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.
I am on the side of evolution, but I'm not impressed with Bill Nye.
If atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.
Its not a religion... so no need for silly comparisons.
The big banger atheists are some of the kookiest people.
We are the kookie ones?! We understand the universe through empirical, testable, and observational evidence. You believe in an invisible sky man. Do you believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny as well?
Don't throw marshmallows at the animals!
When I was a kid in the 50's & 60's, it was automatically accepted that there were TWO versions of creation: the religious one you heard in church and the one you learned in your school science classes. Why can't we just go back to that and stop all the disagreeing and arguing??? There was apparently separation of church & state then, so why all the problems now??? Hopefully, I didn't grow up too warped accepting both sides of the story...
The problem is that one of them is just that...a story. The other side consists of facts learned by us through centuries of science. Me, I'm sticking with facts and not myths.
for the same reason astrology, numerology, phrenology and alchemy are not taught any more.
Seperation of church and state is the problem. The Christian right is trying to get religious beliefs (ie. creationism) taught as science. If creationism was only taught in religious studies courses, and clearly labled as a religious belief, you would here no complaints from people like myself.
I see no reason why there shouldn't at least be debate of both views. Why not? One thing I always see is how angry and bitter atheists seem. And how they point out how judgmental Christians are. What's sad is they are the most judgmental people on these msg boards. They spew these vile insults, as if they not so much are an unbeliever but have their own personal bone to pick with God. If you don't believe you shouldn't care. Cordial debate should be encouraged. I will tell anyone I am a believer and will freely share my views but I won't force it on anyone. No one will become a believer if they are shamed and insulted. If anything it'll just push them away. Atheism has a mean streak that looks to force it's views on anyone. And if you don't go along, you are an idiot....but that's just been my experience. I don't hold it against them. I am comfortable in my own faith.
Lighten up Francis, there are turds in every pool.
The insult laden rant you just dropped doesn't work well to distance you from the very thing you are taking issue with. Might want to rethink the approach given the point you are trying to drive home.
Just an idea.
"One thing I always see is how angry and bitter atheists seem. And how they point out how judgmental Christians are."
Do you not see what you just did? Hypocrite.
it's not judging it's my experience how they seem. I guess it's how you view what I said. fair enough.
Consider this what is there to really debate? Someone had to create the star dust that some think we came from. Or did that too just magically appear one day?
as an atheist, I dont care what you believe. What I DO care about, and what the majority of atheists care about and become angry about, is when religious folks start trying to make laws that we ALL have to live by based on their own personal beliefs.
The only laws I want are based along the lines of..'as long as it isn't hurting anyone else, then I dont care' case in point. gay marriage.
I think atheist get frustrated that science and logic are not explored in the decision making process. The idea of blind faith to someone who is analytical does not seem like rational thinking. As someone that grew up Catholic and was exposed to 12 years of Catholic school.... it seemed to pose more questions then answers to me.... The idea that NO ONE knows were we go when we die, leads me to believe that I know as much about the afterlife as anyone else, I don't.... so how could I listen to anyone tell me what happens when no one has been there....... I'm open minded, give me tangible evidence for any argument and I'm all ears...
I think atheists come off as mean spirited sometimes because there's no easy way to tell a religious person that you think everything they believe is ridiculous.
Which is easier or more logical to consider. We just MAGICALLY appeared by accident from STAR DUST, Or there was some design involved? Where did the star dust come from? I mean i was not there but I think the idea that it just ,OPS, happened is a non starter for anyone with a brain. God is a question of faith but surely some design has to be in the creation of all things!
About how "star dust" created life, science does not have clear answers yet. But that humans and chimps have common ancestors is very well proven fact, there is no "star dust" mystery about that.
Perhaps then you can please tell me who is the designer of God?
There are some very interesting ideas about how things went from nothing to stars to planets to life to us. Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean nobody does. To say God is the creator simply begs the question, where did God come from? The theory of God answers nothing.
But you think it is logical that a MAGICAL being was involved? You refute your own argument.
