What I learned moderating the creation/evolution debate
Creationist Ken Ham makes a point in Tuesday's debate with Bill Nye, the "science guy."
February 5th, 2014
08:49 AM ET

What I learned moderating the creation/evolution debate

By Tom Foreman, CNN

CNN's Tom Foreman moderated the "creation debate" Tuesday night in Petersburg, Kentucky, between Bill "the Science Guy" Nye and creationist Ken Ham.

(CNN) - It says something when a person shows up at the Creation Museum wearing a top that says, "This is my atheist T-shirt."

At least that's what I think it said. I saw it in a blur as she passed in the parking lot; a thirtysomething with a young boy in tow, striding through the bitter winds of Kentucky to visit a place that proclaims those who deny the existence of God are dead wrong.

I thought about chasing her down to ask her what had compelled her to come, but it would have been a foolish question.

She was here to see a fight. And I was here to play the referee, to moderate a debate on a question that has raged for well over a century: Was humankind created by God in a rush of divine power, or did we evolve over time with only nature to take the credit?

Or as the organizers put it: "Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era?"

About 900 people snapped up tickets to this event just a few minutes after they went on sale, and I was told they expected at least "hundreds of thousands ... maybe a million or more" to watch as it streamed online.

It was not just the topic drawing the throngs. For this crowd, the debaters really mattered.

On the left (literally for the audience, and figuratively in every other way) was the champion for the evolutionary side.

Bill Nye, "the Science Guy," made fundamentalist Christian heads snap recently when he declared it was flat-out wrong for children to be taught creationism.

I met him in a room behind the stage as the audience milled around, waiting for the event to begin. Having just spoken to an adoring crowd of science fans at a university the night before, he feared he was in hostile territory.

MORE ON CNN: 'Creation debate' recap: Science, religion and terrible jokes

"I think my agent is the only one on my side," he said, only half-joking. "I think the other 899 people in here don't really see it my way."

It was hard to tell. Aside from the woman with the T-shirt, there were others wearing pro-Nye gear, but no good way to count them.

Still, it looked like his supporters were probably in the minority, and I mentioned to him that some scientists were grousing online he was validating the creationist argument by even showing up. "So why are you here?" I asked.

"I'm here for the U.S. economy," he said. "See, what keeps the United States in the game for the world economy is our ability to innovate, to have new ideas, and those inventions come from science."

"And you see creationism as sort of poisoning the well for science?"

"Yes. I mean, I'm all for (creationism) in philosophy class, history of religion class, human psychology class," but bring it into science class, and Nye gets upset.

And that is what disturbs Nye's debate opponent. Ken Ham is a rock star in the creationist community who is quick to point out his own educational credentials and those of other scientists who support creationist views.

He is one of the founders of the Creation Museum, where dinosaurs are depicted as living alongside humans and the Great Flood of Noah is an indisputable fact.

He believes it is fundamentally unfair of folks like Nye to push creationism further into the educational shadows and to deny what Ham sees as its scientific components. (Ham concedes, though, that the great number of scientists and citizens agree with Nye: evolution is real.)

I first met Ham back when the museum was being built, and he greeted me Tuesday night in his affable, Australian manner just outside the room where Nye was waiting.

"I must admit I'm a little nervous," Ham told me looking out at the audience. "I want to passionately present my case and defend what I believe, but we never imagined it would become this big. It's amazing. Just shocked all of us."

It was impressive to see how much interest the event generated. A riser with a phalanx of production cameras sat in the middle of the room, 70 or so journalists were clustered to one side of the stage, and security officers seemed to be all over the place.

I was told that metal detectors were being used to screen the audience, and I saw what I presume were explosive-sniffing dogs quietly working the hallways.

Both sides in this debate know the subject matter can spur extreme feelings, and they did all they could to make sure extreme actions didn't follow.

Just the same, one organizer pointed out a corner some 30 feet behind my spot on the stage. A door there opens to the parking lot, he said, "just in case, for any reason, you need to get out fast."

The advice was appreciated but unnecessary. The crowd proved to be polite, attentive and admirably restrained through the entire 2½-hour debate.

So were the debaters. Although they were firmly on opposite sides of the fence, Ham and Nye presented their arguments calmly and respectfully. Neither tried to shout the other down.

I spent my time listening to what they had to say, watching the clock to make sure they got equal time and trying to ensure people in each camp felt their man was treated fairly. Both debaters shook hands at the end to rousing applause. It was not a fight after all.

