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What I learned moderating the creation/evolution debate
Creationist Ken Ham makes a point in Tuesday's debate with Bill Nye, the "science guy."
February 5th, 2014
08:49 AM ET

What I learned moderating the creation/evolution debate

By Tom Foreman, CNN

CNN's Tom Foreman moderated the "creation debate" Tuesday night in Petersburg, Kentucky, between Bill "the Science Guy" Nye and creationist Ken Ham.

(CNN) - It says something when a person shows up at the Creation Museum wearing a top that says, "This is my atheist T-shirt."

At least that's what I think it said. I saw it in a blur as she passed in the parking lot; a thirtysomething with a young boy in tow, striding through the bitter winds of Kentucky to visit a place that proclaims those who deny the existence of God are dead wrong.

I thought about chasing her down to ask her what had compelled her to come, but it would have been a foolish question.

She was here to see a fight. And I was here to play the referee, to moderate a debate on a question that has raged for well over a century: Was humankind created by God in a rush of divine power, or did we evolve over time with only nature to take the credit?

Or as the organizers put it: "Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era?"

About 900 people snapped up tickets to this event just a few minutes after they went on sale, and I was told they expected at least "hundreds of thousands ... maybe a million or more" to watch as it streamed online.

It was not just the topic drawing the throngs. For this crowd, the debaters really mattered.

On the left (literally for the audience, and figuratively in every other way) was the champion for the evolutionary side.

Bill Nye, "the Science Guy," made fundamentalist Christian heads snap recently when he declared it was flat-out wrong for children to be taught creationism.

I met him in a room behind the stage as the audience milled around, waiting for the event to begin. Having just spoken to an adoring crowd of science fans at a university the night before, he feared he was in hostile territory.

MORE ON CNN: 'Creation debate' recap: Science, religion and terrible jokes

"I think my agent is the only one on my side," he said, only half-joking. "I think the other 899 people in here don't really see it my way."

It was hard to tell. Aside from the woman with the T-shirt, there were others wearing pro-Nye gear, but no good way to count them.

Still, it looked like his supporters were probably in the minority, and I mentioned to him that some scientists were grousing online he was validating the creationist argument by even showing up. "So why are you here?" I asked.

"I'm here for the U.S. economy," he said. "See, what keeps the United States in the game for the world economy is our ability to innovate, to have new ideas, and those inventions come from science."

"And you see creationism as sort of poisoning the well for science?"

"Yes. I mean, I'm all for (creationism) in philosophy class, history of religion class, human psychology class," but bring it into science class, and Nye gets upset.

And that is what disturbs Nye's debate opponent. Ken Ham is a rock star in the creationist community who is quick to point out his own educational credentials and those of other scientists who support creationist views.

He is one of the founders of the Creation Museum, where dinosaurs are depicted as living alongside humans and the Great Flood of Noah is an indisputable fact.

He believes it is fundamentally unfair of folks like Nye to push creationism further into the educational shadows and to deny what Ham sees as its scientific components. (Ham concedes, though, that the great number of scientists and citizens agree with Nye: evolution is real.)

I first met Ham back when the museum was being built, and he greeted me Tuesday night in his affable, Australian manner just outside the room where Nye was waiting.

"I must admit I'm a little nervous," Ham told me looking out at the audience. "I want to passionately present my case and defend what I believe, but we never imagined it would become this big. It's amazing. Just shocked all of us."

It was impressive to see how much interest the event generated. A riser with a phalanx of production cameras sat in the middle of the room, 70 or so journalists were clustered to one side of the stage, and security officers seemed to be all over the place.

I was told that metal detectors were being used to screen the audience, and I saw what I presume were explosive-sniffing dogs quietly working the hallways.

Both sides in this debate know the subject matter can spur extreme feelings, and they did all they could to make sure extreme actions didn't follow.

Just the same, one organizer pointed out a corner some 30 feet behind my spot on the stage. A door there opens to the parking lot, he said, "just in case, for any reason, you need to get out fast."

The advice was appreciated but unnecessary. The crowd proved to be polite, attentive and admirably restrained through the entire 2½-hour debate.

So were the debaters. Although they were firmly on opposite sides of the fence, Ham and Nye presented their arguments calmly and respectfully. Neither tried to shout the other down.

I spent my time listening to what they had to say, watching the clock to make sure they got equal time and trying to ensure people in each camp felt their man was treated fairly. Both debaters shook hands at the end to rousing applause. It was not a fight after all.

MORE ON CNN: Ken Ham: Why I'm debating Bill Nye about creationism

Considering the depth of feelings people have about this issue, I asked both men before we began if they expected to change anyone's opinion.

Ham said, "I will present (my information) trying to change people's minds, but knowing as a Christian it is God who changes people's minds, not me."

Nye said, "Here is my hope: I will remind Kentucky voters that this is a serious issue and that it is inappropriate to include creationism as an alternative to ... the body of knowledge and the process called science."

