Bill Nye: Why I'm debating creationist Ken Ham
Science educator Bill Nye, left, will face off against creationist Ken Ham in Tuesday night's debate.
February 4th, 2014
01:17 PM ET

Bill Nye: Why I'm debating creationist Ken Ham

Editor's note: Ken Ham will debate Bill Nye on Tuesday at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, with CNN's Tom Foreman moderating. The debate will be live-streamed at 7 p.m. ET on CNN.com, and CNN's "Piers Morgan Live" will host both Ham and Nye at 9 p.m. Tuesday after the debate. 

Opinion by Bill Nye, Special to CNN

(CNN) - A lot of people have been asking why I accepted Ken Ham’s invitation to debate the origins of life Tuesday night at the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

In short, I decided to participate in the debate because I felt it would draw attention to the importance of science education here in the United States.

What keeps this country in the game economically is our ability to innovate. New ideas lead to new technologies, which drive new businesses and new opportunities.

Technological innovations absolutely cannot be created without fundamental understanding of science, the means by which we know nature.

How many young adults and taxpayers use mobile phones? How many of us rely on global navigation systems that use satellites high above the Earth’s surface to find our way around?

Even if you eschew smartphones, you rely on the system to keep airplanes in the sky and ships at sea on their routes. Modern farmers plant seeds in fields with extraordinary precision using information beamed from satellites in space.

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

For the United States to maintain its leadership in technology, we need well-educated science students. To allow our students to come of age without the knowledge gained through the extraordinary scientific insights and diligence of our ancestors would deprive them of understanding of nature and our place in the cosmos.

It would also rob our students of their future. Without scientists and engineers to create new technologies and ways of doing society’s business, other economies in other countries will out-compete the United States and leave our citizens behind.

Tuesday's debate will be about whether Ham’s creation model is viable or useful for describing nature. We cannot use his model to predict the outcome of any experiment, design a tool, cure a disease or describe natural phenomena with mathematics.

These are all things that parents in the United States very much want their children to be able to do; everyone wants his or her kids to have common sense, to be able to reason clearly and to be able to succeed in the world.

The facts and process of science have enabled the United States to lead the world in technology and provide good health for an unprecedented number of our citizens. Science fuels our economy. Without it, our economic engine will slow and eventually stop.

It seems to me that Ham is a fundamentalist. Around the world there are billions of people, who embrace the facts and process of modern science, and they enjoy their faith. By all accounts, their faith enriches their lives. These people have no conflict with their faith and science. Ham is unique in this regard.

Fundamentally, Ham’s creation model is not part of modern science. His idea has no predictive quality or ability. It provides no means to learn more about the world around us. It does not enable students to make consistent sense of nature.

So, we’ll see. We’ll see if his model stands up to traditional scientific inquiry: If a certain claim is true, then we would expect a certain outcome.

I’m excited and very much looking forward to the encounter.

Bill Nye is a science educator and CEO of the Planetary Society. The views expressed in this column belong to Nye.

- CNN Belief Blog

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

soundoff (2,162 Responses)
  1. JimBoston

    Evolution is reality. Look at human beings and look at how we have evolved throughout time. You don't have to go that far back to see the changes. vital statistics of 2,238 postmenopausal women participating in the Framingham Heart Study, which has tracked the medical histories of some 14,000 residents of Framingham, Mass., since 1948. Investigators searched for correlations between women's physical characteristics — including height, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels — and the number of offspring they produced. According to their findings, it was stout, slightly plump (but not obese) women who tended to have more children — "Women with very low body fat don't ovulate," Stearns explains — as did women with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Using a sophisticated statistical analysis that controlled for any social or cultural factors that could impact childbearing, researchers determined that these characteristics were passed on genetically from mothers to daughters and granddaughters.

    If these trends were to continue with no cultural changes in the town for the next 10 generations, by 2409 the average Framingham woman would be 2 cm (0.8 in) shorter, 1 kg (2.2 lb.) heavier, have a healthier heart, have her first child five months earlier and enter menopause 10 months later than a woman today, the study found. "That rate of evolution is slow but pretty similar to what we see in other plants and animals. Humans don't seem to be any exception."
    -Time magazine , Darwin Wins! Humans Still Evolving

    February 4, 2014 at 8:19 pm |
    • Eric Bonner

      There's a difference between macro-evolution and micro-evolution. A wolf to a dog or a lion to domestic cat makes sense. From nothing to a rock to a tadpole to a frog to a monkey to a human being . . . Man, with all due respect, there is nothing even remotely logical or scientific about that.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:35 pm |
      • Sungrazer

        You're right. There is nothing logical or scientific about that. And you would never find any evolutionary biologist who would say that.

