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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. Barcs

    So is Greek mythology now considered "historical" science? Crap, I've been slacking on my loyalty to Zeus.

    February 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
  2. AverageJoe76

    OK, Intelligent Design believers;

    What's intelligent about destroying your 'flawed' creations (and every other living thing that liveth) on a populated world, rather than killing 2 flawed beings (Adam & Eve) then starting over, AT THE BEGINNING?

    If God's an artist, he drew a complete picture, although he was displeased with the 1st couple of strokes, and then decided to erase most of it, and restart. To erase, shows 'flaw' in a flawless being.

    Conclusion: Man made up God, because the God you promote, is clearly flawed. AMEN

    February 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
    • Daryl

      Average Joe, fair question. Apparently the answer is that humans were not the only intelligent creation and since this snake was apparently the mouthpiece of some other life form killing the first two humans does not answer questions on authority of the god. So, the god permits a test for precedence and takes action afterwards.

      Actually, I have to admit that part is rather logical.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
      • Barcs

        Reading the bible with an open mind, god seems more like a lab technician creating an artificial environment, than a deity.

        February 5, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
      • ME II

        @Daryl,
        What?

        February 5, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
      • WindsOfSol

        If he is Omniscient and Omnipotent then he does not need a "test".

        February 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
  3. Irrational Exuberance

    Was humankind created by God in a rush of divine power, or did we evolve over time with only nature to take the credit?
    vs.
    Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era?

    Those are two different questions. The latter has everything to do with what a model is. And Nye nailed this point. Models are used to form predictions. If a model can't produce predictions is fails.

    Ham utterly failed to establish his contention, that Creationism, in particular Young Earth Creationism, is a viable model. The best his model can do is once something is observed the person can say "God did it."

    February 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
    • Daryl

      This "young earth" creationism does not stand up. However, the steps in their BIble for how things appeared is logical and fits the model. This is where evolutionists step in and try to counter what is stated because it makes them uncomfortable.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        "However, the steps in their BIble for how things appeared is logical and fits the model."

        So plants can exist before the sun eh Daryl?

        The earth and oceans exist before the sun and the stars?

        Birds before land animals?

        Just because you can conflate "Let there be light" with the concept of the "Big Bang" Genesis is not in anyway consistent with Science, nor is it consistent with chapter 2.

        The sequences are:

        Genesis Chapter 1
        ---------
        – Beginning: Heavens and earth, darkness and waters
        – 'Day' 1: Light! night and day
        – 'Day' 2: Waters in the sky (atmosphere)
        – 'Day' 3: Dry land, plants
        – 'Day' 4: Sun, moon and stars
        – 'Day' 5: Sea creatures, birds
        – 'Day' 6: Land animals, Humans (male and female)
        – 'Day' 7: Miller time

        Genesis Chapter 2
        ---------
        – Man
        – Plants
        – Animals and birds
        – Woman

        Science
        ---------
        – Big bang (13.8BYA)
        – Star ignition (sun 4.57BYA)
        – Planetary accretion
        – Earth (4.54BYA)
        – Moon (4.53BYA)
        – Bombardment
        – Surface Water, toxic atmosphere
        – Simple vegetation
        – Oxygenated atmosphere
        – Aquatic life
        – Land animals
        – Birds
        – Mammals

        February 5, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
        • Paul

          "So plants can exist before the sun eh Daryl?"

          What do plants need for photosynthesis? Light. There was light on day 1.

          February 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
      • ME II

        @Daryl,
        What @not a GOPer said.
        The order of Creation via Genesis does not match what the geologic record shows.

        February 5, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
      • ThinkRationally

        "This is where evolutionists step in and try to counter what is stated because it makes them uncomfortable."

        This is an ad hominem. You are ascribing a mental state to people when you have nothing to back it up at all. You are attempting to discredit "evolutionists" by suggesting that they are driven by a weakened state of mind. If you cannot support your point with actual evidence, then you have nothing.

        February 5, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
  4. bostontola

    Another crucial debate topic:
    Are bats a type of bird, or are bats a type of mammal.

    February 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
  5. This And That

    Different day, same old story.
    Science guy, 'We don't know. We don't know. We just don't know.'
    Religious guy, 'It's in the book. It's in the book. Just read the book.'
    Dorothy, Toto, and me, 'I just want to go home.'
    Science is in the book, too. Why can't both sides realize that their views are not mutually exclusive? Let me tell you why. Science has not advanced beyond the stage of asking questions because nobody wants to pay to fund their work. They do, however, pay the guy holding the book. They pay just in case the book follower is correct, and all the answers are in the book.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      not at all true really. massive fail really.

      science has mountains of evidence and mountains of proof pointing to the way things began and the way things work. science being science, it is always looking for more evidence to expand on our understanding and confirm our understanding.

      Christianity has one old, contradictory, factually woeful, massively fanciful book written by uneducated and very primitive bronze age desert dwelling goat herders that say a magical man in the sky just willed it into existence. NO proof. NO evidence. Just a story.

      I'll leave you to decide which way the scales tip on that.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
      • This And That

        @doG – Try this, since you didn't understand my first statement. Some of those 'primitive bronze age desert dwelling goat herders' were poets of their time. I know this because some of their poems are published works. One of my favorites.... 'He maketh me...' sounds like he was blaming God for nodding off while tending his flock. How real can you get? Like a homework-eating dog.

