What Was the Most Important Thing Said at the Nye Debate 10 Years Ago?

Reflecting on the gospel impact of the debate with Bill Nye, ten years later

by Ken Ham on March 16, 2024
Featured in Ken Ham Blog

Time seems to go so fast, but did you know that February 4 this year was the 10th anniversary of the debate between me and Bill Nye “the Science Guy”?

Sadly, after the debate I asked Bill if we could stay in touch with each other, and he gave a very firm no. But he can’t stop us from praying for him.

Despite his answer, he did contact me later that year.

On December 6, 2014 (nine months after the debate), Bill Nye sent me his book Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation with a note from him and an inscription in the book.

Here is the note he sent.

Bill Nye note to Ken Ham

He inscribed in the book the following:

For Ken,

Here’s hoping you find your way someday. You would be welcomed in the world of reason—we could celebrate the science together!

Bill Nye, Dec. 6, 2014

So I sent Bill a copy of the book Inside the Nye-Ham Debate that we produced, and I inscribed the following:

For Bill,

Here’s earnestly hoping you find THE WAY someday. You would be welcomed in the world of the redeemed. We could celebrate the salvation together. John 14:6 – Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life.

Ken Ham, Jan. 6, 2015

Ken Ham and Bill Nye book notes to each other

I didn’t hear from Bill again after December 2014 until I publicly invited him to tour the life-size Ark that opened July 7, 2016, and I offered to personally show him through. Nye accepted. He asked to bring a video team, which we agreed to as long as we could have our own AiG video team there as well. So on July 8, I took Bill on a two-hour tour of the exhibits at the Ark Encounter. It really turned into what we call The Second Debate.

The first debate was streamed live and millions of people watched it, including many churches, schools, and university groups. Some television stations also broadcast it live. Based on a number of factors, our estimate is that 20–25 million people have watched this debate.

Both debates (first and second) are available on the Answers in Genesis YouTube channel and also on our Answers TV streaming platform.

God’s Plans

I really do believe this debate was a historic moment in the history of Answers in Genesis. All I can say is this was definitely something God orchestrated to open a door for AiG’s impact to grow exponentially. Such a debate was not even remotely a part of my thinking.

God specializes in doing things we think are impossible, or things we wouldn’t even think of, for reasons we wouldn’t comprehend until afterward.

There’s no way any of us at AiG would have thought of having me debate Bill Nye. And yet God specializes in doing things we think are impossible, or things we wouldn’t even think of, for reasons we wouldn’t comprehend until afterward.

So how did it come about? Well, back in 2013, an Associated Press reporter was interviewing me in my office. Mark Looy, another AiG founder, was with me. Suddenly, the reporter said he had asked Bill Nye if he would be willing to debate me and Bill said he would. The reporter then asked if I would be willing to debate Bill Nye. I realized I had no option but to say yes. And so began the planning for a debate that received worldwide publicity.

There’s no doubt interest in the AiG ministry grew exponentially as a result. I continue to hear weekly, 10 years later, from young people who watched the debate, people who say it greatly inspired and equipped them to be more bold as Christians, and people who were atheists but became Christians as a result of God using the debate. I hear of schools who still use the debate as part of their classwork. Really, I am amazed at how many testimonies I hear a month from people telling me how much this debate impacted them.

Many secularists were actually angry at Bill Nye for debating me—they didn’t want people to hear what I had to say, and they didn’t want people to think evolution could even be debated! But God orchestrated it all. God certainly does things way beyond our limited thoughts.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)
Many secularists were actually angry at Bill Nye for debating me—they didn’t want people to hear what I had to say, and they didn’t want people to think evolution could even be debated!

You know what was so interesting as well? Before the debate, I had so many phone calls, emails, and letters from well-meaning supporters telling me what I should say in the debate. And, of course, there were many totally different opinions. Then after the debate, I had many phone calls, letters, and emails telling me what I should have done.

Bill Nye Ken Ham debate promo

Gospel Presented

I spent many hours preparing for the debate, and that preparation included counsel with many people and much prayer asking the Lord for wisdom and direction. I decided I needed to make sure I taught people how to think correctly about science and interpretation of evidence and to ensure I included a clear presentation of the gospel message. And the gospel was presented in different ways three times during my presentation. I recognized that I would be talking to people all over the world, and there’s no point trying to convert people to be creationists if I wasn’t presenting them with the most important message in the universe—the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Our supporters know that Answers in Genesis has always been a ministry with an emphasis on biblical authority and the gospel. Now, we certainly do deal with issues of the age of the earth, fossils, and so on, as they are used to attack biblical authority in our day. Thus, we have an emphasis on apologetics, providing people with answers to the questions of the day that really attack and undermine God’s Word. But we never divorce what we present from the truth of God’s Word and the saving gospel message. And so many have told me this came through clearly at both debates with Bill Nye.

There was one time in particular during the second debate at the Ark—when I was presenting the gospel clearly to Bill Nye—it was as if he let his guard down and he acknowledged our desire was to see him saved for eternity. But then the brick wall went right back up.

In a way, he reminded me of the account of the rich man coming to Jesus as recorded in Mark 10 and Luke 18. This man asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. At the end of the conversation,

He [Jesus] said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:22–24)

He just couldn’t give up the things of this world. I’ve thought about this in regard to Bill Nye. For him to turn from the world to Christ would mean he’d have to give up his TV fame, his secular friends who would no doubt scoff and scorn him for his conversion, and so much more. Humanly speaking, it would be so hard for him to do this. Yet, as Jesus stated for us all to be reminded of, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).

As I have said many times, issues like evolution, abortion, gay marriage, LGBTQ, and gender are all the same problem—the problem of building one’s worldview on man’s word. They are just different symptoms of this problem. And being the same problem, they all have the same solution—believing the truth of God’s Word and trusting Christ for salvation.

That’s why for me it’s always been vital for the Answers in Genesis ministry (including the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter) to be bold about the truth of God’s Word and the gospel.

Yes, we do provide a lot of answers to scientific and biblical questions, but just like at the debate, there’s no point doing this if we are not pointing people to the most important message of all—the message of salvation.

Answers in Genesis will always be a biblical authority ministry, boldly and uncompromisingly standing on God’s Word, equipping with apologetics, and presenting the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Your prayers and financial support are vital to the ongoing ministry of AiG. They enable us to continue to proclaim the truth of God’s Word and the saving gospel message to countless people who desperately need to hear it, as well as to inspire and equip Christians to be bold in their faith.

Be assured your financial support will be used to “contend for the faith” so we can do all we can to see people saved for eternity. And please remember to pray especially for Bill Nye this month and for all the different aspects of the AiG ministry.

I’m so grateful for your prayers and support—they enable AiG to reach millions for Christ every year, just like my debate with Bill Nye did 10 years ago. Thank you for being a part of our family.

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