MORE ON CNN: Bill Nye: Why I'm debating creationist Ken Ham

By the time the debate was done, a fierce winter storm had settled in. I waded through the Creation Museum parking lot ankle deep in snow, with sleet pelting down. And I think it was a worthwhile evening - a debate humankind was created to have, or to which we evolved.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Creationism • Culture & Science • Evolution • Science

soundoff (3,342 Responses)
  1. TJ

    I love all of you evolutionists. My simple reaction to logic in my own scientific processes is that order, as it exists for those of us on the earth, most probably did not accidentally occur. In other words, all matter, living or not changes for the worse over time and does not appear to fall into a more perfect order or improve. We "discover" traces of God and think we have created something. I choose to live life to the fullest through joy of discovering His "art" like fractals, birth, consciousness, seasons, animals, the "mighty deep" thanks to a Creator rather than accidental and inconsequential life, while hanging in the perfect orbit between burning up and freezing, complete with the earth's own washing machine, the ocean, which cycles on accidental moon power. I personally require much more faith to believe in accidental perfection and life which we cannot create, but only play with while we stomp our little feet and shake our fist at Truth, The Author of Love.

    The promise form the One who made you and knows you and loves you: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Jesus' words from Matthew chapter 7 verse 7

    I believe Darwin to have said on his deathbed, "...there is a God... I wish I'd known him" You don't have to die without the truth. It's just vanity in my view. I see if we can get over our natural behavior to rebel against authority we will also fill the void in our souls that nothing else can fill. The "peace that passes all understanding"
    I believe the words from
    1 Corinthians 13:12 English Standard Version (ESV)
    "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."
    I know it is a hard thing to let go of your already knowing, educated uber-intellectual views, but I feel that is your only hope.
    A child can do it but the more you fight it the harder it is for you to see. "Fight" being the key word. It's Darwin's last words I remind you of. That doesn't have to be you.
    Peace

    February 5, 2014 at 10:37 am |
    • Lisa

      So if God didn't want us to use it, why did he give us reason?

      February 5, 2014 at 10:41 am |
      • TJ

        I believe we have done a fair job of using reason as leaders from other countries routinely tour and study at our judicial centers in awe of the most fair and honest approach to justice the world has ever known. This same system was set up with morality and justice as the foundation. I feel your pain.
        Have to bail for work....

        February 5, 2014 at 10:47 am |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Your view is perfect for you, TJ. Simplistic enough to hold onto your preconceived biases, and just barely intricate enough for you to pretend it's not.

          February 5, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
      • Jack Brooks

        Since every effect has to have a sufficient cause, and since molecules aren't sentient, the existence of reason presupposes a spiritual Reasoner.

        February 6, 2014 at 11:39 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Christians arguing stories from their bible vs. scientific facts is like arguing about Santa's sleigh flying ... sure it says it flies in the stories but the facts are that there is no Santa (sorry kids), there is no magic sleigh, and there are no magical reindeer to guide his sleigh tonight. Anyone using any story in the bible as a fact to argue against scientifically proven evidence is deluding themselves and annoying the sane.

      And you Christians wonder why we atheists sound annoyed all the time.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:42 am |
      • TJ

        I don't blame you bro, I blame your teachers... It's all good. Don't you agree? Debate, that is.

        February 5, 2014 at 10:49 am |
      • Bob

        But there is a "Book" out there that says Santa and his sleigh are real!

        February 5, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
      • Jack Brooks

        If you were truly reasonable, you would read the best examples of Christian philosophy - whether Aquinas (from the classical period) or modern writers such as Ravi Zacharias, R.C. Sproul, or even a popularizer like C.S. Lewis. If all you do is insulate your mind with atheist writers, and focus on wackos like Pat Robertson, you are intellectually dishonest.

        February 6, 2014 at 11:42 am |
    • Madtown

      shake our fist at Truth
      ----
      Why christianity? You can believe in God without religion, all religions are a creation of the human mind. There are humans on earth at this very moment, who've never heard of Jesus and never will. How can christianity be "truth" when this is the case?

      February 5, 2014 at 10:59 am |
      • TJ

        God promises in His word, the Bible that no one will live without a chance to make the choice to acknowledge Him or reject Him. Not to worry about those few who have never heard the great news about God's love for them. Just like the children who never get to make the choice, whether they were born or not. God watches out for His babies.

        Why Christianity? Because we follow Christ, because we celebrate the birth of Christ, the death and the resurrection of Him. We are Christ followers. Religion has always sullied the mix. Christian Crusaders or Muslim purification, tens of thousands have died in the name of God. Jesus was not religious, he just did and spoke what His Dad said to. We make up religions to make ourselves feel comfortable with what our itching ears want to hear. Churches saying gay is ok is an example. That is a religion that teaches not what the Bible says but what they decide is appropriate given our "much more evolved and smarter human condition" these days. Religion... no thanks. My redeemer, Christ, heck yeah!!!

        February 5, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
      • Bob

        And what about the people who were long gone from the earth before Jesus was even born? Are they banished for not having faith in someone who was yet to exist? People like Moses did not have faith in Christ, because he wasn't born yet.

        February 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm |
        • Jack Brooks

          The message of "salvation" was first taught in Genesis 3, and illustrated in Genesis 15; not in Jesus' time.

