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. SimplyStated

    Mr. Nye,
    Just a reminder, Raymond Vahan Damadian, the inventor of the MR Scanning Machine, has credentials in the field of science AND has a belief in the Bible as the Word of God. No conflict there.

    February 6, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
    • saysame

      A medical doctor who has no scientific theory of creationism is just another guy with an opinion. The world is clearly not 6,000 years old, however much that poor man wants to believe it.

      February 6, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
      • Steve Larson

        Just because a minority of interested/ educated people have contrary ideas doesn't mean we should throw in with them. I'm not saying they are ignorant, just different and in a way I don't agree with. I'm glad the creationists found some allies. I too have friends who were believers but have fallen away. I think that is their path and not a sin.

        February 6, 2014 at 6:14 pm |
      • Star1

        Can it be said 1 more time for the record, for all on this discussion, that the Bible does NOT say the earth itself is only 6,000 years old. It only states that mankind itself, based on the date of Adams death, was created 6,000 years ago. Clearly if anyone reads the first few verses of Genesis that the Earth was here before God created man.. Also, the Bible does not state that all plant life was destroyed by the Flood as Noah used a bird to know when the water was receded enough to leave the Ark and the bird came back with a twig or branch. The book of Genesis is quite clear on the creation of life on earth, even how the Luminaries, such as the sun and the moon were created. it goes on to describe the ceation of plant life and more specifically that animals were created according to their kind, flying creatures, creeping creatures and wild animals according to their kind. The earth is able to sustain life because of how accurately God created it. It is exactly the right distance from the sun, it rotates at the exact way, the water cycle is precise to create the air we breathe. Bill Nye used the word "mystery" more times than explanation. It's not a mystery. There is no need to prove Creation because the evidence of it is all around us, yet after hundreds of years evolution has not been proven as it not only doesn't make sense, but in the words of Bill Nye himself "it's a mystery". That is not a very scientific word.

        February 7, 2014 at 2:12 am |
        • saysame

          Creationists don't agree on the age of the Earth or the age of man. Sort it out with each other before you try bothering the rest of us with that rubbish.

          February 7, 2014 at 9:01 am |
        • Star1

          I did not say I was a Creationist. I am a Christian and believe in what the Bible says about Creation, so I don't need to sort anything out with anyone, I said "the Bible says...." I did not say "Creationist say...". Hope that clears that up for you.

          February 8, 2014 at 6:46 pm |
        • Dandintac

          "I am a Christian and believe in what the Bible says about Creation..."

          I would say that's a perfect definition for a Creationist. Whether you are willing to own up to it or not, by your own self-description, you are indeed a Creationist.

          February 9, 2014 at 2:36 am |
        • Star1

          As I said, I am a Christian who believes in the Bible's account of creation. Not all Christian religions are the same, the teachings many vary, including whether there is a fiery hell, the believe in the Trinity, etc. Neither of the 2 teaches I just mentioned are Bible based, so not no, I would not say I am a Creationist. As indicated by the debate, some on this discussion are saying that Hamm did not have a satisfying comment on whether the earth itself was 6,000 years old. The answer to that is that the as I said that Bible does not say the the earth itself is 6,000 years old and if Creationist believe that, than I can no, I don't agree with that. I believe that Bible's accoung of Creation, I believe in 1 God whose has a name and his son Jesus. I believe as it states in Genesis that God's purpose for the earth was to have perfect humans have everlasting life on earth in a perfect paradise like earth. That due to Adam and Eve sinning by disobeying his only requirement was not to eat from the 1 tree in the garden that he told them not to. He told them, if they did, they would die. God never said they would die anyway if they didn't eat from it. Why would he create a beautiful earth and put mankind on it only to live a sort time to die then go to a "better" place. Although they did not obey him, that does not mean God would allow that to derail his purpose for the earth and mankind. His right to rule was challenged and his has allowed time to pass to allow mankind to prove if they in fact would be better without his guidance. He does notice the suffering on this earth and he will end it. In the meantime he is allowing time for people to decide whether they believe in him and have faith in him and every day people do. It certainly has proven that man is not capable of ruling each other and that is proven by the fact that even if leaders are well intentioned, they can't solve the world's problem of violence, disease and death. It is only getting worse, not better. We have free will and can chose to believe in what the Bible promises or not. I choose to believe it based on so many things, it would take forever to post them all. So, no I am not a Creationist, I believe in Jehovah, not mankinds explanations for creation.

