Like many others, I watched the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate on evolution on Tuesday. Overall, I thought it was a decent debate and thought my time was well spent.
Like others have already written, and as Albert Mohler has summarized well in his recap, the underlying issues were ones of worldview and presuppositions. I won’t go into all that because I couldn’t say it better than anyone else already has. But I did want to add a few thoughts.
A few things that Mr. Nye kept repeating that I wish Mr. Ham had addressed (or addressed more thoroughly) are these:
First, Mr. Nye kept implying that Christian faith is incompatible with “science.” This is a false dichotomy. He seemed to think that Christians must reject everything that science offers if we are to be consistent with young earth creationism. He kept referring to cell phones, microbiology, geology, medicine, astronomy, etc. as areas that we accept but, basically, shouldn’t because we reject the idea of an old earth.
I think this stems from his failure (or refusal) to grasp the distinction between observational and historical science. I understand that he sees them as just one category of “science” because, indeed, they do relate. All field of science do relate in some way. However, he would or could not admit that science applied in the here and now does not necessitate that things in the past be the same way. It may make sense that they were, or the assumption may seem “reasonable” to him but there is nothing — nothing — demanding they absolutely were. Demanding proof that they were different back then is impossible because the only way to prove it is to go back in time! An example of presuppositions that shape how we approach the evidence.
That is how and why we can draw a line between historical and observational science. Just because one can create an iPhone or build Mars rovers using scientific fields of astronomy or geology or electrical engineering doesn’t necessitate that the rate of the decay was the same 5000 years ago as it is today. That is a classic begging the question fallacy. It simply cannot be proven because no one was there 5000 years ago to prove the assumptions that we make today.
He failed to see and admit that many, many young earth Christians work in scientific fields; many are competent, well regarded, and love their jobs. They can and do make contributions to scientific fields, and there is no disconnect between their ability to do that and their biblical position on creation.
While Mr. Ham wisely spent his time on the emphases he had, I wish he had been able to spend some more time on this.
Second, Mr. Nye implied several times that “Ken Ham’s creation model” doesn’t make predictions and since “science” does, it is superior. Again, this is a false dichotomy. He wasn’t exactly clear, but I think what he had in mind was the idea that, with the evolutionary model, scientists “predict” certain things to be in certain places (he gave the example of Tiktaalik at one point), and that with the creation model, scientists can’t do that. (I hope he is not talking about general scientific predictions, not linked to evolution because Christian scientists make predictions exactly the same way non-Christians do.)
Indeed Mr. Ham did say, more or less in passing, that Christian scientists make predictions — but I interpreted that as in the general sense. I think what Mr. Nye wasn’t grasping is that since young earth Christians already have a position on origins, there really isn’t a “need” to make the same kinds of predictions. Rather, given what we know about creation, we can expect certain things to be how they are. But that is an expectation, not a prediction to go test. For example, we would expect similar gene structures among animals — not because of evolution, but because they have the same Creator. Further, as Mr. Ham mentioned, young earth creationists do make models (as with the Flood) and test them. That is a kind of prediction, testing to see if the theory holds water (no pun intended).
Mr. Nye actually isn’t imagining things how they might be if creation is true, and then passes the buck by saying Christians can’t predict; rather, he assumes evolution. So he is making a category mistake.
Finally, Mr. Nye seemed to want to corner the market on science. From what I know of him, he is an advocate for science and industry and invention — all very good traits. But he acts like, if you believe in a young earth, then you cannot simultaneously be a good scientist, contribute to the scientific community, or even really enjoy science. That would be funny if it wasn’t so wrong. This relates to my first point; he sees it as all or nothing. If you believe in a young earth, then you must reject science, period. You cannot benefit from, let alone contribute to, science.
Clearly, Ken Ham and the Creation Museum love science — but they love it within a certain context. Where Mr. Nye is curious about figuring out mysteries, Christians can simultaneously wonder at the “how” and be in awe of God’s power. Mr. Nye implied that Mr. Ham being “content” with the ark was a negative. That is a red herring. Accepting that God made it possible for Noah to build an ark does not mean we don’t care how it happened. Why does he think that Answers in Genesis has poured money into investigating how it could have been done — because they don’t care? Being content “that” something happened does not stop us from discovering “how” it happened. Mr. Nye fails to distinguish between the two.
Again, Mr. Nye seemed to want to corner the market on love for science — that only secular, evolutionists can love the scientific fields. I enjoy astronomy, and I know other Christians in the technology and medicine industries who just “love this stuff.” The main difference between a secularist and a Christian, when it comes to their feelings towards science, is that a secularists’s joy is the pursuit itself, and it ends there. Christians, on the other hand, have somebody, a Person, to be in awe of in the midst of that pursuit.
I do wish Mr. Ham had addressed that. Mr. Nye is right: the US needs engineers and innovators, etc. But he is simply wrong to imply that only evolutionary secularists can fill that need.