        February 4, 2014 at 8:54 pm |
  2. Dave

    Ask yourself this: if Adam and Eve only had 2 sons, and 1 of them died, where did the rest of us come from? And that ends creationism.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:16 pm |
    • John

      If you read more of the Bible, you wouldn't ask such an ill-informed question.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:23 pm |
    • JW

      The bible says that they continued having more sons and DAUGHTERS...enigma solved.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:23 pm |
    • Rachel

      Adam and Eve had more than 2 sons.
      "After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters." -Genesis 5:4
      Had to point this out.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:25 pm |
      • out of curiosity

        if adam lived for 800 years what were his wrinkles like. did he have any teeth left. was he able to stand or was he walking in all fours. how big was his prostrate.
        inquisitive mind wants to know.

        February 4, 2014 at 8:36 pm |
  3. Mike C

    Look, Bill Nye needs to get off his scientific high horse. The reality is that science does not provides the absolute truth but the best version of the truth any one time based on current information. So these arguments are just plain dumb. Science is always changing. As recently as yesterday, the godfather of black hole science, Mr Stephen Hawking, says that maybe back holes don't exists. So the scientific truth has change once more. I suggest Bill Nye do some research on the conundrums that Quantum theory has created. A theory offers the probability that evolution doesn't exist and we are here mainly here by chance or that everything is just a mirage. The reality is that our technological world of today would not have been possible without the work of Michael Faraday, a deeply religious man. He discovered electromagnetism. That's what makes all electrical devices and wireless communication possible today. So just because you are religious does not mean that you can't contribute to science. I am not deeply religious and I love science but I think scientists need to focus on science and stop this nonsense of choosing political sides and debating other people's faith.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:11 pm |
    • Tim c

      Faraday lived before Darwin released Origin. Same can be said of Newton or any number of great scientists. Now... AFTER Darwin and the opportunity to read his ideas does that still hold true is the correct way to look at it. The number of deeply religious scientists drop significantly, to this day.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:24 pm |
    • YeahItsMe72

      Mike the issue is that religious zealots aren't able to confine their fairy tale to influencing their own lives. They want it taken seriously, in some cases they want to suggest laws should be made to require it. It's one thing to a read a fairy tale to your child. It's another to hinder them that the flawed, simplified story is something not to question and holds all the worlds truths. They are just books with historical significance that are early signs that people understood propaganda thousands of years ago. But there are better morals than stoning your neighbors.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:26 pm |
      • Mike C

        Look, science can't take the moral high ground either. Science may not stone people, it just blows them up with atomic efficiency. Like, I said. These arguments are useless. Let's move on. These zealous exists in both camps. They are a minority in both camps and by getting into useless argument all it does is give in a weird way, credibility to other side.
        Unless, this is all a big public spectacle with a big paycheck for the debaters. (I believe the latter.)

        February 4, 2014 at 9:25 pm |
  4. bubba

    Since when does logic work with zealots? Since when will a zealot admit that his framework of beliefs requires proof beyond "God talks to me"? What a waste of time.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:09 pm |
    • Eric Bonner

      I'm not a zealot. I'm just a realist, and I know that something cannot come from nothing.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:31 pm |
      • JB

        Then explain the creation of God. God did not create themselves. Something created God. If you believe that God created themselves, then you must admit that something can come from nothing and if you admit that then you essentially just proved yourself wrong.

        February 4, 2014 at 9:33 pm |
  5. CEC

    Quote from God today:
    "You'd think I'd be a creationist, but these days I prefer to deny any involvement in this fiasco."

    February 4, 2014 at 8:08 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Bill isn't just debating creationism. He has publicly announced other feelings about Christians and the bible, which I think are more in keeping with his real goal. He believes anyone who teaches creationism to their children should have their children taken from them because it wastes their children's minds and the world needs those little minds to be more scientific?

    Does that not bother anyone? He is talking Nazi style, enforced abduction of children from their parents. That goes way beyond arguing about creationism. He wants to stomp out religion from every aspect of society.

    If he had any guts at all he would come clean and announce his full agenda. And include those thoughts in his debating.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
    • oh

      paranoia and fear are a terrible way to go through life.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:07 pm |
      • Anonymous

        Nice try. It's not paranoia. This is what he said. You can't diminish the severity of what he suggested by name calling. This is what he has said is right for society.

