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. davessworks

    Bill Nye has a BS in Mechanical Engineering. That is the extent of his education. He is a popular entertainer. Please would someone explain to me why we would listen to his opinion in this matter and why it has any bearing?

    February 4, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
  2. JW

    Belief in Evolution—An Act of “Faith”

    -Why do many prominent evolutionists insist that macroevolution is a fact?

    Richard Lewontin, an influential evolutionist, candidly wrote that many scientists are willing to accept unproven scientific claims because they “have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.”* Many scientists refuse even to consider the possibility of an intelligent Designer because, as Lewontin writes, “we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”30
    In this regard, sociologist Rodney Stark is quoted in Scientific American as saying: “There’s been 200 years of marketing that if you want to be a scientific person you’ve got to keep your mind free of the fetters of religion.” He further notes that in research universities, “the religious people keep their mouths shut.”

    If you are to accept the teaching of macroevolution as true, you must believe that agnostic or atheistic scientists will not let their personal beliefs influence their interpretations of scientific findings. You must believe that mutations and natural selection produced all complex life-forms, despite a century of research that shows that mutations have not transformed even one properly defined species into something entirely new. You must believe that all creatures gradually evolved from a common ancestor, despite a fossil record that strongly indicates that the major kinds of plants and animals appeared abruptly and did not evolve into other kinds, even over aeons of time. Does that type of belief sound as though it is based on facts or on myths? Really, belief in evolution is an act of “faith.”.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:37 pm |
    • JonPeter

      JW – why do you and other creationists try to define what a creator could or could not do ? If there is a creator, then everything in the universe is the work of the creator, including evolution. Do you deny all the evidence the creator has put in the universe for us to learn ?? To do so would be heresy...

      February 4, 2014 at 7:42 pm |
      • JW

        In Genesis God says that he created each creature by its "kind". Now, in between all the "kinds" there are varieties.
        For example: Human can produce people of different colors, tall, short, different eye colors....etc

        February 4, 2014 at 7:46 pm |
        • Mr Phoenix J

          The problem here, JW is that you are taking literature that has been translated and handed down for thousands of years literally. And in a language that wasn't even invented when the Old Testament was written. That is patently absurd. What you are really doing is taking the word of ancient man over your own eyes. Again, you're denying the very nature of God's Creation and in doing so commit blasphemy against God.

          Is it just that the Universe is too big and scary for you to even admit the possibility that it is so vast? That time stretches far beyond what is narrowly defined in the Bible? I think so. I think this is about your fear. Get over it, friend. Reality isn't going anywhere. God would want it that way, I'm sure.

          February 4, 2014 at 8:17 pm |
  3. JimBoston

    We share 99.8% of our DNA with chimpanzees.

    If God created man in his image, and Y-DNA is passed down from father to son, and the first Y-DNA Haplogroups of A, B, C, D are all found among African men, wouldn't this mean God is black?

    I'll bet most creationists will disagree with that too.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:37 pm |
    • Grim R.

      God can be a stream of sentience that runs through the universe making matter behave the way it does. Or the collective unconscious by Carl Jung, or even that level of emotion that was being measured prior too and after 9-11 (I forget what that was called) you can always rework theism to fit around whatever you need it to fit around.

      February 4, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
    • xsmokedoutx

      Um.......if God procreated the answer would be yes. I don't think anyone is saying God used his DNA for anything, only his image(And Christs and the Holy Spirits image...I think....He said let's make man in our image so I guess that's who he was talking to...?)

      February 4, 2014 at 7:44 pm |
  4. Grim R.

    Religions serve as a way of coping with our eventual end. If we weren't eventually going to end people wouldn't fight you on this.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:36 pm |
  5. sn

    Why do we have to believe that ONLY the Bible has the answer to all of life's questions.. it's insular, narrow, ignorant and downright silly to avoid any discussion of what other faiths believe.. the Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs etc.

    Each faith has a set of beliefs that they hold true for themselves and the world.. its pointless to pick ONLY one book and pretend that this book is the ONLY book of faith.

    Hindus for instance believe that life originated from the primordial sound – leading to a series of events that actually quite mirror the science of evolution.

    So is the world ready to STOP believing that only one book has all or the right answers? This debate is the modern day version of the Flat Earth debate of the middle ages ..

    February 4, 2014 at 7:34 pm |
    • Grim R.

      I don't think most of us do believe that the Bible has any answers. You can blend any number of those faith origins of humanity and it won't equal one science book. Still science isn't transplanting our brains into robotic bodies (yet) so there in lies the problem.

      February 4, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
    • xsmokedoutx

      No one has to believe the Bible! No one can force you to believe it! Man has free will. And as for the Hindu beliefs you speak of, sounds like evolution was around a lot longer than Darwinism!

