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Few events in the history of the creation/evolution issue have garnered as much attention from the public as Ken Ham’s debate last night with Bill Nye.
Few events in the history of the creation/evolution issue have garnered as much attention from the public as Ken Ham’s debate last night with Bill Nye “The Science Guy” at the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. The publication of Whitcomb and Morris’s classic book The Genesis Flood in the 1960s started the modern creation movement. The hundreds of well-attended evolution/creation public debates and seminars in the 1970s and ‘80s fueled the movement, while the opening of Answers in Genesis’s Creation Museum in 2007 brought new national and international attention to the creation/evolution issue.
Last night’s debate—watched by an estimated three plus million people at debatelive.org1—was another historic moment for the creation movement. In fact, the debate was the number one trending topic on Facebook hours before it began, and it exploded on Twitter.
The debate question was, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” As such, it was different than the famous evolution/creation debates of decades ago, when evolution was essentially on trial.
Ken won the coin toss and opted to speak first. With a packed-out Legacy Hall—including two college presidents, a U.S. congressman, and a prominent seminary president—Foreman made his introductory remarks and the debate began.
In his introductory statements, Ken made the point that the terms origin and science need to be correctly defined in order to understand what’s at issue in the creation/evolution debate. Science, Ken explained, means “knowledge,” and knowledge can be divided into two categories: experimental or observational science, and origins or historical science.
While observational science focuses on aspects of the world that we can observe in the present, historical science deals with the past. The historical science of the Creation Museum, Ham pointed out, is founded on the Bible. But, he explained, the historical science presented in public school textbooks is founded on naturalism. The creation/evolution issue comes down to a conflict between two competing philosophies.
Mr. Nye did not see it the same way. Opening with an anecdote about how his grandfather learned to tie a bowtie, Nye stated, “That was presented to me as a true story, but it may or may not be.” So also the debate, he said, concerns two stories: “Ken Ham’s story” and “the story from the outside, from mainstream science.” Throughout the evening Nye tried to personalize the creation model as “Ken Ham’s” account.
Nye, operating on the idea that operational science is predicated on evolution, stated in his introduction that observational science and historical science are “constructs unique to Mr. Ham.” This assertion turned out to be false, of course, as Ken pointed out in his main presentation. But the juxtaposition of “Ken’s model” and the model from the “outside” became Nye’s theme throughout much of the debate. Mr. Nye also repeatedly pushed the claim he’s become known for in the media—that the U.S. will not be able to innovate and stay ahead of other nations scientifically if it gives up teaching evolutionary ideas.
Perhaps some of the most compelling examples in Ken’s main presentation refuting Bill Nye’s assertion that a belief in biblical creation stunts scientific advancement were the many videos of scientists sharing their faith in God as Creator. Ken featured clips from Dr. Stuart Burgess, professor of engineering design at the University of Bristol (UK); Dr. Raymond Damadian, the inventor of the first MRI machine; Dr. Danny Faulkner, a stellar astronomer and a speaker and researcher at Answers in Genesis; and Dr. Andrew Fabich, professor of microbiology at Liberty University. These men have all been published in secular, peer-reviewed journals and have made significant contributions to their fields—and they are all biblical creationists.
Dr. Damadian stated very clearly that as a scientist who revolutionized the field of medicine with the MRI scanner, he knows that science confirms the Genesis account of creation:
Ken made the point, based on comments from Dr. Stuart Burgess about a lack of academic freedom, that much of the origins science in public school textbooks and on university faculties is decided by majority rule. And yet, every secularist who performs observational science is, according to Ham, “borrowing from the Christian worldview.” Logic and the laws of nature had to be put in place by an intelligence, whom Ken specifically named as God; they could not have possibly come about and continue to work reliably in a random chance universe.
Right after the debate, Nye and Ham participated in a live interview on CNN’s Piers Morgan Live program, though the host’s questions were mostly about climate change, not creation/evolution. More curious was the way MSNBC TV decided to offer a post-debate analysis. Ken was excluded, as MSNBC interviewed Nye alone—inside the museum that was Ham’s brainchild. The host’s refusal to include Ham in the debate analysis in his museum—due to “a lack of time,” AiG was told—was the bigger head scratcher.
Ultimately, Ken argued, creationists and evolutionists are battling over the same evidence. They look at the same fossils, rock layers, and other features of the physical world and come to an interpretation based on their starting points. Ken shared predictions based on the Bible’s account of the origin of the universe, such as the idea that creatures will reproduce “after their kinds” (Genesis 1) and that all mankind is just one race. And in yet another powerful demonstration of the accuracy of the biblical viewpoint, Ken showed that these predictions are confirmed by observational science—sometimes even with evidence presented by secularists.