        February 4, 2014 at 8:11 pm |
    • JimBoston

      Nazism is not giving the kids the choice to decide for themselves. Creationism is for Sunday school.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:11 pm |
    • Howie

      I sincerely doubt that your view is accurate, but if it were I would heartily applaud Mr. Nye's efforts. Religion is a poison on humanity. It should be excised like any other cancer.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:23 pm |
    • JB

      "You are clothed with light as with a robe; stretching out the heavens like a curtain." Psalm 104:2 BBE

      This has nothing to do with the Genesis story.... Nice try Ham.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:40 pm |
  7. Science_is_for_Neanderthals.

    Bill Bill Bill you just dont get it do you. We knew long before your pitiful science did that we were made from dust. You just dont understand that everything in this universe is doomed our beliefs are focused on the next life. You science will not and can not address the next life and it will not apply any way.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
    • dre

      Cuckoo, cuckoo

      February 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
    • oh

      sad when we close the door to learning.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
    • Sigmundfreud

      If Science is for Neanderthals, why are you sitting in a chair in a heated house tapping away on a computer powered by elecricity? And why do you see doctors and take medicine when you are sick? Your holy ancestors just prayed for healing ... and died.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:09 pm |
  8. Child Of God

    If you don't believe then how do you explain the things in the Bible being fulfilled like Israel becoming a state again and the 12 tribes returning to Israel? "I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me". Philippians 4:13. If you just read the first part of this verse, it would immediately sound an alarm.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:00 pm |
    • JimBoston

      The majority of Israeli men are Y-DNA Haplogroup J. If the twelve lost tribes have all returned to Israel why is it that Y-DNA Haplogroup J is found in very large numbers throughout southern Italy, southern Greece, north Africa, Lebanon, and several other places? Sorry, science wins.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:04 pm |
    • JW

      Sorry but I must disagree with you on this one. How would you know who is from which tribe? We do not know.
      When the New Testament talks about Israel, is not referring to the modern state, it's referring to the "heavenly Jerusalem".
      Rom 9:6 " For not all who descend from Israel are really “Israel.”

      February 4, 2014 at 8:04 pm |
  9. newfins1

    Exposing the FRAUD of evolution: http://manhood101.com

    February 4, 2014 at 7:56 pm |
  10. Pie is good for the soul


    February 4, 2014 at 7:50 pm |
    • Pi


      February 4, 2014 at 7:51 pm |
    • Cake is better.

      The soul is imaginary. Cake is better for logical beings like us.

      February 4, 2014 at 7:51 pm |
    • newfins1

      Exposing the FRAUD of evolution: http://manhood101.com

      February 4, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
      • Sigmundfreud

        Fraud, you say?

        When 99% of scientists and all mainstream religions (outside the fundie nutcases) agree that it is correct?

        Now go to bed and let the grownups talk.

        February 4, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
  11. Aaron

    Completely pointless debate. And unfair.

    Every time you ask a religious person to explain something about their religious beliefs that flies in the face of logic and reason, they get to shrug it off and say, "God did it. God can do anything." They always have that free pass. It means logic is a convenience. For instance, if you ask a Christian how Jesus could walk on water (a thing that doesn't make rational sense), they get to shrug it off and say, "It's miracle. God can do anything".

    That statement is always waiting in the wings for them. It's their get-out-of-a-logical-conundrum-free card. The scientist simply doesn't have that luxury. The scientist always has to back his or her argument with facts and data. They are never allowed to shrug off (or completely ignore) an inconsistency and still insist their opinion is valid. As a matter of fact, in a debate with the religious, if they can find a logical problem with the scientist's position, they pounce and use it against them. They hold the scientist to a standard they won't hold to themselves. That's what makes it pointless and unfair. There is not point agreeing to a debate someone under those conditions.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:49 pm |
    • Nope

      BS. Not all religious people do such things. Some are elite scientists and don't settle for "God did it."
      The father of the Big Bang Theory was a Catholic priest, for crying out loud!

      February 4, 2014 at 7:50 pm |
      • Mentalcase

        What you found one logical fish in a sea of illogical ones and that's your point? Double A Ron is completely right.

        February 4, 2014 at 7:58 pm |
      • Nope

        Unfortunately I know a lot of illogical non-believers, too. Logic and reason doesn't lead everyone to atheism or agnosticism. And some are atheist and agnostic for very dumb reasons.

        February 4, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
        • Mentalcase

          You changed your point.

          February 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
    • countingdown

      Are you willing to bet eternity on the possibility God doesn't exist?
      I would guess on your death bed, should you have the opportunity, your last words will be: Oh, God I'm sorry!