        February 5, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
  6. bostontola

    Another crucial debate topic:
    Is Pi equal to 3, or is it a transcendental number approximated by 3.14.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
    • RB

      Is there an expression in hebrew for .14?

      February 5, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
      • bostontola

        RB,
        14 out of 100.

        February 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
      • ME II

        @RB,
        a little bit more than 3

        February 5, 2014 at 1:28 pm |
    • This And That

      Is that inside or outside diameter?

      February 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
      • bostontola

        Rationalization is a core competency.

        February 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
    • Paul

      Have you heard of rounding?

      February 5, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
  7. Dyslexic doG

    The theory most scientists currently favor for the origins of life is called “abiogenesis,” the gradual emergence of life on Earth from non-living matter. To understand why it is thought that life arose on Earth from non-living matter, one has to understand some basic biochemistry. This is where you “talking snake crowd” have such a problem. You have to actually understand some very basic science, you can’t just rely on what you were taught at Sunday school as an eight year-old.

    All life is comprised of complex arrangements of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, all orchestrated by DNA and/or RNA. DNA/RNA and proteins are by far the most important components of a living organism, carrying out virtually every function in a cell. Fats and carbohydrates are generally simpler molecules and play critical, but subordinate roles in cells.

    DNA and RNA are made of five nucleotides – adenine, thymine, cytosine, guanine and uracil. They act as the cell’s “mission control,” orchestrating the cell’s activities. Proteins are made of 20 amino acids. They are the workhorse of the cell – the nails, wood, steel beams and machinery that make the cell run. It is the order of amino acids in a protein that determine its shape and, therefore what it does. This order and shape of proteins is itself dictated by the DNA through RNA.

    So, in short, life is made up of complex arrangements of:

    The five nucleotides – adenine, thymine, cytosine, guanine and uracil – arranged into DNA and/or RNA
    The twenty amino acids – that form all proteins, including enzymes and the other 100,000 or so proteins in a complex organism’s body.
    Carbohydrates – literally “water-carbon,” which include sugars and starches. These are much simpler elements than proteins or DNA/RNA and act as an energy source.
    Fats – also called lipids, these are important in constructing cell membranes.

    The simplest cells are prokaryotic cells. They exist today principally as bacteria. Stromatolites and other fossils from all over the planet suggest that, for the first billion years of life on earth, all life was simple, prokaryotic life. These cells consisted of a fatty cell membrane, like a balloon skin, with DNA/RNA, proteins, fats and carbohydrates on the inside. They had no nucleus. Cells with nuclei, called eukaryotic cells (which make up virtually all multi-cellular organisms) are much larger and more complex that prokaryotic cells and likely resulted from the early combining of prokaryotic cells.

    So, can a simple prokaryotic cell come into existence without the intervention of God, Allah, Shiva, Vishnu, Yahweh or any other divine/magic being?

    Beginning in the 1950s, scientists started trying to mimic the conditions on the early Earth to see whether some kind of “life-fairy” was necessary to get things started. In the most famous experiment of this era, the Miller-Urey experiment of 1952, Stanley Miller demonstrated that heating and running an electric spark through an atmosphere of water vapor, ammonia, methane and hydrogen for a few weeks resulted in these very simple molecules self-assembling into all 20 of the amino acids upon which life on Earth is based. This is a startling result. All 20 building blocks of proteins, which comprise over 99% of the cell’s functional structures, self-assembling without a magic wand from God, Shiva, Vishnu, Allah etc!

    The experiment was groundbreaking because it suggested that, under the perfectly natural conditions of early Earth, the building blocks of life can and will self-assemble. Indeed, it now seems that major volcanic eruptions 4 billion years ago would have created an even more diverse atmosphere than Miller used, including carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen (N2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). When these were added to the mix in subsequent experiments, they have resulted in the creation of all 5 nucleotides, all 20 amino acids and basic fatty membranes and various carbohydrates. That is to say, with no magic/divine intervention, all life’s building blocks WILL self-assemble.

    But nails, wood, wiring and bricks a house do not make. Even the simplest life requires these building blocks to be arranged in very, very complex ways. In various experiments with various conditions, scientists have been able to create a wide range of cell-like structures of increasing complexity on the road toward a simple self-replicating organism. These creations are called protobionts or coacervates and if you “you tube” or google these terms, you will see many examples.

    This is still a far cry from a cell, but the important thing is that the experiments uniformly demonstrate that organic molecules have a natural tendency to clump together in increasingly complex ways under early Earth-like conditions. They are not being pushed into doing something “against their will”.

    Where it gets really suggestive is that scientists have been able to isolate what they believe to be some of the most primitive genes of Earth, by comparing the DNA of two organisms whose last common ancestor lived soon after the formation of the Earth. For such genes to be common to both such organisms, they must be very, very old. When these ancient genes produce amino acids, they are rich in the amino acids most common in the Miller-Urey and similar experiments! This suggests that these experiments do indeed reflect early Earth conditions and that life itself did arise under such conditions.

