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. Dick Hingson

    “Within the next 10-15 years, a new realization will occur. We will know, finally, whether or not we are alone. Such realization happens only once in the history of a planet.” - Dr. David Aguilar, Director of Public Affairs and Science Information at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. (January, 2014)

    Such realization should soon transform the oft-tedious debate going on tonight. This is a clear prediction, made by Dr. Aguilar, at a recent Smithsonian Associates lecture in Washington, D.C. It is based on scientific theory, principles and emerging technology. As Dr. Nye pointed out in the CNN debate, predictive power is a hallmark of science. New telescopes being constructed will enable our soon finding out the answer, based on examination of the spectral properties of certain exo-planets' atmospheres, as they transit their parent star.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:42 am |
  2. Terry

    Its not a volcano it is called the earths mantle or hell and it flows like the ocean does on the surface of the earth but on average it is roughly 1800 miles toward the center of the earth. My faith tells me that people who say God doesnt exist die every day and he throws them there as punishment to make an example of them. This makes me all the more loyal to him in the hopes to escape this punishment. I guess he decided to make it unknowable til you or I die.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:40 am |
    • tallulah13

      What a sad way to live your life - terrified of a supernatural bully.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:47 am |
    • S-3B Viking

      One wonders if Revelation's "Lake of Fire" didn't find an aboriginal origin.

      But, tallulah13 is correct. And it is clear that all religion has been a creative result of human fear.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:56 am |
    • Nate

      Just in case everybody hasn't noticed this yet, Terry does not support Christianity or the Bible in any of his statements and is a troll. Just ignore him

      February 5, 2014 at 1:03 am |
  3. sanjosemike

    Even as an atheist, I am willing to suggest the "possibility" that a supreme being of some kind set up the Universe to encourage and allow a form of evolution to at least provide the opportunity for self-aware intelligence to occur.

    Evolution itself does not argue against the existence of god. In my opinion, it is rather the existence of terrible suffering that religion has not come to terms with.

    There is no evidence of god or gods. That said, you still can't use evolution to argue against the existence of a supreme being. I think such a presence is unlikely. But it is not impossible.


    February 5, 2014 at 12:26 am |
  4. Terry

    Do you have any idea how ignorant it is to say there is no God, and that scientists have discovered that the earths mantle is liquid lava and that this is the very same God that throws unbelievers souls into this ocean of lava as punishment for being faithless? The very one unbelievers say doesnt exist throws their souls in hell. That is complete ignorance. I guess you wont know for sure until you die but make no mistake you will without a doubt have your irrefutable evidence then.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:23 am |
    • sanjosemike

      Terry, I don't know where to start. How many sinners do you know who were thrown into a volcano?


      February 5, 2014 at 12:29 am |
    • Dandintac

      It's comments like this that leave me speechless.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:31 am |
    • tallulah13

      Wasn't Gilligan faced with the prospect of being thrown into a volcano in that one episode? That one where he dressed in drag so that the visiting islanders would choose him instead of Ginger or Mary Ann?

      February 5, 2014 at 12:49 am |
    • truthprevails1

      " I guess you wont know for sure until you die but make no mistake you will without a doubt have your irrefutable evidence then."

      There's a huge contradiction...
      "you wont know for sure until you die"-Right and after that you'd have no clue because a dead person is not here to say anything

      "make no mistake you will without a doubt have your irrefutable evidence then"-You know this how? Especially when you just claimed no-one knows or do you think you're special and know better than anyone else?

      It is complete arrogance and ignorance on your behalf to make such absurd claims without backing up those claims.

      Threatening non-believers with hell is like telling us that Santa won't visit-it's futile. If you wish to live in fear of the unknown, so be it...not all are so weak!

      February 5, 2014 at 7:02 am |
  5. Steve Fielder

    Why are Americans STILL debating Evolution vs. Creationism in the early twenty first century when the principles of Mendelian genetics and the discoveries of Charles Darwin were examined, tested and confirmed back in the late nineteenth century?