          February 6, 2014 at 11:44 am |
        • Gene

          They had faith in the coming Redeemer. God first promised a Redeemer (the offspring of woman) in Genesis 3:15 and gave many more promises (each with a little more detail) throughout the Old Testament. This Redeemer was to be through Abraham... Judah... and David. He was to be born in Bethlehem. And in Isaiah 53, it gives remarkable detail, including that it would be "by his stripes that we are healed." Isaiah lived 700 years before Christ, and the Dead Sea Scrolls actually contain an intact manuscript of the book of Isaiah known as the Great Isaiah Scroll that scholars agree dates to nearly 200 years before Christ's birth. There were actually over 90 distinct prophecies about the coming Redeemer that were fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection account of Jesus Christ. The odds of this happening by chance are astronomical. Those who looked forward to the day of the Redeemer trusted God and His promises and were included just as we who have the benefit of looking back into history (1 Peter 1:10-12; Hebrews 1:1-2). I believe the best explanation of this is outlined: 1) The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ. 2) The requirement for salvation in every age is faith. 3) The object of faith in every age is God. 4) The content of faith changes in the various dispensations.

          February 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
    • SFC Mike

      You're repeating a common misunderstanding of entropy, but not using the proper scope. You don't need to consider evolution, just look at the growth of any living organism. I have two kittens sleeping on my desk now, almost 8 month old sisters. Before they were born, they were a pair of cat eggs and a pair of cat sperm in another cat. They showed up at a shelter at about four weeks old, weighing ~425 grams or so (15 ounces). They are now larger, weighing about 8 lbs, with about 3 times the body length and leg height, and correspondingly larger bones, organs, muscles, more fur, etc.

      Within the scope of two kittens on my desk, there is a clear increase in order and complexity. Expand that scope to include the kitten food and water they've consumed, the things they knocked off my desk to earn a desk bed, the litter box I've cleaned, etc., and the systematic entropy is clearly increasing.

      Cell biology is the same way – the cell itself may be highly organized, and order increased in comparison to the raw materials which make up the cell, but when you look at the total inputs and total outputs of all matter and energy, the overall entropy of the system increases.

      The aspects of evolution to which you refer follow the same pattern – some localized increase in order and complexity, but an overall decrease in order and complexity on a broad scale, regardless of the local increases. Evolution does not affect overall entropy in a manner inconsistent with the laws of physics on a properly defined scale in space and time – especially when you consider things like failed mutations, decomposition of organisms, etc.

      February 5, 2014 at 11:24 am |
    • Barcs

      Sorry TJ, there is no such thing as an evolutionist. Better luck next time.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:45 pm |
      • TJ

        I beg to differ.

        evolutionist (ˌiːvəˈluːʃənɪst)
        n
        1. (Biology) a person who believes in a theory of evolution, esp Darwin's theory of the evolution of plant and animal species

        adj
        2. (Biology) of or relating to a theory of evolution
        ˌevoˈlutionˌism n ˌevolutionˈistic adj
        Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

        February 5, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Awesome. I am an Algebraist. I believe in algebra,. and it's proofs.

          February 5, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
        • foolishmortal

          I'm an atomist and a gravitationist and a thermodynamicist but not a perpetual motionist. Who knew?

          February 6, 2014 at 2:18 am |
    • Sara

      Its an Urban legend that Darwin admitted to god on his death bed, just a little research on your part would be need to know that fact. Also, if you believe god created the world in 7 day rely on your faith. Stop trying to validate faith, it's not possible or needed. Do you all feel so insecure and are so narcissistic that you need to be validated as right by non-evangelicals? The point of faith is to believe when the facts are against the evidence. you wan tto know how you all can gain real respect? Stop trying to like the Scientists and just admit its faith. Then live like Jesus, not your like you choice of politicians. If you all put Jesus first instead of your political agendas, you would gain real respect. People respect truthful people, regardless of how ridiculous the message. People don't respect those that try to force their faith, ideology and region on others or the government.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
    • william

      Darwin's last words were to his family, telling Emma "I am not the least afraid of death – Remember what a good wife you have been to me – Tell all my children to remember how good they have been to me",

      February 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
    • Deep Time

      Lean not upon your own understanding
      Ignorance is well and truly blessed
      Trust in perfect love, and perfect planning
      Everything will turn out for the best

      February 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
    • Raytheist

      Sorry, but the myth of Darwin's deathbed conversion is just bollocks.

      February 6, 2014 at 7:42 am |
    • El Tomato

      You're missing the point. Nye is NOT arguing that there isn't a Creator or that there is no God. He's just refuting the ridiculous assertions by some creationists to refute clear evidence of evolutionary theory, or suggest that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Plenty of evolutionary scientists will agree with you that God created the world. It's just the scientific system he used to do so that seems to be in disagreement.

      February 6, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
  2. ChrisM

    Bill Nye .......100

    Ken Ham.........a big fat Zero

    February 5, 2014 at 10:36 am |
    • Barcs

      I mean, did anybody with a brain expect anything different?

      February 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
  3. mpoidvin

    The one thing in the format that frankly was wrong was Ken being allowed to have' scientists' say they are creationists. They were not there t defend their position so they should not have been heard from.

    Particularly the astronomer who said falsely, wild falsely that nothing in astronomy contradicts the universe being 6000 years old.

    Nothing in astronomy ? The entire science is based on calculations that use the speed of light and we know that objects are millions of light years away. Yet this man has the nerve to make this statement, leaving a very false impression. It was a flat out lie.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:35 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      well said!

      February 5, 2014 at 10:43 am |
    • Gene

      It's not a lie when both the big bang theory and creationism share the same problem with the light travel-time issue. It's called the horizon problem, and Ken Ham cited it in the debate. If both models have the same problem in essence, then that problem can't be used to support one model over the other.

