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. john Rosen

    I don't understand why we continue to debate this issue. The Mayans and Aztecs proved that the Gods arrived on earth in
    rocket ships.

    February 5, 2014 at 9:26 am |
  2. DebatingEvolutionWithTheUnevolved

    Religious zealots are simply those who never evolved defenses against the infraspecific manipulation of organized religion. Ham is desperate to retain whatever influence he has in an age where people are increasingly casting off the shackles of religion.

    February 5, 2014 at 9:18 am |
  3. Chris

    I watched it. Frankly the debate wasn't a very good one IMO for either of these gentlemen. Neither was particularly compelling. I doubt anyone will have left the debate having shifted any in terms of their views.

    February 5, 2014 at 9:15 am |
    • jrwarino

      I agree niether one was convinceing in his argument. Though i feel Nye had the upperhand. Ham kept referring to the bible while Nye used poor representatives of science.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:29 am |
  4. Doc Vestibule

    Watching that debate last night was like seeing a live transcript reading of the arguments I've had with Live4Him.

    February 5, 2014 at 8:33 am |
  5. Reality #2

    What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, biology, biochemistry, archeology, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

    1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

    2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

    3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

    4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

    5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

    6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

    7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode cataclysmically at any time ending life on Earth.

    8. Many of us are part Neanderthal and/or Denisovan.

    Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

     http://www.universetoday.com/18847/life-of-the-sun/



    Search for Paul, book by Professor JD Crossan

    Rabbi Paul, book by Professor Bruce Chilton




    February 5, 2014 at 8:18 am |
  6. Go literalism

    I can't wait for Bill Nye to do a debate about Krishna as human skin can't possibly be blue.

    February 5, 2014 at 8:16 am |
  7. donmilliken

    I respect Bill Nye's genuine desire to draw attention to the importance of science education, but there are many ways to do that without also bringing attention to Ken Ham and his Creationist Museum. Ken Ham is a troll and trolls win when you pay attention to them and deign to answer them directly. Especially when doing so results in tickets sales that directly benefit their loony crackpot museums.

    February 5, 2014 at 3:32 am |
    • Fill

      I did find it a bit offensive that they advertised and profited from the event. WWJD?

      February 5, 2014 at 4:27 am |
    • Ryan David

      A Quest for Good with Well-placed Indecency, you probably wouldn't like it. It involves clicking.


      February 5, 2014 at 7:48 am |
    • Truth

      oony crackpot museums, atta way to go demoncrat, name calling
      ask nye about the dinosaurs and the smallest particle

      February 5, 2014 at 9:53 am |
  8. dwest556

    The Universe is 6,000 years old eh? How long does it take light from the sun to reach earth? 8 minutes. So when you look up at the sun you are seeing it as it was 8 minutes ago. Keep that in mind. Now look up at the night sky at our nearest galaxy, Andromeda. That is 2,538,000 light years away, meaning it takes the light from that galaxy 2,538,000 years to reach the earth...meaning you are looking at Andromeda as it was 2,538,000 years ago. Looking into space is LITERALLY looking into a time machine. If Ken Ham's creation theory is right and the universe is only 6000 years old, we would only be seeing stars that were 6000 light years away. You wouldn't even see Andromeda since its light hasn't reach the earth yet. Everything else would be an empty void. The universe is actually 13.8 billion years old. We know this because the furthest galaxy or light in the universe that we can observe is 13.8 billion light years away.

    February 5, 2014 at 2:23 am |
    • Fill

      I hear ya. According to Ham, though, since you weren't in the past you can't verify anything, such as.... that laws of nature and logic (yes, he said "logic") were the same. So, today's science works, but a few thousand years ago laws of nature and 'logic' could be totally nutty and allow for this to happen. I'm not agreeing with that, just giving my take on what I thought Ham said today which I don't agree with.

      February 5, 2014 at 2:28 am |
      • dwest556

        I gotcha and I agree with your disagreement.

        February 5, 2014 at 2:51 am |
        • Fill

          I agree with your agreement of my agreement as to the disagreement of posed disagreement with said parties. Sign and initial below.

          February 5, 2014 at 2:58 am |
    • Sungrazer

      But! But! The universe was created with the APPEARANCE of great age. The universe was created last Thursday, in fact.


      And don't listen to the heretics that say it was created last Tuesday. One day they will be held accountable.

      February 5, 2014 at 11:36 am |
    • saysame

      Some creationists believe that god created the light enroute to appear as if the universe was old. Others don't like that because it makes god a trickster or liar. Other creationists spend a lot of time running in circles trying to prove that the speed of light isn't what it appears. They've gone nowhere for 50 years.

      February 5, 2014 at 11:41 am |
  9. Douglas

    The Bible is the blueprint for the narrow road to salvation.
    Experience and follow the guidance provided. I never cease to be amazed by it's power and majesty.
    Obey it's truth and you too will be glory bound!

    February 5, 2014 at 2:04 am |
    • philthese

      Preach much?