    Because this country still has far more than it's fair share of willfully-ignorant religious fundamentalists who refuse to live in the real world, that's why....

    February 5, 2014 at 12:12 am |
    • Nate

      Because we as Americans have a right to worship God and talk to others Him and His Word

      February 5, 2014 at 12:41 am |
    • tallulah13

      Because the United States has a population of backward-thinking people who cling to an empty promise of eternal life.This is why the United States if falling behind other nations of developed world. These believers don't give a damn about the fate of this nation or the fate of their children. They are utterly vested in their fantasy and will argue against any fact that threatens it.

      Religious belief is a protected right, however I'm glad to live in a time and a country where my right to criticize religious belief is equally protected, and won't end with me being imprisoned or killed for heresy.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:55 am |
      • Nate

        Dude, being a Christian does not mean that you do not care. Allow me to correct you- Christians DO give a damn about this nation. Furthermore, the presence of Christians in no way holds back innovation in science. For example, did you know that Dr. Raymond Damadian, the guy who developed the MRI, was a creationist? By the way, Newton and Galileo were also Christians. And you want me to believe that Christians some how hold back science? When you read what the Bible really says, it goes hand in hand with science, not against it (by science I mean the observable kind, not the theoretical kind).

        February 5, 2014 at 1:14 am |
        • Shaun

          So i see yur pants are on fire.....

          February 5, 2014 at 5:33 am |
        • Sam

          You misunderstand his complaint. you not caring isn't a conscious decision. you don't care because your willing to base your life and decisions on a old book based soley on faith and ignoring every shred of common sense that's available to you.

          February 5, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
      • Debra

        This is from a biography on Mendel "Although he read Darwin, he [Mendel] did not accept many of his [Darwin's] theories, believing that God had created the world and blind chance could not be responsible for the outcome..".
        Gregor Mendel: From: Dan Graves, Scientists of Faith, Kregel Resources: Grand Rapids, MI (1996), pages 140-143:

        February 5, 2014 at 9:31 am |
  6. Debra

    It is the very complexities of life and the world around us that makes me believe that there is an Intelligence behind it all. I’m talking about atoms and molecules, DNA and cells, etc. I happen to believe the Intelligence is the God of the Bible. My God is all powerful so with Him anything is possible.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:08 am |
    • HotAirAce

      How many amputations has your god reversed?

      February 5, 2014 at 12:11 am |
    • Sungrazer

      That is an argument from incredulity. Just because you lack the imagination that these things are possible without the need for a creator doesn't mean that a creator exists.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:16 am |
    • S-3B Viking

      ..."the God of the Bible..."

      Hmmmm...when one reads from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, the only conclusion one can draw is that the "God of the Bible" is far too immature, far too obsessed, far too human to have created such a complex, such a fascinating and such an inhospitable visible universe.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:51 am |
    • tallulah13

      You are certainly allowed to believe that. However, there is no evidence at all that any god exists, so you are simply choosing to believe in the supernatural without any honest reason beyond your own sense of awe.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:59 am |
    • saysame

      That's fine. . Though it's funny when people say the universe is so amazing that it requires a creator and then don't really ask any questions about where the equally amazing creator came from. The subject of first causes or eternal systems is a brain teaser from our perspective and just throwing words at it doesn't change much

      February 5, 2014 at 1:27 am |
  7. Erik

    My criticism for Mr. Nye is in the acceptance of the invitation to "debate" a topic far beyond reasonable timelines following discovery which essentially only gives exposure and airtime to those who are willfully obstinant at this point. If someone wants to learn about actual science (and the theory of evolution as it pertains), there are many, many sources.....those arguing against it are driven by agenda and countless other nefarious motives (fundamentalist religion, political interests, etc) too numerous to list and one should be incredibly skeptical of the notion that reasoning and facts are going to have any sway with them. You might as well "debate" the merits of racism with skinheads, etc......that part of the battle is long over and to acquiesce to the whines and protests of the vestigial remnant of the opposition is a digression. Moving forward.....