    The other important factor is that these impressive results have been achieved in laboratories over small periods of time. Imagine the whole Earth as the “Petri dish” and hundreds of millions of years as the timescale. Simple life gradually emerging from such a “soup” does not seem at all incredible, certainly not incredible enough that we in the USA have to give up and call the remaining gap in knowledge “God,” while our Indian colleagues do the same and attribute it all to the Lord Shiva.

    Scientist are also approaching it from the other side too, gradually stripping away at prokaryotic cells to see how stripped down they have to become for life to “stop,” while others continue to build up from coacervates and protobionts. The gap is narrowing as our knowledge continues its inexorable march.

    The Christian sky-fairy is being pinched out! There’s not a lot of room left for him now. The pincers of science are closing in from both sides, squeezing out the phantom of religion and ignorance. Soon, the two sides of the pincer will meet and this unnecessary holdover will have to flutter off and find another dark corner to settle in, where the penetrating light of science and knowledge has not yet shone. Fortunately, the weak, forgiving mind of the believer will always be there for him, acting as an eternal refuge from enlightenment and advancement.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:54 pm |
    • Colin

      Hmmm, that looks familiar....

      February 5, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        was it you Colin? Thanks! I'll credit you next time. I had copied it but wasn't sure from where. mea culpa.

        February 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
        • Colin

          No worries doG, just keep up the good work rebuffing the sky-wizard believers.

          February 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
        • Barcs

          For sure man. Colin is a champ when it comes to the knowledge.

          February 5, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
    • Daryl

      With all your information it should really be no problem for you to prove theory, right?
      Let me know when you have the process down.
      Thanks.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
      • Pete

        It is as proven as gravity what more do you want?

        February 5, 2014 at 1:36 pm |
    • Dino

      I want to make sure I understand this. An intelligent life form (Scientist), developed an environment in which he added various subtances and matter (laboratory), and added some energy (electricity) and wahlah, the building blocks of life were formed. If man can do it, is it unreasonable for an intelligent life form which has evolved beyond mankind to create life? If mankind can evolve from these basic building blocks, is it unreasonable to think that a life form has evolved beyond mankind?

      February 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm |
    • PaddyORyan

      Where did the amino acids that Michelson and Morley used come from? How about the electricity? And what of the gravity that held their experiment to the lab table? And the strong and weak nuclear forces that acted on the atoms that made up the molecules that made up the proteins that resided in their brains when they thought up the experiment? And how did they become conscious in the first place? Did Michelson or Morley know that if even one of the hundreds of physical constants that exist was different by even a fraction of a percentage, that the universe and everything in it (including their experiment)would not exist? What, or who, made the constants so finely tuned? It's almost as if a Creator with incredible intelligence designed the whole system for a purpose! The alternative, that it all arose by chance, is so mathematically preposterous as to be laughable. Ham's misinterpretation of Genesis has him claiming that the earth is only 6,000 years old. That's laughable too, but he is correct in claiming that science has no real answers as to why we're here or why every culture in history has had a belief in a mysterious, unseen, omnipotent being. Atheists also believe, but they usually wait until they're near death, like Darwin and Antony Flew, before they admit it. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." – Jesus, Rev 3:20

      February 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
    • Paul

      "The theory most scientists currently favor for the origins of life is called “abiogenesis,” the gradual emergence of life on Earth from non-living matter."

      I think you meant "hypothesis." The word "theory," used in the scientific sense, means there's experimental support. What's your evidence that everything ultimately evolved from a universal common ancestor in some primordial soup?

      February 5, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
  8. Jacob

    Mr. Foreman, I will say that you were the best moderator I've seen on a televised debate in a long time. You were fair, unbiased, and funny at times. We need more moderators like you in the presidential debates.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
    • Paul

      Amen.

      February 5, 2014 at 3:02 pm |
  9. Guest

    If humans are here due to evolution, why did we lose our fur and become naked and have to resort to making clothes while primates did not? And why do humans have hair in only some areas on their bodies?

    February 5, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      If humans are here due to an intelligent designer, why are there so many flaws (like the ones you point out) in our design?

      February 5, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
    • Colin

      To your first question, one theory is that losing our hair allowed us to better regulate our internal heat and to perspire, thereby allowing us to run further and over longer distances in hunting game. As to your second question, as with all traits, hair covering will gradually evolve through natural selection consistent with the prevailing environment.

      If your broader point is that, unless evolutionists can answer every singly question thrown to them, you will resort to magic and believe in creator god, well, have fun, because there will always be unanswered questions.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
    • Heather

      I think primates actually evolved from man, not vice versa. I mean, what makes us so convinced that it was man coming from monkeys?

      February 5, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
      • Barcs

        Man didn't come from monkeys. Humans and chimps share a common ape like ancestor. This means the ancestor might not have been human or ape.

        February 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
      • igaftr

        heather
        Men did not evolve from monkeys.
        We are apes, with a common ancestor to monkeys. The evidence is in our DNA...
        We are the end because of a rare genetic mutation where we have 46 chromosomes and the previous species have 48.
        the difference is that two sets combined and formed one pair where there was once two pairs, giving us 46 chromosomes, proving we are the descendants of the 48 chromosome ancestors to apes.

