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Editorial: Debate between Nye and Ham gave undeserved credibility to creationism

Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 23, 2014 20:02

Earlier this month, “science guy” Bill Nye debated new earth creationist Ken Ham in a heavily hyped debate on creationism vs. evolution. Although the debate involved a compelling topic, it was not productive and falsely suggested creationism is as scientific a theory as evolution.

Evolution is a theory backed by significant scientific evidence. On the other hand, creationism is backed by the Bible and nothing else. Most of the “evidence” Ham presented was either false or an attempt to use the Bible to prove itself, a form of begging the question. Meanwhile, Nye relied on real scientific evidence to argue his side of the debate.

Toward the end of the debate, the two men were asked what — if anything — could change their minds on the subject. Ham simply replied, “I’m a Christian. The Bible is the Word of God.” In other words, nothing at all would change his mind. Nye replied that evidence that the universe is not expanding, rock layers forming in only 4,000 years, or discovery of a fossil that somehow swam to another layer of rock during the Great Flood would cause him to change his mind immediately.

Nye’s response, not Ham’s, indicates a proper understanding of scientific inquiry. New discoveries are made all the time, which cause us to change our understanding of science. Several centuries ago, most scientists believed the Universe had no beginning and that it had always existed. At the time, this was what the bulk of research suggested. Later, evidence was discovered that pointed to a finite creation date for the Universe — approximately 13.7 billion years ago — and scientists adjusted their opinions accordingly. Nye acknowledged that it was possible (albeit unlikely) that future scientific discoveries would cause researchers to change their opinions again and believe that the Biblical account of creation is accurate. On the other hand, Ham refused to acknowledge any possibility that he would change his mind, no matter how much scientific evidence to the contrary was presented. This is not real science.

While Nye’s decision to debate Ham may have appeased creationists who have been calling for this debate for a long time, it also lent credibility to an unscientific theory and a man who refuses to follow the scientific method. Additionally, it is highly unlikely the debate managed to change anyone’s opinion on the subject one way or the other. At best, the debate was pointless. At worst, it helped advance the cause of an unscientific theory by giving it the same credibility as evolution.  

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