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. johnn23


    February 11, 2014 at 10:34 pm |
  2. PeterVN

    This debate, and the debate about the debate, just brings to mind what is still my favorite blog quote:

    "Religion is for the ignorant, the gullible, the cowardly, and the stupid, and for those who would profit from them."

    With online advertising, blogs can even go on profiting long after the event.

    February 7, 2014 at 10:01 pm |
  3. FromNoahtoHercules.com

    History proves the earth is young. Josephus tells us where the first nations settled and who their first patriarchs were. There are genealogies from Noah to kings of Europe. Read After the Flood by Bill Cooper for information on that. The book is free online. If Noah was a real man, what evidence for an old earth do we have left?

    February 7, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
    • I wonder

      Josephus spoke about Hercules as if he (and his fantasy feats) were real too.

      February 7, 2014 at 6:38 pm |
  4. Sam

    Religion is such a massive scam how anybody can still believe this nonsense any more is beyond belief. I can understand 200 or 300 years ago when information wasn't as available as today or when there was just no other explanation for things but how modern human beings can believe any of this nonsense with so much information available to them is an embarrassment. You would think just going through a normal american education would give them enough information for them to realize religion is non sense. Look at the oldest civilizations believing in many gods to answer questions. Look at the amount of religions that pre date Catholicism and Christianity alone that share the same stories and same dates and the pagan religions that lead into them again with the same dates. Fortunately the number of religious people is shrinking and hopefully in a hundred years or so it will be completely gone in civilized countries.

    February 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm |
  5. genome852

    We know exactly what makes the car run and what makes the phone work, it's not magic. Nuclear physics has been studied and used to develop nuclear weapons (unfortunately), nuclear power, etc. Microwave ovens use microwaves to cook food, which is EM radiation that can be directly measured. These are scientific facts, and the fact that these things even exist is good enough reason to convince even the most religious nut that the science behind their operation is valid, whether or not they actually understand it.

    Now, belief in God (or gods) where there is no tangible evidence is where everything gets fuzzy. Of course, that's what they call 'faith'. If God(s) descended from the clouds today in front of everyone's eyes, there would be no more arguing. That will not happen. What is eventually going to happen is that the religions of today will eventually end up in a museum, next to statues of Artemis and Apollo, and people will look back through history and wonder how it is possible that in this day and age, we still have people that believe the Earth is flat or was created only 6000 years ago.

    February 7, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      You can't know if your microwave oven would work in ancient Palestine, therefore God.

      February 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm |
      • Duane Shannon

        Wow, you're right, that statement makes no sense.  Thanks for making that crystal clear.

        February 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
        • Happy Atheist

          Doc's answer does make it clear for anyone with half a brain. He is stating that Ham's argument against microwaves would likely be that you can't prove that they worked in the past because that would be "historical science" vs the way it works now which is "observational science". Ham has invented a rationale that states "Just because we know how something works right now is no guarantee it has always worked that way." to which I would posit that Ham might want to try putting a loaded gun to his head and pull the trigger to prove his point. Just because science says that pulling the trigger of the gun will ignite the gun powder behind a ball of lead pushing it out of the barrel at a high rate of speed likely destroying any human tissue that gets in the way doesn't in Mr. Ham's logic mean that it has or will always work that way...

          February 7, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
      • Joel's Bar

        I zap therefore I am.

        February 10, 2014 at 12:40 am |
    • callnews

      No, you are wrong, Christ returned after his resurrection for forty days exhibiting many infallable proves before above 500 people. That's the primary historical account of the physician Luke. Above that, I have witnessed, as have countless other missionaries as myself, supernatural and medically confirmed healings, recreative miracles, and natural wonders performed. I hope you have the opportunity to see something beyond the myopic mind of man within your lifetime. No, God is available, and those that seek him find him. Acts 17:27, Hebrews 11:6 (I thought that referencing the words that God said he authored would be sufficient without fear of slander or plagarism. He even stated (by primary source) in His Word that there would be those, who would doubt and ridicule; so it's to be expected.