        February 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
        • igaftr

          heather, this can explain it .

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk4id4DwFmg

          February 5, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
        • ME II

          @igaftr,
          Well said

          February 5, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
      • Piccolo

        Humans ARE primates

        February 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
      • Brandy

        I'm with you there. Were I a monkey I'd be insulted to think human's evolved from my kind! 😉 If you haven't read the poem Monkey's Disgrace, look it up. It's a good one!

        Seriously though, why can't both be right, at least partially? Even Darwin believed in a higher power.

        February 5, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
    • Damocles

      Good grief.

      Ok, so maybe you have only seen one or two humans up to this point of your life. I'll go ahead and tell you that some have a lot of hair and some don't. I'll go ahead and let you in on another shocker... that holds true for many primates. Soooo... as genes get mixed and dominant/recessive traits go their merry way, you get more/less hair as time goes on.

      I'd imagine clothing came about as a way to keep warm for those that had less hair and as the beginning steps to protect one's vitals from various hazards.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
    • Barcs

      Brains and opposable thumbs. This combination is what made humans lose hair, because they used their intelligence and ability to work with their hands to craft tools, clothing and shelter. Therefor, thick fur, claws, etc had no survival purpose and phased out over the years.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
  10. HM8432

    Ham was the worst person Creationists could have put up there. The '6,000 year old' age of the Earth and dinosaurs ARE NOT mentioned anywhere in the Bible. He (and Radical atheists who don't know better) got that from Rev. Ussher, a 19th century Seventh-Day Adventist pastor famous for his failed predictions for the rapture date, and wild Biblical interpretations. The truth is, most Christians do believe in evolution, just not the Darwinist interpretation of it. America led the world in scientific innovation when most of it's population still believed in creationism. There is no evidence that believing in it impedes America's scientific progress...we've done fine so far.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "The truth is, most Christians do believe in evolution, just not the Darwinist interpretation of it.

      It is actually the scientific view (first postulated by Darwin, and then modified, even evolved if you will) that most Christians world-wide believe in.

      It is quite sensible to suggest that evolution is "God's plan" for his creation to unfold.

      Young earth creationism is ludicrous and young earth creationists, most of whom live in the United States and are fundamentalist Christians, are the laughing stock of the thinking world.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
  11. Colin

    Dear Ken Ham:

    Here are a few reasons why your "six days and a talking snake" theory of the origins of the Universe and its billions of galaxies is utter garbage.

    Of first and most obvious importance is the fossil record. The fossil record is much, much more than just dinosaurs. Indeed, dinosaurs only get the press because of their size, but they make up less than 1% of the entire fossil record. Life had been evolving on Earth for over 3 thousand million years before dinosaurs evolved and has gone on evolving for 65 million years after the Chicxulub meteor likely wiped them out.

    Layered in the fossil record are the Stromatolites, colonies of prokaryotic bacteria, that range in age going back to about 3 billion years, the Ediacara fossils from South Australia, widely regarded as among the earliest multi-celled organisms, the Cambrian species of the Burgess shale in Canada (circa – 450 million years ago) the giant scorpions of the Silurian Period, the giant, wingless insects of the Devonian period, the insects, amphibians, reptiles, fishes, clams, crustaceans of the Carboniferous Period, the many precursors to the dinosaurs, the 700 odd known species of dinosaurs themselves, the subsequent dominant mammals, including the saber tooth tiger, the mammoths and hairy rhinoceros of North America and Asia, the fossils of early man in Africa and the Neanderthals of Europe.

    Indeed, the fossil record shows a consistent and worldwide evolution of life on Earth dating back to about 3,500,000,000 years ago. There are literally millions of fossils that have been recovered, of thousands of different species and they are all located where they would be in the geological record if life evolved slowly over billions of years. None of them can be explained by a 6,000 year old Earth and Noah’s flood. Were they all on the ark? What happened to them when it docked?

    Not only did a Tyrannosaurus Rex eat a lot of food, but that food was meat- which means its food would itself have to have been fed, like the food of every other carnivore on the ark for the entire 360 odd days Noah supposedly spent on the ark. T-Rex was not even the largest carnivorous dinosaur we know of. Spinosaurus, Argentinosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus were all larger and ate more even meat. Even they were not large enough to bring down the largest sauropods we know of, many species of which weighed in at close to 100 tons and were about 100 feet long. This is in addition to the elephants, hippopotamus, giraffes, and other large extant animals (not to mention the millions of insects, bacteria, mites, worms etc. that would have to be boarded). A bit of “back of the envelope” math quickly shows that “Noah’s Ark” would actually have to have been an armada of ships larger than the D-Day invasion force, manned by thousands and thousands of people – and this is without including the World’s 300,000 current species of plants, none of which could walk merrily in twos onto the ark.

    Coming on top of that, of course, there are the various races of human beings. There were no Sub-Saharan Africans, Chinese, Australian Aboriginals, blonde haired Scandinavians, Pygmies or Eskimos on the Ark. Where did they come from?