Wade.... I agree that there is many unknowns..... but for any religion to claim that their GOD created the universe is sillier to me and has a lower probability than the idea of star dust forming over millions of years into different living organisms that continued to expand and grow?? I know I am made up of molecules all found in outer space.... I don't believe the creator grabbed a rib from Adam and made Eve and I'm lineage from that?nope
Both scenarios seem absurd don't they:
NON-RELIGIOUS = Nothing existed, then it it did. (Or, it always existed if you are in that train of thought)
RELIGIOUS = Nothing existed, then a being that always existed (god) created it.
Either way, something comes out of nothing – OR something always existed. Its pretty much the same argument, except one of them has a dude in the sky that used to be very cruel and vindictive to us (old testament), then decided to change his ways and be a helluva guy (new testament).
Science at least tries to explain where we come from and the stars and has testable, repeatable experiments that provide some truths. Religion just says "Ah, just trust us, young lad!"
Im not sure why you think some "design" need be in the creation of things though.
You want know who God is? Advanced extraterrestrials that came down to Earth long ago. That's the only logical answer to this debate. Billions of stars in our galaxy and billions of galaxies. It's statistically improbable that there aren't more advanced species out there and some must have visited us to create the religious stories we now have. It's the only logical answer.
Given that that is a possible explanation it does not take a way from a grand design. Just paints a different face on the creator.
What, so you could mock it?
It is statistically likely there is more life in the universe but it is also statistically likely that it is really really far away. If a planet has life 1,000 light years away, it is unlikely we will ever know. Human psycology offers reasonable explanations for why humans create religion.
God gave us the knowledge and inquisitiveness to seek out answers to complex questions. That said, God gave us Science.
Do you have any evidence to back up this claim?
If God is a smart guy who gave us a science then he can't be the stupid guy who wrote absurd fairy tales called the bible.
According to the bible, "God created man in his own image". There are a lot of idiots out there, so I guess God is an idiot.
but...... there are awesome people out there...... yeah.... lets say he is awesome and ignore the any facts
Pics or it didn't happen.
One thing i never understood was the thought that without a creator that our lives are without purpose. I would pose the opposite. With the interference of a creator, a grand design, would we not have lost the ability to determine the directions of our lives? It is often said that we cannot know the purpose of a god therefore to presume that a god would not interfere with the direction we take cannot be guaranteed, nor would it even be known. Did you really mean to watch that child to die in a fire or did god have some greater design in mind an prevent you from attempting a rescue? I think it is a bit of a cop out to continully say "it is god's will" when we really mean that we were too afraid to act.
Charles Darwin himself even said that evolution does not conclude how we came to be, so why is this debate even looming? Take this quote from Darwin's diary: "I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble to us"
Do you think science may have progressed in 160 years?
That was in the 1800's dude. We have learned a LOT since Charles Darwin's time. Might want to look that up because scientists are very close to discovering how life started. Hint – there's no magical sky fairies involved.
I'd love to hear how science has proven how we came to be. Please, humor me!
It doesn't matter how long ago it was. He was right in saying that it is 'insoluble'. Meaning no matter how smart we get, and how many clues we oncover, we won't be able to answer – Where did this all come from?
Evolution theory is not a disproof of creationism. They can both exist. Just because things evolve, does not mean there isn't a creator.
Bingo! That's what I've been trying to say. Darwin was much brighter than these fairly tale sheeple. He understood that we'll never be able to explain the beginning.
But applying the Scientific Method will get you closer to the actual truth than just dismissing it all with a 'God made it!", right?
Closer to what truth? It will always come down to a faith-based question – Where did we come from? or How did it start?
As a Christian I get so tired of media instigated fights between ignorant Christians and ignorant atheists. If you truly believe that calling another person an idiot for not believing what you believe will convince them then you are as stupid as me for hoping this post will stop you from writing such a thing.
But a sensible approach like that doesn't make it easy to turn this whole thing into a team sport. What fun is that!?
A few things you might try, just to reinforce your ability to express yourself: Logic, Rhetoric and sentence construction. Perhaps you can pray to your God to give you these things?
I doubt such a debate will move either participant off their position. Bill Nye's position that to understand science and innovate etc. is in conflict with creationism is just plain misguided. Science and creationism can and do coexist. The innvoations he references come to be even with many people holding a creationism view so simply looking at history proves is view is inaccurate.
So when you can carbon date things older than 6000 years explain how these two theories can coexist.
