Evolution vs. creationism: bill nye joins the debate

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Evolution vs. Creationism: Bill Nye Joins the Debate

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Watch The Creationism Vs. Evolution Debate: Ken Ham And Bill Nye

Evolution vs. Creationism: Bill Nye Joins the Debate

Bill Nye, left, and Ken Ham take the stage to debate evolution and creationism Tuesday in Kentucky.


Does it damage children to teach them biblical creationism? What are the costs of denying evolution, one of biology's core tenets?

Those questions were asked Tuesday night, in a live debate between best-selling Christian author Ken Ham and Emmy Award-winning educator Bill Nye (“the Science Guy”) at the Creation Museum of Petersburg, Ky.

Here's a video feed of their debate. Below that are highlights from their exchanges:

Update Thursday, Feb. 6: Recap And Analysis

Interest in points raised in the debate has generated spirited responses and criticisms online. You can read about some of those views in a new post from Thursday.

The debate saw Nye and Ham discussing natural laws and scientific research, along with astronomy, geology and the number of animal species on Earth – but with markedly different views. Both of them talked about Mount St. Helens and the Grand Canyon, for instance, without agreeing on those landmarks' places in history.

“None of us saw the sandstone or the shale being laid down,” Ham said. “Bill Nye and I have the same Grand Canyon.”

“It's not the evidences that are different,” Ham says. He calls it a “battle” over viewpoints.

“We are standing on millions of layers of ancient life,” Nye said. “How could those animals have lived their entire life, and formed these layers, in just 4,000 years? There isn't enough time since Mr. Ham's flood for this limestone, that we're standing on, to have come into existence.”

The wide-ranging debate had a format of opening statements followed by 30-minute presentations, then by rebuttals and counter-rebuttals. The program ended with an audience Q&A session.

See also:  David bowie and the importance of space travel

Update at 9:30 p.m. ET: Question Time

The debate enters a Q&A session with audience-submitted questions at around the 1:50 mark in the video (that's one hour, 50 minutes). We'll break away from the action now, but the video's here for you to watch.

An early moment from that part of the program might be our favorite of the night. It came as Nye responded to a question about how the atoms that created the Big Bang came to be there. He illustrated the bang with his hands and an explosive sound — before correcting himself.

“Except it's in outer space; there's no air,” he said, going on to mime the same explosion again, in silence.

As for his answer, Nye said, “This is the great mystery; you've hit the nail on the head. What was before the Big Bang? This is what drives us, this is what we want to know. Let's keep looking, let's keep searching.”

Feel free to take up issues from the rest of the Q&A portion in the comment section.

Update at 9:15 p.m. ET: Nye's Counter-Rebuttal

“Thank you, Mr. Ham. But I am completely unsatisfied. You did not, in my view, address this fundamental question: 680,000 years of snow-ice layers, which require winter-summer cycle.”

There simply hasn't been enough time to generate the species on Earth, Nye says.

“Then, as far as Noah being an extraordinary shipwright, I'm extraordinarily skeptical,” Nye says. He cites his own family's background in New England, where people spent their lives learning how to build ships.

“It's very reasonable, perhaps, to you that Noah had superpowers and was able to build this extraordinary craft with seven family members,” Nye says. “But to me, this is just not reasonable.”

What You Missed While Not Watching the Bill Nye and Ken Ham Creation Debate

-13 minutes. The online countdown clock races toward zero. Dramatic music with a heavy bass line begins to play. Hashtags sprout in Twitterspace: #HamOnNye. #CreationDebate. #NyevSham.

One could easily add, #OMGWeAreDebatingCreationIn2014. Fasten your seatbelts.

It’s going to be a long 150-minute return of the culture wars, because creationist Ken Ham is about to debate Bill Nye the Science Guy.

-5 minutes. The epic Braveheart-Lord-of-the-Rings-style soundtrack intensifies. Only thing missing is a sweeping camera pan over the horizon as Frodo travels on toward Mount Doom.

Ham and his PR team are firing away tweet after tweet about the debate and its importance. Nye, meanwhile, has tweeted about it only once.

Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweets for prayers that the debate will reveal God’s truth.

0 minutes. A cartoon camel, a T-Rex, and a flying monkey flash across the screen. It’s a surprise ad for the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY, Ham’s (unaccredited) $27-million museum that is the site for the debate. Kids under 12 are free in 2014!