    Oh, second, there are those little things we call oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels. Their mere existence is another independent and fatal blow to the creationists. Speak to any geologist who works for Exxon Mobil, Shell or any of the thousands of mining, oil or natural gas related companies that make a living finding fossil fuels. They will tell you these fossil fuels take millions of years to develop from the remains of large, often Carboniferous Period forests, in the case of coal, or tiny marine creatures in the case of oil. For the fossils to develop into oil or coal takes tens or hundreds of millions of years of “slow baking” under optimum geological conditions. That’s why they are called “fossil fuels.” Have a close look at coal, you can often see the fossilized leaves in it. The geologists know exactly what rocks to look for fossil fuels in, because they know how to date the rocks to tens or hundreds of millions of years ago. Creationists have no credible explanation for this.

    Laughingly, most of astronomy and cosmology would be wrong if the creationists were right. In short, as Einstein showed, light travels at a set speed. Space is so large that light from distant stars takes many years to reach the Earth. In some cases, this is millions or billions of years. The fact that we can see light from such far away stars means it began its journey billions of years ago. The Universe must be billions of years old. We can currently see galaxies whose light left home 13, 700,000,000 years ago. Indeed, on a clear night, one can see the collective, misty light of many stars more than 6,000 light years away with the naked eye, shining down like tiny accusatory witnesses against the nonsense of creationism.

    In fourth, we have not just carbon dating, but also all other methods used by scientists to date wood, rocks, fossils, and other artifacts. These comprehensively disprove the Bible’s claims. They include uranium-lead dating, potassium-argon dating as well as other non-radioactive methods such as pollen dating, dendrochronology and ice core dating. In order for any particular rock, fossil or other artifact to be aged, generally two or more samples are dated independently by two or more laboratories in order to ensure an accurate result. If results were random, as creationists claim, the two independent results would rarely agree. They generally do. They regularly reveal ages much older than Genesis. Indeed, the Earth is about 750,000 times older than the Bible claims, the Universe about three times the age of the Earth.

    Next, fifth, the relatively new field of DNA mapping not only convicts criminals, it shows in undeniable, full detail how we differ from other life forms on the planet. For example, about 98.4% of human DNA is identical to that of chimpanzees, about 97% of human DNA is identical to that of gorillas, and slightly less again of human DNA is identical to the DNA of monkeys. This gradual divergence in DNA can only be rationally explained by the two species diverging from a common ancestor, and coincides perfectly with the fossil record. Indeed, scientists can use the percentage of DNA that two animal share (such as humans and bears, or domestic dogs and wolves) to get an idea of how long ago the last common ancestor of both species lived. It perfectly corroborates the fossil record and is completely independently developed.

    Sixth, the entire field of historical linguistics would have to be rewritten to accommodate the Bible. This discipline studies how languages develop and diverge over time. For example, Spanish and Italian are very similar and have a recent common “ancestor” language, Latin, as most people know. However, Russian is quite different and therefore either did not share a common root, or branched off much earlier in time. No respected linguist anywhere in the World traces languages back to the Tower of Babel, the creationists’ simplistic and patently absurd explanation for different languages. Indeed, American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, “true” Indians, Chinese, Mongols, Ja.panese, Sub-Saharan Africans and the Celts and other tribes of ancient Europe were speaking thousands of different languages thousands of years before the date creationist say the Tower of Babel occurred – and even well before the date they claim for the Garden of Eden.

    Seventh, lactose intolerance is also a clear vestige of human evolution. Most mammals only consume milk as infants. After infancy, they no longer produce the enzyme “lactase” that digests the lactose in milk and so become lactose intolerant. Humans are an exception and can drink milk as adults – but not all humans – some humans remain lactose intolerant. So which humans are no longer lactose intolerant? The answer is those who evolved over the past few thousand years raising cows. They evolved slightly to keep producing lactase as adults so as to allow the consumption of milk as adults. This includes most Europeans and some Africans, notably the Tutsi of Rwanda. On the other hand, most Chinese, native Americans and Aboriginal Australians, whose ancestors did not raise cattle, remain lactose intolerant.

    I could go on and elaborate on a number of other disciplines or facts that creationists have to pretend into oblivion to retain their faith, including the Ice Ages, cavemen and early hominids, much of microbiology, paleontology and archeology, continental drift and plate tectonics. Even large parts of medical research would be rendered unusable but for the fact that monkeys and mice share a common ancestor with us and therefore our fundamental cell biology and basic body architecture is identical to theirs.

    In short, and not surprisingly, the World’s most gifted evolutionary biologists, astronomers, cosmologists, geologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, historians, modern medical researchers and linguists (and about 2,000 years of accu.mulated knowledge) are right and a handful of Iron Age Middle Eastern goat herders copying then extant mythology were wrong. Creationists aren’t just trying to swim upstream against the weight of scientific evidence; they are trying to ascend a waterfall.

    All this is probably why evolution is taught in every major university and college biology program in the World. Not 99% of them, but EVERY one. Universities with extensive evolutionary biology departments include Oxford University, Cambridge University and the Imperial College in England, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Germany, the École Normale Supérieure and École Polythecnique in France and Leiden University in the Netherlands and the Swiss Federal Insti.tute of Technology in Switzerland. This is just a sample. ALL university and colleges in Europe teach evolution as a fundamental component of biology.

