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. glades2

    I'm convinced that most if not all atheists are afraid od death and putting everything to science gives them some sort of temporary comfort, but the hard reality is that death happens to everyone and we should believe in the God who will hold us at that moment between this existence and eternal life, rather than trying not to believe in Him...

    February 4, 2014 at 9:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      We believe in death. Apparently you don't.

      February 4, 2014 at 9:05 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      The only ones who truly fear death are those making grandiose plans for an afterlife. They are the ones who cannot accept their fate and often end up wasting the time they have in this life. That is truly sad.

      February 4, 2014 at 9:07 pm |
    • JJ

      "trying not to believe in Him"...Huh? Why do you try and not believe in Thor? See how stupid that is?

      February 4, 2014 at 9:10 pm |
  2. allenwoll

    Suggestion for Next Debate : Greek Mythology

    February 4, 2014 at 9:03 pm |
    • Mopery

      Praise be to Zeus!

      February 4, 2014 at 9:23 pm |
      • Lou

        By Krom....

        February 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
  3. James Bruce

    You can't prove any gods exist, so shut up. And don't try to say we can't prove the big bang, because we already have. It's called the cosmic microwave background radiation. Science is not a debate. It's a consensus based on a body of evidence, which we have and god believers don't. Period.

    February 4, 2014 at 9:02 pm |
    • Jack Gannon

      To say there is no "God" is ... to say nothing at all. "God" means so many things to so many people. Have you stopped to consider that "God" is another word for "the source"?

      Albert Einstein believed in "God." Go look up pantheism. I imagine Bill Nye (and myself) would be labeled (labels are limited) by pantheists.

      You do believe in God. Why? Because God is part of you. And you continue living, willingly. You believe in yourself. Therefore you believe in God. =D. Just think about it.

      Love to all. Be honest with others, and, just as importantly, with yourself.

      February 4, 2014 at 9:06 pm |
      • Sungrazer

        Nature is god, the laws of physics is god, poetry is god. If you want to argue from that position, then god has no meaning.

        February 4, 2014 at 9:12 pm |
  4. Jack Gannon

    As a follower of Jesus Christ's word, Mr. Ham is an absolute embarrassment. Science and religion (or spirituality might be a better word) go hand in hand. As the Bible says, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." To deny truth (or scientific fact) is to deny "God." Science answers the "when, where, how, and what?". Religion answers the "why?", an answer that shows itself deep within our being, and which cannot be perfectly expressed in words.

    I am saddened for Mr. Ham because either (a) he is ignorant and in denial of the truth, and therefore "God", or (b) he is playing a game for his own monetary benefit. It is clear that Mr. Nye is astonished and in awe of the miracle that is our universe, our existence, and I am therefore confident that he has listened to the "why" inside of him.

    Love to all. Do not deny truth.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:59 pm |
  5. Happy Atheist

    It was hard to watch Ham with a straight face. There were so many wildly inaccurate statements he made any sane person would just have to laugh.

    I loved the one from the astronomer who said nothing in a young earth theory conflicts with his research of binary stars... so I guess he believes those stars are either less than 6,000 light years away or that God sped up light so it could reach us in time to see it...the fact that the events he is studying when looking at a star millions of light years away actually happened millions of years ago apparently has not dawned on him yet...

    February 4, 2014 at 8:59 pm |
    • Des

      I agree, Ken Ham is soooo tough to listen to. He keeps saying, "assume" or "making assumptions", that parts of science are unbelievable. How about parts of the Bible!?!? The stories that people believe of the Bible are even more outrageous! You just have to believe that someone looked back at a city and turned to a pillar of salt? That Jonah lived in the belly of a whale? And so on. And just where did God come from?!?! Please Ken, answer me that.

      February 4, 2014 at 9:14 pm |
      • mrsrutledge

        That is the whole point of his argument. He wants people to admit that the "facts" of evolution are just as much of a belief as believing in the Bible. He chooses to base his beliefs in the Bible because he believes that the Bible is the literal word of God. You choose to base your beliefs on scientific theories, evolution, that were made up by man. Both are beliefs,

        February 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
  6. Gator

    Seriously, the sky-daddy crowd, in the 21st century, is still arguing in favor of the god-poof nonsense?

    February 4, 2014 at 8:57 pm |
  7. shehar39

    Bill Nye hasn't made one good point so far

    February 4, 2014 at 8:56 pm |
    • Gator

      Go pray to your imaginary deity; you are too ill-informed to offer critique of someone in the science world.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:59 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      You're right, he hasn't made one good point, he's made every good point. I can't believe anyone was taking Ham seriously. I could almost hear the collective groaning of protest echoing out of every science teacher dead and alive every time he opened his mouth. I think if we let them have just four words to say to Mr. Ham they would emphatically proclaim "YOU FAIL YOUNG MAN!"

      February 4, 2014 at 9:23 pm |
  8. Mary

    Why did the Big Bang happen?

    February 4, 2014 at 8:56 pm |
    • James Bruce

      Asking a question doesn't prove god.

      February 4, 2014 at 9:04 pm |
    • Testing

      Frat party, too much beer, too loose women.

      February 4, 2014 at 9:05 pm |
    • saysame

      There are several theories at this point and no sure answer. Maybe a scientist will figure it out for you one day. But that has nothing to do with the theory of evolution, which is about the change in life over time. Not where the universe came from. Christians keep confusing three or four different theories and lumping them together as "evolution".

