The debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye “the Science Guy” on February 4 has evoked some strong and incredibly mixed reactions from the media, atheist bloggers, and Christians. We estimate that at least five million viewers have watched the evolution/creation debate, held at the Creation Museum. Viewership continues to grow as people watch the archived video on debatelive.org and through our YouTube channel. Mr. Nye and Ken sparred in what has been described as a cordial yet spirited debate in front of a live audience that braved a winter storm. At least 13,000 groups watched a live stream in a public venue.
To read more about the debate from other sources, please visit the following links:
With 70 media outlets present and so many attendees and viewers, there was no doubt that there would be a myriad of articles and interviews—each declaring a debate winner or offering critiques of Nye’s and Ken’s presentations. As with any debate, neither Ken nor Mr. Nye expected to change the other’s mind. Both were concerned about communicating their positions clearly and encouraging critical thinking in those who watched the debate. And, from what we at Answers in Genesis have observed, that’s exactly what has happened.
Is There Anything to Debate?
Many people, especially those who hold evolutionary views, expressed distaste for the debate altogether, questioning the need to discuss origins in 2014, or simply asking that everyone just agree to disagree. Radio and TV show host Glenn Beck referred to the creation/evolution issue as “idiotic”:
Particularly when it comes to a topic as complex as evolution, Beck urged, the nation should not let itself be divided. “Can’t we just get along?” Beck said. “Let’s just move on.” (emphasis Beck’s)1
Atheist bloggers repeatedly criticized Nye for even accepting an invitation to debate a creationist. Richard Dawkins said recently that debating a biblical creationist gives the creationist credibility—and many atheists have adopted that mantra as cause for never engaging a biblical creationist. Some commenters on social media outlets such as Twitter were not at all friendly to the idea of discussing man’s origins, believing the issue to be settled based on evolutionary historical science:
The fact that there is such a thing as #creationdebate is the single most important argument for increased funding for public education.2
But perhaps the most bizarre arguments against the debate came from a professing Christian. Pat Robertson, host of TV’s The 700 Club, shared his own rambling thoughts, clearly in response to the debate between Ken and Mr. Nye. On the morning after the event, Robertson asserted that biblical creation is a “joke” and, citing a few erroneous “facts,” proffered the view that God used evolution (known as theistic evolution).3
Robertson was not the only professing Christian to question the need for a debate on origins. A group of prominent “evolutionary creationists” (another term for theistic evolutionists) at BioLogos published their own critiques of the debate, writing, “We’ve anticipated that one of the lasting effects of this debate will be to further alienate Christianity from science in the public consciousness.”4
Is there any merit to the argument that no debate is needed? Based on the evidence alone, one side is not going to convince the other side. But we need to remember that this is a spiritual battle. People need to see that only the Bible makes sense of the universe we live in and provides the ultimate proof of our origins. Furthermore, the goal of any debate should be to spark a desire to think critically about an issue and to research it further. We have seen a tremendous response from people on both sides of the creation/evolution issue. As a result of the debate, they want to know more—and that alone makes the event worth holding.
Critiques from All Quarters
Whether or not the many reporters and public figures thought the debate should happen, most of them had critiques to offer. One of the more scathing articles came from Slate, a humanistic online publication that has criticized Ken and the Creation Museum many times before. Slate accuses Ken of “whining,” acting “smug,” and promoting “strange and sinister” views of science. The author goes on to critique Nye’s performance as well:
By seriously engaging with Ham at the international home of creationism in front of more than half a million people watching the webcast, Nye legitimized Ham’s creationist lunacy more than any weird and declining museum ever could. Nye’s presentation was flawless, but his mere appearance was an error.5
We at Answers in Genesis encourage you to view the debate for yourself and judge whether the claims about Ken’s demeanor toward Mr. Nye are true. But it was not just secularists who critiqued the presentations. The leadership of BioLogos chimed in as well, even asking Dr. John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, to offer his view of how the debate went:
The only comment that I want to make in that regard is that it was evident that Ken Ham believed that all evolutionists were naturalists—an identification that those associated with BioLogos would strongly contest. . . . The fact is that Ken Ham rejects scientific findings because he believes the Bible offers claims that contradict science. . . . In the end, then, while Ham kept challenging Nye about whether he was there to see this history that he claimed, Nye should have been challenging Ham about what makes him so certain that the Bible is making the claims that he thinks it is.6
Ken and AiG readily acknowledge that there are Christians who believe in evolution and millions of years. In fact, Ken addressed that fact in his debate presentation. But evolutionary ideas spring from naturalism—they are a way of explaining the world without God. Dr. Walton believes in evolution, but that does not make him a “naturalist.” It does, however, reveal that he maintains an inconsistent belief structure, where God supposedly uses naturalistic means to create the universe. It is a denial of the very words of Scripture in Genesis 1–3.
Dr. Deborah Haarsma, the current president of BioLogos, added the following:
When Ken Ham was asked something like “If science were to show conclusively that the earth was older than 10,000 years, would you still believe in the historical Jesus?” I wished he would have simply said “yes.” Our belief in the Bible and Jesus is more fundamental than our views on science.6
Ken, however, answered in the best way he could have. Biblical authority is key to the entire creation/evolution issue. To say that there could be a situation where God’s clear Word could be shown false by evolutionary historical science is to say that God can lie (something we know to be impossible based on Scriptures like Numbers 23:19 and Titus 1:2). So, much to Dr. Haarsma’s chagrin, simply answering “yes” to a question that undermines the truthfulness of our Creator is not an option for Ken or any Christian who upholds the authority of Scripture in Genesis 1–11.
Both men conducted themselves respectfully and calmly. Their arguments were clear, pointed, and demonstrated a passion for their views. Is it necessary to declare a winner? The media is split on the issue. But the overarching victory for Christians in this debate is that the gospel of Jesus Christ was shared with the millions of people watching the debate.
The overarching victory for Christians in this debate is that the gospel of Jesus Christ was shared with the millions of people watching the debate.
Biblical creation is not a salvation issue, meaning that belief or disbelief in the literal history of Genesis will not save a person. Eternal life is conditioned upon faith in Jesus Christ alone. But the debate between Ken and Mr. Nye highlights that the creation/evolution issue is one of authority. What will we look to for our starting point—the Word of the God who cannot lie, or the word of a man with an imperfect understanding of the world?
We are grateful to Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, for his coverage of the debate. He attended the event and devoted an article and a podcast to discussion of what happened. After a thorough recap and analysis of the arguments presented by Ken and Mr. Nye, Dr. Mohler concluded, “The central issue last night was really not the age of the earth or the claims of modern science. . . . It was about the central worldview clash of our times, and of any time: the clash between the worldview of the self-declared ‘reasonable man’ and the worldview of the sinner saved by grace.”7