    The number of universities and colleges in Europe with a creation science department: ZERO. The number of tenured or even paid professors who teach creation science at any of these universities or colleges: ZERO

    In the United States, the following Universities have extensive evolutionary biology departments staffed by thousands of the most gifted biologists in the World; Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Colombia, Duke, the Massachusetts Insti.tute of Technology, Brown, Stanford, Berkley, and the University of Chicago. These are just some of the more prestigious examples. Again, ALL university and colleges in the USA with tertiary level biology classes teach evolution as a fundamental component of biology.

    The number of universities and colleges in the United States with a creation science department: ZERO The number of tenured or even paid professors who teach creation science at any of these universities or colleges: ZERO

    In Australia and Asia, the following universities and colleges have extensive evolutionary biology departments manned by more of the most gifted biological scientists in the World; Monash University in Melbourne, The University of New South Wales, Kyoto University in Ja.pan, Peking University in China, Seoul University in Korea, the University of Singapore, National Taiwan University, The Australian National University, The University of Melbourne, and the University of Sydney.

    The number of universities and colleges in Australia and Asia with a creation science department: ZERO The number of tenured or even paid professors who teach creation science at any of these universities or colleges: ZERO

    The most prestigious scientific publications in the Western World generally accessible to the public include: The Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, Scientific American, Science, New Scientist, Cosmos and Live Science.

    Every month, one or more of them publishes a peer reviewed article highlighting the latest developments in evolution. The amount of any creationist science articles published in ANY of these prestigious publications; ZERO.

    I could repeat the above exercise for the following disciplines, all of which would have to be turned on their heads to accommodate creation science – paleontology, archeology, geology, botany, marine biology, astronomy, medicine, cosmology and historical linguistics.

    Nearly every scientific society, representing hundreds of thousands of scientists, have issued statements rejecting intelligent design and a peti.tion supporting the teaching of evolutionary biology was endorsed by 72 US Nobel Prize winners.

    Number of creation science Nobel Prize winners: ZERO

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society with more than 130,000 members and over 262 affiliated societies and academies of science including over 10 million individuals, has made several statements and issued several press releases in support of evolution.

    Number made n support of creation science: ZERO

    According to The International Federation of Biologists, there are more than 3 million biological scientists globally who rely on the 5 laws of Darwinian evolution for their jobs every single day.

    There appears to be three possible explanations for all this:

    (i) there is a worldwide conspiracy of universities, colleges and academic publications, including all their hundreds of thousands of professors, editors, reviewers, and support staff, to deny creation science;

    (ii) you, ______have a startling new piece of evidence that was right before our eyes that will turn accepted biological science and about 10 other sciences on their heads if ONLY people would listen to you, no doubt earning you a Nobel Prize and a place in history beside the likes of Darwin, Newton and Einstein; or

    (iii) you are a complete blowhard who has never studied one subject of university level biology, never been on an archaeological dig, never studied a thing about paleontology, geology, astronomy, linguistics or archaeology, but feel perfectly sure that you know more than the best biologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, doctors, astronomers botanists and linguists in the World because your mommy and daddy taught you some comforting stories from Bronze Age Palestine as a child.

    I know which alternative my money is on. -;)

    February 5, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Colin, I love your work!

      February 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
    • Doris

      Great post, Colin. Speaking of money, what about this Andrew Snelling? Ham mentioned him a few times. Here's a geologist who received his credentials for dating rocks billions of years old, still selling his services as a geologist while being employed as a "Creationist Assistant Professor of Geology" by the Institute for Creation Research. Is it all about the money for these "scientists" who are playing both sides of the fence?

      February 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
    • Barcs

      Are you the same Colin from ATS? I had to ask because you have very similar knowledge. 🙂

      February 5, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
    • JAMES OLIVER

      Colin, enjoyed the read. Thanks

      February 5, 2014 at 1:57 pm |
  12. Cliff Kerstetter jr

    I would like to say to Mr Nye, his theory about great scientific minds making America great is so true, but GOD gave us that ability because God said he would bless those that blessed Abraham, (OR ISRAEL) no nation has went to bat for Israel more then America and when they turn there back on that little nation they will not remain as they are today but will loose their position as being number one.
    GOD DOES BLESS AMERICA AND THAT IS WHY

    February 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Umm, Cliff – how do you KNOW that God said what you claim God said?

      February 5, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      oh what an infantile, fairy tale world view! Surely you could have fit Santa or the tooth fairy into your story somewhere for some added magicalness?

      February 5, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The transative property of blessing?

      February 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
    • WASP

      @cliff: you are missing one tinny, tiny bit of history there in your "I AM CHRISTIAN HEAR ME ROAR" thing...............
      america MADE ISREAL, real. the jews had no country and america to it to the united nations to found them a country, they chose land that was already occupied; thus the isreali/palestinan wars kicked off.

      yeah i would say if americans had no native land to go home to and we invaded anothers country because our bronze age books told us "this is your land" the people that lived there would be pretty ticked off as well.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
    • JAMES OLIVER

      Cliff, I hope the Sr. part of the family has a better grip on reality.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
  13. bostontola

    Another crucial debate topic:
    Is the moon a lesser light, or is that light merely solar light reflected off the moon.

