Creationism, Faith, and Legitimizing Bad Ideas

Written By: Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay

 

Excitement is building rapidly for a public debate between science educator Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” and Christian Young-Earth creationist Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis—the ministry behind the nationally embarrassing Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The event is to be held at the Creation Museum on the fourth of February with the debate topic, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”

The only legitimate answer to this question is, “No.” Because this response is obvious yet a debate is still scheduled to take place, a great deal of controversy has arisen. Many oppose the debate because, echoing biologist Richard Dawkins, it gives the “oxygen of respectability” to the creationist position. (Ham surely knows this. In fact, in a release about the event Ham said, “Having the opportunity to hold a cordial but spirited debate with such a well-known personality who is admired by so many young people will help bring the creation-evolution issue to the attention of many more people, including youngsters.”)

 

We agree with Dawkins and think the debate is an appalling idea—and that dwelling upon that now won’t help matters. What is important is realizing that the real issue is not about creationism and evolution. All serious controversy on this specific topic was settled nearly a century and a half ago and will not resurface. The scheduled debate—is creation a viable model in a scientific era—like so many others of its type, is really about one simple issue: should faith be considered a means to knowledge?

 

Creationism, then, is little more than a tragic sideshow in this more relevant, more widespread, and higher stakes debate raging at the heart of contemporary US culture. The popularity of creationism is merely a barometer for the influence and acceptance of science denial rooted exclusively in the popularity of faith-based systems of thought.

 

The debate between Nye and Ham is, at bottom, about how we know things. Ham’s position relies entirely upon faith, which ultimately regards divine revelation as its source, with the allegedly revealed truths passed along by tradition and authority. A key problem for this method of claiming knowledge is that revelation is indistinguishable from, to be blunt, simply making things up. Anyone can claim that anything was revealed to him, and even if many people do so independently, it would remain to be confirmed that the alleged revelation corresponds to objective reality. Another insuperable problem lies in the fact that neither tradition nor authority is a foolproof method for passing information with high fidelity. Traditions get modified. Authority is subject to corruption.

 

By contrast, Nye’s position relies upon the scientific method, summarized by the phrase “evidential evaluation of falsifiable hypotheses.” In other words, science aims to disconfirm its hypotheses and uses evidence to do so. This falsification process is a powerful way to eliminate bad ideas, and nothing proves an idea false better than its disagreement with reality. The humility of science is its chief tradition, which, to paraphrase physicist Richard Feynman, lives in recognizing that no matter how beautiful our hypotheses, if they disagree with evidence, then they are wrong. Observable evidence is the fundamental authority in science since even one observation confirmed to be out of agreement with theory overturns the theory.

 

Through the scientific method we can increase our confidence in those ideas that survive their encounter with observations of reality. (The mathematical discipline of statistics is a highly refined tool for exactly this purpose, and, with the scientific methodology so equipped, we can glean the wheat from chaff with staggering precision.) Speculations about reality that survive the scientific process of falsification can reasonably be termed “justified true beliefs,” which is a philosophical definition of the term “knowledge” dating back to Plato.

 

By contrast, faith—and theology more broadly—does not possess or employ a mechanism for falsification and appears only incidentally interested in observation. When it engages in observations, theology only attempts to confirm, however desperate the effort. In short, the essential tool of theology is confirmation bias (that is, starting with a theory first and working backward to fit the evidence with it), and so armed, it brazenly employs faith either as a means to apply more confidence to its cherished hypotheses than evidence will warrant or as a shield to protect that effort from the criticism it deserves. This renders faith a patently bad way to claim knowledge, and perhaps more tragically, an effort in furthering the delusions of those who employ it in an attempt to possess truth.

 

Over half of republicans believe that “God created humans in present form within the last 10,000 years,” a view shared by 40% of the US electorate. Many of these individuals are likely to be excited to see Ken Ham standing on a stage next to Bill Nye and asserting that faith-based conclusions are just as reflective of reality as conclusions that come about as a result of the scientific method. The rest of us only hope Bill Nye is able to frame his arguments exclusively in a manner that exposes creationism as a symptom of a larger cultural crisis—using faith to know anything at all.

 

About the authors:

Peter Boghossian, Ed.D.

Portland State University Philosophy Department

Author, A Manual for Creating Atheists

@peterboghossian

 

James Lindsay, Ph.D.

Author, God Doesn’t; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges

@GodDoesnt

 

67 COMMENTS

  1. Couldn’t have put it better! I must say these debates with assorted theists and creationists are actually getting quite boring! There have been a fair few and they still trot out the same empty arguments or bluntly deny the implications of well-documented and falsifiable evidence. Ken Ham is among the worst on both scores and I sometimes feel like giving him a shake. Does he really believe that rubbish?

