Nye/Ham Creation-Evolution Debate Largely a Draw

By Jeremy Griffith
American Millennium Online

The Downy Woodpecker outside my window is a great example of Intelligent Design- photo by AP

The Downy Woodpecker outside my window is a great example of Intelligent Design- photo by AP

Outside my window, right beside the back porch patio doors, a woodpecker drums its beak into the wood of an insect-infected tree like a jackhammer into concrete. Evidence of his work is all over the side of the tree, demonstrating to the casual observer that the little guy has been very busy. The specialized anatomy of the woodpecker is a great example of engineering and intelligent design that defies evolution, the kind of evidence that would have been great in a debate of Evolution and Creation. Sadly examples like this did not come up in last night’s debate between Evolutionist Bill Nye The Science Guy and Creationist Ken Ham.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the debate immensely and I encourage anyone to go and see it on the web. The video podcast is still available for several days on debatelive.org. In the debate, which lasted nearly 3 hours, the two contestants battled it out over the question of whether or not the Creation model is a viable model for scientific discussion, a question as stated I thought automatically put the Creationist presenter on the defensive. I got the impression, when all was said and done, of amateur middle-weight boxers dancing around each other for a while and never landing any significant blows.

To those of you who haven’t heard, Ken Ham, author and curator of the Creation Museum in Petersburg KY invited the Emmy winning science broadcaster Bill Nye to debate their worldviews Tuesday night. I thought is was a friendly debate and CNN moderator Tom Foreman was great, injecting a bit of wit and maintaining a fair and balanced debate that was very fair to the participants. You can see more information on the debate at CNN’s Belief Blog here.

Time Magazine has already published a piece on the web including a blow-by-blow account of the debate on their blog Swampland. In the blog, it’s very evident that the author didn’t think much of the Creationist presenter Ham, and I’m disappointed that Time would disenfranchise their more religious readers by allowing a junior writer to be so snarky and disrespectful. Disappointing, but not unexpected coming from the mainstream media. You can read that blog here.

I thought Ham had a very strong opening using power point slides showing that Creationists are not a bunch of religious fanatics who want to discard science altogether and live in the backwoods of Kentucky worshiping in churches that handle snakes. To bolster his point, Ham’s presentation had testimonials from Ph. D scientists from several disciplines of science who are willing to speak out on their creationist leanings. Nye’s opening wasn’t quite as strong as he didn’t present much evidence to show that Creationists are a bunch of science hating cooks and actually wasted much time on a very unamusing story about how his father learned to tie a bow-tie. He did have a prop however. He showed off a rock he had extracted there in Kentucky with a fossil in it, declaring essentially, “here is an example of evolution, right here in your own back yard,” without ever examining why a dead critter stuck in a rock is dead-to-rights evidence that evolution ever took place. We’ll just have to take his word for it, or not.

While the two competitors danced around the subject, I found myself longing for more grit, more evidence, to back up what the presenters were attesting. I didn’t find it. Nye went on and on discussing how he thought it was inconceivable that an ancient book that almost no one has read, translated from Aramaic and Greek into English could be used to justify a set of viable scientific principles. He harped on his view that an embrace of Creation mysticism would hamper scientific education in America and would handicap American youth in higher educational disciplines and eventually result in the decline of the country. Ham meanwhile asserted his understanding of the Bible as an explanation of our origins and asserted that all scientific study should utilize that book as the basis for all search for truth, scientific or otherwise.

There was some discussion of details, though they were sparse on both sides. Nye blasted the story of the Noah Ark and flood as largely mythical. He had satellite photographs of large zoos filled with animals and the land necessary to support the animals with food and grazing areas. He discounted the possibility of those animals, the many species of them miraculously coming onto the ark and living for the better part of a year while the earth and all its greenery was deluged in water.

Ham rebutted that there really weren’t all that many animals on the ark, that they were only invited to be rescued by kinds, not species, and only the warm-blooded ones at that so that the numbers aboard would be greatly reduced, adding to the credence that the animals could be saved as the Bible suggests.

Nye countered with his disbelief that such a boat, made all of wood as the ark was, could sustain a long voyage on a torrential sea without twisting and bowing and ultimately breaking apart. “Noah and company weren’t the master shipbuilders of today, how could they have designed and built a boat capable of withstanding such a flood?” Nye suggests.

Ham counters “how do you know what kind of a shipmaster Noah was, did you meet him?” In fact, Ham observes, ancient civilizations have had advanced technology and architecture that we in modern times don’t have full comprehension of, a rare blow made by Ham on Nye’s evolutionary argument.