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

      False dilemma.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
      • bostontola

        Now it is but not back then (and the people on the young earth creationism side are back then). Is creation and evolution a false dilemma?

        February 5, 2014 at 12:54 pm |
  14. Lou

    In Ham's model Hawaii will be the size of Texas within 100 years...

    February 5, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
    • Paul

      How so? Please explain.

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

        The changes on the earth's surface due to tectonic plates shifting has to be accelerated if Ham's model of a young earth is true. ...to the point where land masses should be produced in centuries, not millenniums.

        February 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
  15. Honey Badger Don't Care

    One thing that I learned from WATCHING the debate.

    There are a lot of fundiot creatards in Kentucky.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
    • Alias

      I lived there briefly.
      They outnumber the sane people.

      February 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
  16. Peter

    I didn't see the whole debate, but the parts that were linked to this article made me think the whole thing is not worth watching. As creationists often do when trying to attack evolution, they stack the deck by raising a bunch of questions evolution makes no attempt to answer. Evolution is not a theory about the how the universe was created. It makes no attempt to solve that problem. That is not a failure of evolution. Making an issue of that demonstrates either dishonesty or ignorance, or both.

    If people wanted to debate whether god was behind the big bang, fine. I bet Bill Nye would say "Sure, maybe." But that's not what the creationists are debating.

    They want you to believe humans were placed on the earth 6,000 years ago, and because science can't explain where matter came from their explanation is the "most logical." It's nonsensical.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
    • saysame

      Sure, creationists have been trying the same dog and pony show for decades. And they get nowhere beyond replacing their numbers at the local fundamentalist church. Sometimes they pretend they are winning to buck up the troops but they know the score.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
  17. bostontola

    Another crucial debate topic:
    Are there points of light in a fixed firmament, or are there balls of gas undergoing nuclear fusion grouped into galaxies in an expanding universe.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
  18. Curious observer

    The overwhelming majority of responses to Mr. Ham's way of thinking remind me of an axium I am quite fond of:

    God says, "Believe me, and I will show you."
    Man says, "Show me, and I will believe you."

    I may have that a bit wrong, but the meaning is the same. The fact is, the original hypothesis, the Big Bang theory, requires a immense bit of energy to produce all the energy and matter that exists in the entire universe. I heard it many times in science class that matter can neither be created or destroyed. It just transitions from one form to another. To produce EVERY molecule, every atom, every proton, neutron, and electron in the universe, only a source of immense "power" or energy source would create everything. I do not know the exact figure, but the probability of everything being created by accident is really quite small. Small enough as to make it virtually impossible. That is where I see God. He is the energy source that gave rise to EVERYTHING.

    Time is an irrelevant argument against creation, as it is a wholy worldly concept. God spoke to Moses in a term that we humans would be able to instantly understand. It is the comprehension of those words that give rise to public discussions such as this. If the universe has been created, that Creator would inevitably be able to exist in AND out of it. This is not something that we are able to study, so it is dismissed as a fantasy by modern scientists. That concept, however, would explain the "six-day creation", while also leaving room for evolution. That makes more sense to me than a one-celled organism gave rise to the modern world.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
    • Roger

      Whether it makes sense to you or not is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the evidence. There is substantial evidence that one-celled organisms did in fact give rise to the modern world. If you can amass evidence - from the real world, not from inside your head - that something else happened, please submit it to the world.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
      • Curious observer

        What particular evidence do you have? The last I heard, the theory and equations used to support evolution as it stands broke down the closer to the Big Bang it went. I have presented my argument, and perhaps I should not have added my personal ending. Now I invite you to give me the conclusive evidence you have that our shared ancestor is one single-celled organism that replicated.

        February 5, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
        • BRC

          Curious Observer,
          Thank you for reminding me. Nothing says that all life had to come from one single individual cell. If the conditions to allow a cell to form and begin acting as a living organism were in place, it stands to reason that more than one would form, potentially a lot more. It is equally likely that many (probably even most) of those primordial cells failed. Life as we know it is the result of ALL the cells that survived, not just one single tiny cell in a big wide formative world.

          February 5, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
        • Barcs

          You obvious do not understand what is meant by evolution. Biological evolution is genetic mutations sorted by natural selection. It has nothing to do with big bang. Saying that evolution breaks down at the big bang is beyond absurd.

          February 5, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
    • Peter

      Curious observer: Evolution is silent on where the universe came from.

      If you want to say it was God that created the big bang or the planet, and did so eons ago . . . OK. But that's not what creationists say.

      This wiggle room you're trying to give them—e.g., that you don't have to think in terms of six real days, etc.—can't be given them. It is part and parcel of Ham's argument that it was 6, 24-hour days, that god did this 6,000 365-day-years ago, that humans did not evolve/evolution does not take place.

      They are not making the argument you are making for them, and the difference matters.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:45 pm |
      • Curious observer

        The assumption that I believe precisely what Mr. Ham believes is erroneous. I believe in the Creation, but I do not believe it happened in 6 literal days. The evidence is there that the world is much older than 6000 years, so I cannot support that line of belief. i do believe, however, that time is of this world, and it is a term that we understand. It is the comprehension that enables debate. The Word of God cannot be taken 100% literally. Men who spend their entire lives pouring over the Bible still cannot extract all there is to know because the interpretation is always in the eye of the individual reader. I believe as I do because that is what i have interpreted. It is for that reason that we have so many different sects of Christianity. It is almost always a difference of interpretation, which leads to a difference in beliefs.