          February 9, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  2. TG

    Bill Nye displays nationalistic interests of the United States rather than the true nature of science, wanting "the United States to lead the world in technology." What is his objective ? Is it to promote science or nationalism ? And of Ken Ham, is he accurate in the literal interpretation of Genesis with regard to the "creative" days at Genesis 1 ? Is the universe, the earth and all life created by God between 5,700 to 10, 000 years ago and preparing the earth for human habitation in six 24 hour days ?

    The Bible does not concur with Ken Ham and his Answers in Genesis organization, flying in the face of scientific fact. Why not ? Accurate science establishes that the universe is billions of years old, if not older. And had Mr Ken Ham examined the Bible carefully, he could of seen that each "creative" day is several thousand years long.

    For example, at Genesis 1:1, it says that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", establishing no time marker as to when "the beginning" started and the earth as unique and set aside as special by God. But it does set a time marker for earth's preparation for life, beginning with "day one" showing diffused light as evidently penetrating the earth's atmosphere and then concluding: "And there was evening and there was morning, first day."(Gen 1:3)

    With each successive day through "day six", they all had closure, saying: "And there was evening and there was morning." However, "day seven" is not seen as having closure. In fact, the apostle Paul says that "day seven" was still ongoing in his time, some 4000 years after the end of "day six".(Heb 4:1-4)

    And when a person comes to understand our Maker, Jehovah God's purpose for the earth (Isa 45:18), of it to be transformed into a paradise for "meek" ones (Matt 5:5), and that we are now some 6,000 years removed from our original forefather, Adam's creation, now living in "the last days" of this corrupt "world" (2 Tim 3:1), and that there is the soon upcoming millennial reign of Jesus Christ, who will see that the earth becomes a paradise for everyone who meets the requirements of being "meek" or teachable by God, resurrecting the majority of the billions that have died over the course of mankind's history (Luke 23:43; Rev 20:13), and thus bringing closure to the "day seven" at its end, then it can be established that each "creative" day is about 7,000 years long and not 24 hours.

    February 6, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
    • igaftr

      You have gone a long way to rationalize belief, but it is still nothing more than belief. There is nothing indicating that there are any gods.

      February 6, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
    • saysame

      Well at least you realize that Young Earth Creationism is crazy. Now just go the extra mile and dismiss the rest of the creationist stuff and you'll be alright. Man is far older than 6,000 years.

      February 6, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
  3. corinthian

    A literal interpretation of The Holy Bible is actually a very recent phenomenon in Western civilization. It surfaced during the challenges presented to the role of the Church during the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th century; it makes strides upon the publication of The Origin of The Species by Charles Darwin in the 19th century; its has gathered force in the 21st century as the role of science in Western civilization is being presented with its own challenges...of still yet unanswered questions.
    Throughout history, the Church has not actually stood in opposition to the advances of science, nor disbelieved in the discoveries made by science: the Church only stood in opposition of the dissemination of knowledge of the advances of science, believing, quite rightly, that the masses would only be confused with such knowledge, with the facts of science and the truth of religion, and would grow conflicted between the two...
    In our present day, the masses are indeed confused and conflicted with the facts and the truth...
    Debates between evolution and creationism are fallacious; intelligent design as well. Science and religion are as opposed to one another as botany to medicine; as grammar to poetry; as walking to soccer. If there had been no concept of family, where would humans have developed the concept of community, society, government and law? Religion answered the questions concerning the origins of humankind and nature and the universe; science expanded the questions as well as the answers. The truths of humankind and nature, however, are different from the fact of humankind and nature. Who, What, When, Where, and How are scientific questions with empirical answers; As to Who For, What For, When and Where Ever, and Why...science does not concern itself with such unanswerable questions.