They cannot if a serious debate is to happen. I think there could be amazing bridge-building conversations about the issues of spirituality and science. But they won't happen if delusion and religious zealotry is the foundation. Would Mr. Ham have us go back and debate the scientific nature/proof of gravity or chemistry? I don't think these issues are mutually exclusive, they can exist together but not in the way the Creation Museum would like because it doesn't match their precious ancient text.
SunnysMom – just a side note on your comment. If you look at our textbooks, we still see gravity (and some other things we take for granted as fact) as theory. This is because we still do not have absolute knowlede of how gravity works. This is important in the context of the 'debate' they are having because we need to be careful listening to some scientists spew theory as if they are talking about facts. Our understanding of the universe around is in 50 years will likely be very different based on our history and development of scientific technique.
I assume you are talking about an interpretation of the Adam and Eve story when you bring up 'carbon dating' – the "how can people have only been on earth for 4000 years if we have found bones from much earlier' arguement. Even if the Adam and Eve story is literal, that doesn't mean that science could disprove creationism. You still need to answer – How did this all start.
I have always though that humans may have existed in some form on the earth for thousands of years before 'The breath of life' was given to Adam, starting the relationship between man and the created earth.
I think this is exactly backwards. Evolution and religion can coexist. Creationism and science never will. Science doesn't know all the answers. It doesn't know how life started, or how the universe came into being. But science can absolutely demonstrate that evolution took place and continues to take place, and any religion that decides to base its legitimacy on that not being true is destined for failure.
Yesterday's religion is today's mythology. Today's religion will be tomorrow's mythology. It must be incredibly difficult to realize that what you've thought/been told your whole life is hogwash. I'm glad I don't have to go through that; I wasn't brainwashed.
I agree....... isn't life grand!
Even if you don't have a religion you still have to come to terms with dying one day. We all do. Sooner or later you are going to want to pick up an NDE medical journal, or a ghost story...something.
you only know what you know...... I am intrigue by those stories..... I have strong feelings about our energy and I like to think that our energy is not exhausted when we leave the physical world, but I still don't know what that looks like....
It would be pretty awesome if science was looking at consciousness studies more often.
I do.... consciousness is something that hurts my brain when I try to wrap my head around it..... You have people that need hard facts and people who have blind faith.... I think I just want to explore answers to questions that hurt my brain.
I would also say that yesterday's science is today's misunderstanding. Scientific understanding 'evolves' much faster than religion
At the end of the day one should ask...
What do Atheist have to gain/lose if they are wrong? ... nothing.
What do religious people have to gain/lose if they are wrong... everything.
The other day I had a chat with a very, VERY Christian co-worker of mine and he kept going on and on about his new smart phone and how great it was to have this type of technology. I could only smile and nod and was waiting for him to end it with... God is good to let us have this technology... isn't he? =)
What you choose to think is or isn't doesn't matter. What matters is what is or what isn't.
The choice we make – baboons or God's creation. Bill Nye chose baboons. Ken Ham chose to be God's creation. I chose to be God's creation too. How about you?
Just GUESSING like you are.
You know little about which you speak.
Baboons... at least they don't tell me I'm going to suffer for all eternity if I don't bow to their every whim.
I an descendant of my parents. I thought everyone arrived that way.
Baboons? Try harder.
You obviously do not understand the theory of human evolution
but hey, while you're here.............. which god?
The problem with your statement is that evolution is a fact. Just as we know the planets orbit the sun, we know that we evolved from a common ancestor which we share with chimpanzees. It isn't a choice, it just is.
If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.
Ooh, Rush! Good one!
Love the Rush reference 🙂
That is a fallacy because one of things to be decided upon (creationism) is complete fiction.
You think that is a choice ? Have you ever heard that DNA test can be used to determine paternity ? It can also be used to detect distant cousins and it says chimps are our cousins. Whether we like it or not does not change anything.
I choose to use my intelligence to understand that a scientific theory is not the same thing as a religously founded ideal that lacks the basic qualities needed in order meet the basis for a theory. Creationism is and always will a crackpot idea or religious fanactics unable to see the light of logic
Hmmmm, I choose to be the offspring of Zeus and a human woman!!
