Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: An Evolving Controversy

Ken Ham and Bill Nye

Photo Credit: Flickr User

We may be well into the 21st century, but the evolution vs. creationism argument is hotter than ever. So hot, in fact, that Bill Nye, former host of TV program Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum in Kentucky, are going head-to-head on the issue in a public debate on February 4.

It all began in August, 2012, when Bill Nye expressed his concerns in a Big Think video regarding children’s exposure to creation. He petitions adults: “I say to the grown-ups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we’ve observed in the universe, that’s fine. But don’t make your kids do it cause we need them.” He elaborated that it only takes a fraction of the population believing in creation to “hold everyone back.”

The Creation Museum responded with a video of its own, featuring Drs. David Menton and Georgia Purdom who work with the museum. Purdom argues, “Rather than being inconsistent as Bill Nye states, observational science confirms the literal history in Genesis,” citing “the written revelation of the eyewitness account of the eternal God who created it all” as a more trustworthy source than scientific study. Now, Ham and Nye have agreed to spar face-to-face.

The debate will follow a standard format, each speaker having 45 minutes to deliver their presentations followed by a rebuttal by the other party and a moderated question and answer session at the end. The official topic for the debate: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”

It’s a timely question. A Gallup poll revealed that 46 percent of Americans believe “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so,” up from 40 percent when the same poll was taken in 2010. Further confirmation of interest in the controversy is the fact that tickets to the event sold out within two minutes. The debate is being held in the Creation Museum’s Legacy Hall, which seats 900.

You might be asking, why Bill Nye? Science bloggers have been questioning this choice as well. He’s a popular, savvy science educator, but his B.S. was in mechanical engineering and his main claim to science fame is blowing things up in experiments on a children’s program. But it’s precisely for this reason that Ham invited him to face off. When announcing the debate on the Answers in Genesis site, the organization explained that their outreach theme for 2013-2014 is “Standing Our Ground, Rescuing Our Kids.” Since Nye “has influenced so many children to believe in evolution,” Ham decided he is the perfect person to represent the other side in the debate.

In an interview with CNN , Nye explained that influencing younger generations is his motivation for participating as well. “I’m not going to attack . . . anybody’s religion . . . but the earth is not 10,000 years old, evolution is real, you and I are a result of it, and this is important for our young people to know because they are the future and we have to have a scientifically literate populous in order to solve the world’s problems, in order to make the world better, life better, for as many people as possible,” he said.

Ham has based his career on the concept that evolution and Christianity are incompatible. Although, Ham has admitted that this hard-nosed stance is driving young adults away from the church. “So many young people are dismissing the Bible because of evolution,” he laments on his site. Many Christian scientists disagree with Ham’s ideas and believe in both the Christian faith and evolution. Notable proponents of this view include Francis Collins, former Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, and Jennifer Wiseman, a Senior Astrophysicist at NASA.  Regardless, Ham is intent on outlining reasons to keep believing in both creation and Christianity. Presumably, he will focus on this during the debate.

The event is expected to be streamed live over the Answers in Genesis site. Wherever you fall on the issue, it should be a unique opportunity to hear both sides presented concisely in layperson terms. If nothing else, our beloved bow-tied Science Guy hasn’t been on air as much lately, having moved on to inventions and becoming CEO of The Planetary Society. It’ll be fun to see him in action again.

Maybe he’ll even blow something up.

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