    February 6, 2014 at 3:52 am |
    • alonsoquixote

      The Church (I assume you mean the Roman Catholic Church) has stood in opposition to advances in science when it perceived such advances threatened its grip over the minds of those contributing to its coffers. E.g., when it burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for "the doctrine of the infinite universe and the innumerable worlds" and his beliefs "on the movement of the earth" and put Galileo on trial for heresy for advocating heliocentrism. It was protecting itself.

      Though there have been other instances where clerics have contributed greatly to the advance of science. Today, the Catholic Church, like many Protestant churches, e.g., the United Methodist Church, supports evolutionary theory finding no conflict with it and the teachings of the Church. But, unfortunately, there are other fundamentalist Protestant denominations and some Christians even in denominations that accept evolutionary theory that still deny all scientific evidence that they believe conflicts with the Genesis creation and flood myths.

      When you say "Religion answered the questions concerning the origins of humankind and nature and the universe" it provided answers to important questions humans had regarding where they came from, why devastating natural calamities sometimes struck, etc. But those answers came from the imagination of storytellers rather than an understanding of the natural world. The answers may have offered some comfort when scientific understanding was lacking, but continuing to cling to them can hamper the acquisition of knowledge about how the workings of the universe as we see in the case of individuals such as Ken Ham.

      February 6, 2014 at 8:07 am |
  4. Danz

    Bill was good. Neil deGrasse Tyson would have wreaked havoc!

    That's my scientific prediction based on observations from the past.

    February 6, 2014 at 3:30 am |
    • Dandintac

      I agree. Tyson would have mopped the floor with Ham. Especially if he was fired up.

      February 6, 2014 at 9:00 pm |
  5. Kathy Walton

    Ken Has changed my life, and my family! We now understand the “Words” God have given us, and we are now blessed to be the children of real science and scientist change our world! Christians must surrender their false hopes and recognize the model that has changed our world. Amen!

    February 6, 2014 at 1:18 am |
    • Sam

      I hope your not serious, you must be very poorly educated to believe the things this man is saying to you.

      February 6, 2014 at 10:44 am |
  6. Jesse

    this video can help explain evolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGL4HPuFKZA

    February 6, 2014 at 12:06 am |
  7. Dandintac

    To those who disagree with Nye, and think he lends Ham and Creationists legitimacy, I must say I disagree. Keep in mind, the debate WILL go on–with or without you–but by not showing up, you lose by default. People do pay attention. True, Nye will never persuade Ham. But there are others watching who may be still persuadable through reason.

    Carl Sagan does a good job explaining why it's so critical for scientists to speak out, popularize science, dispell mysticism (like Ham's Creationism). The Great Library in Alexandria was the greatest center for the advancement of knowledge in the ancient world, but the ancient scholars failed to bring science to the people. They failed to confront people like Ken Ham. So the mystics won. The key phrase in this entire clip is "...so when at last the mob came to burn the place down, there was no one to stop them." Think of the Library as an-alogous to the science classroom, and "burn the place down" would be Creationism replacing Evolution.

    February 6, 2014 at 12:05 am |
  8. john doe

    FASTER YOU ARE MOVING THE SLOWER YOUR TIME...EINSTEIN'S RELATIVITY EQUATION SAYS 13.7 BILLION YEARS AND 6 DAYS ARE BOTH TRUE DEPENDING ON SPACE-TIME COORDINATES; T1=T2/(1- (v^2)/c^2) ½;13,700,000,000 x365 = 5000500000000 days;5000500000000 = 6/sqrt 1-.999999999999999999999999999­­99999% velocity of photons (farthest photons);5000500000000 = 6/sqrt .000000000000000000000001;5000­­500000000 = 6/1.19988001199880011998800119­­988e-12; PLACING YHWH 1/2 a millimeter from the farthest photons YHWH is in all reference frames.
    distance of YHWH from farthest photon inthe estimated size of the universe=46500000000 LY radius; 299792458 m / s x60 x 60 x 24 x 365 x 46500000000=439,622,855,430,19­­2,000,000,000,000 meters;439,622,855,430,192,000­­,000,000,000 meters x .99999999999999999999999999999­­999= 439,622,855,430,191,999,999,99­­9,999.99956 meters distance;439,622,855,430,192,0­­00,000,000,000 – 439,622,855,430,191,999,999,99­­9,999.99956 = .0005 meters difference, YHWH half a millimeter from farthest photons
    space time stretched 1000,000,000,000 times since first matter (something slower than light survived, hence time kicks in), this means time has slowed 1000,000,000,000 times, 5.1 days genesis x 1000,000,000,000/365=13.9 billion years, YHWH looking into the universe would experience 6 days while the universe experiences 13.9 billion years; 6 OF OUR DAYS ARE STRETCHED OUT AND CONTAIN 14 BILLION EARLY YEARS OF THE UNIVERSE