      February 7, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
      • Happy Atheist

        "exhibiting many infallable proves before above 500 people." of whom none left any record other than less than a handful of supposed direct followers written down decades after the events supposedly happened...

        February 7, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
        • Sam

          Exactly! these religious nuts walk around regurgitating this garbage that they have learned and some don't even read the entire bible or make any effort to look into when it first appeared what evidence there is about who wrote it what religions were saying before it magically appeared. If I came to them with a new bible today and told them to follow you bet your ass they would ask questions. You build a building and sing some songs they follow like lemmings.

          February 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
        • Duane Shannon

          Well, for the sake of the witness in myself of God's Word, it's enough for me, but God never stopped doing these miracles, and what I've witnessed is first hand, not stories; not second-hand accounts.  I hope that within your lifetime you find that there's something more than just the fallible mind of man.

          February 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
      • Sam

        You can apply your logic to any story that exists any where in the world. Maybe zeus performed those miracles? Maybe Santa did or maybe they were just good things that happened. Your logic is seriously flawed you need to take a very big step back and re evaluate your life.

        February 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
        • callnews

          No sir, I've seen the blinded eye restored, and diseases fall off like hot butter. Yes, I believe the accounts of the Bible, but I've tested them myself, and I am a witness of these things, God has done this to confirm His Word. Mark 16:20 I let the Lord evaluate my life, men don't qualify; they didn't make me, nor does history show they have any answers.

          February 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
        • Sam

          God is the fallible mind of man, it was created by man for man and continues with the consent of man. Your religion is a book of answers that was invented many years ago to help people understand the world they lived in. All the proof is in your head and doesn't exist anywhere else. The fact that you find something beautiful doesn't prove the existence of any god.

          February 7, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
        • Duane Shannon

          Numbers 23:19  God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

          February 7, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
        • I wonder

          "I've seen the blinded eye restored, and diseases fall off like hot butter."

          Why aren't these "healers" volunteering in all hospitals and hosp.ices? Selfish bustards... or more likely, despi-cable HOAXERS.

          February 7, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
      • RB

        Good post callnews, thanks.

        February 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
        • Sam

          All you have done is fooled yourself into believing you've seen anything. I'm sure you see a picture of jesus in your cherios in the morning as well. There is no bases to your belief its all you and your choice. You could have picked any religion and thanked whatever deity it worshiped.

          February 7, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
    • pgardner31

      Chapter Seven. Past History: The World System p.145

      I. The Material System
      A. The Origin of the Material System
      B. The True Purpose of the Material System
      II. The Religious System
      A. The Source of Religion
      B. The World’s Religions
      C. The Jewish Religion
      D. Christianity, the Religion


      February 8, 2014 at 10:42 pm |
  6. Sivick

    FOR SCIENCE!!! seriously, creationists are just an embarrassment to humanity.

    February 7, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
    • callnews

      Ridicule is the is sure act of someone who has nothing to say.

      February 7, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
      • Sam

        Or of somebody who is in absolute disbelief that a person could be so completely wrong. Some people laugh some people ridicule. Lets be honest here if you believe those fictional stories in the bible are the truth then the only thing left to do is laugh at you there's no point trying to help you understand. It would be like trying to explain to a man who is married to a horse why they cant have babies. Just leave them be.

        February 7, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
        • callnews

          Well it's certain you've made your conclusion; so there must be nothing else for you to say. Yes, ridicule delivers that kind of message, and you've done it.

          February 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
    • callnews

      Ridicule is the sure act of someone who has nothing to say.

      February 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
      • Happy Atheist

        "I think the earth is flat!"

        "I think man faked the moon landing!"

        "I think the earth is only 6000 years old!"

        Ridicule is the sure act of someone who has no other reply to blatant stupidity.

        February 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm |
    • Is the is

      the poor grammar from morons who have no defense of their imaginary fantasy game aka their religion.

