31. This will be a fundamentalist rage-fest. I bet it will be real entertaining to watch, but getting the name of Christ dragged through the mud might make it too painful. Good luck “rescuing your kids,” Hamm. I’ve seen that fail more than it works.

  32. Had a discussion with a home-school-to-protect-the-kids mom the other day whose family made the pilgrimage to Ken Hamm’s mecca. The dad actually began to question the righteousness of the cause when in the theater (in which I think the debate will sputter) the introduction video railed on any people who don’t home school because the kids will go to the devil.

    The mom wanted to know how my kids still loved Jesus when we aren’t YECs. Hmmmm.

  33. This thing is a carnival sideshow, and I wish people would treat it as such. [sigh]

    As for YEC literalism, how many of them believe there are waters above the firmament, or take seriously that odd little geography/economics lesson that’s stuck into either Gen. ch. 1 or 2? (Am blanking on where it comes in at the moment.) So… like everyone else, they pick and choose what they take literally and what they don’t.

    • Not in support of either side here, but FYI…

      I believe that the YEC folks teach that the “waters above the firmament” consisted of water vapor which condensed during the flood (accounted for at least half of it, anyway, the other half coming from the “fountains of the deep”) as a result, in part, at least, of volcanic activity. Consequently, there no longer are “waters above the firmament.” Something like that.

      Also according to YEC proponents, the aforementioned “waters (vapor) above the firmament” also accounted for two antediluvian phenomena: 1) total protection from harmful UV rays and other cosmic radiation, and 2) increased atmospheric pressure. Both of these, presumably, accounted for the near 1K year lifetime of Noah and his predecessors. Consequent to the loss of this protection, the ages of Noah’s descendants steadily decreased as a result of DNA damage due to harmful solar and other cosmic radiation and decreased atmospheric pressure, the latter resulting in less effective/efficient healing of wounds. Something like that.

      • This was popularized in Henry Morris’ book The Genesis Flood, which I read in Bible college in the 1970’s. Turns out that to make his point, Morris made use of old teachings by Ellen G. White the Adventist, who claimed to have visions about the Flood that countered the geological findings of her day.

        One of many problems with this view is, this is reading ancient literature (which had a fully developed understanding of “firmament”) through modern scientific theory. Both “firmament” and “fountains of the deep” are well-attested aspects of Ancient Near Eastern cosmology and should be read in that light.

        • I agree with you. But we should give some credit to Dr. Morris, et al., at Creation Research Institute for being “creative.”

          • You know, I consider Dr. Morris (he went on to be with the Lord in 2006, I believe) to have been a sincere man doing his best to harmonize science with his hyper-literalist view of Scripture, and frankly, I don’t blame him for that.

            As a former YEC adherent, one of the things I believe he wrote which alerted me to error on his part was his rationale for eschewing alcohol. In his opinion, alcohol was a byproduct of fermentation (no argument there), but he argued that fermentation was a product of decay, like death, and therefore a result of the fall and therefore to be avoided. Something like that.

            But if this is true, shouldn’t we as Christians also eschew bread (except unleavened bread, i suppose) which rises as the result of the other byproduct of fermentation, CO2? And furthermore, should we not also not eat cheese, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or anything else which is processed by fermentation (by bacteria, no less)?

            My point is that attempts to defend Scripture can sometimes lead us to errors and inconsistencies, not to mention, silliness. I believe it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stated that Scripture is axiomatic and does not need to be defended.

            I think I’ll go have some wine & cheese now and read a good book on the Reformation, now that’s a worthy subject.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            In his opinion, alcohol was a byproduct of fermentation (no argument there), but he argued that fermentation was a product of decay, like death, and therefore a result of the fall and therefore to be avoided. Something like that.

            O…kay….
            I know about Christians and Dry Pledges, but that’s a new one on me.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Don’t Evangelicals consider Ellen G White a “CULT leader” and her Seventh-Day Adventists a “CULT! CULT! CULT!”?

          Then why do they take a CULT leader’s Visions as Scripture(TM)?

          (But then, when a Mormon won the GOP primaries in 2012, funny how fast Mormonism was no longer a CULT CULT CULT… At least until Romney lost the election…)

        • You’re spot on, CM! People don’t realize this YEC reasoning doesn’t come from the Bible, but from the visions of Ellen G. White, defended by Price, who started these views, and Morris just rehashed it.

          People just don’t learn. They didn’t learn from the debacle of the Scopes trial, and won’t learn here in Scopes II.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I believe that the YEC folks teach that the “waters above the firmament” consisted of water vapor which condensed during the flood (accounted for at least half of it, anyway, the other half coming from the “fountains of the deep”) as a result, in part, at least, of volcanic activity. Consequently, there no longer are “waters above the firmament.” Something like that.

        Somebody ran the numbers on what it would take to keep that much water vapor suspended in the atmosphere (enough to completely cover the earth, assuming mountains didn’t exist which is another Flood Geology thing). They came up with an atmospheric density, pressure, and temperature somewhere around that of present-day Venus.

        So how do you counter that?
        1) “And then a(nother) Miracle happened…”?
        2) Godless Secular Mathematics and Physics?
        3) “GAWDIDDIT!” handwaving?
        4) All of the above?

        • Probably “4) All of the above.”