      February 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
    • David Schaffer

      When God created the Heavens and the Earth who said that He had it all be placed at a localized distance? He created all things and therefor what we measure as 100 million light years could have been placed that distance away from the very beginning. Also remember that Biblical Scripture actually talks about the Heavens expanding before science affirmed this. So in retrospect that scientist is correct as there is nothing to disprove his statement. I think you are angry about it because there were multiple Creationist in the field of science that spoke out to disprove Mr. Nye's theory that Creationist hinder science. I guess the world would be better off with out the MRI and other inventions created by Creationist since in his words "they hinder the advancement of science."

      February 6, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
      • Nick

        From what I have been able to find, Nye never said creationists can' t do science, rather that teaching children creationism instead of science will do so. Ham used a rhetorical trick called "poisoning the well" to strongly imply that that was Nye's position, and as expected, Ham's unquestioning followers ate it up. In other words, this good christian man is a prevaricator.

        February 7, 2014 at 3:26 am |
  4. Dyslexic doG

    41,000 christian sects all believing something different based on the deeply flawed, contradictory, historically inaccurate, wildly fanciful bronze age story book. Some believe in creationism, some don't, but christians can't be too picky about other Christians' beliefs, lest they all look stupid.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:34 am |
    • Mychele

      There is as much evidence for the Native American creationist beliefs involving Spider Grandmother & Turtle Island as there are for the Christian ideas of 6 days, 6000 yrs ago. Both stories are written down. Both are retold. The latter is not pushed upon us though but is lyrical and sensitive to the beauty of the concept and the deeper appreciation of creation.
      Many Christians are up in arms about Creation, but seem hell-bent on destroying all of creation, and that in and of itself seems to make a mockery of all the claims.

      February 5, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
  5. EighteenCharacters

    What I learned from watching the debate:

    Scientists have questions, and look for answers.

    Creationists have an answer, and apply it to every question.

    I'll take science. It's self-correcting.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:23 am |
    • bigd

      Ham says science is about knowledge yet his entire world view is faith based.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:43 am |
    • TJ

      Re-inventing the wheel won't save you. Lots of answers in the Bible will. How is going for those who will live and die with question no one can explain... Consciousness. Or physical composition in that the smaller it gets the more beautiful and humbling it is. I'll take answers, then enjoy discovering the created. Just me...

      February 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm |
    • Bob

      They don't even really have the answer? When asked what created the Big Bang? their answer is God. My response to that is where did he come from? Back to square 1.

      February 5, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
      • David Schaffer

        Do you have an answer to what created the Big Bang? If so what created that? So on and so forth. For you to say Creationist have no starting point is the same to say those that believe in the Big Bang have none. Who created God? God has always been and always will be, in other words nobody or nothing created Him as He has always been. So back to your original question what created the Big Bang?

        February 6, 2014 at 5:19 pm |
  6. Rsin

    I would like to apologize before hand for I am probably going to offend a lot of people here.

    I was not born in this country but I migrated here "legally" and I love it. I don't take anything for granted because I know how difficult it is outside this awesome country. I however believe this country heading to the same direction Iran went a few hundred years ago. Persia back in the day was the focal point of knowledge and understanding. Then the religious people got a hold of it and then they stopped advancing. To me America is heading the same direction...instead of Islam, it is Christianity. We are becoming more and more of a "religious state" like Iran and the only difference is the religion.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:19 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Absolutely agree!

      Two-thirds of star names have Arabic names. They came from Islam's fertile period (AD 800-1100.) During that time Baghdad was the intellectual center of the world, open to people of all or no faiths. During that time were some of the greatest advances known to mankind: engineering, biology, medicine, mathematics, celestial navigation; this is the time and place that gave us numerals we use, terms like algebra and algorithm.

      Then along came islam. Now look at the level of these theocratic countries.

      America is denying science and changing laws and heading the same way toward a christian theocracy. Frightening.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:23 am |
      • Eric

        I completely disagree and polls show you are wrong. Less and less people say they are religous. We are moving away from religion, not towards it.

        February 5, 2014 at 10:44 am |
        • Rsin

          I unfortunately disagree with you Eric. When the Gallup Poll shows "46%" of people believe that the earth is less that 6000years old and they believe in the literal application of the Bible to me its scares me. We are make laws in our country which bans certain things just based on our legislators "Faith" and has nothing to do with science. That was what I was eluding to from my statement earlier.

          February 5, 2014 at 11:00 am |
    • EighteenCharacters

      No apology necessary, friend. Your comment is an important one, and your point is important to remember. Thank you.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:23 am |
    • Arcturus

      You hit the nail right on the head.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:40 am |
    • Barcs

      I don't agree. I think it's gotten much better with religion here in the past 20 years or so. We've come a long way from burning witches and shunning atheists. The percentage of actual young earth creationists (Christian fundamentalists) has been declining steadily as more information is readily available. It's a slow process but we are moving in the right direction, away from religious control.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
    • Bob

      I couldn't have said it any better. Its mind numbing that there are people out there that believe the earth is only 6000 years old.