30 seconds. The feed takes us live inside the museum’s Legacy Hall, where a lucky 900 people managed to score tickets to the event before they sold out in two minutes. Some 750,000 other people are watching the debate online. At least according to Ham’s evangelistic organization, Answers in Genesis.

1 minute.

Bill Nye defends evolution in Kentucky debate

TV’s “Science Guy” Bill Nye and the leader of a Kentucky museum who believes in creationism debated a question Tuesday that has nagged humankind: “How did we get here?”

Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum, believes the Earth was created 6,000 years ago and that the Bible tells the factual account of the universe’s beginnings and the creation of humans. Nye said he, and the rest of the scientific community, believe the Earth was created by a big bang billions of years ago and people have evolved over time.

“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,” said Nye, who wore his trademark bow tie. “But these same people do not embrace the extraordinary view that the Earth is somehow only 6,000 years old.”

Nye said technology keeps the U.S. ahead as a world leader and he worried that if creationism is taught to children the country would fall behind.

“If we continue to eschew science … we are not going to move forward,” Nye said. “We will not embrace natural laws. We will not make discoveries. We will not invent and innovate and stay ahead.”

Ham showed the theater audience of about 800 people — and those watching the debate live on the Internet — slides backing up his assertions.

“Creation is the only viable model of historical science confirmed by observational science in today’s modern scientific era,” Ham said.

He also introduced scientists who he said were also creationists.

“I believe the word ‘science’ has been hijacked by secularists,” Ham said.

Some scientists were critical of Nye for agreeing to debate the head of a Christian ministry that is dismissive of evolution.

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Jerry Coyne, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, wrote on his blog that “Nye’s appearance will be giving money to organizations who try to subvert the mission Nye has had all his life: science education, particularly of kids.” Coyne pointed out that the Creation Museum will be selling DVDs of the event.

The museum quickly sold out its 800 seats, thanks in part to Nye’s celebrity as the former host of Bill Nye The Science Guy, a 1990s science education TV program that is still played in some classrooms. Some people in the audience wore “Bill Nye Is My Homeboy” T-shirts. Another fan wore a bow tie and Nye’s signature lab coat.

Rejection of evolution by religious groups

The ongoing cultural, political, and theological dispute about the development and diversity of life on Earth

A satirical cartoon from 1882, parodying Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, on the publication of The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms (1881)

Creationism Types Biblical cosmology Creation science Creation–evolution controversy Religious views
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  • History
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Evolutionary biology
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Darwin's finches by John Gould
Key topics

  • Introduction to evolution
  • Common descent
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Processes and outcomes

  • Population genetics
  • Variation
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  • Mutation
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  • Adaptation
  • Polymorphism
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  • Gene flow
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Natural history

  • Origin of life
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The rejection of evolution by religious groups (also termed the creation vs. evolution debate or the origins debate) involves an ongoing, recurring cultural, political, and theological dispute about the origins of the Earth, of humanity, and of other life. Species were once widely believed to be fixed products of divine creation in accordance with creationism, but since the mid-19th century evolution by natural selection has been established as an empirical scientific fact.

Any debate is religious, not scientific: in the scientific community, evolution is accepted as fact[1] and efforts to sustain the traditional view are almost universally regarded as pseudoscience.

[2][3][4][5] While the controversy has a long history,[6][7] today it has retreated to be mainly over what constitutes good science education,[8][9] with the politics of creationism primarily focusing on the teaching of creationism in public education.

[10][11][12][13][14] Among majority-Christian countries, the debate is most prominent in the United States,[15] where it may be portrayed as part of a culture war.[16] Parallel controversies also exist in some other religious communities, such as the more fundamentalist branches of Judaism[17] and Islam.

[18] In Europe and elsewhere, creationism is less widespread (notably, the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion both accept evolution), and there is much less pressure to teach it as fact.[19]

Christian fundamentalists repudiate the evidence of common descent of humans and other animals as demonstrated in modern paleontology, genetics, histology and cladistics and those other sub-disciplines which are based upon the conclusions of modern evolutionary biology, geology, cosmology, and other related fields.

They argue for the Abrahamic accounts of creation, and, in order to attempt to gain a place alongside evolutionary biology in the science classroom, have developed a rhetorical framework of “creation science”. In the landmark Kitzmiller v.