      February 4, 2014 at 7:40 pm |
  6. ironbloodfleshythoughtstones

    Consciousness (God/Gods/Goddesses whatever you may call IT) takes every point of view...It can manifest as an atheist or a believer and claim it does not exist concurrently claiming it's existence...Words fail to describe reality...all philosophies and theories come and go and are therefore at most rational inferences on the subject...It's interesting enough to know that the universe as you can inquire unto it's origins...I trust these debates will get them both laid (their off spring will appear) and the universe will continue to debate it's appearance and disappearance for a long long time...

    February 4, 2014 at 7:34 pm |
  7. JimBoston

    Ham is full of bologna.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:32 pm |
    • Paul

      Nye is full of lies.

      February 4, 2014 at 7:35 pm |
      • JB

        Cite them.

        February 4, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
  8. JohnRJohnson

    This guy Ham was a science teacher in a public school. Good grief. He's incapable to distinguishing between faith and wishful thinking. He also calls himself a scientist, when his science is based on the intervention of a supernatural being.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:31 pm |
    • glenview0818

      I think Ham is coming across as a creationist, not a scientist.

      February 4, 2014 at 7:34 pm |
  9. glenview0818

    The only thing as preposterous as saying there is no god, is saying there is one. As if any life form evolving out of the chemical slime on the surface of a minor planet would have the intellectual level to make that type of judgement. One can have faith without knowing, but if you think you know for sure, then you are kidding yourself.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:31 pm |
  10. Bob

    Creationists actually prove evolution. Unfortunately, they prove it by climbing back down the evolutionary tree.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:30 pm |
  11. Craig

    Ham=nut job

    February 4, 2014 at 7:29 pm |
  12. Jim

    I remember, in school in the 60s, learning about the Scopes monkey trial. Raised a Catholic and Jewish on part of the family, I couldn't believe that the teacher in Tennessee (hope I have that right) in the 1920s was hounded and degraded for teaching evolution. Of course there's evolution, it's in front of us all! I had believed then and pretty much still do, that God essentially "set the rules" or what have you, for physics, biology, etc., and let it run. It seems that those who believe in such nonsense as creationism don't so much believe in God as have a dire fear of Him, that if they don't believe every single thing in the Bible and in their own beliefs, that they will have dire consequences. You go get 'em, Bill Nye!

    February 4, 2014 at 7:29 pm |
  13. JohnRJohnson

    This "debate" is a joke. Bill Nye is a mechanical engineer by education. He shouldn't be debating this charlatan. A evolutionary biologist should be debating Ham. Nye is a showman. He's not a scientist by trade. This notion that ANY kind of science could include a supernatural creator is preposterous. What I'm hearing now coming from Ham is a lot of wishful thinking and false analogies.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:29 pm |
  14. JohnRJohnson

    Bill Nye is a mechanical engineer by education. He shouldn't be debating this charlatan. A evolutionary biologist should be debating Ham. Nye is a showman. He's not a scientist by trade. This notion that ANY kind of science could include a supernatural creator is preposterous. What I'm hearing now coming from Ham is a lot of wishful thinking and false analogies.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:28 pm |
    • Andrew Wilson

      Yeah, but most mechanical engineers receive a great deal of training in physics and mathematics. Bill Nye has also been teaching science for a long time, so that extends his scientific learning to a larger scope than just an engineer. But I agree, for this particular debate something closer to an evolutionary physicist would be better suited.

      February 4, 2014 at 7:30 pm |
  15. JimBoston

    God also said ham is an unclean meat and to stay away from it.

    February 4, 2014 at 7:28 pm |
    • JW

      That law is not valid today anymore...Though we cannot deny that pork meat does much damage to our body!

      February 4, 2014 at 7:29 pm |
      • JimBoston

        That one went over your head.

        February 4, 2014 at 7:31 pm |
        • JW

          This one went over your head as well...

          February 4, 2014 at 7:36 pm |
  16. sn

    So this is SILLY okay .. who says that the beliefs in ONE faith system / book is THE view on Creationism?

    February 4, 2014 at 7:28 pm |
    • Andrew Wilson

      This is where I agree with you. Too often in America the media defines the debate as "Christian creationism versus atheistic science/evolution." First of all, most fundamentalists such as Jews, Hindus, or Muslims ALSO believe in some form of creationism, i.e an intelligent force causing some or all of what we see in the natural world. Second, there are a million shades of variation in between complete fundamentalist interpretations and complete atheistic materialism, including all kinds of philosophic and scientific views. We do a disservice to all people when we oversimplify the debate.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:49 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.