Bill Nye and Ken Ham’s passionate debate on the origin of life garnered strong reactions, but three particular pieces are missing from the debate and responses. TV personality Nye had purportedly insulted creationism in a YouTube video, prompting Ham to invite the scientist to discuss the controversy. The two took to the stage Tuesday night in Kentucky at the Creation Museum, where Ham is president.
Nye and Ham each had 30 minutes to discuss their views. Nye used evidence from the age of the stars to what scientific theory predicts the world would look like if in fact the great flood had occurred. He emphasized the need for predictions based on current knowledge and pressed Ham for evidence to back up his claims. Ham touted Biblical views and responded to Nye’s inquiries that he is a Christian.
In the aftermath of the talk, articles on who won and responses to one presenter or the other have flooded the Internet and social media sites. Yet three key points have largely been overlooked.
1) Calling the discussion a debate positions Nye and Ham in the roles of winner and loser. Who won depends on the perspective, but viewing the conversation as a debate overshadows the main purpose.
There was never meant to be a victor. The purpose of the discussion was to expound on both the theory of creationism and scientific theories. Before Thursday’s presentation, Ham told Mercury News that he wanted both himself and Nye to step up to the podium and passionately present their views, nothing more.
Despite that initial statement, during the debate Ham said that creationism is the correct way of thinking. The statement threw neutrality and Socratic discussion to the wind and transformed the talk into a platform for finger pointing.
Responses were in the same vein, taking up defensive stances to theories perceived as in opposition to the listener’s. One article said that Bill Nye had not convinced everyone that science was correct. Other articles and social media sites were victim to a deluge of people crying that the discussion should have never happened in the first place.
A Christian Today Poll said that 92 percent of people believe Nye won the debate, though 42 percent distrust evolution. Rewind and see the talk as it was initially intended, as a discussion. What is gained from having a winner and loser? What could be gained from simply listening to stated opinions without judgment?
2) Creationism is broader than Ken Ham’s position. Ken Ham elaborated on one staunch view within creationism, but as Tulsa World reported, there are creationist perspectives which allow for believing in evolution too.
Ken Ham has a view known as scientific creationism or young-earth creationism, meaning he believes that the earth is no more than 6,000 years old. This belief is based on a literal interpretation of the Bible and is incompatible with scientific theories.
There were creationist perspectives missing from the discussion between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, another of three critical pieces necessary to understand the talk. Creationism is broadly defined as the belief that a higher power created life. Some people believe in both evolution and creation of life by a higher power.
This belief is known as old-earth creationism and has various subcategories within in it, which define different specifics. For example, progressive creationism is the belief that the big bang created a higher power, who then created each form of life.
Since Nye and Ham represented two opposite ends of the spectrum, the discussion was primed for argument.
3) Does it matter? The discussion sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale, revealing widespread intrigue if nothing else. The ensuing flood of opinions and reactions to the talk suggests that the topic matters to many.
Why? In a world of infinite perspectives does it matter if two people have different theories? Does it matter if two people agree? Does it matter what happened thousands of years ago? These three pieces were missing from both Bill Nye and Ken Ham’s discussion and many reactions, but they merit discussion and impact analysis.
By Julia Waterhous