      February 7, 2014 at 1:27 pm |
      • Duane Shannon

        The first word in a sentence should be capitalized.

        February 7, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
        • Darryl

          The bible is a load of horseshit.

          February 8, 2014 at 9:40 am |
        • Word vs letter

          THE first word in this sentence is the.

          February 8, 2014 at 8:18 pm |
        • callnews

          Capitalize just the first letter, not all three.

          February 9, 2014 at 12:51 am |
  7. Chris_Mann

    I'll always side with science but still leave my mind open to other possibilities because we simply don't know. Science isn't as cut and dry as people think. At one point scientists KNEW the earth was the center of the universe. They KNEW the earth was flat. They KNEW the atom was the smallest thing till they split it open and all this crap came out.

    Imagine what they'll know tomorrow.

    February 7, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
    • callnews

      An evolutionist's opinion does not equal science. Science is observable, demonstrated, and repeatable knowledge.

      February 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
      • Steve Larson

        Make you a deal? You creationists can have all of the evolutionary gaps, but only if you give them back when their science is understood. You will get a bunch now and not have to do anything (ahhh, the ease of religious belief). Sorry but every week your haul shrinks.
        This way we can ignore you, and you can gloat on your spoils. Deal?

        February 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
  8. Reality #2

    It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like "Do No Harm" and convert all houses of "worthless worship" to recreation facilities and parks.

    And for the new members:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc.) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    February 7, 2014 at 8:24 am |
  9. Brian

    I love how Ham's evidence is true believers who believe. Laughable

    February 6, 2014 at 8:11 pm |
  10. Manmohan NJ

    Hahaha Neil must be showelling the snow in New york. I thank Science for giving me comforts of life and thus saving me time which I can use in pursuit of God. Imagine if Rat plague killed half of Europe and imagine Polio killed India. As a double edged sword Science can also provide Mad politicians like Hitler tools to destroy earth 10 times in hours. What a waste of thousands of years of evolution if we self destruct. One Jesus and One Buddha can make the entire universe joyous , imagine the joy when we recognize our divinity within one day. It will be heard and echoed throughout the universe I think.

    February 6, 2014 at 6:18 pm |
  11. Mmhmm

    Creationists are such embarrassments. It should be considered child abuse to teach children such lies.

    February 6, 2014 at 5:40 pm |
    • Paul

      What about lies told by evolutionists like "life came from primordial soup?" Would you be fine with those lies?

      February 6, 2014 at 7:44 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        That actually is not what evolution says; evolution comes into play once life has formed. Primordial soup is a better explanation that a god created itself and then the universe with all life on earth fully-formed. The evidence does not support that.

        February 6, 2014 at 7:59 pm |
        • larsonst

          Hey dude, it wasn't primordial soup, it was mud. Get it straight.

          Believers gonna believe. I believe I'm gonna have a beer.

          February 6, 2014 at 8:31 pm |
        • Paul

          "That actually is not what evolution says"

          I didn't say that's what evolution says. I was implying that is what someone with an naturalistic or materialistic worldview believes. By definitoin, naturalistists can't believe in God because they've already presupposed that he doesn't exist. So they had to create their own fairy tale.

          February 6, 2014 at 9:14 pm |
        • Dandintac


          "...can’t believe in God because they’ve already presupposed that he doesn’t exist. So they had to create their own fairy tale."

          (facepalm) Paul! Come on man! Let's try this. Do you presuppose dragons don't exist? Do you presuppose Ishtar does not exist? Or do you not believe these beings, because there is no evidence for them? Is it fair to say that if you don't believe in Thor, that it is a fairy tale to not believe in him? Is this reasonable?

          As a Naturalist myself, I'm completely willing to consider your God claim. Please define this God and provide some objective, verifiable, repeatable, testable evidence for his existence. This is what we ask for any other claim about the objective reality we live in. Why should we expect any less for your God claim?