      February 5, 2014 at 2:06 am |
    • Fill

      I find it rather suiting that you used the word "narrow".

      February 5, 2014 at 2:07 am |
      • Douglas

        With all the sinful distractions on the highway to h-e-l-l, you want to make sure you take the path less traveled!

        February 5, 2014 at 2:09 am |
        • sam stone

          if you are so sure you have salvation, doogie, why are you down here?

          don't you have tall buildings where you live?

          step up and off for jeebus

          come on, doogie, ball is in your court

          February 5, 2014 at 6:02 am |
        • WASP

          hey douglas; is incest sinful? well according to your holy book and the actions of your god, it's not sinful; it created all your family, so go bag your sister............remember god said it's ok. XD

          February 5, 2014 at 7:05 am |
    • sam stone

      still dreaming about the glory hole, eh doogie?

      February 5, 2014 at 5:58 am |
  10. Fill

    For those interested, the debate is now on YouTube. You'll need to fast forward a bit to the start, of course, but it is definitely worth watching (2+ hours!). Just catch it before they take it down, though, as they only said it would be up for a few days and then you would have to purchase it.


    February 5, 2014 at 1:46 am |
  11. Spaghetti Monster

    I see that you Creationist also believe that if you can't dazzle then with brilliance then baffle then with bull feces.

    February 5, 2014 at 1:35 am |
  12. truth

    Explain the elongated skulls that are genetically different from human skulls (investigate the skull plates) , the fact that ancient highly advanced civilizations sprung up across the world building pyramids following more or less the same occult mystery religion and the fact that this is all detailed in genesis 6. Micro evolution (decent with modification by natural selection) works and drives slow change or micro evolution but our past is a huge anomaly that cannot be explained by evolution. The bible explains it very good though in Genesis 6 (google it and read the first few paragraphs atleast for intrests sake. Give this some proper thought

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

      Genesis gave two different sequences for the explanation and then totally failed to even tell us who the FIRST BABY GIRL was. One of the many holes is where the parallel civilization of Nod came from.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:36 am |
    • Fill

      Could you restate that in a more digestible way? It's not clear (to me, anyways) what you are asking for explanation on.

      I will say, though, that an old question which you might be touching on is "Why are we smart, self-aware, altruistic, etc.?" And that comes from how we evolved into upright humans. We stand and have forward looking eyes, but we move relatively clumsily, so any advantage of outsmarting prey is a huge advantage, as well as tool making and cultivation of crops. Then, recognizing and understanding seasons, etc. etc. In the end, though, what makes us 'special' isn't actually so unique to us. Dolphins have shown self-awareness, apes can use sign language, even bees can be altruistic, etc.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:36 am |
    • alonsoquixote

      The term "microevolution" is used by creationists who realize that they can't deny the reality of evolution. After all, we've observed bacteria evolving resistance to bacteria, insects evolving resistance to pesticides, etc. And even Ken Ham has to acknowledge evolution, at least implicitly, when he tries to claim that the implausible flood story in Genesis was an actual historical event. How else could his few thousand "kinds" become all the species of today? Creationists like him can claim a "cat kind" was on-board the mythical ark. Supposedly, such a kind could lead to leopards, lions, tigers, cougars, etc. But such creationists still posit some magical barrier beyond which changes can't occur. The only real distinction between what they term "microevolution" and what they term "macroevolution" is the amount of time over which changes take place. With greater time can come greater changes. The Earth is over 4 and 1/2 billion years old.

      The creation stories within Genesis which contradict one another even in the order of creation borrow from the Sumerians, Babylonians, and others that the early Jews encountered. Those creation myths are like the thousands of others invented by humans in an attempt to explain the world around them without benefit of the scientific knowledge mankind has gained painstakingly over many centuries.

      If there was one urreligion, it certainly wasn't Judaism, which borrows heavily from other religions in the area in which it arose where its god, Yahweh, was just one god among many in El's divine council early on.

      As for skull elongation, I'd suggest you read the Wikipedia article "artificial cranial deformation". A number of human cultures have engaged in the practice.

      February 5, 2014 at 8:32 am |
  13. omeany

    Our cars run on the oil left by the remains of dinosours so it's difficult to believe the whole "creationist" story. It appears man was not created perfect so there was "no fall from grace" and no fall means no need for salvation of our "sins". No need for salvation then no need for a hell except for those who have a need for undying vengence.

    Bottom line God may exist. I certainly believe in God, (and it is just that, a belief I do not know there is a God for certain and niether does anyone else) I also believe Jesus was a great teacher but not a saviour.

    When it come to religion we have been sold a bill of goods over the years mostly for the purpose of keeping the masses in line. I have to give it to them, it's still working. I still hear people who believe that poverty is what God wants for us and that the meek inherit the world. Meanwhile, the majority of us are taken advantage of in the workplace and marketplace by way of shrinking paychecks and inflating prices but it's ok if we all get to go to heaven in the end.

    It is amazing when you thing that Christianity being a religion that professes love has caused pain, war, death, poverty, bigotry and so much more. I imagine this is because our beliefs are not rooted in reality.