As Mr. Nye took the podium for his main presentation, he held up a fossil encased in limestone he had found in Kentucky earlier in the day. For him, that was an icon of evolution. Disputing Scripture’s account of the global Flood, Nye said, “We are standing on millions of layers of ancient life. There isn’t enough time since Mr. Ham’s Flood for this limestone to have come into existence.”
Nye proceeded to present one piece of supposed evidence for evolution after another, asking Ken to refute each one. Never doubting his own position, Nye stated at one point that it is evolutionary scientists who perform observational science leading to supposedly accurate conclusions about our origins. He blithely asserted in reference to the rock layers of the Grand Canyon, “This is what geologists on the outside do.” Many of Nye’s “evidences” have been explained on our website AnswersInGenesis.org, such as how the animals spread on the continents after Noah’s Flood, or how the Ark could have been built and made seaworthy, or whether there are transitional forms such as Tiktaalik.
Ken posed two challenges to Nye during his presentation—first, to explain logic in a world without a Creator, and second, to name one piece of technology that could only have been invented starting with a belief in evolution. Nye, however, opted not to answer either challenge. He instead closed his presentation by once again confusing observational and historical science and then pleaded with voters in the Midwest not to raise a generation of science students in biblical creation.
As the two presenters entered the question and answer portion of the debate, they had to expect questions about any number of topics in Christianity and science. And despite all his confidence in the formal part of the debate, Bill Nye was stumped with two questions almost right away. The first question he was asked was, “How did the atoms that created the Big Bang get there?” The second was “How did consciousness come from matter?”
Up to this point, Nye had presented what he considered to be a consistent, naturalistic worldview. Upon hearing these questions, however, he made a telling, though honest, statement: “This is the great mystery.” As it turned out, Nye did not really have an answer to those questions. In his evolutionary worldview, he could not explain how the matter that supposedly created the big bang was created itself. And he could not explain how human consciousness came to be without a higher power to put it in place.
But Ken was prepared with an answer, and his response was an expected one given the topic of the debate. In both instances, he looked at Mr. Nye and said, “Bill, I do want to say, that there is a book out there . . .”—clearly referring to the Bible. Ken’s explanations for both questions clearly explained the world through the framework laid out by Scripture.
As Nye and Ken sparred in the Q&A, it became apparent that Ken’s contention was correct: the creation/evolution issue is truly a battle of two competing worldviews. While Ken argued for the necessity of presenting biblical creation to students and adults, and involving God in science, Nye claimed that he refused to accept the biblical model of creation because it supposedly lacked the predictive quality of science. Ken, however, did make predictions based on the Bible’s account of origins, and he showed how scientific evidence confirms them. But evolutionary assumptions drove Nye’s arguments, and he failed to see the inconsistency of them.
Mr. Nye and Ken were asked at one point, “What, if anything, would ever change your mind?” Ken confidently stated that the Bible is the Word of God, and so nothing would make him change his mind. In the wake of the debate, pundits jumped on that statement as much as anything Ham declared. Ken encouraged people to use their critical-thinking ability to check out what the Bible says and how its claims hold up for themselves.
Nye surprisingly said, however: “I would just need one piece of evidence” to have his mind changed. But in reality, Nye is not interested in evidence that will disprove evolutionary ideas. He would like to see a ministry like Answers in Genesis fail in its mission to reach and equip families with the truths of Genesis 1–11.
In response to a question about what they, more than anything else, base their beliefs on, Ken offered the clear explanation that the Bible is the unique religious text of the world—and that it explains the origin of everything. Nye, on the other hand, bases his belief firmly on man’s fallible ideas about where we came from—despite the clear inconsistencies of the evolutionary worldview.
The momentous debate, which both parties agreed afterwards was spirited but respectful, has drawn countless believers and unbelievers alike to consider the Creation Museum’s teachings about the true history of the universe. The goal of the debate was to cause people to think about and research the issue of origins for themselves—and that is exactly what’s happening.
Furthermore, they heard the gospel. As Ken says regularly, the evidence from science confirms the Bible is true. But what Bill Nye needs is not a piece of evidence, but the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ken boldly shared that gospel message more than once from the podium, hoping to plant seeds in Nye. After all, it is God’s Word that will not return void (Isaiah 55:11), not any winsome words from Ken. Indeed, join AiG in praying for Bill Nye and all the other people who attended or watched the debate online, that God would use Ken’s presentation to reach the lost and to equip believers.