    • In reply to #1 by MarkJordan61:

      Couldn’t have put it better! I must say these debates with assorted theists and creationists are actually getting quite boring! There have been a fair few and they still trot out the same empty arguments or bluntly deny the implications of well-documented and falsifiable evidence. Ken Ham is among t…

      He believes it can earn him scores of cash. That’s probably sufficient enough motivation for a long time.

  2. The problem with people like Ham is that their religion exists in a region of mentality walled-off from rational thought. They indoctrinate children in order to keep those systems alive–otherwise the rational human mind would win out every time. The only way for a belief system like Ham’s–which so clearly denies the evidence–to operate smoothly in the human psyche, is to destroy the rational thinking of an impressionable mind before it has a chance to realize the truth. It’s bloody religious trauma and it’s saddening that we as a species haven’t gotten past this yet.

  3. Its been said before, but giving a deluded clown like Ham a platform to debate scientists, creates a false equivalence which implies Ham has views which are of merit in a scientific discussion.
    It is perfectly clear to people with a scientific education, you might as well be talking Hindustani or Chinese as science, to these blinkered and bigoted Kentucky ignoramuses. They will gain a wide audience for their ignorance and learn nothing, with their faith-deluded followers cheering them on and claiming to have “won” the debate.

    Scientific facts and theories are not decided by popular media votes of the ignorant.

    I wonder what will feature next? The Flat-Earthists debating pseudo-science with Astronauts??

    Flat Earth Society – This was just before the launch of the first artificial satellite, and when satellite images taken from outer space showed the Earth as a sphere rather than flat, the society was undaunted; Shenton remarked: “It’s easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye.

    The society also took the position that the Apollo Moon landings were a hoax staged by Hollywood, a position also held by others not connected to the Flat Earth Society.

    The most recent world model propagated by the Flat Earth Society holds that humanity lives on a disc, with the North Pole at its center and a 150-foot (45 m) high wall of ice at the outer edge.[22] The resulting map resembles the symbol of the United Nations, which Johnson used as evidence for his position.[23] In this model, the sun and moon are each 32 miles (52 km) in diameter.

    The Flat Earth Society recruited members by attacking the United States government and all of its agencies, particularly NASA. Much of the society’s literature in its early days focused on interpreting the Bible literally to mean that the Earth is flat, although they did attempt to offer scientific explanations and evidence.

    The mentality looks familiar!

    • In reply to #3 by Alan4discussion:

      The mentality looks familiar!

      You be careful what ya say?

      Comments refuting ignorant accusations have a tendancy to get memoryholed while the ignorant accusations of the ignorant are left intact, making you look like a bit of a tit.

    • In reply to #3 by Alan4discussion:

      Its been said before, but giving a deluded clown like Ham a platform to debate scientists, creates a false equivalence which implies Ham has views which are of merit in a scientific discussion.
      It is perfectly clear to people with a scientific education, you might as well be talking Hindustani…Quite right. It is time to stop flattering those idiots. They are ridiculous so ridicule them.

  4. Ken Ham is pretending to know things he doesn’t really know, and I’m sure Bill Nye knows it’s wrong to give credibility to creationism. I just wonder what the Science Guy has up his sleeve.

  5. I hate the idea of this debate but if it must go ahead, can they install a buzzer with a flashing light which goes off anytime someone:

    • uses the word truth when they mean guess or belief

    • uses the word knowledge when they mean “read it in a book I like”

    • says something known to be untrue

    • uses the word “Theory” when they mean “Hypothesis”

    • asks someone to disprove something they cannot prove

    • uses any argument already debated and refuted (i.e., it’s only a theory, it’s too complex to not need supernatural powers, etc …)

    I suspect that with this in place, the entire debate will be a buzzing flashing waste of time …..

      • In reply to #9 by PERSON:

        In reply to #8 by Rosbif:

        Or an array of seven segment LEDs, displaying the standard argument(s) in use at any point. That could be quite a nice annotated version of the video :)

        Nice link. It would be good to have these standard arguments flash up on a big screen, accompanied by a klaxon sound a la popular misconceptions in the TV show QI

  6. A relative of mine recounted details of a meeting she went to when a minister started talking about Richard Dawkins and trying to down play any conflict by suggesting that just as he had ‘faith’ in the bible that RD had a similar ‘faith’ in his ‘beliefs’ – wish I had been there. The problem is to many people it probably sounds quite ‘reasonable’ and having respected scientist(s) debating creationists is exactly what they want and makes it appear there is still a genuine debate / conflict.