    February 5, 2014 at 12:05 am |
    • MOCaseA

      I have to agree with you. The mere acceptance of a "debate" on this subject implies that there is anything to debate about. Mr. Ham will only use this as a means to express his religion, and get a nice brightly lit stage in front of the country to do so. Mr Nye may win the scientific debate, but he has already lost the overall debate by merely acknowledging there may be anything to debate. Bad move on Mr. Nye's part here.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:26 am |
      • Dandintac

        I disagree. I think scientists and rational people have been ceding the debate to the likes of Ken Ham by simply not showing up. The debate is going to go on–it's just if the side of sanity and rational evidence-based thinking doesn't show up–we are throwing in the towel. We are giving up, and those in the middle, those who are basically rational, but who are followers and the type that go with the crowd and jump on bandwagons–and there are many–will go with the side that seems strongest, in the majority, and in command of the narrative. An awful lot of people go along to get along. And people CAN BE persuaded. There are many deconversion stories on YouTube. But it takes more than a single debate or a single post or a single speech or book. It takes many, over and over again. Right now, the hyper religious have control of the narrative, but those of us who are rational thinkers are gaining strength. Look at you and I–what are you doing here on this forum? Why would you be here but condemn Nye for being there? Isn't this similar? We cannot stay silent–to do so is to acquiesce.

        February 5, 2014 at 11:46 pm |
  8. kharish

    It is people like Ham who hold back the progress of the United States.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:01 am |
  9. Dr. Rick Stoppe

    In light of the irrefutable scientific evidence available today, genome sequencing, for example, anyone who does not accept evolution is as ignorant as those who claimed the sun revolves around the earth some centuries ago or the silly idiots who were against the first street lights in New York City because it did not allow the moon to rule the night sky as the Old Testament proclaimed. Radiometric dating places the age of the earth at 4.54 billion years old. Over 1,000 Evangelical scientists have publicly noted an ancient earth, and the earth is young compared to the universe. God is truth, Embrace it in every field of scientific inquiry.

    February 4, 2014 at 11:47 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      You were doing so well and then you slid in "god is truth." And you know that how?

      February 4, 2014 at 11:55 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You pointed out the evidence for scientific claims. So where is your equivalent evidence for god?

      February 4, 2014 at 11:59 pm |
    • S-3B Viking

      Gotta love those egos that must ensure their ti.tle preceeds their name on a blog...I continue to be amazed at the egos of the Evanglical community...

      And that the (non-Evangelical) Jesus depicted in the Gospels was quite against self-promotion is ignored so completely by today's Body of Christ who are so completely self-absorbed

      Again...it is the daily lives of Christians that is the single, strongest testimony to the non-existence of their God

      February 5, 2014 at 1:10 am |
  10. craig

    if you have to use the bible to support your side, i should get to use the koran, a cookbook, my highschool year book, and my diary to argue back. and i get to make up my own interprutations as we go. That is fair.

    February 4, 2014 at 11:34 pm |
  11. S.D

    I think that Bill Nye should debate another scientist. I highly respect Ken H and Answers in Genesis, and he knows his stuff, but he is not a scientist. There are several 'creation' scientists who would use solid science based evidence to demolish the evolutionary model. In fact the evolutionary model has recently been refuted in so many ways that some evolutionists have resorted to claiming that the only remaining plausible explanation is that an alien race contributed to humanity on earth. One think Ken Ham asked was that evolutionists at least confess that their belief is founded on as much (if not more) faith than a Christian has in the Bible. He had a fair point that was not answered. Except possibly toward the end when Bill stated that no one knew what happened before 'the big bang' – and he was eagerly anticipating that science would uncover that mystery... How you can put your head on your pillow at night with that gaping void of an existential abyss, I will never know. I do think though, that it's crazy sad how so many people have warped the view of the True and Living God so much that people would rather believe in a gaping existential abyss.

    February 4, 2014 at 11:25 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Bill Nye is also not a scientist.....