And thus it went back and forth for a while. There was some discussion about the geological column of the earth as demonstrated by the Grand Canyon and I had hope that Ham would land some blows on Nye with that discussion. Sadly that opportunity was largely missed. Nye questioned an idea of how any catastrophic happening like the flood should create such land features like the Grand Canyon and argued that the canyon was obviously the work of slow steady processes over billions of years as the Uniformitarian naturalist argument often states. Ham acknowledges that the Grand Canyon is interesting and states that it is not a result of long slow evolutionary processes, but doesn’t go into evidence to support his case, another opportunity lost.

Nye showed a graphic in his presentation showing the geological column along with examples of early primitive fossils likely found in such strata of rock, proudly declaring it as evidence undisputed of evolution. The problem is that the geological column as pictured appears nowhere in nature and the fossils found there often are also present in other layers of rock billions of years ahead or behind where they are supposed to be.

“Show me an example of where a fossil like this is found in any other strata and maybe I’ll believe in something other than evolution!” Nye asserts with passion. “They are no where to be found!”

You got it Mr. Nye! Here you go. In the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) article by Steve A. Austin, Ph.D, entitled “Ten Misconceptions about the Geological Column” Austin blows away this point with Misconception No. 6. It’s quite lengthy but I include it all so that the reader may understand the whole context as Dr. Austin states the facts much more eloquently than I could.

Austin writes, “Misconception No. 6. Fossils, especially the species distinctive of specific systems, provide the most reliable method of assigning strata to their level in the geologic column.

“Bed-to-bed correlation of strata to their “type system” area is the most reliable method of assigning strata to a system. The data from oil well drilling, seismic surveys, and surface geologic mapping is of such character that subsurface correlation of lithostratigraphic units of the thickness of systems is possible on a continental scale. Although some fossils appear to be distinctive of certain systems (most fossil taxa range through a few to several systems), care must be exercised in correlation by fossils. First, the stratigraphic range of a fossil type is always open to extension as new fossils are discovered. Second, when an extension of a fossil’s range may be required, geologists may call upon erosion (reworking fossils into younger strata or leaking fossils into older strata) and structural events (overturning or faulting strata and fossils). An example of the first problem is the monoplacophoran mollusk Pilina, which might otherwise be considered diagnostic of the Silurian System, except for the startling discovery that Neopilina lives today, and, therefore, would be expected in any system overlying the Silurian. For these reasons correlation by fossils must always remain tentative awaiting further confirmatory evidence from lithostratigraphy. We should look very skeptically at strata correlations which rely solely on fossils.”

So there you have it. A fossil exists not only in strata where it’s not supposed to be, but the creature that made it, largely believed to be extinct is still alive and swimming. What do I win, Mr. Nye?!

Austin’s article about the misconceptions surrounding the geological column is fascinating and I recommend everyone read it, here. Did you know for example that the column was created by geologists who considered themselves to be Creationists and who if living today would have thoroughly rejected its use to determine time as the evolutionists have? I did not know that. Did you also know that the geological column is often missing layers that are totally stripped away, missing, flipped on top of another in nonsequencial order and often intertwined? I had heard that bit before. All these and more could have been ammunition for Ham against his evolutionary opponent that unfortunately was not picked up. It was like the Ship of Ham had come along for a perfect broadside against Ship Nye and Ham, with that perfect position, declined to fire.

I was glad to see that Ham largely debunked Nye’s assertion that radiometric dating was indisputable evidence of the age of the earth. Ham showed a graphic in his presentation showing all the different ways an age of a rock or of the earth can be determined and many if not all can be subjective depending on your assumptions of starting points, i.e. how much radio-active material was in a rock before it started to degrade. Was the glass half full when we started, or was it at three-quarters?

Talk of radiometric dating, the geological column, or Noah’s Ark aside, there was very little evidence leading any participant to an overall win in this debate. That is all I suppose we can expect from two duelists possessing degrees no higher than a bachelors? (I did not know that Nye was educated with a bachelor of science in Mechanical Engineering, did you? Ham likewise also has nothing higher to boast that a bachelor’s. Both have honorary degrees, but still! Maybe at the next debate we can get some experts in the fields with Ph. Ds? Hhmmm!?)