      February 5, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
  7. Meohmy

    I find it hard to take this event seriously, as Bill Nye is hardly even an engineer, much less a scientist who has spent any time whatsoever studying evolution or the hard sciences. So, what exactly was the purpose of this"debate." I just don't get it... Pure showmanship, and that's about all it was.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:18 am |
    • James

      I'm wondering why you misinterpreted Bill Nye's credentials so badly. He is a very well educated engineer and science proponent. Only a closed minded jesus freak would think otherwise.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:34 am |
    • Arcturus

      Suffice it to say that Bill Nye has been around science and the scientific method first hand a lot more than Kan Ham has been talking to some god.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:41 am |
  8. Dyslexic doG

    The 5 laws of the Theory of Evolution have proven their validity thousands of times by millions of people.
    The principles are practically applied on a daily basis in fields like medicine, geology, mathematics, molecular biology, robotics, chemistry, astrophysics, agriculture, epidemiology, aerospace engineering, architecture, data mining, drug discovery and design, electrical engineering, finance, geophysics, materials engineering, military strategy, pattern recognition, robotics, scheduling, systems engineering etc.

    Tangible proof can be found by studying vestigial features, ebryonic development, biogeography, DNA sequencing, pseudogenes, endogenous retroviruses, labratory direct examination of natural selection in action in E-Coli bacteria, lactose intolerance in humans, the peppered moth's colour change in reaction to industrial pollution, radiotrophic fungi at Chernobyl... all of these things add to the modern evolutionary synthesis.
    We have directly observes speciation in Blackcap birds, fruit flies, mosquitos, mice, Shortfin molly fish and other specimens.

    Some of the methods used to determine the age of the planet include:
    Stratigraphy, Dendrochronology,Obsidian Hydration Dating, Paleomagnetic/Archaeomagnetic , Luminescence Dating, Amino Acid Racemization, Fission-track Dating, Ice Cores, Cation Ratio, Fluorine Dating, Patination, oxidizable Carbon Ratio, Electron Spin Resonance , and Cosmic-ray Exposure Dating.

    Evidence for the Genesis Creation account comes from The Bible and... nothing else, I'm afraid.

    - Doc Vestibule

    February 5, 2014 at 10:14 am |
    • Bob

      Too many big words dude! It's so much easier to say in the beginning god created everything. Turning off sarcasm now.

      February 5, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
  9. Aloysious Farquart

    Teaching religion to children conditions them to think stupidly; to believe that for which they have no evidence, and to see evidence where none exists.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:14 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      amen!!!

      February 5, 2014 at 10:19 am |
  10. Lori B.

    I wish that ALL debates were that civil. It was interesting to watch and I liked the way they both answered the questions instead of the canned stump speeches that political candidates bring us. I would love to see more long, informative debates like this on all major issues. I am frustrated by short 2 minute "snippets" that our current new stations/papers give us. I like information and like to form an educated opinion with lots of facts.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:14 am |
  11. reloquent

    I was surprised to see that the debate was so well staged, cordial, and informative. I'd say that it was handled better than some of our Presidential debates. I actually learned something about the creationists' viewpoint (though not swayed).

    For debating style, poise, and preparation, I have to give points to Ken Ham. He was definitely the better public speaker of the two. His weaknesses were what you would expect – changing definitions, cherry picking data, appealing to authority (big time), and veering from difficult questions to promote his talking points.

    Bill Nye had all his facts down pat. His examples were concrete and convincing, and he was able to show the inconsistencies in key parts of his opponent's thesis. But he was less than comfortable with repartee, his energy and focus faded as the debate progressed, and most importantly, he failed to capitalize on serious, even fatal mistakes from Ham.

    The last part of the debate was a set of questions from the audience. There were no softballs here on either side. Even though the audience was made up primarily of Ham supporters, there were several questions that were tough for the creationist to answer. Nye did better here, emphasizing the joy and wonder of science and challenging anyone to come up with verifiable counterexamples to science's history of the world.

    But I doubt that Bill Nye's presentation was strong enough to sway any but the least ardent creationist. His scientific knowledge was impressive, but he lacked the killer instinct to draw blood when the opportunity presented itself. Facts matter, but Nye's persuasiveness was lacking. On that basis, I give the edge to Ham.

    One strong final point did come from Bill Nye. One of the audience questions related to the increasing intelligence of humans over time. Nye scored well when he said that evolution was not about being the strongest or the most intelligent. He said that evolution was about being the best fit for an environment. That struck a chord with me when I realized that it might mean that creationists are a better adaptation to modern human life. Begin able to understand and deal with facts may not be such an evolutionary advantage any more.

    And wouldn't that be a shame.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:13 am |
    • Valerie Swinson

      I appreciate your respectful words. I would only point out that Nye couldn't prove that his 'beliefs' aren't based on man's assumptions and a man's 'I think' scenario. Hamm was more than willing to admit that he has faith and it is a belief. Nye also was very condescending to Kentucky and anyone who believes in a creator. That is our problem today (not with you so I appreciate that!), people want to say that it's creationists against scientist or academia or any other reference that makes a believer seem ignorant. I'm glad you took something away and I hope that you will the info required to bring you salvation in Christ. I recommend Precept (dot org) If you would like a nice method to study the bible without someone telling you what it said......(Christian site but great way to study without a denomination 'interpreting' it for you).

      All the best!

      February 5, 2014 at 10:29 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        or you could read the Harry Potter series. That's an interesting story, better written than the bible, much less contradiction, about equal amounts of magic, and all fiction just like the bible.