    With these moderate ministers it would probably be better if they came out instead and flatly denied evolution, stopped saying that people take the bible too literally and it’s metaphor, preached all the hell and damnation stuff, recited the 10 commandments (then got people to stand up if they had broken any of them and threw them out of church) and stopped cherry picking the nicer bits from the bible. People might see it more for what it really is…

  7. In December 2012, Ken Ham blasted world famous televangelist Pat Robertson for remarks he made live on the air, in which Robertson denied that the Bible supports a young earth. Dear Mr Ham, Didn’t Jesus warn that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25)?

    • In reply to #11 by Bob Springsteen:

      In December 2012, Ken Ham blasted world famous televangelist Pat Robertson for remarks he made live on the air, in which Robertson denied that the Bible supports a young earth.

      No surprise – There is no creationist consensus – even on interpretations of The Bible. The know-it-all bigots, have their own immovable versions of creationism and YEC – disagreeing with each other as much as with anyone else.

      It’s what you would expect from those using “make-it-up-according-to-what feels-good-to-me faith-thinking”, and the blinker spectacles of “faith interpretation”.

      Science discards refuted claims. Creationism doggedly collects and defends them regardless of the contradictions or fallacies!

  8. Reminds me of the comedic, yet somehow painful, occasions when Christopher Hitchens had to maintain a civil and “respectful” position, whilst debating those with less of a logical outlook than his own scrotum.

  9. I have to agree that this debate is a terrible idea, and I wish Mr. Nye hadn’t agreed to participate in it. It’s no secret that Mr. Ham’s museum and his AIG ministry is languishing away financially, and his alacrity to debate someone with a high profile name is a palpable attempt to both, as Richard Dawkins has pointed out, achieve for creationism undeserving attention, and money to keep himself and his business afloat. The debate is not going to change the minds of any of the audience members, because it’s unmistakably evident that he had arranged beforehand for the seats to be filled with his own cohorts, while denying access to those of a more secular view. I would feel better if the debate was to be held somewhere other than the Creation Museum, because at least this way Mr. Ham wouldn’t have absolute control over the filming and editing of the debate, which I’m sure he’ll sell for a profit afterwards. Mr. Nye had good intentions I’m sure, but he should have seen that this entire fiasco was a pitfall waiting to happen. He may as well have agreed to have a debate on whether or not the Earth was flat or not! On a brighter note, I don’t think this will keep Mr. Ham’s head above water financially for very long, and I have been donating to The Planetary Society, of which Bill Nye is C.E.O, as you all should consider! Maybe that can serve as a counterweight to this debacle-to-be.

  10. Ham’s position relies entirely upon faith, which ultimately regards divine revelation as its source, with the allegedly revealed truths passed along by tradition and authority.

    I suspect that’s just wrong. I think it is possible to develop a creationist account of life using observation and reason. I also suspect that at each failure in such an account a fault besides faith may bring to the fore the person’s actual issues better e.g. ignorance, lack of ability, bias, deceitfulness.

    • In reply to #15 by Sean_W:

      Ham’s position relies entirely upon faith, which ultimately regards divine revelation as its source, with the allegedly revealed truths passed along by tradition and authority.

      I suspect that’s just wrong.

      Ham’s claims have nothing to do with objective observation, scientific evidence or reasoning. They are asserted contrived deception.

      I think it is possible to develop a creationist account of life using observation and reason.

      The CofE and RCC have tried, but while they claim to accept the scientific theory, they pretend that this is not in conflict with miracles, god-did-it etc.

      A five-day conference, Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories, held in March 2009 by the Pontifical University in Rome, marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species, generally confirmed the lack of conflict between evolutionary theory and Catholic theology, and the rejection of Intelligent Design by Catholic scholars

      Essentially this mental compartmentalism and cognitive dissonance, separating the contradictions. Their claims about how this is supposed to work are vague, and become fallacious, inconsistent, and incoherent, as soon as they try to explain details. This should be clear on the link when the quoted Cosmology/evolutionary science paragraph, is compared with the supernatural mumbo-jumbo which follows it.
      Any departure from a non-interfering deity, to theistic dogma, promptly conflicts with scientific evidence.

      I also suspect that at each failure in such an account a fault besides faith may bring to the fore the person’s actual issues better e.g. ignorance, lack of ability, bias, deceitfulness.

      Verbosity, complexity, circular reasoning, and high sounding “blinding with (pseudo)-science” let carefully contrived flawed arguments, wash over the faithful, triggering their confirmation biases, ignorance, and incredulity.
      They cheer simplistically for “God’s team”, as YECist Ham pretends he is “representing Christianity” against atheism!

