On February 4, 2014 Bill Nye, well-known as “The Science Guy” debated Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis in Kentucky. It was a very interesting debate and it has generated a great deal of interest on the internet. It was very popular on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Answers in Genesis people estimate there were probably at least 5 million people that watched the video. It can still be watched online or purchased on DVD from Answers in Genesis.
Bill Nye has done a great service over the years in explaining science to young people and lay people in an engaging and fun way. His TV programs are very well done in general. So I really like what he has done to get people interested in science. But on origins and creation versus evolution, I find his comments very disappointing and troubling. He treats it as if teaching young people a creationist view of science is somehow harmful to kids and keeps them from getting a good education. I couldn’t disagree more with this.
The debate was set up with first a 5 minute introduction from both presenters, followed by 30 minutes from each, followed by two short rebuttals from each. There were also some questions and answers at the end, making the entire program around 2 hours long. It was very fairly moderated and was well done.
Bill Nye was generally polite but he was not totally respectful of Ken Ham. He kept referring to Mr. Ham’s world view or Mr. Ham’s followers almost as if Ken Ham was a cult leader or something. Ken Ham’s world view is simply historic Biblical Christianity. Bill Nye was obviously extremely ignorant about what creationists think about all sorts of issues. He brought up worthwhile issues but often didn’t understand well enough to explain the difference between an evolutionary view and the Biblical creation viewpoint.
Bill Nye brought up a number of things that creationists have thoroughly addressed. His comments bring up many common misconceptions people in the sciences and in the media have about creationists in particular. One example was claiming that there are too many species to explain how they could all come about since Noah’s Flood. Nye totally failed to understand this issue. His answer shows he hasn’t read or understood what creationists say about it. The number of species alive today is far more than what needed to be on Noah’s Ark. There really has been some serious research on this and Nye seems to know nothing about what creationists say on it. He implied that a creation view is unlike what he thinks of as “real science” in that “real” science makes predictions. But creationist scientists have occasionally developed models that have made predictions. A great example is physicist Dr. Russ Humphreys. He developed a theory on the creation of the magnetic fields of the planets. He used this to predict the magnetic field strengths of Uranus and Neptune, before the Voyager spacecrafts measured it. When the Voyager spacecraft measured the magnetic field strengths of these planets, it was within what Humphrey’s had predicted, but evolutionary secular scientists were very surprised and were way off. I wish Ken Ham would have mentioned this but he didn’t.
Ken Ham did very well I thought in giving real Biblical answers to Nye’s challenges and in bringing up good examples of well qualified scientists, successful in the scientific world, who happen to be creationists. I don’t think Ken Ham is the best at giving scientific answers on some issues but in a debate format like this you have very limited time and it is really difficult to answer everything in the brief time of a debate setting. (I once debated a biology professor.) There are multiple articles that have popped up on answersingenesis.org and creation.com since the debate that give various commentary on it. There are also some videos on Youtube that congratulate Bill Nye for how “wonderfully” he did. He did keep a good composure but I’m not impressed with Bill Nye’s understanding of the issues. People in the secular media are too ignorant of a creationist point of view to properly evaluate how Nye did.
There’s often a tendancy of people in science to treat it as if we are superior today because of our scientific knowledge, compared to people of the past. We do have a lot of scientific knowledge and this knowledge has been to our great benefit. But you can’t just assume that people in the past were uncapable of things. There’s been examples of skills known in the past but lost as modern technology has developed. Then somewhere an archeologist rediscovers clever ways ancient peoples did things. Ancient peoples did not have knowledge equivalent to us today, but they were sometimes more ingenious than we are, in spite of the limitations of their knowledge.
This is all relevant to Bill Nye’s comments about Noah building the Ark. People in science treat many things from ancient history the same way. He brought up the idea that a large wooden ship would not hold together in the open ocean but would come apart. We don’t know many details of how Noah built the Ark. Just because few people today, including many modern ship engineers, don’t know how to build such a wooden boat doesn’t mean that Noah couldn’t do it. Ken Ham’s museum has models showing how the ancient Greeks were able to build ships that were stronger than other people using a special multi-layered interlocking construction technique. This would be a plausible method for building a very large boat. We also have historical records from China from a Chinese ruler named Zheng He. Zheng He led several journeys across the world in a very large treasure fleet in the 15th century Ming Dynasty. Chinese writings say some of these wooden ships were 450 feet long and 180 feet wide. Historians have questioned the size of these ships. But this would be bigger than anything from the Greeks and would compare in size to Noah’s Ark. There have also been modern engineering studies of the Ark based on its dimensions given in the Bible and there’s no real valid reason to doubt that building such a ship was possible or that it would not be safe or stable in the ocean. I could give technical sources to back this up. This is real research that Bill Nye has no idea about.
There’s a mindset from the unbelieving world we live in that leads people away from the answers people really need. A debate such as the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate is a rare opportunity that can attract interest enough for people of various points of view to hear both sides. I am sorry for how Bill Nye misses the boat in his understanding about creationism. While evolutionists have been dismissing and insulting creationists for the last 60 years, young age creationists with science degrees have been doing research that is important. But creationist ideas are shut out of things in many settings, sometimes even in Christian settings. Creationist answers have become stronger and stronger, but people don’t know about them. This ignorance is a sad state of affairs. But there are occasional bright lights in the darkness.