          February 6, 2014 at 9:28 pm |
        • Star1

          You want repeatable, testable proof of God? Look around you, your breathing, but do you need to be told you need proof of it? Can't see wind, but we see the tree branches blowing. Can't see gravity, but we are not floating around. God has a name, it is Jehovah and the name itself has meaning. His qualities are wonderfully described as Justice, Power wisdom and above all, Love. He created a beautiful earth that as a Naturalist you see all around you. If you want to get to know him, why not read the Bible for yourself and you can learn all about him through his dealings with mankind and through his son Jesus while he was here on earth. He wants us to know him and love him and explains how to do just that. As we do in real life, you can't say you don't know someone if you don't at least try. He gives us the free will and the choice to know him, it's up to us to decide to do so and after researching so many things, I for one and very happy that I do know him and love him and know he loves me too.

          February 7, 2014 at 2:24 am |
        • Dandintac

          "You want repeatable, testable proof of God? Look around you..."

          Star, you do not list out any actual evidence for your God, nor do you provide a clear definition. A misconception is that we must be able to "see" God, but that's just one sense that is commonly used and discussed. If God even had as much evidence for his existence as the wind, that would at least be a step forward. But the existence that you sweepingly refer to with "look around" is evidence for existence–not God. I could just as easy say the existence around us is proof of evolution, the theory of how planets form, the various theories of physics, etc. You still have no evidence an actual god exists.

          February 7, 2014 at 10:58 pm |
        • Duane Shannon

          From what source did the concept of evolution come from; a man's thoughts, fueled by his limited perception, and an eagerness to believe he knows everything.  To believe that everything comes from nothing takes superior ignorance.  I prefer superior intelligence.

          February 7, 2014 at 11:24 pm |
        • Dandintac

          Who says the universe came from nothing? Usually I hear this from theists, who claim to know all about an all-powerful being, and claim to KNOW that this being created everything from nothing.

          Scientists will usually say "we don't know" but there are theories, like the Multiverse theory, for which we have some actual evidence, unlike the God claim.

          It is far wiser to admit your ignorance, and accept, provisionally, those theories that have some hard evidence, rather than blindly accept huge sweeping supernatural claims which have absolutely no evidence, and then build your whole life around such unsupported claims.

          February 7, 2014 at 11:46 pm |
        • callnews

          Have you considered the prophet Daniel, who from the 5th and 6th century B.C. accurately described the course of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires including the course of nations to this day?

          February 8, 2014 at 3:30 am |
        • Dandintac

          Please give three examples where Daniel accurately predicts the course of events in nations today. Let's see how va-gue they are. This is often claimed of Nostradomus, but in reality his "predictions" are va-gue ramblings, that can be interpreted in many ways. I could probably drop some LSD and do the same–or some other combination of drugs, or even just tap into our imaginations. If you have exact dates, and specific events, that would be more impressive.

          Many "prophecies" are either va-gue, written after the facts, or are self-fulfilling, or just good guesses–often among many other guesses. If you put on a blindfold, and throw enough darts at the wall, a few of them will hit the bullseye just out of chance. I'm not impressed with the establishment of Israel. People did it BECAUSE it was a prophecy. If I declare: "Prophecy: let's us go to the grocery store tomorrow!" and a group of us thought it a fine idea and we did it–would this make me holy? Back in 1990, I accurately predicted we would go to war with Iraq. Does that make me Holy? Of course not. I looked at their behavior and the events unfolding. Nothing magical about it.

          February 8, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
        • callnews

          Well sure, but I would refer you to the text reference, because the size of the text would be prohibitive for this space. Read Daniel 2:29-44 the interpretation of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar's dream describing the successive empires from his time till now (and the future beyond earthly empires). The development of the description of these empires (how they will rise and fall) continues in Daniel Chapter 7, and resumes in Daniel 8:3-25. The details of the present and future periods appear in Daniel Chapters 11 and 12. In the middle text Medo-Persia is spoken. Also Greece is spoken, but Rome was not yet known at the time of Daniel, so the nature of Rome as iron legs (the East and West that the Roman Empire was divided into is referred to. Today is the Roman Empire broken (as the feet and toes of clay and iron). Today some nations are strong, some are weak, but none rule the known earth as the previous empires did. The end is Christ's return to set up His Kingdom in righteousness.