        February 5, 2014 at 10:39 am |
      • ksocreative

        except, due to our understanding of evolution, we don't need saving because there was no original sin by a supposed "adam and eve." therefore belief and worship of a middle-eastern ancient prophet is not necessary to understand the universe.

        February 5, 2014 at 11:42 am |
      • Bob

        it is a problem when these religious Politicians are trying to get religion (in this case Creationism) to be taught in SCIENCE classes. Nye said he has no problem with it being taught in Philosophy or Religious Studies classes, but Religion has no business being taught in a science class.

        February 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm |
  12. Mike

    God and science do not have to be at odds. After all, God made science.

    Quick Joke: Why did God create teenagers?

    So mankind would know what it's like to have made something in his own image that denies his existence!

    February 5, 2014 at 10:12 am |
    • Econ301

      God did not make Science.

      You can say God made the natural laws which Scientist discover, but that's not the same as "Science."

      Science is a system of hypothesis testing and is created by man with is free will and free ability to think.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:28 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Science deals with measurement and consistent results. Religion deals with dogma and ignorance.

      February 5, 2014 at 4:34 pm |
  13. Kelly Gomez

    Great Job Tom!

    I wish Hamm would have spent more time on his slide that showed the 100s of 'age-predicting' scientific methods that contradict each other.....

    The point is they both take faith! Science has a ton of assumptions and we need to make sure we are also teaching our kids that aspect, evolution (as it pertains to we came from apes) has many flaws and unanswered questions and shouldn't be taught as scientific fact!

    Thanks again Tom, great job!

    February 5, 2014 at 10:11 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      you can refute a theory of evolution, like Darwin's theory, or Lamarck's theory, but you can't refute evolution because it's a fact. It is a directly observable fact. There may never be a theory that captures all the modes of evolution, but evolution is a fact.

      Saying you refute evolution is like saying you refute gravity. The Newtonian theory was not completely right, the einstein theory is not completely right, but there is gravity.

      – bostontola

      February 5, 2014 at 10:15 am |
    • Saraswati

      Science doesn't teach "scientific fact". If you had ever actually studied any you would know that. This is typical of the folks that want religious ideas taught in school: theyndon't even know what science is.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:20 am |
    • jlowry6

      Please give examples of what assumptions are being made. Also evolution doesn't suggest we come from apes.... but rather that apes and humans evolve from a common ancestor.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:26 am |
    • Econ301

      Science does not take faith.

      If a better tool or theory comes along we disregard our old belief and move to the new belief. The whole point is you don't accept anything without proof, if tomorrow someone comes up with a better model of universal gravitation then we move to that model.

      The whole point of Science is there is no sacred cows, no "truths" which can't be refuted. But to refute the currently held belief you have to provide evidence.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:31 am |
    • Deep Time

      Kelly, you said: "The point is they both take faith! Science has a ton of assumptions and we need to make sure we are also teaching our kids that aspect, evolution (as it pertains to we came from apes) has many flaws and unanswered questions and shouldn't be taught as scientific fact!"

      I do not think science means what you think it means. Science does not require or depend on faith. Yes, part of the scientific method require assumptions (called hypotheses) but those hypothesis must be tested and validated with clear evidence to be accepted. Science and the scientific method are objective, open to scrutiny and challenges. Also I am betting that you have a popular perception of the word "theory", which has a completely different connotation from a scientific perspective. Please take a look at the links below for more information:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory

      If we are to have an open and productive debate on the merits of faith versus science it is critically important that we clearly understand what these terms mean; otherwise there is no opportunity to objectively discuss our viewpoints.

      Also we are not descended from monkeys/apes. This is a popular misconception. Again, a clear understanding of evolutionary theory is critical to understanding both sides of the debate.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:36 am |
      • Evolution issues

        And again a clearer understanding of 'science' is key! Historical has a lot of I thinks and assumptions.... We believe that things evolve but then you have some nut that draws a monkey to man picture and we leave the 'belief'. Did you use wikipedia as your basis........nice – you might want to research wiki issues over the years. Not saying these definitions are wrong just not the resource I would use. There are THEORIES to how this world began, PERIOD. Stop acting like people lack intelligence because they don't bow to your theory and they choose their own. Be civil

        February 5, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
        • Barcs

          People would be civil if you guys didn't constantly post lies, for example saying that there are 2 types of science, when that's false.

          February 5, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
        • Bob

          But to creationists there is only one possible way the universe was created. There are no theory's....God did it and if you don't believe in this you are in big trouble.

          February 5, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
    • foolishmortal

      Evolutionary theory deserves to be taught in every classroom because it is the cornerstone of modern Biology. "Creation Science" is not. "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" –Theodosius Dobzhansky

      February 5, 2014 at 4:06 pm |
  14. shannon

    God created Adam as a mature man ,he did the same with the earth.how old is a mature earth?billions or trillions of years.a science maxim,things go from order to disorder.yet the complexities of man(DNA) and the earth (water)became complex over time.more than doubtful.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:10 am |
    • Saraswati

      Even if you accept that the universe is as a whole headed toward disorder (outdated terminology, btw) that by no means implies that all parts are becoming more disordered. Parts may well increase in order as the whole decreases. But again, you aren't just misapplying ideas here, but misapplying outdated ideas. Sounds like something off the back of a church flier.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:25 am |
      • shannon

        I did not pull anything from a flier.you seam to be an educated and knowledgeable person.maybe the law of entropy in thermodynamics is now outdated.most likely changed to try to make some scientists reasoning work.honestly what are the chances of the earth and man to come out of nothing.it takes more faith or blind fanaticism to believe that.

