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.
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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.
It’s unfortunate that they didn’t touch at all on old-earth creationism, with which Nye would have had a very tough time. He knew this, and that Ham insists on young-earth creationism, so Nye knew he would be safe. Ham also didn’t touch at all on the compelling scientific evidence for design in nature. I’m really looking forward to this April’s Pensmore Dialogue on Science and Faith, which looks like it will be the premiere science and faith event of the year http://www.pensmoredialogue.com.
Ham is a YEC, not an OEC or an ID person. When he shows up he's going to talk about YECism. He's got a museum showing people and dinosaurs living together. lol.
"Ham also didn’t touch at all on the compelling scientific evidence for design in nature."
Well, of course, evolution is a "designer." If you meant "intelligent design," then I'd ask how does one scientifically distinguish between "apparent" design via evolution and "actual" design via a supernatural designer?
You'll be waiting on that answer for some time. Philip Johnson, one of the founders of the modern ID movement, admits that they don't have a scientific theory yet.
Not even a testable hypothesis. Of course, this is the problem when your alleged mechanism is supernatural . . .
Poetic license: The liberty taken by an artist or a writer in deviating from conventional form or fact to achieve a desired effect.
Though I bet that idea never enters the discussion at all.
All this recent talk debating evolution/creation (ultimately for some the existence of God) with Bill Nye The Science Guy and Ken Ham is exciting. As many may know, this is a non discussion for me personally. In 2005 I was dead for 30 minutes of a heart attack at age 50 and met God. He shielded his brilliant overwhelming glory from view behind a gray screen that could barely contain His awesome power and light. Unfortunately, non-believers will not take my word for it! In the end, each person will discover while here on earth that God is real by faith and that he created all that is, or at the very least in the end, each will discover God from the dark foreboding reality of the grave. Hopefully, not the latter, it may be too late. My testimony is in the book "Proof of the Afterlife – The Conversation Continues." All proceeds from it are donated to Servants of the Father of Mercy – they deliver food, water, clothing, blankets and spiritual supplies to the homeless living remotely under bridges and in alleyways. There's real proof that God is real!
Though I'll never be a creationist I do enjoy near death studies. There are not enough of them. Thank you for sharing yours.
Watch this, Neil Degrasse Tyson is far more sensible about religion then most Atheist, who are bigots
It's no great mystery. Indoctrination of the young is a powerful thing which everyone knows. That's why Christians were so upset to lose prayer in school and any other lever to reinforce belief in the young. Decade over decade religiosity if falling. How low will it go? I don't know. But it's not like the minority of scientists who do have faith can escape that aspect of our culture.
I have written a book I call the "Rabbit Bible". My claim is that God told me to write this book and told me what words to write. The only words are, "Rabitsis 1:1; The Easter Bunny is Real". If you were to debate me and ask me for proof of my Theory of Rabbitility, which states that the Easter Bunny exists, then I will merely quote my book. "Well, as stated in the Rabbit Bible, book Rabitsis 1:1, the Easter Bunny is real. These words were written by God, through me. Therefore, you have your proof."
Conclusion: the theory of Rabbitility is true. Prove me wrong. Prove that the Easter Bunny does not exist. Only then will I disregard this proven theory.
Bill Nye argues: "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 . . . His (Ham's) idea has no predictive quality or ability. It provides no means to learn more about the world around us."
I find it amusing that the arguments Bill Nye uses against the Creation viewpoint actually fits his beloved theory of evolution.
For instance Stephen J. Gould, a highly respected paleontologist who instructed at Harvard and an avowed evolutionist candidly admitted in his book "Wonderful Life": ‘… the pageant of evolution [is] a staggeringly improbable series of events … UTTERLY UPREDICTABLE and QUITE UNREPEATABLE … the chance becomes vanishingly small that anything like [for example] human intelligence would grace the replay [of this pageant]."
A mechanism which is unpredictable and unrepeatable is useless as a tool to predict the outcome of an experiment.
The evidence is in DNA and fossils in addition to experiments with, among other things, fruit flies and foxes.
How does that prove that everything ultimately came from primordial soup?
The theory of evolution doesn't address that. It only addresses the change in existing life over time. You are talking about abiogenesis. Fundamentalists tend to group a dozen fields of science together and call it "evolution" when really what they mean is naturalism or atheism.