    February 5, 2014 at 11:44 pm |
  9. Tony

    Of course, the profound irony in all this is that if the creationists get their way and Creationism and not evolution gets taught in schools, we will see the evolutionary effect on American society and America's ability to function and compete in the 21st century and beyond in a world outside it's borders that keeps teaching science without religious interference.

    That would be almost worth seeing as they try and explain why the good ole US of A becomes a backwater lost in the wake of other scientifically advanced economies charging ahead.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:14 pm |
  10. jpduplec

    These kinds of debates need to take place. There are a lot of people in the US who latch onto Creationism because of a lack of scientific literacy. People like Ham and other proselytizers are very interested in filling this knowledge gap with anti-intellectual brain dribble. There's a lot at stake here when people actually want to teach young children that the world is 6000 years old. I watched the entire debate (which was actually more of a plea for sanity). After Nye finished his first thirty minutes and for the remainder, Ham was bobbing back and forth and might as well have been speaking in tongues. He had no real arguments other than what amounted to "Jesus is Lord" and the "Lord is Jesus".

    Funny that Dawkins would criticize Bill Nye for taking part though when he's made a name for himself by antagonizing religious people. There are probably a hundred videos on Youtube of Dawkins doing this very thing.

    Bill Nye the Science Guy!
    Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!

    February 5, 2014 at 10:03 pm |
    • hellsyeahs

      "These kinds of debates need to take place." I disagree. It gives a forum for idiocracy. These wingnuts will never be persuaded. They have been personally shown evidence that destroy their claims and yet continue to disagree. Screw them. They are a dying breed. Let their ignorant beliefs die with them.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:55 pm |
      • Dandintac

        But hells, the goal is NOT to persuade Ham and other Wingnuts who are too far gone. I agree-that would be a vain exercise. But not all Creationists are as committed to this intellectual lunacy as is Ham. I was once a Christian, no longer. People CAN be persuaded. It may not be Ham, but it could be a son or grandson of his, or some other wingnut who listens to reason and evidence for the first time watching this debate. The debate WILL go on, with or without you, and to stay silent is to acquiesce and let them win by default. Unfortunately, there are all too many people–even otherwise rational people, who will go along to get along, or jump on a bandwagon and join a perceived majority. Challenging this lunacy everywhere is critical.

        February 6, 2014 at 12:12 am |
  11. Sam

    The fact is unfortunately that there are a very large number of Americans out there who know or understand very little of what they should have learned in school. They listen to the people around them a quote the bible. Bill Nye is doing his very best to get the facts to them. It's scary how many people believe dinosaurs were alive the same time as people, how old the earth is and how many religions pre dated Christianity by hundreds of years with very similar stories about virgin mothers giving birth in December and deaths on crucifixes. If people would only take some time to research the things they are basing their lives on.

    February 5, 2014 at 9:50 pm |
  12. David

    It is interesting to note that Bill Nye's 9000 year old tree was dated by carbon dating of the roots and that the actual trunk of the famous tree is thought to be only a few hundred years old. This is hardly as significant as Bill implies. it sounds very misleading to me

    February 5, 2014 at 9:36 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      The point was that the earth is older than the 6000 years that Ham claims.

      February 5, 2014 at 9:42 pm |
      • David

        Actually the point was that a tree dies when it is under water. Also carbon datint has been demonstrated to have questionable accuracy. It could be 4000 years old as easily as 9000. That is not conclusive.

        February 5, 2014 at 9:49 pm |
        • Sam

          And you know this about carbon dating methods from your extensive time in the scientific community using said methods to complete research? Or your talking out of your expletive in the hope that nobody here knows any better?