          I’m trying to be fair and kind here even though I no longer agree with the YEC theory. I say “fair” because creation itself is ex nihilo, which is by definition miraculous, pre-mathematics/physics, and yes, God did it (sans the hand-waving, as hands would not appear on the scene for some time); it’s the all too important details that are missing/misguided. And I say “kind” because these folks are believers.

        • Yeah, my dad is a MS in physics, and our math and physics was always held to the most rigorous standard. When I first heard the “water canopy” theory, I literally laughed out loud, much to the chagrin of the 50+ year old Sunday School teacher, who did not at all find it amusing. I actually ran some numbers on this, and concluded that the oceans would be boiling. There is a pretty big gap between actual physics and the theories of YECers who just want the creation story to be scientifically and historically precise.

          • This is the 1st I’ve heard about the water vapor thing and honestly, it beggars belief. I can’t understand why so many people are being willingly taken in my this kind of foolishness.

            Or maybe they believe in an early-onset version of global warming? ;)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Numo, you were deprived.

            The “water vapor thing” was SCRIPTURE(TM) in a lot of Christian Radio and Bible Study groups and apologetics books in the Seventies and Eighties. Except for the variant (to avoid the boiling oceans and Venus-like atmospheric density and pressure) that put all the water a in hollow shell of ice (the firmament) floating around the earth that melted and fell for the Flood. (Kind of like a de-Nazified version of Horbiger’s “World Ice Theory”.) I don’t remember either FACT (not theory!) having an explanation for where all that water went afterwards.

          • There’s lots of things floating around on how to about how to harmonize Gen with our real world if you are YEC. My mother would send me various video tapes and books for years (and I assume to my brothers) to try and save us from the heathen knowledge presented by science. Saw all kinds of stuff in those when I skimmed them.

            The best was a set of video tapes she sent about 20 years ago. Likely cost her $100 or more. Subject was YEC. I pick one from the middle of the stack to see what it was like. One of the first things on the tape was someone talking about how if you worked on all the stuff presented up to that point in the tapes you would have to agree that the world was created on May 14, 4037BC at 4:25PM. (Not exactly what was on the tape but that was the precision given.)

          • I wouldn’t exactly say “deprived”; I heard a lot of other crazy stuff, just not this particular iteration of it. Or, quite possibly, I might have run across it, thought “How stupid!” and promptly forgotten all about it.

          • That wouldn’t work, HUG. It would still put pressure on the atmosphere, ice shell or no…

      • Both of these, presumably, accounted for the near 1K year lifetime of Noah and his predecessors.

        An unrelated comment someone made recently about teeth made me wonder why their teeth were able to last so long. It looks like our teeth are designed to last maybe 100 years. 500+ Nope.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          That’s another “And then another MIRACLE happened! YOU DARE TO DOUBT GOD’S SOVERIGNITY???” moment.

  34. “All things work together for good…” Some good could come of this. It would not be unprecedented for the earth to open and swallow both men, taking the Creation Museum with them. Next thing you know GQ will be interviewing Phil Robinson.

    Two verse of scripture come to mind, Titus 3:9 and 2 Timothy 2:23, both of which involve avoiding foolish controversies. Legitimate theologians and scientists will come out looking worse for this.

  35. The following article on the teilhard.com website I think lays a good foundation for a path forward, building bridges across the chasm between theism and atheism.

    http://teilhard.com/2014/01/06/the-problem-of-defining-god-finding-unity-with-atheists-in-wonder-and-community/

    The article starts with a point raised here on Internet iMonk last year, that both fundamentalist theists and fundamentalist atheists are dependent upon a literal interpretation of the Bible – particularly Genesis chapter one. Finding a bridge through the wonder of existence and the universe – by which even Einstein considered himself “religious” – is very intriguing. I have found similar themes within the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, particularly that love is the driving force of the universe – not survival of the fittest. I’d would relish the opportunity to hear a theist and atheist sit down and discuss cosmology from this perspective.

  36. I always liked Bill Nye, but he was kind of a rip-off of Beakman’s World, which was both brilliant and hilarious.

  37. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    I’m sure one factor in YEC is fear of Deep Time and Deep Space. A 6017-year-old, Earth-and-some-lights-in-the-sky Cosmos is a lot more cozy and comfortable than what we see in the Hubble Deep Fields. Small enough that WE can be Important without any outside help, when Ruling the World(TM) looks like more than a portion of a pale blue dot amid the blackness. Deep Space and Deep Time dwarf anything and everything into insignificance.

    Yet Christianity should be THE best-equipped to deal with Deep Space and Deep Time, by virtue of the Doctrine of the Incarnation. No matter how enormous and old the Cosmos becomes, no matter how Big God has to be, no matter how insignificant one pale blue dot and the life forms on that pale blue dot, God remains on a one-to-one human scale through Incarnation as Christ.

  38. I’m grateful that Ham is hosting Nye for this debate. Maybe people on both sides–and the many caught in the middle–can learn how civil conversations about truth can lead to clarity. That’s just possible, ya know. I just visited the Creation Museum last week so my kids could have an experience to help them learn about creation, the flood, Babel, etc. It was fantastic…and guess what…it all pointed to the Gospel of Jesus. What a wonderful place to explore and experience what the Lord of heaven and earth has done to forgive sin and reverse the effects of death. I was thoroughly impressed and convinced.

  39. As has been pointed out, neither guy is qualified for this. It is all PR. Ham is handicapped with his untenable YEC view because he does not take the first two verses of the Bible literally, so he is disqualified by his own standard.
    http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/in-the-beginning/