MORE ON CNN: Ken Ham: Why I'm debating Bill Nye about creationism

Considering the depth of feelings people have about this issue, I asked both men before we began if they expected to change anyone's opinion.

Ham said, "I will present (my information) trying to change people's minds, but knowing as a Christian it is God who changes people's minds, not me."

Nye said, "Here is my hope: I will remind Kentucky voters that this is a serious issue and that it is inappropriate to include creationism as an alternative to ... the body of knowledge and the process called science."

MORE ON CNN: Bill Nye: Why I'm debating creationist Ken Ham

By the time the debate was done, a fierce winter storm had settled in. I waded through the Creation Museum parking lot ankle deep in snow, with sleet pelting down. And I think it was a worthwhile evening - a debate humankind was created to have, or to which we evolved.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Creationism • Culture & Science • Evolution • Science

soundoff (3,342 Responses)
  1. Vic

    Jesus Christ Is Lord.

    February 18, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
  2. Peaceadvocate2014

    I cant demonstrate it by the way you want it demonstrated.

    i read the sermon on the mount and i see nothing wrong with what was said.

    February 16, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I am asking you to objectively demonstrate your claims.

      Please don't insinuate I am asking for an unreasonable "special" demonstration.

      February 17, 2014 at 12:03 am |
      • Peaceadvocate2014


        I cant demonstrate it objectively as i said before. There is a reasonable doubt not to believe. Same with the OJ or Casey Anthony trials.

        The basis of my belief is the bible. That basis is supported by my observations of human behavior and experiences in life. It is inadmissible in our courts because it is subjective.

        February 17, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
  3. Peaceadvocate2014


    Our division have been with us from the beginning of time. The teachings of God is to unite. Separate the sins of humams from the message.

    February 14, 2014 at 8:32 pm |
  4. joeyy1


    February 14, 2014 at 10:38 am |
  5. Vic

    Jesus Christ came to this world to redeem it. The "Dispensation of Grace" reigned ever since.

    John 1:16,17
    "16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ."

    John 3:16,17
    "16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."

    Galatians 4:4,5
    "4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."

    Ephesians 1:7
    "7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace"

    Ephesians 2:8,9
    "8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

    Hebrews 10:10
    "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

    Acts 13:39
    "39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses."

    All Scripture Is From:

    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation


    February 13, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
  6. Bob

    The whole Jesus-sacrifice-salvation thing, a foundation of the crazy Christian religion, is complete nonsense. How is it that an omnipotent being couldn't do his saving bit without the whole silly Jesus hoopla? And how was Jesus' death a "sacrifice", when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time with less than a snap of his fingers?

    Pretty pathetic "god" that you've made for yourself there, Christians.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
    Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

    February 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm |
    • Peaceadvocate2014


      Why send Jesus? Why not God do the saving? Why Jesus death is a sacrifice?
      Jesus was sent by Good in the New testament to clarify or correct the Old testament. Ole testament that the belief in God should be spread around the world by force. Jesus redefined it or clarified it as spreading the word of God by kindness.

      God did not do it on his own because humans would not learn or would not believe in an intangible being. Therefore, God sent his son Jesus in the form of human to let humans know, it is posssible to spread his word by kindmess.

      Jesus death is a sacrifice because after his death there was a tremendous increase in the affirmation of the belief in God and conversion of non belivers. it made us more moral. as you could see we become more civilized. we have tendencies to go backwards butt the governing tendencies would be in the hands of humans like you and me.


      February 13, 2014 at 5:44 pm |
    • kermit4jc

      YOU are pretty ignorant of this God..youthink all He is is omnipotent..you leave out that He is a HOLY and JUSt God....He isn't this way cauyse he FEELS like it..it is His very nature...your argument fails

      February 14, 2014 at 1:51 am |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        Beings that order and commit genocide are not moral and just.

        February 14, 2014 at 11:32 am |
        • kermit4jc

          Goodness you have terrible arguments.....Hes not just a mere being..he is the author of Life..He GIVES life..He is Just and reserves right to take it...you are not moral enough to say otherwise; God is the one who gives the life..He can take it.

          February 14, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          You pretend to "know" things you don't know...there can't be any worse of an argument than that.

          February 14, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          you responding to me? saying I pretend to know?

          February 14, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Ummm, yes.... is there someone else in this thread you think I was refering too?