        February 5, 2014 at 11:21 am |
        • Saraswati

          Do you realize how enormous the universe is and how little life is in it?

          February 5, 2014 at 10:00 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          You didn't come from nothing, shannon. You came from some quite amazing precursors over a span of many hundreds of millions of years.

          February 5, 2014 at 10:03 pm |
        • Deep Time

          Just wondering, have you ever considered the possibility that Genesis is a creation story, just like so many other cultures have their own creation stories? Creation stories allowed ancient cultures to make some sense of the world and their place in it.

          It's impossible for me to believe that something written in the Bronze Age, by Bronze Age people with their limited views of the world, is the actual and literal factual account of the creation of the world. I would hazard a guess that you think other creation stories are fanciful and silly while believing yours is "fact". Does that make any kind of logical sense???

          February 6, 2014 at 8:38 am |
    • Tannim

      Were you actually there and have the video highlights, or are you just expressing belief without facts?

      February 5, 2014 at 10:36 am |
      • shannon

        Nobody was there but God.it is some people's belief that he wasn't.that's their belief.they don't have a video showing otherwise.

        February 5, 2014 at 11:28 am |
    • Barcs

      So god thought it was a good idea to create the earth mature, and put tons of fossils in the dirt for kicks?

      February 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
      • Nick

        Aye! Because it is, unknown to christians, Loki the trickster god who buried those fossils and guides their lives.

        February 7, 2014 at 3:39 am |
  15. darrell

    nice one Kenneth.....but I'll take Heaven over IQ any day!

    February 5, 2014 at 10:10 am |
    • Kelly Gomez

      cute and respectful reply......... I needed that 🙂

      February 5, 2014 at 10:13 am |
    • Tannim

      Darrell, you need IQ in this world. You might need Heaven in the next.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:38 am |
  16. JP

    The problem with this debate is that it didn't really cover evolution. It was largely a debate about timing and if the earth could be only 600 years old. In this regard, I think Nye held his own and asked questions that Ham sidestepped constantly (how can we have trees with near 10,000 rings, etc.). The answer "we weren't there, so we can't date it" is pretty flawed. By that logic, I am 5437 years old, and no one can prove otherwise because they weren't there. His argument is predicated on the idea that scientific laws change when we don't look at them. It's straight out of a Douglas Adams novel. If you don't realize you're falling, you won't.

    But when it comes to evolution, the evidence is insurmountable. Even if we accepted the "kinds" argument where only families were on the ark, not all of the species, it still does not address why there are similarities among families. Nor does it address specific adaptations for particular nutritional requirements. Even if we accept that all of the animals were vegetarian (show me a vegetarian frog or snake...), the amount of food to feed them for a year would be absolutely massive.

    And finally, we could see who the real scientist was in the room with the last question asked. Scientists keep an open mind and when new evidence is presented, they adjust their mindset to the new evidence. Even evolution has changed since Darwin first proposed it. He had a lot right, but he also had a lot wrong. Ham said there was nothing that could convince him. That is not a scientific mindset. Nye handily won this debate.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:09 am |
    • JP

      Pardon me, if there is any sticklers out there (which I'm certain there are), 600 obviously is a typo and should be 6000.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:10 am |
    • Juanita Thompson

      There is a study where they observed animals going into a state of hibernation when a catastrophe happens, look it up. Not saying it's the way it happened but it's a reason. Also if you believe that God chose Noah and his family because of his righteousness and told him to build a boat to save the world's future.........Do you honestly think that GOD can't overcome these simple questions that you are throwing out?

      Evolution is not insurmountable either as you stated........ridiculous. A ton of assumptions and someone's GUESS that noone can prove wrong yet. The missing link is missing for a reason.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:18 am |
      • JP

        There are some animals that can go through prolonged hibernation, like lungfishes. But because they can does not mean that all animals can. There has never been such a record for lions. Or kangaroos. Or elephants.

        What are you expecting for a missing link? Are you expecting something like a fish that walks on land? Like Tiktallik or Ichthyostega? Or are you more interested in human evolution and a transitional fossil between humans and chimps? Perhaps something that showed some characteristics of both? Like Australopithicus, for example? By very definition, every fossil out there is a missing link. So what are you specifically expecting for a missing link?

        February 5, 2014 at 10:25 am |
        • Dyslexic doG

          Christians look at the term "missing link" coined centuries ago and long since solved with countless examples, and think that it is still "missing" and think they have proven a point. The only point they proved is that they have never read a book from outside a christian book store.

          February 5, 2014 at 10:28 am |
        • JP

          Oh, I agree. The idea of "missing link" has been so ingrained that it's just automatic that they say it. But I'm not entirely sure they even know what they mean by it. Hence my asking what the missing link would look like.

          February 5, 2014 at 10:30 am |
        • Pete

          JP don't waste your time the person you are responding to probably views every new fossil found as a chamce to complain about two new missing links.

          February 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        asinine.

        February 5, 2014 at 10:25 am |
      • bigd

        If you are going to invoke magic, why even use a boat? In fact why use a flood? Creationists fall short by invoking magic and calling it science.

