Random thoughts about Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye

If you don’t know, they are debating live on Tuesday, February 4, 2014, and you can watch it via streaming video here.

In no particular order, I have some thoughts.

Believing in a creator and believing in creationism are not the same thing. Creationism is usually shorthand for Young Earth Creationism (with some flavor of Intelligent Design mixed in). Ham will be arguing for YEC; Nye will be arguing against it. At least, that’s the theory. It will be interesting to see if Ham and Nye can keep this straight. I expect Nye will. I’m not as confident Ham will.

I don’t have any difficulty accepting evolutionary theory. I also don’t have any problem accepting the theory of gravity or the Copernican idea that the planets rotate the sun, not the other way around. The same methodology – the scientific method – grounds all these ideas, and I trust that methodology.

Wikipedia lumps theistic evolution under a broader “creationism” umbrella. I consider myself a theistic evolutionist (if there is such a term), and I think Wikipedia is making a mistake here. I think most theistic evolutionists would agree.

I’m very grateful for Biologos.

Even the Roman Catholic Church accepts evolutionary theory (technically, theistic evolution) – the same RCC that is the slowest moving institution on the planet when it comes to accepting scientific discovery. The same institution that (very likely) tortured Galileo for doing good science.  American Evangelicalism is lagging behind that.

Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are separate pieces of literature. They are different stories.

E.g., human beings are created at different chronological points in each story. What does that say about their historical “accuracy”?

Genesis 1 resembles stories like the Enuma Elish. Christians should take that seriously, regardless of their view of the bible’s authority, inerrancy, etc. That the Hebrew people developed a creation story in direct conversation with their historical neighbors’ own stories of creation should tell us something important about how we read the stories today.

E.g., if the Enuma Elish is not an accurate, scientific account of the creation of the universe, should we expect Genesis 1 to be?

Speciation is an observable process that happens, and it is critically important to our understanding of evolution. Prediction: Ken Ham will deny that this is evidence for evolution because in his language, it is not “a change of kind.” “They’re still fish! They’re still birds!”

If the Earth is millions of years old, rather than 10,000 years old, it isn’t difficult to imagine how speciation could result in large changes over large amounts of time. If you believe that the Earth is 10,000 years old because God said so, large changes via speciation is ruled out by default. An a priori commitment to a young Earth rules out the possibility of any other evidence changing one’s mind.

There is a key difference between Nye’s way of thinking and Ham’s: scientists are actively seeking to falsify, i.e., disprove, their theories. Nye has arrived at a conclusion by following evidence. Ham already has a conclusion and is seeking to explain away any and all evidence to the contrary.

Falsifying Darwinian evolution would be the single-greatest scientific achievement since… ever? That no one has done so means that Darwinian evolution is either the greatest hoax and cover-up in the history of humanity or actually true.

At the end of day, it won’t matter how persuasive Nye is (or isn’t). Ham and his followers are committed to the belief that God created the Earth 10,000 years ago because God’s literally true, inerrant word says so. No one could offer them any evidence that could possibly persuade them otherwise, because God has revealed His inerrant truth, and God will not be made a liar.

E.g., if the Earth appears to be older than 10,000 years old, it is because God created the universe with the appearance of age, not because it is actually old. Of course, to be logically consistent, you might as well argue that we were all created a nanosecond ago with memories of the past, but logical consistency is not the goal here.

Unlike many, I’m glad Nye is doing this. It isn’t “below” him or “below” science. Ken Ham and many like him will not be persuaded. But, there might be some people on the fence who are reachable, and a conflict of ideas might spur them to consider things they never have before. If that happens, it’s well worth it.

Answers in Genesis spends almost $20 million per year doing what it does. What a tragic waste of resources.


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