          I also find it fascinating when believers such as yourself claim humans are not moral enough to judge the actions of god...when that is exactly what you are doing. You have just "judged god" to be good. If humans are not able to judge god to be immoral, then by logical extension we are not able to judge god to be moral either.

          February 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          ok..first of all..stop pretending you know my thoughts and my beliefs. Stop pretending to think you know what "I know" That's pretty arrogant thing to do. Second, what I am saying is this..WE are not the moral standards, God is...thus who are we to judge God being immoral if it isn't our standards?

          February 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          "WE are not the moral standards, God is...thus who are we to judge God being immoral if it isn't our standards?"

          If we cannot judge god to be immoral, we cannot judge him to be moral either. The logic of your statement cuts both ways. The only logical conclusion would be that we cannot know one way or the other.

          February 14, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          IM trying t hard to show you the standards...ours vs Gods ...forget the first comment I made..andgo with this one and last one

          February 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          I mean..by what standard are WE going by to say God is evil?

          February 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          The same standard we use to say god is good.

          You can't have it both ways. You can't say that we are incapable of determining god is immoral and then turn around and say "but we are capable of determining god is moral". It would not be an honest position to take.

          February 14, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
        • hotairace

          kermit4jc, unless you can prove the existence of your or any god, you are just bullsh!ting. Your beliefs are no more valid than someone who believes Harry Potter is an actual person. No better than the crap peddled by astrologists. But, go ahead, prove me wrong.

          February 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          why depend on me to prove it>If God truly exists..would he not be the best evidence Himself? to merely believe cause I "prove it" is to be dishonest and naïve. NO man proved God to me..He did it on his own...why should I expect less of you?

          February 14, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Belief without proper evidence is gullibility.

          February 14, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
        • Peaceadvocate2014


          it is a true statement but who is that being? Humans.We blame God.

          February 14, 2014 at 6:46 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          No peace,

          I really don't blame god, I don't believe god is real. When I talk about the immorality of the god of the bible I am refering to the actions of a character in a book. I don't really believe that character is real though.

          February 14, 2014 at 10:33 pm |
        • Peaceadvocate2014


          I think i know you dont believe :)

          Iam commenting on your reply. Its true. However, you implied a being that is capable of evil that i presumed a God.

          February 15, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
  7. Peaceadvocate2014

    Fellow Humans,

    Summation of my thoughts:

    Does God exist? Yes, to me. I belive based on the accounts and testimonies in the old and new testaments of the bible. Why there is a new testament that clarified the teachings of God through Jesus. There is no other rational, justification, demonstration, evidence to support this claim. There is none. That is were faith comes in, I will discuss that need and why faith should be tested below. God existence cant be tried in human courts or forum because it is something intangible. I cant blame nay sayers because it is our culture to have definiive proof to accuse or acquit in our courts and forums. What about other Gods? I m not here to debunk other Gods but to promote mine.

    Religion does not make us more moral.
    Maybe. I understand the skepticism in religion. Jesus challeged his own chruch when he was sent by God. In the temple where he said the temple should not be used as a market and make money. What we see in some of our religious inst:tutions today. But let us separate the sins of humans from the message of the inst:tution if we are going to be fair. Religiion established by humans are both divisive and destructive. God did not say call yourself christians, catholics, muslims, buddists, etc. Some would say our parents guidance or laws makes us more moral. Maybe. If the laws and parental guidance is consistent to Gods teachings through Jesus. If humans or parents established both religion and laws, there is a conflict of interest there. Im afraid so. I belive so.

    Is Jesus God?
    Jesus is the son of God in human form. why not a daugther? I do not know.

    Jesus Imperfect.
    Imperfect because is gets angry? When he challenged his own chruch and got crucified by his own people. Isrealites. Thus the fall of the Roamn Empire. Imperfect because he is blunt? Rude? When he encoutered a cananite woman whose daugther is sick. He referred to the canannites as dogs and isrealites as the children of God. He made an analogy based on the perception at the time. He is teaching his isrealite disciples as well as the cananite woman. He did cure the cananite womans daugther because of her faith.

    God is Imperfect.
    God kils or punish enemie in the bible. Reference may be in the Old testament were testimonies came from kings or an established ent:tes with power that could use God for their own self interest. That is why Jesus was sent in the New testament to clarify Gods message. Does God kill? No. Human do.What about other ills? Slavery, birth defects, famine, etc? Im afraid all were done by humans. Its our culture to blame others. If possible something intagible that cant defend themsleves. It convinient. Why God did not create a perfect world? This is not about Gods power but actually for the edification of humans. What would humans do? The hope is to base human actions through God teachings as manifested by Jesus. Humans development of moral applications. In a perfect world faith is not necessary. I stil have not heard any account that God is imperfect.