          February 8, 2014 at 11:49 pm |
        • Dandintac

          Seems this was blocked by the censor. I'll try to make some changes and try again.

          Please give three examples where Daniel accurately predicts the course of events in nations today. Let's see how va-gue they are. This is often claimed of Nostradomus, but in reality his "predictions" are va-gue ramblings, that can be interpreted in many ways. I could probably do some drugs, or even just tap into our imaginations–and do the same. If you have exact dates, and specific events, that would be more impressive.

          Many "prophecies" are either
          1) va-gue,
          2) written after the facts,
          3) self-fulfilling, or
          4) just good guesses–often among many other guesses.

          If you put on a blindfold, and throw enough darts at the wall, a few of them will hit the bulls-eye just out of chance. I'm not impressed with the establishment of Israel. People did it BECAUSE it was a prophecy. If I declare: "We're going to the grocery store tomorrow!" and a group of us thought it a fine idea and we did it–would this make it a prophecy and me holy? Back in 1990, I accurately predicted we would go to war with Iraq. Does that make me Holy? Of course not. I looked at their behavior and the events unfolding. Nothing magical about it.

          Finally, let's suppose Daniel did predict these things, and other prophecies are true also. People sometimes get it right, and who knows–they could be psychic. I don't believe in psychic phenomena, but it at least suggest there are plenty of alternative explanations. It does not prove the existence of any god.

          February 8, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
        • callnews

          The nation of Israel was scattered to the four corners of the earth after 70 A.D. From there they were persecuted economically, physically, spiritually; and this small people has had genocide attempted upon it multiple times over the past 1900 years alone. Hitler half-way succeeded, and three years after his attempt this people form their nation again. They have lived surrounded by regimes whose determination is to push them into the sea. I watched the six day war; hundreds of Egyptian tanks on their way to overrun Israel brake down. Israel fixes the tanks to send the attack back to Egypt. Total losses are 18 Arab for every 1 Israeli, though the Israelis are out numbered 2 to 1 in personnel and 3 to 1 in armaments. In six days the war is over, and that's no coincidence. Any other nation would have been wiped off the map long ago.

          Yes, the prophecies of Daniel are true. The descriptions of the empires are accurate. Daniel bothers secularist terribly, because their only avenue to claim that Daniel couldn't have lived when he did, because that mean a great supernatural event had take place. That is the crux of this whole matter. Man doesn't want to believe the supernatural he sees God post, because he doesn't want his errors to be meddled with. However, aliens are o.k. because they're elusive and Hollywood can paint them as cute or something we can courageously defeat. Well God has place a thirst for eternity in us. It's unfortunate that some just want a mediocre, temporary existence.

          February 9, 2014 at 12:25 am |
        • Paul

          "As a Naturalist myself, I'm completely willing to consider your God claim. "

          Maybe you should find out what naturalists actually believe.

          February 6, 2014 at 11:00 pm |
        • Dandintac


          If there were hard, repeatable, verifiable, testable evidence for God, that would mean that God is a natural phenomenon that we could observe.

          This is why I asked you to define what you meant by a "god".

          February 7, 2014 at 1:23 am |
        • Sue

          Putting aside the question of the existence of any god in general, one thing that we can be absolutely certain of is that the specific god described in the Christian doctrine does not exist. This is so because that doctrine presents contradictory characteristics for its "god" and is internally inconsistent in other ways, among many other reasons.

          February 8, 2014 at 9:45 am |
        • callnews

          Primordial soup is the term that evolutionists use. As far as God is concerned, He has no need of defense; He sent His Son to defend us from what we deserve. We each choose whether we want that defense.

          February 8, 2014 at 10:20 am |
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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.