Saysame - you are misinformed - firm believers in evolution often call abiogenesis "chemical evolution", not just fundamentalist Christians. They recognize that without abiogenesis, then biological evolution is irrelevant and cannot get started. It's actually short-sighted to try to separate the two.
Lie if you must. Maybe your faith requires you to lie, I'm not sure. But the fact is that abiogenesis is a different field. The TOE deals with existing life. It also doesn't deal with the big bang, which many Christians are confused about.
Saysame - do you think calling your opponent a liar is the way to conduct a discussion about science? Try presenting evidence instead! You claimed I lied, when I claimed abiogenesis has often been called "chemical evolution" by evolution proponents. Here's one of many examples I could cite: Dickerson, R.E., "Chemical evolution and the origin of life", Scientific American 239(3):62–102, 1978. I think you will agree that the journal "Scientific American" is aligned with the evolution camp. Do you think they are lying? As I wrote previously, many highly respected researches see that the theory of evolution is irrelevent without abiogenesis. It's just that since all the hopes to find evidence for abiogenesis have blown up in their face, many have changed their tune as say people are ignorant or dishonest to claim there is a link.
Actually the "Big Bang" theory is not as undisputed as you seem to think. Recently one of the world's most highly respected astronomers - Halton Arp - passed away here in Germany. He was a vocal leader among a growing chorus of astronomers who claim the Big Bang theory is fatally flawed. The Big Bang theory has so many "fudge factors" that it confuses a lot of people.
The use of the term evolution in another context whether it's "stellar evolution", "moral evolution", "chemical evolution", or any other combination does not magically insert those topics into the Theory of Evolution.
The theory of evolution does not deal with the origin of life, the origin of the universe, the evolution of stars and planets or any other topic that fundamentalists decide to attach to it.
Your response demonstrates how just being allowed to hear one side of an argument (including scientific disputes) contributes to baseless claims. You wrote that DNA is supporting evidence for the theory of evolution. Nonsense! There are irreconcilable differences between the "evolutionary tree" proposed by cladistic classification (shared common features) and DNA methods. Not only that, Phylogenic trees based on DNA comparison contradict those derived from rRNA analysis. DNA does not support evolution.
Also one must explain where the complex information came from in the first place. For instance an unformatted computer disk and one containing complex information have the same weight and material make-up. What makes them different? One has organized information and the other doesn't. Matter and energy alone are not the whole story, information is a vital third factor. And countless observations are compelling evidence that organization of information arises solely from intelligence - DNA included.
You wrote that experiments with foxes and fruit flies (Drosophila) point to evolution. Again, misinformed nonsense. These long term experiments experiments with foxes, Drosophila and e-coli bacteria only confirm that the team mutation + natural selection does not enable an organism to cross the boundaries of its genus/family. The fox, remains firmly in the fox genus, the e-coli remains in the e-coli bacteria family and Drosophila remains in its genus. The theory of evolution requires a mechanism which enables an organism to cross the boundaries of its genus and form a new family/genus. Mutation + natural selection just doesn't cut it.
You see just teaching evolution in the schools contributes to people baseless, nonsensical claims such as the ones you have made.
I'd be interested in your sources for the truly confounding incongruity between phylogenetic analysie and cladistics.
Regarding information, your pointing to the Lenski's E. coli experiment seems ironic given random mutation and selection generated novel functionality (also found in the wild with the Pod Mrcaru lizards and many other examples). You can use abstract terms like "information" but isn't functionality the actual metric?
Regarding your apparent immutable "kinds" constraint, I'd ask what is the biological barrier given you apparently accept that mutation + natural selection can yield speciation events. Given the taxonomic hierarchy is simply a proxy for measuring divergent characteristics, what prevents the process driving speciation from producing sufficient divergence to allow a genus/family distinction?
Furthermore, what about those forms that bear traits bridging the major vertebrate classes, i.e. fish with tetrapod features, reptiles with mammalian features, reptiles with avian features?
What particular phylogenetic trees are you referencing and how were they constructed? One can construct any number of improbable phylogenetic trees. The key is in assessing the probability that a particular tree is more valid than other trees that can be constructed. There are mathematical equations for making such determinations. So claiming that someone constructed one tree that didn't match some other tree isn't very meaningful without considerably more detailed information.
