I had no interest in watching this debate when I heard it was even going to happen. The fact that there are still throngs of people out there who believe in Noah’s Flood, Adam and Eve, and other stories shouldn’t have a place at the science table. After watching the debate, my opinions haven’t really changed at all, but I will say I might have been a little cold when I mentioned that those kinds of people shouldn’t be doing science. Anyway what I liked about the debate was that it didn’t have the typical back and forth and nasty undercurrent our typical debates have. Because each scientist had 30 mins to make their argument uninterrupted, it was not contentious at all. It did however have two very different scientific worldviews and for the sake of brevity I will sum them up here.
Ken Ham (Creationism): Ham is the creator of the Answers in Genesis organization and is one of the foremost scientists in the creation corner. He started off the debate by creating a semantic issue. He claimed that mainstream modern scientists have hijacked the term science and we really should consider observational science and historical science as two distinct forms of science. Because we have no idea of how anything happened prior to our existence, historical science, or the biblical accounts were sufficient. To that end he continues for the bulk of his initial 30 minutes refuting claims made the evolutionary left that the universe was created millions of years ago. He also bolsters his argument with men of science who are also creationist to lend credence to the idea that you can be both a serious scientist and devout christian. Towards the end of his time, he goes on to state that we can’t simply fall on “modern” science to answer where we came from because as easily as something is proven it can be disproven. However, the bedrock of the bible does not change. It is an absolute series of guidelines, and it is that questioning of these absolutes that have led to the world’s moral ambiguity. God’s existence is the answer. It is not the question.
Bill Nye (Evolution): The Science Guy, as we’ve come to know him for nearly 20 years, does what we would expect him to do in a debate like this. He uses scientific facts as we know them. He uses a lot Ham’s biblical truths to call to question perceived inaccuracies. Ham repeatedly holds claim that the Earth has really only existed for 6,000 years and that humanity for about 4,000 of that. If we know that each ring around a tree signifies a year, and the more rings, the older a tree is, how can we have a 9,000 year old tree (we have this) on a 6,000 year old Earth? Other good questions are how could Noah’s flood dissipate so quickly without enough turbulence to leave animal fossils scattered on top of each other, or for that matter, how can a man with no prior engineering background to our knowledge, construct an Ark that was sound enough to sustain 14,000 animals (two of each species) plus his 7 family members? The rest of Nye’s initial 30 mins do a lot more of that, but basically he used science fact and worked his way backwards to refute Ham.
The next part was more a straightforward debate where neither man budged at all on their scientific beliefs, not that I expected them to, but if I had to say there was a winner and loser in terms of the debate, I would actually offer Ham up as the winner. Not that I believe him, and I don’t, but his answers were often more straightforward. His answer can always be, GOD, whereas Nye, on three separate occasions said, “I don’t know.” I don’t know doesn’t get you far in the court of public debate. Debates need answers, which is probably the inherent reason other evolutionary proponents did not want Nye engaging in this debate on Ham’s homecourt. Nye did in essence lose the debate for many the minute he agreed to it. Ham, like an excellent lawyer used conventional science against itself. By using the example of old-timey American textbooks stating there are five races and the superior is the caucasian, he can show that science was wrong. I am sure this helped those believing in creationism to stay right where they were on the fence. The only real effective counter I feel like Nye had was when he asked the question, if we know those text writers were wrong about the superior races, and can disprove that and move on, how can we still assume a text written eons ago and translated so many times is still accurate, much less, properly translated?
Both men I think did a good job rallying their bases, but ultimately the “modern” scientist never looks the bettor in a debate. However if I think the debate did not really address the issue of the conflicts of creationism vs. evolution. If the bible is to be taken literally, than it appears as though stem cell research and other controversial scientific means, will never be seen as a viable means for curing injuries and illnesses in this country. Having seen what other countries have done with the stem cells, it’s clear there is the chance for real scientific progress. The issue of where we come from to me does not concern me as much. I firmly believe that we have evolved over time. I believe this in consort with the idea that there is some sort of higher being and/or power, and that we as humans have been put in the unenviable task of shepherding the planet. I don’t believe in God as a one-stop shop for all answers for all things. It is my belief that even if I’m wrong, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is where we plan on going as an advancing people. They always say, you need to know where you’re from to know where you’re going. In most cases, that is true, but here, I think that logic does more to obscure any answers we might find, more than it clarifies anything.
If you are interested in watching the debate (I warn you, it is LONG), you can find it at debatelive.org. The last thing, I’ll say about the debate, was every single attempt at humor was the saddest thing ever. That said, please watch it. Regardless of what you think, I think science needs to be spoken about more than our military industrial complex or whatever a Kardashian did.