        February 5, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
        • Peter

          I haven't assumed you believe as Ham does. I am questioning why you are attempting to give him wiggle room that he doesn't deserve.

          Based on what you have written,I have no particular argument with those who want to see the Bible as you do. I have a problem with people who want to see it as Ham does.

          What you describe and what Ham describes are utterly different. You may not appreciate it—but try getting someone like Ham to support YOU. Good luck with that.

          February 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
    • BRC

      Curious Observer,
      It's probably just a typo, but I hope you meant to say that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Matter can absolutely be destroyed. With gusto. it's destruction results in its being converted into various types of energy. Again, probably just a typo.

      the rest of your comments are interesting. I've been thinking about it for some time now, that we'r all adressing teh same thing, there is jsut a fundamental difference to how we interpret it. The universe (in its curren form), almost certainly came from the big bang, which is the result of an indiscriabably energetic explosion. Scientist treat this explosion as a natural occurance (and I think they're right), there was enough energy at a single point that it caused the explosion that set things in motion (perhaps the energy density was so great at a single point that that is was triggered sub-atomic particles like the higgs-boson to coalesce energy into matter, that's the part we don't know yet). Maybe what everyone calls gods is the anthropamorphization of that energy. What has always been defined as a supernatural being, could simply be an agent of will or intent in the ball of energy that kicked things off. That is the closest thing to a god that I could see, and it would explain how "God" cam from nothing, because it was aprt of the energy that spread out into the universe, BUT that' snto what the Bible says, so I doubt many believers would look at it that way.

      As for the rest of yoru comments the odds that all teh energy in the universe is sufficient to create/affect all the matter in the universe is not infintesimally small, it is in fact a probablity of 1. We know this, because it already happened.

      And time is irrelivant in any argument because as you pointed out, it's just a concept, tiem is not a real thing, it's just how humans process teh passing of events. WHat does invalidate the Biblical account is the measurable and observable passage of those events, that would take more of what humans call time than the Bible allows for. What is impossible is generally considered fantasy yes.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:54 pm |
    • saysame

      The Big Bang Is a theory of Cosmology. The TOE just covers the change in life over time. You are attacking naturalism or atheism, not the theory of evolution.

      Your other mistake here is that you see the essential strangess of the problem but believe that an omnipotent being floating in a void solves the issue of strangeness. Not really. Any ultimate answer will be violating rules of our everyday world. Eternal diety or eternal multiverse or energy source. So it's not really fair to say one is stranger than the other. It is strange. Period.

      The biblical god doesn't fail on metaphysical grounds. It's the bible that does him in as a reasonable prospect.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:54 pm |
    • WASP

      @curious: you have a few mistakes.
      " I heard it many times in science class that matter can neither be created or destroyed."
      -that is incorrect; it's the first law of thermal dynamics that you are refering to and that covers how "energy can not be created nor destroyed" matter, which you are made of, can be destroyed.

      " To produce EVERY molecule, every atom, every proton, neutron, and electron in the universe, only a source of immense "power" or energy source would create everything."
      – seeing energy can not be created nor destroyed, then before,during and after the big bang energy was the only thing there was, so why wouldn't 100% of energy in this vast universe be capable of creating the minut amount of matter that fills it?

      "Time is an irrelevant argument against creation"
      -time isn't a "worldly thing" time can be calculated according various things in the universe. when a statement is written " And there was evening and there was morning, a second day." genesis 1:7- 1:30
      -those verses literally state what humans observe as a "full day", a single cycle facing the sun and a single cycle facing away from the sun is what humans since the dawn of time have understood to be a "day".

      i wonder why "god" conveyed a "day" as we see it from this planet, which is now written as a 24 hour period of time; unless what was written was written by people that lacked understanding of there being various methods to measure time.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
  19. jeff schaeffer

    Everyone should google "how petroleum geologists find oil". Advocates of the 6000 year old earth story would realize that every time they fill their gas tank they are supporting the scientific viewpoint.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
    • Paul

      I take it you didn't watch the debate last night. There's a difference between observational science and one's views about origins. Find oil falls under the category of observational science, something evolutionist and creationists agree on.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
      • Smeagel4T

        You failed to respond to the 6,000 year old issue.

        February 5, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
        • Paul

          As I mentioned, that's an origins issue.

          February 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
  20. YeahItsMe72

    Does anyone else see the humor in the creationists debating their point of view over the Internet (invented by science), filmed on cameras (based on science) in a hall lit by electricity (harnessed by science). It's sort of like when a young child tells you they don't need you when they are wearing clothes you bought them, in a room you provide for them eating food you prepared for them.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
    • ram

      god made man. man made technology. did the creationists ever say technology was a bad thing? i think not

      February 5, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
    • Joe

      Not that I agree with ham...but you can believe in creation, the subject of microevolution, and support science in all the areas you mentioned without having to agree with the origin of man.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:40 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.