The notion that organisms can evolve to a certain point, but there is some magical barrier preventing changes beyond what we can observe over a few decades is clearly shown to be nonsensical by the fossil record.
The statement that "organization of information arises solely from intelligence" is also untrue. E.g., self-assembled monolayers of organic molecules, crystal formation, etc.
The fact that a once reputable and hard hitting news organisation like CNN now gives fruit loops like Ham serious credence only flags the colossal decay of the USA media in reporting science. No wonder the country is descending into international laughing stock and jobs created through scientific innovation are steadily shifting offshore when even those charged with educating your children act as if creationism has any validity in the science classroom.
Good luck with the 21st century USA. Try hard not to act too surprised when your economy gets overtaken by those that look ahead, not 2000 years behind.
Well, in their defense, they did put this under religion. blogs. cnn. com, not under "news".
The fact such a "debate" took place moderated by a CNN presenter in the first place is a sad indictment. Any so called journalist should be able to weigh up the credibility of the protagonists and ask key questions to dig deeper. But CNN is too terrified of the religious right lobby to ask the hard questions, it's much easier to just pretend creationism is a valid argument on equal standing with science and stay out of the way. A once fearless and hard hitting news organisation held to ransom and neutered, or too lazy to do their jobs.
So who is supposed to moderate? Fox?
How about no one and we just quietly ignore them? The more airtime we give them, the more apparent weight we place on their fruit loop ideas in the eyes of the general public, the more we are playing their game.
Ham needs money, which Is what this is about. Then again they let celebrities hawk movies so...
Every vaccine should have a disclaimer, "Warning, the efficacy of this vaccine relies on the theory of evolution." Then just let natural selection take its course.
What about, "Warning, by using this drug you are not allowing God to cure you of any disease. Use this drug oh ye without faith."
Ya! I prayed for my flu to go away and it totally DID! Checkmate; atheists lose.
Well, then, you don't have to worry about that aids test, do you?
Next experiment, Hmph - pray for gravity to go away. Your metric for success requires your body escaping the Earth's atmosphere without mechanical assistance.
There will always be three ways to look at this eternal question. One is through the eyes of a Scientist, another as an artist, and another as a Religious person. The first is totally objective in its views and has no regard for emotions, the second sees and expresses everything through his heart. There exists a third way which is that of a true religion. It does not have faith because it only believes in the knowing through subjective experiences. All questions die eventually and there comes a understanding of why it was this way, why it will be this way. And there could be as many religion as there are minds in the religion because each's awakening to the truth is unique.
Yeah but how many jobs would you create with that?
"The first [science] is totally objective in its views and has no regard for emotions" No regards for emotions??? Bill Nye is one great science-driven ball of emotion: joy, wonder, excitement. The creation story told by science is SO much bigger, SO much grander, SO much more sweeping, filled with greater powers, bigger events and more complex and fascinating mechanisms than all of the religious creation stories from history combined. There's something wrong with you if you're unmoved by the wonders of nature.
Well, I am sure that Manmohan was referring to the scientific method lacking emotion, rather than scientists themselves. All humans have emotion. However, the scientific method relies on evidence, not emotion. Emotion can cloud judgment and can lead to false conclusions. Therefore, when following the scientific method you must be as objective as humanly possible.
Using the Bible as a reference in order to prove that the words in the Bible are true is a conflict of interest. Take away every single argument where Ham referenced the Bible in order to prove his claims that were based on the Bible and you have no argument at all.
His argument, summed up:
I'm right because there are scientists that are also creationists. You're wrong because a textbook from 1902 was written in a racist manner.
Fallacies Ken Ham relied on:
Appeal to authority, ad hominem, strawman, appeal to ignorance.
He also flat out lied, imagine that.
There is compelling evidence that all dinosauer bones, and fossils, were man-made, and buried in the earth 220 years ago by militant athiests.
Most logical evidence points to Earth being Created 1962 years ago, at around 9:13am. This is substantiated by carbon dating.
You don't to believe this, but it is pretty much indisputable evidence of God.
Actually, the earth was just created yesterday. I know this for a fact, I read it in a bible.
BTW; I wrote the this bible.
