At 7:00 p.m. tonight Bill Nye, best known as “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” will be debating Ken Ham in what is being called by some “Scopes 2,” a reference to the famous “Scope’s Monkey Trial,” a 1925 trial in which a teacher was accused of violating the law by teaching his classes about evolution. However, the debate is actually entitled Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins? Bill Nye – Ken Ham Debate.
Bill Nye is well known to the American public, having starred in a hugely-successful educational program called Bill Nye, the Science Guy. In this show, which gathered a collection of 18 Emmys during its five years on the air, he taught science to preteens. Although he has done other work since, and remains active in the scientific community, the show is still what he is best known for.
While Nye is quite famous for his work as a science educator and television host, Ham is perhaps less well known among the American public, leaving many to ask just who he is and why is he debating one of America’s best-loved figures in popular science?
Ken Ham is perhaps uniquely qualified to represent the side of creationism in this debate. He is, first of all, the founder of the Creation Museum. The Creation Museum is a 70,000-square-foot facility located in Petersburg, Kentucky dedicated to bringing to life the literal story of creationism depicted in the Bible. The exhibits within the museum describe an Earth which is only 6,000 years old, reflecting a Christian belief that the planet was created by God only a few short millenia ago. Exhibits in the museum showcase dinosaurs as co-existing with human beings, Ham’s attempt to reconcile fossil evidence with the Biblical story.
In addition to founding the Creation Museum, Ham also created a website called “Answers in Genesis,” a creationist website. This site makes the argument for the same young earth brand of creationism that is depicted in the museum, with Ham purporting to use scientific evidence in order to prove his case. The site includes educational courses tailored for use in homeschooling.
Although he has some very different ideas from Nye about evolution, Ham, who is originally from Australia, does have an educational background in science, having earned a Bachelor of Applied Science degree with an emphasis in Environmental Biology from Queensland Institute of Technology. He also has a diploma in Education from the University of Queensland. In addition to these degrees, he was awarded two honorary degrees, one of from Temple Baptist College in Cincinnati, Ohio and one from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
As to why he is debating Nye, some point to the fact that Ham’s museum has been struggling to keep itself afloat and it has been predicted that the attention surrounding the debate will be good for business. Ham, however, says he is doing it because public discourse on the topic of creationism vs. evolution has become rare and he would like to remedy that. In addition, he feels that he and Nye both love science and he has enjoyed watching Nye’s programs over the years.
The debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye is set to occur at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. CNN’s Tom Foreman will moderate.
By Nancy Schimelpfening