    We are living in a time where corporate and political greed is out of control and it's time we shake off the shackles of religion and start to take back our world by demanding good jobs, higher wages, better benefits and getting our money's worth for the taxes we pay.

    We should also take a long hard look at what we really believe about God, not what we've been told or read in the bible but who you really think God is. We need to become a world where each person has beliefs that are based on what they think as opposed to letting others tell them what they must think.

    February 5, 2014 at 1:18 am |
    • Al Verum

      It is ridiculous to believe that oil is a fossil fuel. Really – do you know how much organic debris it would take to create all that oil.

      February 5, 2014 at 6:52 am |
      • alonsoquixote

        Luckily for you, oil company geologists rely on science and not creationists distorted view of science. Over 99% of geologists reject creationism. The fraction of those working in the field is far less than 1% with only about 0.15% accepting creationist claims. We can heat our homes and fuel our vehicles thanks to that statistic. Petroleum geology discredits the claims of creationists.

        February 5, 2014 at 8:46 am |
  14. Nate

    Don't you just hate when you make great points and then the comment you replied under gets deleted? Yeah, me neither

    February 5, 2014 at 1:17 am |
    • redzoa

      @Nate – With respect to your prior flood defense:

      @Nate – There is no argument that sediment layers can acc-umulate quickly, the problem for the flood is the uncontested progressive order of the fossils. If all "kinds" co-existed both before and after the flood, we should see a more ho-mogenous distribution, not the clear progression of the major vertebrate classes. "Hydrodynamic Sorting" fails because we clearly see forms of similar density/niche/biogeography separated by many, many layers of strata (think golden eagles v. pterosaurs, dolphins v. plesiosaurs, Trirachodon v. Yellow Mongoose, etc). Add to this the presence of forms bearing traits that bridge the alleged specially-created kinds that just happen to be found in the correct temporal/morphological order, fish bearing tetrapod traits, reptiles bearing mammalian traits, reptiles bearing avian traits. Add to this phylogenetic analyses which corroborate the progressive order of the fossil record. The upwelling of waters does not cure this defect because even within fish, we see a clear progression of morphological traits moving up through the fossil record (e.g. first jawless fish, then fish with jaws; in this latter group, first the placoderms, then the cartilagenous fish, then the bony fish). Perhaps the best illustration of the implausibility of the Genesis flood is that every human fossil is found in strata far, far above strata containing various extinct forms, e.g. no humans alongside dinosaurs. Creationists would have us believe that every last dinosaur, including those specifically adapted to aquatic life, somehow drowned and was buried long before the first old/sick/very young human. Add to this the fossil record of pre-hominid up through hominid forms (again, all found far, far above strata containing dinosaurs). Add to this recent phylogenetic analyses showing the relatedness, but also distinct lineages of H. sapien, H. neanderthalensis and the Denisovians.

      Just off the top of my head, here are a few more issues with a global flood: the Coconino Sandstone, lateral/meandering cuts in the Grand Canyon, fresh v. salt water tolerance (one or the other group would have died), where did the water come from/go, pre-/post-flood migration in light of dietary/environmental constraints, re-vegitation delay (herbivore starvation), predation of herbivores by carnivores departing the ark (cats just like to hunt and kill, imagine the same trait in a velociraptor), extirpation of small founding populations, etc, etc. Perhaps the most ironic issue for the flood narrative is the necessity of "hyper-evolution" from the founding "kind" pairs required to produce observable present day biodiversity.

      With all due respect, the flood narrative simply doesn't hold water 🙂

      February 5, 2014 at 1:40 am |
      • redzoa

        Oops. Correction of "in this latter group, first the placoderms, then the cartilagenous fish, then the bony fish" to "first the placoderms, then the 'spiny sharks', then the bony fish, then the cartilagenous fish"

        February 5, 2014 at 1:57 am |
  15. Loathstheright

    Uh, because he is trying to rid humanity of these myths might be the main reason he is debating the "I believe in magic people".

    February 5, 2014 at 12:54 am |
  16. scott

    While I appreciate the necessity for science and it's exploration, I find Mr. Nye's reasoning based on a false premise. Simply because one believes in creationism does not necessarily mean that there is no use or little importance of science. No doubt many of the foundations or main points must utilize science and it's findings to provide "so called proof". While we may come to different conclusions and interpretations on the data, which may be a better foundation of a debate, it surely can not be on the validity of science. Science can no more disprove God, than it can "prove God", for science is never the philosophers stone that one would want to build a religious foundation on. I believe science is imperative for a myriad of reasons, one of which leads to our creator.
    "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."

    So simply because one believes the evidence of science concludes a creator therefore nullifies the importance of endocrinology, mathematics and the like? Faulty premise in my opinion.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:53 am |
    • saysame

      Ham's style of creationism rejects a huge amount of modern science. Everything from Astronomy and Cosmology to Geology and Paleontology, etc, etc. And his only metric for picking and choosing which science to believe is whether it jibes with the bible.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:14 am |
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.