        • In reply to #20 by Sean_W:

          In reply to #17 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #15 by Sean_W:

          Hi Alan, would you be willing to tell me what you think I was trying to say with my last post?

          Hi Sean.

          Ham’s position relies entirely upon faith, which ultimately regards divine revelation as its source, with the allegedly revealed truths passed along by tradition and authority.

          I suspect that’s just wrong.

          I thought the initial statement was correct and your reply was mistaken.

          I think it is possible to develop a creationist account of life using observation and reason.

          I agree that that is possible, but would dispute that that is the basis of Ham’s claims. His claims are circular, starting with biblical preconceptions, not observations.

          For the rest of your comment, I agree some deist positions can be consistent with observations and some theists agree on some observation based science. I thought it needed a little more information and an example, so I put in the link @17 to illustrate the points you make.

          I also suspect that at each failure in such an account a fault besides faith may bring to the fore the person’s actual issues better e.g. ignorance, lack of ability, bias, deceitfulness.

          Here – I agree that this can highlight the issues in some cases, but I added my opinion, that in many cases the honest presentation “will wash over believer’s heads” due to confirmation biases.

          Sorry if it was not clear enough.

    • Sean_W,

      On another thread i posted a long winded opinion…. But, i think it bears reiteration (and I will truncate it)….

      Believers do not just believe. They LOVE the god construct and think it LOVES them back. That type of investment can make you do all sorts of cognitive dissonance and denial. Once it is constructed, it is very stout. Very stout indeed.

      In reply to #15 by Sean_W:

      Ham’s position relies entirely upon faith, which ultimately regards divine revelation as its source, with the allegedly revealed truths passed along by tradition and authority.

      I suspect that’s just wrong. I think it is possible to develop a creationist account of life using observation and reason…

  11. I’ve read all the comments here and on the other (monster) thread which started a couple of weeks ago. On one level, debating creationists is bad, as outlined in this article and others like it. But, on the other hand, I’ve learned a lot about the creationist position, how they argue and, in this way, feel I’ve upped my game in defending science against faith. It’s not a problem over here in the UK, but in the States, we need to raise the game of the 60% non-creationist and debates like this may well help.

  12. Ken Ham is constructing a replica in size of Noah’s Ark at the Creation Centre. Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to have started building the damn thing on the Somerset Levels?

    • In reply to #18 by Bob Springsteen:

      Ken Ham is constructing a replica in size of Noah’s Ark at the Creation Centre. Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to have started building the damn thing on the Somerset Levels?

      I understand that he is using steel in its construction as a wooden vessel that size using bronze-age technology would fall apart at sea.

      Oh! and it seems the archaeologists have found the origins of the Noah story and Hammy has the shape and other materials wrong::-

      But forget all those images of a long vessel with a pointy bow — the original Noah’s Ark, new research suggests, was round.

      A recently deciphered 4,000-year-old clay tablet from ancient Mesopotamia — modern-day Iraq — reveals striking new details about the roots of the Old Testament tale of Noah. It tells a similar story, complete with detailed instructions for building a giant round vessel known as a coracle — as well as the key instruction that animals should enter “two by two.”

      The tablet went on display at the British Museum on Friday, and soon engineers will follow the ancient instructions to see whether the vessel could actually have sailed.

      The tablet records a Mesopotamian god’s instructions for building a giant vessel — two-thirds the size of a soccer field in area — made of rope, reinforced with wooden ribs and coated in bitumen.

      Finkel said that on paper (or stone) the boat-building orders appear sound, but he doesn’t yet know whether it would have floated. A television documentary due to be broadcast later this year will follow attempts to build the ark according to the ancient manual.

      Ah ! A scientific test rather than Hammy’s steel reinforced fake copy of biblical mythology!

      There is another link here:- http://www.archaeology.org/news/1763-140127-ark-cuneiform-translation

      Irving Finkel of the British Museum has translated the text of a Babylonian tablet that he says is the original version of the story of Noah’s Ark. The 3,700-year-old tablet describes a giant, circular coracle with wooden ribs that was waterproofed with two kinds of bitumen. He adds that Hebrew scholars would have encountered such texts during the Babylonian exile. The tablet was brought to England after World War II by a returning airman, whose son has loaned it to the British Museum, where it will on display with an ancient Babylonian map of the world. The text of the flood tablet helps explain the details of the map and the edge of the known world, where the ark was said to rest.

      Does the word “ARC” suggest a circle to anyone else??

