Bill Nye schools creationist in debate

Bill Nye Ken Ham debate

What do you get when you put a children’s-educational-scientist-teacher with a Bible-believing-Christian-creationist?

Lot’s of confused adults.

I just finished watching the almost 3-hour debate between humanist Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham and I’m truly confused. I’m confused not because of the content, but how a Christian answered and responded in a formal debate.

Bill Nye (B.S. degree in engineering) and Ken Ham (B.A.S., applied science) decided to meet in a debate format in Kentucky to discuss the merits of each of their positions. Except, Ham seem to follow an illogical process of his argument which relied on a handful of scientists and his website. Nye, on the other hand, relied on a body of evidence and scientific method that is affirmed by both secular and Christian scientists.

What was clear from this debate is that Ham gave a poor argument for a creationist theory of the formation of the earth. Creationists believe in the creation of the Earth that occurred over a period of 6 days. Nye countered that the earth is much older and we know through carbon dating and stellar age estimation. Ham tried to discredit dating methods as conflicted evidence. Even if you discount carbon dating, Nye used examples of dating by core samples and tree rings.

How did the rest of the debate go?

Ham often had trouble answering direct questions. Nye answered questions directly. Ham danced around direct questions such as, “Is the Bible 100% literal?” without giving answer. In another question and answer section, the following was posed: What would change your mind on your position? Ham deflected the question. However, Nye admitted what would change his mind if there was more compelling proof. At least Nye was willing to consider he could be wrong.

To discredit an old earth belief, Ham took specific examples of the science community reversing itself as proof that secular science cannot be trusted. In reality, those examples were isolated situations. Perhaps what was most troubling was Ham’s claim that this creationist vs. scientific community is about a greater agenda of secular science trying to change Christian belief and authority or morality. Ham’s spoke that there is secular agenda over the minds of our children.  What nonsense!

Regrettably, Ham had to keep referring to his website for more information. Is this a debate or a plug for page clicks? Also, Ham explained larger scientific concepts with thin theological ideas that were taken out of context. Perhaps what was Nye’s most compelling argument in reply to Ham was:

I just want to remind us all there are billions of people in the world who are deeply religious, who get enriched by the wonderful sense of community by their religion. But these same people do not embrace the extraordinary view that the Earth is somehow only 6,000 years old.

I was embarrassed to watch Ham cherry pick scientific methods, selectively use logic, present weak rebuttals to reasonable observation, and choose not to respond to direct questions. Since all truth is God’s truth, it is perfectly acceptable to believe that the earth is 4.5 billions of year old. It’s reasonable to believe that the Genesis account is not literal because the measure of a 24 hour “day”  was not created till day two. It’s also reasonable to believe that God did not suspend the laws of gravity, matter, and nature to make it look like the earth was millions of years old, when in fact it is really 6,000 years old. At the same time, I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. My faith is not threatened by evolution.

There are other methods to defend an alternative belief, but Ken Ham did not present his argument well. When we Christians enter into serious discussion, we must present the best of our critical thinking. If you are going to treat the Bible as a science book, then you have to play by the laws of science and not create your own.

In the end, the Bible explains the “why” of creation and science explains the “how”.

Alan Rudnick

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About the Author
Alan Rudnick has been featured on television, radio, print, and social media and serves as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa, NY. He has quickly established himself as a leader, blogger, and commentator in the areas of faith, Christianity, ministry, and social media. He is the author of, “The Work of the Associate Pastor”, Judson Press. Alan’s writing has been featured with the Albany Times Union, The Christian Century, Associated Baptist Press, and The Fund of Theological Education.

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  • Kelly Harbaugh

    Can you comment on the doctrinal problem presented by billions of years of death before sin? This is compelling, and I’m interested in a Pastor’s insight on this. Have you investigated how the evidence weighs out on this? I have to say that when I read the evidence presented, I see a lot of scientific support for a literal 6 day creation and many holes in molecules-to-man evolution. It doesn’t take much digging to see the holes in everything Nye presented. I am familiar with the different teachings on the interpretations of Genesis from Bible classes at a Christian college, so I know where you are coming from on the literal days. I used to think it was irrelevant, but reading up on the topic has changed my mind. I appreciate your post, but it really sounds like it is written out of fear of how people would perceive you for taking Genesis literally, and it is a little insulting to the many practicing scientists who are creationists, even if that was not your intent. I would encourage those who are truly curious and looking for answers to investigate for themselves. The facts aren’t as fuzzy or hard to find as secular scientists would have you think.

    • Saved Grace

      Kelly, Christians find all sorts of ways to eisegete billions of years into Genesis. There is the Gap Theory, day-age theory, Genesis as allegory, “two creation accounts,” and on and on. The problem with all of these is that they ignore a plain reading of the text, and the biggest of all: God reiterated in Exodus 20:11 that He made the heavens, the Earth, the sea, and ALL THAT IS IN THEM in six literal days! How do I know it’s literal days? Because it says we should do the same thing: work six days and rest on the seventh. Gee, you’d almost think God reiterated this because He knew people would try to twist His words from Genesis to mean something else! Every old-Earth Christian is bringing modern secular ideas from outside the text and trying to fit them into the creation narrative. But, I haven’t found one yet that will admit it. There just isn’t any Scriptural support for billions of years. Even Jesus said “from the beginning He made them male and female.” It seems that Jesus believed Genesis; why can’t some Christians?

      • Kelly Harbaugh

        Here’s the thing. Many of us were taught these theories in a Christian academic setting that we have trusted, so I’m sure that many seminaries teach this as well. I know that I did not hold the importance of young vs old earth very high for a very long time, but it would never had occurred to me that there were serious problems with this. I don’t think it’s so much an intentional move by people who hold Alan’s views to refute Biblical authority as it is a result of the academic apathy and laziness that has been passed down to us in the places where we have learned. So I realize it is common for Christian leaders to say “it doesn’t really matter.” (Don’t agree any more, but I understand). What I find disturbing is this clear scattering that I see by many with posts like this that seemed to be concerned with declaring “I am not in that camp.” It’s unsettling, especially following the humble, submissive spirit I witnessed in Ken Ham’s presentation.

  • Alan Rudnick

    Kelly, thank you for reading the post and thinking about it. I’m not sure what you mean by death not existing before sin. Death is a part of God’s creation and natural world. Some animals and insects need death to survive. For instance, many beetles need to feed on dead or decaying organic matter, including other animals, to survive. If death was not present during the days of creation, those kinds of beetles would have never survived.

    I’m not sure what you are getting at by my post being “written out of fear of how people would perceive you for taking Genesis literally”. My post was written on the merits of an old earth being a reasonable belief among Christians. If you are investigating for more answers, check out the book “Battle of Beginnings”.

    • Kelly Harbaugh

      Thanks for replying, Alan. I will look up the book you recommended. I have to say that the concept of death being a natural part of God’s pre-fall creation does not resonate with me on a scriptural level, but I will spend some time looking into that.