      February 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm |
      • Adam0

        Really? Then what is he? I'm pretty sure you are just being a troll. Bit when the scientific community regards you as a scientist, (not to mention years of study, degrees, and participation in the scientific field) it is safe to assume that you are a scientist.

        February 4, 2014 at 11:41 pm |
        • Sungrazer

          Chuckles is not saying that to disparage Nye, or because he's on the side of Ham. At least, I don't believe he is.

          Nye has a degree in engineering. I suppose you could consider him a scientist, but he's more of a science educator.

          February 4, 2014 at 11:44 pm |
    • DerpDetector

      ^ And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need more science education.

      February 4, 2014 at 11:33 pm |
    • Han

      What you're describing is very incorrect. The best creationist scientists can do is poke holes in theories. They cannot demolish established science.

      Also, only 0.02% to 0.05% of biologists have disagreements with the mainstream theory of evolution. The alien thing only exists in fiction. I play a video game which is based on such fiction. I love the game and would enjoy it if it was real, but it's not.

      February 4, 2014 at 11:33 pm |
    • Sungrazer

      I can sleep just fine. Why would it be a problem?

      What is warped is your view of reality.

      February 4, 2014 at 11:35 pm |
    • Tempo36

      Please link to a statement or article from an actual evolutionist (scientist) who says that alien transplant is the only way that life could exist. Or provide one that scientifically shows actual holes in the theory of evolution.

      We can produce micro-evolution in a lab; provoking bacteria or cells to evolve resistance to antibiotics and toxins. Pointing out that no one has seen a fish turn into a rat doesn't disprove evolution nor does it prove that the contrary, the existence of God, is any more plausible.

      But Bill actually has a great article here. You can have your faith, but if we eschew teaching real science in favor of faith and belief, we invite a slide back into the "science" of the 1800s where we just "believe" medicine and procedures do things.

      February 4, 2014 at 11:42 pm |
      • anovemberdusk

        Clearly he read a book about scientology and thought that was actually a science book. That is probably where he got the science transportation technology thing.

        February 4, 2014 at 11:50 pm |
    • redzoa

      "How you can put your head on your pillow at night with that gaping void of an existential abyss, I will never know."

      And here is the true basis of ID/creationism. The preference of an intellectually disingenuous, but pacifying, "answer" over an honest, although perhaps unsatisfying, "we don't know."

      February 5, 2014 at 12:01 am |
    • Des

      How can you put your head on your pillow at night believe the ridiculous stories of the Bible and not being able to explain where God came from? Please explain that. I've been waiting all night for someone to tell me where the heck God came from!!

      February 5, 2014 at 12:51 am |
    • saysame

      The bible doesn't answer why there is something rather than nothing so you also should have questions. Though I expect you don't. You have convinced yourself that the bible answers everything. Not the case by a long shot.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:37 am |
  12. Dion

    Narrow mind!

    February 4, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
  13. TJ

    Professor of science says “Bill Nye used science to destroy Ken Ham” and biblical creationists: http://ultratechlife.com/ultra_blog/bn_4202.php

    February 4, 2014 at 11:15 pm |
  14. GENOLD

    What is the point of debating when the person opposite you will cite fairy tales as their proof that creationism must be correct. While you use logic, reason and science your opponent merely hunkers down to discuss how cave paintings depict dinosaurs and not bears. It's like debating with a four year old.

    February 4, 2014 at 11:14 pm |
    • Richard

      Absolutely correct. Debating Creationists is like trying to play chess with a pigeon. It knocks over the pieces, poops on the board, and then flies back to its nest to declare victory.

      February 4, 2014 at 11:16 pm |
      • Eric Bonner

        To believe that something came from nothing is the fairy tale. You will not be an atheist forever, my comrade.

        February 4, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
        • Richard

          Look, it's one thing for you to pretend to know the mind and will of your God thingy. It is entirely another for you to pretend to know what is going on inside mine.

          When you can prove even one single solitary thing you believe about your God thingy, get back to me and I'll stop laughing at you.