Ah .. the modern day Joseph Smith! Please tell us what to believe, oh great Ah!
I don't know what "carbon dating" you are referring to, which proves that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, but the reality is that carbon dating proves that the Earth is billions of years old. Remember, Christian Science is not science. Christian Science claims that there is no need for evidence as long as the Bible says it is so. Science relies on evidence.
Ooops – you're right, there is no such thing as carbon dating. It is a myth created by scientists. There is actually no such thing as carbon – once again, who is dumb enough to believe in science?
But ... there is other evidence that Earth was created 1962 years ago – photographic, video, audio, cave drawings ...
Ok, I get it. Consider my leg pulled. In my defense, there are those that believe as your opening comment stated.
I think the debate was wonderful. It allows us ALL to see what it must be like in middle eastern muslim countries, thanks to Ham. They just never seem to advance.
Bro, you can't prove that those middle eastern countries exist. Have you ever observed them?
"And on the eighth day, God created the desert and told a group of gullible people and told them that the desert was their promised land, and they were to fight until the end of days to protect this piece of desert from all the other people that for some reason wanted to live in the desert. And so they did, and Jerusalem was born and it was righteous."
Bible is NOT a science book and never said it was. Mostly prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles wrote it...yes 'wrote' it.. Regarding 'time' though, no 'time' is mentioned until God calls and makes it so. Nobody knows how old certain things are because 'time' not mentioned until after creation of heavens and earth and sun and moon. Not until, the Bible says, "God calls ... it so..." So, why creationists haven't picked up on that one beats me.
well you believe those people wrote it but you don't know. The apostles and Jesus thing is just a theory.
and so is the theory of evolution.
lol no its based on science. look up that word so you understand what it means.
Look up the definition of "scientific theory".
The "it's just a theory" argument is the lamest argument in the history of bad arguments.
I like how Christian Scientists claim that the theory of evolution is "just a theory", and then go on to claim that the idea of Creationism is actually a theory when in fact it has been discredited. They seem to be saying, "I am right because a book written 2,000 years ago says that I am right, and you are wrong even though the evidence shows that you are right because that same book says that you are wrong."
already proven,, the bible authors stole from others mythical stories.
After you die, you are going to be horrified how wrong you are.
You know this because you died and came back? Aren't you going to be terrified if you find out the Buddhist were right.
Sam, You have no idea how I know this. Yet you think you do. Arrogant.
Ok, I'll bite. How do you actually know . . .
No there was a question mark I asked you. But I would say im very certain that you have no idea and your just very scared and need religion to comfort you. Do you know why u shouldn't believe? 1. common sense tells you the stories are fictional. 2. there are so many religions to chose from and none any more believable than the others. 3. how un educated the world was hundreds of years ago and how nobody knew enough to know any better which is why there are so many religions in the first place. Its the human condition that you've fallen for. don't feel stupid just educate yourself.
AgentX: "You have no idea how I know this. "
You don't know. You believe. Therein lies the difference. Somebody once told you, "Believe this because I say it is true," and you did. Faith relies on the absence of evidence. Science relies on evidence. They are polar opposites.
You are confusing faith with certainty. You don't really care what the bible says anyway. This is just rooting for your sports team as far as you are concerned.
Just so your all aware America is the only country that is still debating whether dinosaurs existed at the same time as people, how embarrassing. The next debate will be what kind of cheese the moon is made of, stay tuned.
No debate...it's clearly swiss.
death to the swiss believers! it's cheddar!! IT'S CHEDDAR!!
You so-called "Cheddar" believers are infidels! There will be no rest until we rid the world of you false-cheese worshipers.
Swiss ah Akbar!!
Everybody knows the moon is made of Velveeta.
You are absolutely right my friend! After all, we all know that the universe in its entirety was created to revolve around America. There is no substantial evidence that the moon existed before industrialism and pre-packaged foods.
The moon doesn't exist. It is a trick by the Devil. Show me in the Bible where it says that God created the Moon. If Dinosaur bones were a trick by the Devil to test our faith, how much more so the moon? Do not fall for the Devil's tricks.