          February 5, 2014 at 9:53 pm |
        • saysame

          There are a dozen types of radiometric dating. Carbon dating is one. The others don't have the issues of the carbon cycle to deal with. Carbon dating is the only one that most fundamentalists are concerned about but really it only goes back 50k-100k years reliably. The others go back millions and should be more of a concern to them. But thankfully they've never heard of them.

          February 6, 2014 at 12:04 am |
  13. skarphace

    The people who wrote the Bible were not scientists. Therefore, the Bible is not a scientific docu ment. It was not meant to be. It was written by religious people to be a religious text.

    For modern people to take the words of these philosophers who died thousands of years ago as scientific evidence is nonsensical. Philosophers philosophize. Scientists study. You can be both, but the methodologies are not the same. Don't confuse one for the other and you will see that you should never use a religious text to try and prove a scientific theory (or disprove one, for that matter).

    (I found the problem. You cannot say the word "docu ment" as one word because of the embedded "c u m" in the word. Man, that was hard to find.)

    February 5, 2014 at 8:47 pm |
  14. Paul

    Here's a link to the topics brought up in the debate:

    February 5, 2014 at 8:43 pm |
    • skarphace

      Not exactly an objective source there, Paul. Hint: if you want to disprove a scientific theory, use science, not philosophy.

      February 5, 2014 at 8:45 pm |
      • Paul

        You should watch the debate. It was very clear that ultimately it was between two opposing philosophical worldviews.

        February 5, 2014 at 8:54 pm |
        • skarphace

          When you claim that science is philosophy, you only serve to show your own ignorance on the subject. Science relies on evidence. There is no evidence that Creationism is real, and much evidence that discredits Creationism. Philosophy relies on faith, not evidence. The concept of Creationism is philosophical. The concept of Evolution is theory. It is backed by scientific evidence and has not been debunked. Therefore, no, it was not a debate between two philosophical world views as you claim.

          February 5, 2014 at 11:23 pm |
        • saysame

          Yes, two philosophies. Telling the truth versus lying. Creationists just lie constantly about a dozen branches of science and that's a character issue for them.

          February 6, 2014 at 12:07 am |
    • Edison

      Thanks for the link, will follow up on open questions from the debate last night.

      February 5, 2014 at 8:45 pm |
    • Treelady

      Do you really think that AiG, Ham's website, is impartial?

      February 5, 2014 at 9:10 pm |
      • Paul

        Do you really think that every scientist, secular or religious, is completly impartial. If you were to watch the debate you'd know it was ultimately about philosophical worldviews. Ken Ham had his worldview and Bill Nye had his worldview. Both were using the same science, they just came to different conclusions.

        February 5, 2014 at 9:18 pm |
        • Sungrazer

          Ham does not use science.

          February 5, 2014 at 9:40 pm |
        • redzoa

          "Do you really think that every scientist, secular or religious, is completly impartial."

          Do you really think the overwhelming majority of mainstream scientists, including many devout Christians (e.g. Francis Collins, Ken Miller, etc) are all involved in a vast conspiracy to cover up all that "evidence" that actual supports a young earth and special creation?

          February 5, 2014 at 10:56 pm |
        • Paul

          "Ham does not use science."
          What do you mean by science? Try watching the debate. You'll find that he does use science.

          "Do you really think the overwhelming majority of mainstream scientists, including many devout Christians (e.g. Francis Collins, Ken Miller, etc) are all involved in a vast conspiracy to cover up all that "evidence" that actual supports a young earth and special creation?"

          No. As I stated above: One of the main points in the debate was that when it comes to origins, it's about philosophical worldviews.

          February 6, 2014 at 12:01 am |
        • redzoa

          @Paul – Are all "worldviews" inherently equal? If not, what is their distinguishing factor?

          February 6, 2014 at 12:39 am |
  15. skarphace

    I can't seem to pass my comment through the filter, so this is a test. Sorry if the real reason was a lag and my comment actually posted multiple times.

    February 5, 2014 at 8:41 pm |
    • skarphace

      Well, apparently that wasn't the reason...

      February 5, 2014 at 8:42 pm |
  16. sybaris

    Why do christians take s much pride in being willfully ignorant?

    February 5, 2014 at 8:26 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.