        February 5, 2014 at 10:40 am |
    • Brian

      If it was man's intellect, science, and technology that has produced the human inequality that exixsts today, then I choose God's intellect. Greed is rampant and everything is driven by money. Jesus said that the"love of money is the root of all evil." It looks as though this statement bears some truth. Science does does not adress morals or what is good and evil. There does exist good and evil in the world. The temptations that we get are the proddings of both sides. Everyone needs a father. Mankind does indeed have a Father in Heaven. To trust him, fear him, and revere him is to seek him out and develop a personal relationship with him. Since I have chosen to believe in God, I feel that understanding, knowledge, and wisdom has been instilled in me.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:40 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        infantile slave mind!

        February 5, 2014 at 10:46 am |
      • JP

        But your god created man, and thus greed, famine, war, disease, suffering, etc. It seems perplexing to have a benevolent god who would create those things. It's further perplexing that a benevolent god would want his subjects to be servile, fearful, and submissive.

        This bit about science addressing morals. That's another one of these parroted off comments by the religious. There actually is a lot of research out there dealing with morality in humans and in other animals. Does it answer all of the questions? No. Science isn't meant to provide the answer to everything because there are always new questions coming up. The phrase "I don't know" is quite common in science because it's not all-knowing.

        February 5, 2014 at 10:58 am |
  17. Erik

    From the looks of the posts here, it appears CNN needs to start a disbelief blog.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:05 am |
  18. danR

    This wasn't a debate. Bill Nye and Ken Ham are bolstering fading careers in their respective fields, the former to the detriment of science-popularization, and the latter for the replacement of legitimate science inquiry with sophistry.

    But CNN has lost no money in the endeavor. Let us be grateful for small mercies.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:03 am |
  19. Hi

    As a Christian who enjoys science, I think it is interesting how both sides make it an all or nothing question. From Ham's side (supporters), you are not a true Christian if you do not believe in a six day creation. From Nye's side (supporters), you are not educated if you believe in creation. I do not know about what happened at the beginning of the universe. I may be more of a watchmaker universe person to begin with. Here is the rub that I have with Nye (which I think is a highly intellectual scientist.) I do not understand all the tenets of evolution, but that does not mean I cannot appreciate technological advances. I think this is wrong for the following reason, I doubt people like Gates and Jobs really cared or studied evolution, but yet they led the technological revolution to some degree.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:03 am |
    • RJ

      Ken Ham actually said that he believes Christians who don't agree with him on creation in 6 days are still a Christian. He understands that this is not an issue that will determine salvation. But he does believe that his view on Creation is correct and that if you follow his view, you will find that it follows God.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:21 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        with 41,000 Christian sects all believing something different based on the bronze age story book, Christians can't be too picky about particulars, lest they all look stupid.

        It is such hypocrisy that Christians even adopt Mormonism as a form of Christianity. Joseph Smith must be laughing in his grave!

        February 5, 2014 at 10:32 am |
    • jcoleman

      Bill Nye is not an evolutionary biologist, and technically he's not a scientist either..... he has a bachelor's in engineering.... and worked as an engineer, and then went into comedy/science entertainment. He's the wrong person to debate the intricacies of evolutionary theory, as he has no degree in biology, and never worked as a research scientist in biology. While I appreciate his desire to clarify what is science and what it is not (and that's actually not very difficult), the debate should be with an evolutionary biologist.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:22 am |
      • sandralogan0430

        You make a good point about Nye.. They could have found someone with more credentials, but when your oppoent is some whacko who just believes everything in ancient book... I think a 5 year old could win that debate

        February 5, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I agree that a lot of work can be done by people who have blinders in unrelated areas, but a lot is held up at the same time. People who believe in religiously based notions of free will cannot be expected to achieve at the same rate in artificial intelligence or psychology fields, for example. Additionally, the time that some of these folks want to waste teaching rubbish in science class is time that we aren't teaching science.

      On the other hand, I think completing the move to the metric system is probably far more important right now in making us competi.tive, not to mention increasing magnet schools, de-emphasizing sports and ensuring that only those who want and are ready for children have them. So getting rid of this rubbish matters, but yes, there are more important things.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:31 am |
    • sandralogan0430

      Well... you aren't educated or you chose to ignore your education if you believe in creationism

      February 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm |
  20. Kenneth

    If all the people in the US who believe in creationism were "raptured" into "heaven", the average IQ in our country would spike.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:02 am |
    • Reason McDuffin

      Nice, Ken. You took an article that lauded how a reasonable debate was a pleasant surprise and the civility of it all was refreshing and your comment immediately resorts to "you're stupid if you think..." Stay classy, dude.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:10 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        classy or not, Kenneth is still correct.

        February 5, 2014 at 10:18 am |
        • Evolution issues

          And you just proved McDuff correct.......again

          February 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • Debra

      Maybe. But I think that it would prove Ken Ham and his camp was right.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:21 am |
    • drowlord

      If you only counted people who "believe" in creationism as people who have even a basic understood of what creationism, the arguments used to support it, and how it differs from evolution, that number would be very small, indeed. Creationism is like any other culture of fandom and team spirit in the USA. For the most part Christians don't know anything about their religion. Creationists don't know anything about that body of speculation. And sadly, the same is true too-often of Evolution, although I like to think that educated thinkers go the evolution route when they look at the evidence and available explanations.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:57 am |
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About this blog

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.