Dover, the purported basis of scientific creationism was exposed as a wholly religious construct without formal scientific merit.

The Catholic Church now recognizes the existence of evolution (see Catholic Church and evolution). Pope Francis has stated: “God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life…

Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.

“[20][21][22] The rules of genetic evolutionary inheritance were first discovered by a Catholic priest, the Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel, who is known today as the founder of modern genetics.


See also: History of the creation–evolution controversy and History of evolutionary thought

The creation–evolution controversy began in Europe and North America in the late 18th century, when new interpretations of geological evidence led to various theories of an ancient Earth, and findings of extinctions demonstrated in the fossil geological sequence prompted early ideas of evolution, notably Lamarckism. In England these ideas of continuing change were at first seen as a threat to the existing “fixed” social order, and both church and state sought to repress them.[23] Conditions gradually eased, and in 1844 Robert Chambers's controversial Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation popularized the idea of gradual transmutation of species. The scientific establishment at first dismissed it scornfully and the Church of England reacted with fury, but many Unitarians, Quakers and Baptists—groups opposed to the privileges of the established church—favoured its ideas of God acting through such natural laws.[24][25]

Contemporary reaction to Darwin

See also: Reactions to On the Origin of Species
A satirical image of Darwin as an ape from 1871 reflects part of the social controversy over the fact that humans and apes share a common lineage.
Asa Gray around the time he published Darwiniana.

By the end of the 19th century, there was no serious scientific opposition to the basic evolutionary tenets of descent with modification and the common ancestry of all forms of life.

— Thomas Dixon, Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction [26]

The publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859 brought scientific credibility to evolution, and made it a respectable field of study.[27]

Despite the intense interest in the religious implications of Darwin's book, theological controversy over higher criticism set out in Essays and Reviews (1860) largely diverted the Church of England's attention. Some of the liberal Christian authors of that work expressed support for Darwin, as did many Nonconformists.

The Reverend Charles Kingsley, for instance, openly supported the idea of God working through evolution.[28] Other Christians opposed the idea, and even some of Darwin's close friends and supporters—including Charles Lyell and Asa Gray—initially expressed reservations about some of his ideas.

[29] Gray later became a staunch supporter of Darwin in America, and collected together a number of his own writings to produce an influential book, Darwiniana (1876). These essays argued for a conciliation between Darwinian evolution and the tenets of theism, at a time when many on both sides perceived the two as mutually exclusive.

[30] Gray said that investigation of physical causes was not opposed to the theological view and the study of the harmonies between mind and Nature, and thought it “most presumable that an intellectual conception realized in Nature would be realized through natural agencies.

“[31] Thomas Huxley, who strongly promoted Darwin's ideas while campaigning to end the dominance of science by the clergy, coined the term agnostic to describe his position that God's existence is unknowable.

Darwin also took this position,[29] but prominent atheists including Edward Aveling and Ludwig Büchner also took up evolution and it was criticized, in the words of one reviewer, as “tantamount to atheism.”[32][33][34][35] Following the lead of figures such as St.

George Jackson Mivart and John Augustine Zahm, Roman Catholics in the United States became accepting of evolution itself while ambivalent towards natural selection and stressing humanity's divinely imbued soul.[36] The Catholic Church never condemned evolution, and initially the more conservative-leaning Catholic leadership in Rome held back, but gradually adopted a similar position.[36][37]

Why Bill Nye Debated Creationist Ken Ham

  • Bill Nye debated creationist Ken Ham Tuesday night, along with a Q&A session with the debaters.
  • We've summarized the main points Nye made in the debate, and we think he crushed it. 
  • The debate rose from some controversial statements that Nye made to Big Think about how creationism isn't appropriate in schools. Pleading with parents not to force their faulty world views on their kids, he said:

I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can — we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems. 

Ham, an Australian evangelical who believes that the Earth is 5,000 years old, responded to Nye's comments with his own video, in which he says that “evolutionists” are the ones brainwashing the children.

He also says:

Bill Nye also has an agenda to teach children not to believe in God, to teach them they are the result of evolutionary processes, that they came from slime over millions of years…

Bill Nye is implying that if we are going to teach children creation that it's really a form of abuse, that creationism is inappropriate for children. I'll tell you what is real abuse, and I'll tell you what is inappropriate for children. When you take generations of kids and you teach them they are just animals and there is no God…

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