    Why God need to test our faith?
    To make us more moral. Our evolution. Like what Jesus did when he was confronted by a cananite woman needing help. All she needed was faith to have her child cured. The need for constant affirmation of our belief in God. SINCERITY. Jesus' closest apostle denied him 3 times. A fellow isrealite who saw his miracles, teachings, actions, examples. What more to us or non believers where the mere basis is a book. The denials are understandable. Now, we are left with a choice , do we believe or not. I choose to believe.

    February 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "When he challenged his own chruch and got crucified by his own people. Isrealites. Thus the fall of the Roamn Empire."

      You do realize the Roman Empire embraced Christianity before it fell...I guess Jesus was still mad.

      February 13, 2014 at 10:35 pm |
      • Peaceadvocate2014


        There goes the saying, i defeat my enemies by making them my friends.

        Peace. Powerful message.

        February 13, 2014 at 10:55 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Well in this case it looks more like,

          "I defeat my enemies by making them my friends, and then I burn their house down"

          February 13, 2014 at 11:14 pm |
        • Peaceadvocate2014

          I did say that.

          Jesus did not raise a finger to burn the empire he sent a message that was not received by all humans because they dont believe. The so called early christians was in fact persecuted. Humans because of their flaws is hard of understanding Gods message, thus the burning. Thats is the more important that all hear the message and prevent or eliminate this evil.

          February 14, 2014 at 1:08 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          The point is after the Roman Empire embraced the message of Jesus, it fell. I did not imply Jesus had a hand in it, maybe he did, maybe he didn't....but regardless he wasn't impressed enough to stop it as you admit yourself.

          Another possibilty is of course that the god of the bible does not really exist...that would also fit.

          February 14, 2014 at 1:44 am |
        • Peaceadvocate2014


          I would not say he was not impressed, but Gods teaching is you cant serve two Gods. As jesus said when one of his disciple wants to follow him. The disciple got rid of all superficial poseesion and followed jesus. I believe jesus was so impressed that roman catholic chruch is located in the Vatican. Although now he wpuld ne disapponted again because of our evil tendencies.

          February 14, 2014 at 2:25 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Heck I won't even serve one god....

          February 14, 2014 at 2:52 am |
        • Peaceadvocate2014


          Its hard to serve anybody. We question their authority if it is legitimate or not. I find legitimate authority as an authority that guide not demand. Example, when you guide a child to cross the street, that is legimate authority. We dont have to believe in any God but how would we ne guided to develop our moral applications? Do it on our own? Like i said there would be a conflict of interest coz we would be the same one to determine what is moral or not.

          February 14, 2014 at 3:09 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


          I have to take issue with the statement..

          "We dont have to believe in any God but how would we ne guided to develop our moral applications?"

          My 12 yr old son does as well as anyone. He is a non-believer and yet asks my permission to volunteer and donate money. He is full of empathy for others and cares deeply for animals. No god needed.

          Not to mention god's "morality" is less than impressive. Even when it comes to the mundane issues like s.ex. You seem to be hung up on the fact that because Jesus said some nice things, things that weren't even original to him, that somehow makes him divine.

          February 14, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
        • Peaceadvocate2014


          Good morning, it is ok to take issue, i like you coz you ask questions. I did that a lot when this concept of believing in something intagible was introduced to me.

          I am happy for your 12 yr old, he is in good hands. We guide our children with morals for they are our future leaders. What if you are gone or unable to provide that guidance? Who would he turn to? Remember when i said constant affirmation. We also need constant affirmation of our morality. As you can see in our daily lives.

          I still have not heard a good arguement against Gods morality. I answered all the ills is done by humans not God and God power is not the issue. God knows power, does not have to shot it everytime. God prefer humans to do it own their own, determine what is right. So, in a sense you are right about no God needed. But we are not perfect, from time to time we need God.

          I do know what you mean by s.ex. Is it the treatment of women at the time? That eve was the one who expelled us from paradise? That women should be relegated at home to take care of our home and kids? Is it womens rigths? Why a son sent not a daughter? Or is it love making? Why s.ex is demonize if youre not married?