All of the Christians would call this debate a waste of time, a show, and mockery if Ken Ham was spouting off bunk science crafted to support the creation myths of ancient greece. Why is it that your creation story deserves to be considered science? How exactly is anything you believe more reliable, from the standpoint of the origins of the universe, than any of the other eastern religions, viking myths, roman gods, or pastafarians? Why is it that 99.9% of scientist hold that evolution is true? Is it really that big of a conspiracy? Is almost every scienctist on earth having secret meetings trying to figure out how to keep there lie from folding? There is no aganda, if the facts, the data, the countless papers, the studies, the computer models, THE EVIDENCE pointed towards the creation model than that is what 99.9% of scientist would believe. It simply does not. While I respect everyones right to believe in whatever deity they want, I simply do not respect the attempt to force "scientific religion" on anyone let alone children. Facts are facts, and unfourtunatly for the creationist team, it isnt in your corner.
How can this even be debated, one side has complete proof the other sides entire argument is "you just have to believe it".
Sadly – as you know, people who support creationism cannot accept that they very well may be here by chance alone. Without a special purpose, what direction do they have? What meaning can their lives hold? To everyone stuck in denial about the path of evolution, please read a wonderful book called The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins. If one is capable of reading the advanced language contained within and also capable of comprehension on a collegiate level, the natural progression backward in time from present day to millions of years ago will reveal truth more clearly than you keep imagining it to be.
A guy once told me ,"I believe in god". I said ,"which one?" He said,"the only one". I asked, "where is he?" He answered, "god is everywhere." I said, "SHOW ME !"
did it make you feel superior?
I really can't understand these creationists. Why can't they just believe empirical evidence
and accept that the theory of evolution is right, and then just stipulate that evolution is god's
work and plan.
Creationists don't believe in evolution because they just don't understand what it is. Proof
of the theory of evolution is EVERYWHERE AROUND US. COWS, DOGS, CATS, ALL
PRODUCTS OF EVOLUTION BY ARTIFICIAL SELECTION, OPEN YOUR EYES PEOPLE !!!
Artificial selection and Natural selection are the same, they just don't happen at the same
rate of speed.
Natural evolution does not just 'happen' There is no such thing as micro or macro evolution.
All evolution is microscopic and slow, it's a continuous process, it's happening all the time over
billions of years.
Don't confuse "Creationalists" with "Fundamentalist Creationalists." The issue here is not with "Creationalists." It's with "Fundamentalist Creationalists." It's hardly ever mentioned in discussions, but there is a huge difference. Most mainline Christians are "Creationalists" i.e., accepting evolution to the starting point, including "The Big Bang", but acknowledging that, at some point, somewhere, God started it. Everything the scientists have shown is quite acceptable. But at some point, something did not suddenly come out of nothing. Whether that something was a spec, a sparc, a quark or whatever, there is no conflict to believe that whatever happened – and continues to unfurl and be discovered – is according to "God's plan."
The problem – and what gets the spotlight in all this – is Fundamentalist Creationalists – who claim that if it isn't in the Bible, it didn't happen.
Please don't lump the nearly 1 billion Christians who have no issue with reconciling evolution and ongoing scientific discovery as part of God's plan, and those vocal minority who claim the God spelled everything there is to know and understand in a book out for humans to understand, and so if it's not in the book, it didn't happen.
God, Allah, Jesus, heaven...whatever....is simply man's way of living forever because he cannot tolerate the fact that when he dies, he simply dies like any other animal on the planet. And if Mr. Ham simply wants to say an infallible God created a fallible man...are you saying he created an imperfect being? Wow, guess God isn't all that perfect after all. He knows all, see all, past and future....so, by that silly reckoning, when God created the Angels, he knew Lucifer would come of it....God knew when he created Adam and Eve that the apple would be eaten and he would cast them out, he knew He would flood the world with Noah, blast Sodom and Gomorrah for too much fun etc etc....sounds like God created a pretty crappy life for those "made in his image", and he knew it would happen. Why? Does this omnipotent being really need some species on this planet to "worship" him to feel important? He needs his ego stroked? Religion is funny, cracks me up.
I'm pretty sure you don't know everything there is to know about the universe and people. Nice theory, though. It is not logical or factual, just your opinion.
Religion always strikes me as the ultimate arrogance of man because, as you allude to, in religion man has conveniently invented a way for him to live forever in opulence while simultaneously condemning his enemies to an eternity of torture.