I’m no scientist, but I do have a degree higher than a bachelor’s. (Masters in New Media Journalism, if you must know!) And, in less than five minutes I found several articles and videos from credible sources demonstrating evidence for a creation scientific model. There was the Austin article on the geological column for example, a fascinating article about the wonderfully evolution frustrating anatomy of the common woodpecker, and a video from You Tube featuring Dr. Danny Faulkner, featured in Ham’s presentation, where Faulkner discusses Biblically compatible theories of astronomy and cosmology. I’m sure the evolutionists could find similar defenses of their worldview in a matter of minutes. (By the way, I recommend the reader see Dr. Faulkner’s comments in the movie, The Young Sun from Iachod Visuals where he talks about the problems of evolutionary star formation.)

The argument is not that there is evidence that can be made readily available for each worldview. The problem lies in the almost total banning of one worldview being taught in public schools. Often schools will have evolutionary teaching in science class rooms, but any talk of a creation model is outlawed and any academic scholar who even breathes a reference to it is fired and banned from Academia. See Ben Stein’s movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”, where Stein talks to prominent scientists dismissed for their beliefs and Stein’s fascinating interview of famous atheist Richard Dawkins.

I also didn’t like Nye’s assertion that discussions of such topics in high school classrooms could degrade the level of scientific education in America. Did you see the snarky backhanded insult he gave to Kentuckian Education. (He basically blasted the state because a precious scientific degree program was not offered in the state. I wonder how many other states similarly do not offer that particular program. Nye doesn’t elaborate.) Nye riddle’s Ham for what he perceives as his backward devotion to that ancient book the Bible and his near fanatic embrace of the youthful timeline of man, 4,000-6,000 years, as if Ham is the only one in Christendom who offers this view.

Actually, the number of people who advocate this view is increasing, though many Christians also think some form of evolution is still compatible with the Biblical account.

American Vision founder and CEO Gary DeMar has offered his opinion on Creation Vs. Evolution and has hosted debates between Ph. D level participants regarding this issue. In a recent article he argues that he would not have accepted a debate with Nye due to the slanted nature of the question posed as the premise of the debate. DeMar writes,

How I would I go about debating Bill Nye the UnScience Guy? First, I never would have agreed to the question being debated. I would have chosen “Is Abiogenesis a Viable Model of Origins in any World?” This is what it’s really all about: Life from non-life. The debate would be over before it started. To win, Bill Nye will have to demonstrate scientifically (demonstrate is the key word) that life as we know it came from non-life from no outside intelligent agency!”

Nye skirted this issue in the debate without really knowing it in a response to a question from Ham, mentioning Louis Pasteur who did important research on vaccines.

Says Nye, “You say life cannot come from nonlife! Are you absolutely sure?!”

The answer from Ham that we anticipated but never got was, “Yes, Louis Pasteur proved it in his laboratory. End of story. Life does not come from nonlife.” Before Pasteur, we believed rats came from piles of rags and flies came into being out of thin air. Sorry Bill.

DeMar continues: Until evolutionists demonstrate (1) the origin of matter out of nothing (a topic they rarely want to talk about), (2) how inorganic matter evolved into organic matter (spontaneous generation), (3) the origin of information and its meaningful organization (DNA programming), and (4) a genetic explanation for why it is mandatory that anyone be moral (ethics), evolution is a modern form of alchemy.

“No evolutionist has ever shown a single example of spontaneous generation. That’s why evolutionists want to talk about this found skull and that found femur and this percentage of chimpanzee DNA in relation to human DNA. It’s a long way from nothing to you and me and everything in between. I want to know how nothing became something and how that something became the UnScience Guy and the rest of the life we see on planet earth in terms of what can be demonstrated scientifically.”

 “I want to know how nothing became something and how that something became the UnScience Guy and the rest of the life we see on planet earth in terms of what can be demonstrated scientifically.” -Gary DeMar, American Vision

 

Indeed, Nye showed a graphic of different skulls including apes and humans combined, almost prophetically proving DeMar’s point unknowingly. Said Nye, “You look at these skulls with all their differences and similarities and tell me where modern man falls.”

You can read the rest of DeMar’s comments on his blog here in the article entitled, “How I would Debate Bill Nye the UnScience Guy”.

After the debate is over and the participants shake hands I’m left with the feeling that no forward progress was made, neither side redeeming themselves to the supporters of the other, rather they continued the status quo of their own following. I hope more debates like this will happen in the public sphere, but have little hope that any scientist with an evolutionary worldview will willingly expose themselves again to the criticism of a credentialed creationist scientist armed with facts.

 

 

 

 

 

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