          Some of what jesus said was not origin to him but all were originated from God. All other religion were based on God. The reason for the establishment of other religion was the discontent of what the choosen people (jews) did.

          Have great day. Have to go to the gym and spread the word of God :)

          February 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


          Like I have told you I think you a sincere person. The idea of "belief" in the intangable is not new to me. I believed, I no longer believe because the belief in the god of the bible is so absurd as I cannot believe. I will go one step further. Even if you could absolutely prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the god of the bible exists...I still wouldn't think that god was moral and just. Bottom line is the contradictions between the actions and behavior of that god and what is considered actually "moral" today is just to great to overcome. There may be a god, I don't know one way or another. But the god of the bible is as likely to be true as Zues is likely to rule from Mt. Olympus.

          You make a lot of declarations of things you "know"....like that even though the ideas of Jesus were not original to him, they did originate from your god.

          Going forward I would like you to ask yourself a question everytime you get ready to make a statement of fact about the "intangable"....How do you "know" it? I mean how do you really "know" facts about the intangable? How does ANYONE know facts about the intangable?

          February 14, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
        • Peaceadvocate2014


          i am also a sinner. i am not a so called saint but i think this kind of message is worth advocating.

          Maybe at times I wold say I "know", my passion gets the better of me.

          well theres the answer we cant prove it exist. excatly what i said. but i also said i choose to belive. call me nuts :)

          February 14, 2014 at 5:48 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


          I don't think you are nuts, I think your belief is based on emotion. And I don't think emotion is a reliable way to ascertain what is real and true. Emotional belief can manipulated even when the believer has the best of intentions.

          February 14, 2014 at 6:42 pm |
        • Peaceadvocate2014

          You may be right. I may just be over reacting. emotional. I would rather have emotions than none. Imagine the dullness.

          February 14, 2014 at 6:50 pm |
        • Peaceadvocate2014

          programmed like a machine. technology. its good to have but not act alike.

          February 14, 2014 at 6:53 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


          You misunderstand me, emotions are fine and good...... but basing "beliefs" on emotion rather than logic is what I am addressing.

          February 14, 2014 at 10:29 pm |
        • Peaceadvocate2014


          I dont think emotions was my basis of my belief but logic.

          The message in the book and how it applys in our daily lives. Our experiences. The need for morality. God is morality. Miracles mentioned in the book may not be actual miracles, there may be scietific explanation for miracles mentioned in the book unfortunately we dont have csi back in the days.

          I'll expand on our experiences. When we are born. We look up to our parents to guide us. Same with God. We look up to God to guide us. And the book is that guidance. Seems logical to me.

          February 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          You cannot demonstrate the existence of a god...any god.

          Go back and read about what I said concerning stating "facts" about the intangable.

          February 15, 2014 at 7:10 pm |
      • Peaceadvocate2014


        Humans did the burning. Not God :)

        February 13, 2014 at 11:53 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          You are the one who said

          "When he challenged his own chruch and got crucified by his own people. Isrealites. Thus the fall of the Roamn Empire."

          Not me.

          February 14, 2014 at 12:05 am |
        • Peaceadvocate2014

          Sorry, i placed my response above.

          February 14, 2014 at 1:15 am |
        • Peaceadvocate2014

          If you are refering to the destruction of the irealite temple. That may be God. A natural disaster or a coincidence.

          February 14, 2014 at 1:19 am |
    • tallulah131

      You are certainly welcome to your opinion. You are certainly welcome to rationalize them in any way that makes sense to you. But your opinion is nothing more than your opinion. It does not prove the existence of your god. It only proves that you believe in your god.

      February 14, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
  8. Vic

    Jesus Christ Is Lord

    February 13, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
    • igaftr

      or not. Given the infinite number of other possibilities, likely not.

      Do you think you make points with your god by posting this day in and day out?

      February 13, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Why the need to have to relationships of a feudal society?

      February 13, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
  9. Peaceadvocate2014

    Seems like my post and replies are being block. Sorry guys. Short ones go through though.

    February 12, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
    • igaftr

      likely not blocked but there is a word filter that blocks certain things automatically...like I can't write const!tution without modifying it because there is a t!t in it.
      Check it over for that sort of thing.

      February 12, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
      • Peaceadvocate2014

        Thanks iga, your response shows we can argue but in the end we help each other. Common goal.

        February 12, 2014 at 6:51 pm |
    • In Santa We Trust

      Certain words cause the WP filter to not post, e.g. the t.it in inst.itution

      February 12, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.