      February 4, 2014 at 8:29 pm |
    • Science Can't Explain...

      Actually, science can't explain everything, because we live in a world where paranormal activities and other scientifically unexplainable things happen. Like the fact that we dream, or the situation where a person is possessed by a demon(s), or where I was absolutely sure I should have been hit by another car once, but in some way I couldn't adequately explain, I ended up in the correct side of the road, and the other car was completely gone! That is SO not typical!

      February 5, 2014 at 7:19 pm |
  12. Mevangel

    After my wife's groin doctor called me and pointed out neither of the two are Ph.D. scientists, I turned the debate off.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:49 pm |
  13. Paul

    For some reason evolution has hardwired people to believe in supernatural beings like God.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:46 pm |
    • dre

      And the tooth fairy, and unicorns, and santa and.....

      February 4, 2014 at 8:09 pm |
  14. Bob

    Ham is quoting scripture. Anyone who quotes scripture or the bible must be excluded from any further rational discourse. Faith is the crutch of the weak minded, noting more.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:44 pm |
    • Faith...

      Actually Bob, faith is a strength, not a crutch!

      February 6, 2014 at 9:48 am |
      • Steve Larson

        A strength that holds a fairy castle made of sand. Big woop.

        February 6, 2014 at 10:04 am |
        • Fairy tale castle?

          Your fairy tale castle made of sand is on this earth, not in heaven. Heaven is rock solid.

          February 6, 2014 at 10:08 am |
        • Steve Larson

          Good luck with that, be sure to let me know when you get there.

          February 6, 2014 at 10:17 am |
  15. JimBoston

    Ham is to creationists what Justin Bieber is to beliebers. The rest of us just point and laugh.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:44 pm |
  16. Hunger

    Bill, you make it sound like creationists are telling their children that modern science is bad, and that it is preventing our society from moving forward technologically. That is a very bad generalization. Misguided and prejudicial 'science' does at least as much harm to our societies growth as fundamentalists who are unwilling to budge when given new evidences. Both extremes are counter-productive.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
    • JB

      That is exactly what Ham was saying when he stated that the term Science and Evolution has been 'hijacked'. To claim that Scientists who do not agree with Creationism are 'hijacking' anything it making the effort to put them in a negative light. In fact, that kind of assertion is a big part of the brainwashing process.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:04 pm |
  17. davessworks

    Bill Nye has a BS in Mechanical Engineering. That is the extent of his education. He is a popular entertainer. Please would someone explain to me why we would listen to his opinion in this matter and why it has any bearing?

    Further it appears that Ken Ham has rather limited education also. I'm sorry, but I see no reason whatsoever why we should listen to either of them. Science clearly shows that Ham is nuts but then again Nye's position is tenuous at best also.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:42 pm |
  18. JW


    ▪ Fact: Depictions in textbooks and museums of the so-called ancestors of humans are often shown with specific facial features, skin color, and amount of hair. These depictions usually show the older “ancestors” with monkeylike features and the ones supposedly closer to humans with more humanlike facial features, skin tone, and hair.

    Question: Can scientists reliably reconstruct such features based on the fossilized remains that they find?

    Answer: No. In 2003, forensics expert Carl N. Stephan, who works at the Department of Anatomical Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Australia, wrote: “The faces of earlier human ancestors cannot be objectively constructed or tested.” He says that attempts to do so based on modern apes “are likely to be heavily biased, grossly inaccurate, and invalid.” His conclusion? “Any facial ‘reconstructions’ of earlier hominids are likely to be misleading.”

    February 4, 2014 at 7:41 pm |
    • Billy

      Thank you sharing this JW. I have wondered this myself.

      February 4, 2014 at 7:44 pm |
      • JW

        No problem

        February 4, 2014 at 7:47 pm |
    • oh

      what's your point? That because a perfect reconstruction is not possible, you can be comforted in being a denier?

      February 4, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
      • JW

        Why would you assume something your not sure how it looks like to be an ape-man?

        February 4, 2014 at 7:58 pm |
        • buzkashiboy

          The facial reconstructions are not at all the basis for scientific theories on evolution. All that we know about hominid evolution can be gleaned from factors that are evident in the fossils themselves, such as cranium size, foot and leg physiology and larynx size. The facial reconstructions are merely a curiosity for laymen and are not used for research by actual scientists.

          February 4, 2014 at 8:21 pm |
  19. Daniel

    Anyone remember this guy from Religulous? Bill Maher owned him and Bill Nye will do exactly the same.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
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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.