          February 4, 2014 at 11:24 pm |
        • anovemberdusk

          And what will you do when you die and nothing happens.

          February 4, 2014 at 11:25 pm |
        • craig

          as an atheist that has died a couple of times, and was brought back through science, i Can say that not everyone turn to religion in the end. I didnt at any time. the only time i talk to god is for cursing.

          February 4, 2014 at 11:27 pm |
        • Des

          Something came from nothing? Isn't that what you believe? Where did God come from?

          February 5, 2014 at 12:47 am |
      • Peter225

        OMG that's the funniest post I've read in some time.

        February 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm |
  15. Eric Bonner

    And btw, I believe that God created and sustains this universe, and I also HATE religion. So did Jesus.

    February 4, 2014 at 11:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Can God make espresso?

      February 4, 2014 at 11:11 pm |
    • Richard

      Yours is a very lazy and ignorant position. You should be embarrassed to trot it out.

      You have done NO research on the matter. The most you may have done is sit around musing about it. That is not science. That is just typical laziness and arrogance.

      February 4, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
  16. Smeagel4T

    The Epic of Gilgamesh, which predates the Bible, includes a mention of a great flood. It's likely true there was some kind of great flooding of the Mesopotamian area that would account for the story. It's a completely practical explanation for why different story tellers would include it in their stories. Not a particularly big deal. Through most of human history, there was no concept of keeping fact and fiction separate and distinguishable from each other in stories. Nobody viewed it as being important. So therefore ancient stories are assumed to contain a mixture of fact and fiction.

    February 4, 2014 at 11:07 pm |
  17. Not All Docs Play Golf

    One simple truth....modern evangelical Christians have failed their founder. Building religious museums and charging admission? Sounds like moneychangers in the temple.

    February 4, 2014 at 11:05 pm |
  18. Redeye Dog

    I don't understand why we spend so much time on the two questions. Divinity or Evolution? It is more likely it is neither...

    February 4, 2014 at 11:03 pm |
    • Richard

      There is no "more likely" to it. There is only the fact of evolution and the idiocy of those who deny it.

      February 4, 2014 at 11:07 pm |
      • Redeye Dog

        So then, you of all people have the answer for all of us! You shouldn't be so absolute about life. You are part of a club of living organisms who weren't around when all the action took place! If that's not convincing, those organisms have only been "aware" for a tiny fraction of the Universe's existence.

        Science can trace and deconstruct, hypothesize and theorize, but its conclusion does not explain why its there in the first place, when you go back far enough. Every question eventually leads to a huge blank look on your face. That cannot be by accident.

        It is more likely that the answer lies in that blank area where our minds were not designed for. The answer is beyond our existence in the Universe. The answer is not divinity or evolution, but more likely an unknown variable.

        February 5, 2014 at 9:22 am |
  19. Richard

    Bill, I sincerely appreciate your motivations. But, honestly, Creationism is not worthy of that much attention. It's laughable. The people who believe in it deserve to be ridiculed, not humored. You send the wrong message by "debating" such a Creationist. You give his ideas far more credit than they deserve. He does not deserve to have his views considered seriously. He deserves to be laughed off the stage in humiliating disgrace.

    February 4, 2014 at 11:03 pm |
    • Eric Bonner

      Man, you are angry soul. And you purport to be an intellect, and yet you speak of the fact of evolution. Evolution describes processes, not origins. If I debated you, I would tie you up like a pretzel.

      February 4, 2014 at 11:12 pm |
    • Dion

      Narrow mind!

      February 4, 2014 at 11:17 pm |
    • james

      Although I do love a juicy debate, I agree that debating "pseudoscience" with science gives too much credit to the "pseudoscience" by just acknowledging it. I am a fan of Dawkin's idea of ridiculing all pseudoscience with laughter until they go away.

      February 4, 2014 at 11:29 pm |
    • skdowd

      Well said, Richard. You are not the only realist reading this post, fyi!

      February 4, 2014 at 11:40 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
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.