      February 4, 2014 at 10:17 pm |
  9. Dr. Chris Swindell

    Congratulations Bill. I am absolutely sold on what many call the "Lordship of Jesus" meaning I want to but fall short of following what I am persuaded is a loving God. I wrestle mightily with the origins of the cosmos. While I accept God as Creator, as I was not there, I'm not "fundamentally" sure how it came about. Often, I find that fundamentalism is more problematic in any endeavor, even, I submit, in the embrace of science as being able to apprehend the "Why?" as much as the how. If I am right and God is Who I think He is, (again, free to debate my mental state), I think, stress think, that He is so completely in love with us, especially and marvelously those of us who are uncertain or certain and possibly wrong, that He needs neither Ham's help nor my applause. Just a thought.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:55 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      And so completely in love with us he neither shows himself, nor protects his followers from harm.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:57 pm |
      • God...

        Oh, God definitely shows Himself to those who believe, and it isn't some kind of fairy tale! Although there are many instances where He does protect His followers in this life, He doesn't promise to keep a person safe (in this life). But, He promises to "walk" with them through this life, beside us. See, this life is a minuscule amount of time when compared to eternity (He is an eternal God) that He promises to His followers. Since our bodies on this earth are just coverings for our souls in eternity, the flesh isn't the point, even in this life. That is why bodily protection isn't the goal; following Him because we really love Him is, regardless of cost.

        February 6, 2014 at 10:17 am |
  10. Bob

    After listening to Ham, I have two questions. What color is the sky in his world, and is he seeking professional help?

    February 4, 2014 at 8:55 pm |
  11. Everyone Unite

    Why do atheists and Christians always have to fight or hate each other? Why does one side want to knock down the other? Why can't we search together instead of doing what has been done forever? We can't put our differences aside and seek out the truth, whatever it may be, together? It's one thing to care about winning a debate to boost up your ego, it's another to inform others. You can't have both. You either want to inform others in kindness and unbiased fashion, or you just want to a troll that loves making fun of others like a child does. I do not fear science. I don't know if atheists expect believers to fear it but I know I don't. I don't have an organized religion. I don't want to sell my faith either. I don't want to kill unbelievers. I don't have all the answers nor does my faith provide all of them. If we cannot unite and put our own differences aside, we'll never go anywhere.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:54 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      When religions try to impose their laws on a secular society is where it breaks down. No one would care if folks would just practice their religions in peace and private.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:56 pm |
    • mikeymo74

      Probably because we have fundamental differences about the search for truth. Atheists use the scientific method to find the truth, whatever it may be. Most religious people, particularly creationists, start with their religious beliefs based on faith and then seek to find evidence to support it while dismissing evidence that contradicts their beliefs. I'm an atheist, but I would become a believer if there was evidence to support it. As Ham said in the debate, there is nothing that would take away his faith. So how can we unite with someone like that who already has a closed mind.

      February 4, 2014 at 9:01 pm |
  12. Happy Atheist

    "The bible does docvment that"? Docvment? The bible makes fanciful claims of talking snakes and talking donkeys, docvment it does not.

    Aesop's fables docvmented a turtle beating a rabbit in a race...

    February 4, 2014 at 8:53 pm |
    • Everyone Unite

      The donkey didn't actually speak. If you read the whole story, God spoke through the donkey. The donkey didn't speak. God did. Also, many speculate that the devil is a shapeshifter that can take on any form. A snake didn't actually speak. The devil was the one speaking. There's a difference.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:59 pm |
      • Happy Atheist

        Because "invisible spirit speaking through Donkey" is just soooooo more believable than just "talking donkey"...

        February 4, 2014 at 9:27 pm |
  13. tednugent'sdiapers

    Incredible that the religious right denies global warming but still believes in talking snakes!

    February 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm |
  14. shehar39

    Bill Nye "It's a great mystery".. that just it

    February 4, 2014 at 8:50 pm |
  15. Maxine

    I'm missing something. What's the debate? Science is real with data and evidence supporting it. Done. Mr. Ham's only answer to this is "The only thing that makes sense is The Bible." This belongs in a church, not a professional, scientific, non-secular (not all of us are Christian). Seriously? In 2014?

    February 4, 2014 at 8:50 pm |
  16. JohnSmith

    Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill

    February 4, 2014 at 8:50 pm |
  17. Bob

    How does an idiot like Ham even get on TV. This guy is a textbook example of the delusion of religion.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:49 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      People who are so self centered that they want to believe some all powerful creator is saving them a seat at his dinner table gave this loon tons of money to build his silly museum in an attempt to legitimize young earth creationism.

      Since these loons created the forum for debate Bill Nye was told their was a clock on campus that needed cleaning so he showed up and smacked the short trim bearded smirk off Hams face.

      February 4, 2014 at 9:04 pm |
  18. Kristin

    I cannot believe that a person will sit and argue against science. It's mind blowing. ONLY in America!

    February 4, 2014 at 8:47 pm |
  19. JB

    Animals have languages of their own to communicate. How do you explain that Mr. Ham?

    February 4, 2014 at 8:45 pm |
    • Mr. Ham

      Oink Oink!

      February 4, 2014 at 9:09 pm |
  20. chosenbygrace

    Interesting "coincidence" that this story that brings attention to Christians and God is paired with one also on CNN's homepage, on King Alfred's remains perhaps having been found. King Alfred was one of the first kings to enforce Biblical laws (did CNN mention that?), and an ancient king. Coincidence? No.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:45 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.