That's a pretty blanket statement, which resembles some of the statements made by Bill. Belief in the 6000 year account is believed throughout the world in various circles, cultures and religions. We can't assume debates and arguments don't go on throughout the world and categorically say that it is only happening in this country. The creation museum is supported on an international level, Both men, I think, made good points. The age of the Earth is not solid to me. The first few sentences in Genesis don't seem to directly state a timeline of when matter arose, but then the timeline begins, perhaps the most modern human type arises with a consciousness?? perhaps. What I think went wrong in the debate was that Bill seems to embed the need for accepting macro (molecules to man) evolution as a necessity for discovering, investigating and applying the laws of nature to invent and develop. They don't have to be connected in order for great discoveries to be made. The MRI invention by a creationist-based scientist is a prime example. So, Bill's pleas to the public make it sound like the public has to believe in macro evolution in order for America to stay ahead. Everyone can believe whatever they want, but let's not get gridlocked by connecting things that don't have to be connected.
If people seriously starting giving credit to the idea that dinosaurs were in existence at the same time as people it will definitely have a detrimental effect on the countries ability to grow and innovate. The fact that one crazy developed the MRI machine isn't proof that others will definitely be able to develop anything of great worth. plus if we are naming great innovators with ingenious inventions who were and were not creationist i dont think the list would stack up in your arguments favor.
"What I think went wrong in the debate was that Bill seems to embed the need for accepting macro (molecules to man) evolution as a necessity for discovering, investigating and applying the laws of nature to invent and develop."
The ID/creationist arguments of incredulity targeting evolution are premised on the general instability of natural law. All manner of divergence from known natural law are required to account for radiometric dating, distance to stars, the movement of tectonic plates, fossilization, etc, etc. That present observations cannot be relied upon to make inferences about the past necessarily means that the same observations can't be relied upon to make predictions of the future. Creationists require that our most basic understanding of the relevant disciplines (i.e. physics, chemistry, geology, biology, astronomy, etc) are so fundamentally flawed as to be effectively worthless.
That some literal creationists may have produced good research in the past or might develop useful technology only betrays the compartmentalization required to sustain the cognitive dissonance involved in simultaneously using these fundamental understandings of natural law while maintaining their inapplicability only to empirical physical evidence which contradicts their preferred religious-based narratives.
Lee, you'd never heard the expression molecules to man before Ham. If you cannot accept that planet earth is older than 6,000 years than you are simply not interested in fact based discourse.
Lee: "Everyone can believe whatever they want"
Very true. However, believing in something does not make it any more true than it was before you believe in it. There was a time when most people believed that the Earth was flat. Scientists proved this hypothesis wrong. Science does not rely on faith. Science relies on evidence. Religion relies on faith which only exists in the absence of evidence, which is why you use the word "believe" instead of "know".
Everyone can believe whatever they want. However, everyone cannot know whatever they want, as such would lead to contradictions in reality.
I was thinking of the line from the movie "The Life of Brian" by Monty Python. There was a large amount people trying to hear what Jesus was saying on the mount. One the Pythons thought that Jesus said "Blessed are the cheese makers?"
I thought I put this comment in for a good laugh.
Most people have seen the Holy Grail, but not so many have seen the Life of Brian. For those who haven't, I highly recommend it. It is different than the Holy Grail but still very entertaining. Nice quote, David.
Blessed are the Cheesemakers!
For they created the moon.
Religion is good at teaching philosophy. There are good concepts in the bible on how to live your life. However, the bible is not a science book. I do not understand this idea that you must believe the bible is 100% accurate or you are not a true believer.
How does the fact that God created life explain anything? Who created God? Can't we just say the bible was written by men and that perhaps they misinterpreted what God told them. Or perhaps God just got really impatient trying to explain quantum physics to sheep herders and dumbed it down for them because it really wasn't that important at the time.
The harm for accepting creationism is that you have now taught children that the scientific method does not matter. Feelings are more important than evidence. There is no curiosity because you can always say, it exists because God created it. This works if you want to become Amish, but you will not make it in the real world.
Exactly. If we humans were to merely accept anything we were taught as fact without investigating whether or not it is true, then we would still believe that the Earth is flat and the Sun revolves around the Earth and is pulled by a chariot. Only when we question what we are told do we progress intellectually.
Science is about progression. Religion is about stagnation. Science forces you to prove your theories. Religion allows you to claim a theory without proof. Religion is the easy way out.