  13. Having interviewed and personally known a lot of creationists of several different religions, I think the importance of this debate is to give those that haven’t even the slightest idea of what the evidence for evolution is a peek outside their carefully monitored faith bubble. Ham is not going to convert anyone who already understands the evidence for evolution, but Nye may well plant the seed that leads to Creationists eventually looking for more information outside the alternate reality of cradle-to-grave insulation from science many of these people live in. There have been numerous personal friends I’ve know that went to Christian Colleges that were shocked that they’d never even heard the basics of evolution and the evidence to support it. I didn’t convince them that creationism was wrong during that first conversation, but many continued to look into it later on the Web and in books and have changed their mind completely over several years. Therefore, I think it is a win-win. The point is not to “win” the debate, but to educate those that would never be reached in any other way.

  14. I am probably wrong when I say that things are fundamentally different here in Germany. The theory of evolution is something that EVERY child comes in contact with during their school life, at least once! And I cannot come up with a single politician, not even from the more conservative parts of Germany who seriously doubts Darwin’s theory.

  15. I too am concerned when religion, which has absolutely no evidence to back it up, is allowed an equal platform along side science. It implies that religion and science are equally valid when attempting to explain the physical universe. Of course, they are not. This is rather like running a degree in mathematics then spending the lectures arguing with an unqualified pedestrian off the street about whether mathematics even exists. Being polite to an individual so intent on disrupting a legitimate lesson would be an utter waste of time. Similarly, religion invites itself to question science with absolutely no qualifications and with a complete absence of evidence. Truth in such circumstances will always be the victim.

    Understanding the universe is now a scientific matter not a religious matter.

  16. The Nye/Ham debate is troubling for folks interested in seeing the world a better place to say the least; it is clearly a win for the two publicity hound showmen who will be debating. The more Ham has talked up the importance of the debate with Nye, the more justifiable our worry. Nye is not a scientist by a long stretch. While he clearly makes a good elementary school science teacher, befitting an undergraduate engineer, it is not a foregone conclusion he will not get duped and slapped around in the debate with Ham. Ham is a nasty old slag of a fundamentalist, and regardless of the outcome the dorky bow-tied Nye will doubtless provide editable material for the forces of ignorance. IF Nye does get genuinely duped by Ham, then he will be fodder for anti-Enlightenment forces for at least a decade. Of course, Nye will have gotten some increasingly scarce face-time.

  17. So let’s see- we have a couple of white guys debating whether swarthy ancient Middle Easterners had a clue about the cosmos.

    I think we should bill this showdown as The Thrilla in Vanilla.

  18. It’s an unfair fight.
    The Creationist just needs to stay in the game to win. He doesn’t even need facts on his side to achieve this, he just needs to be good at dancing around the issue, and at playing to the audience.
    The Scientist needs an unequivocal knock-out to win.

  19. In reply to #22 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #20 by Sean_W:

    Thank you Alan. Your first post was clear, I just didn’t think it considered my point.

    I don’t think faith can do all the work Peter wants it to. However, it would be unfair to assume too much about his position from this short piece, and silly to pretend that I’m in a position to solve the creationist problem. I’d still like to say a few things about why I think the creationist position does not rely entirely on faith. NB Peter is using a specific instance to talk about a more general problem, so you can assume I’m also addressing more than just Ham’s problems below.

    Even assuming that a creationist starts from religious tradition and the belief that “God exist and created the world just as it is only a few thousand years ago” it does not follow that his position relies entirely on faith. He has no doubt added substantially to these initial assumptions many observations and a lot of reasoning. Together these constitute a significant part of what his position relies on today.

    Of course someone may counter that his position still rests on faith and therefore in that sense ultimately relies entirely on faith. If you remove faith the entire thing comes down like a house of cards, or even better, drains down the tub.

    But this assumes a linear and one way progression from initial assumptions -faith in this case- to the more robust creationist position which includes all of their observations and reasoning since. I suspect there is no such linear one way progression. Instead a creationist’s understanding should evolve with their observations and reasoning, and where it doesn’t or does so poorly, a problem besides faith may best explain what’s going on. That is what I considered the important part of my first post i.e. other issues besides faith are better workhorses in the study of why people believe crazy things.

    There are probably other senses in which his position can be said to rely entirely on faith, but I think at least some will be covered by the above in one way or another.

    • In reply to #32 by Sean_W:

      In reply to #22 by Alan4discussion:

      I think the creationist position does not rely entirely on faith. NB Peter is using a specific instance to talk about a more general problem, so you can assume I’m also addressing more than just Ham’s problems below.

      It really does not matter what other variations of “faith”are included or if the faith-thinking is personal or copied from the faith-thinking of others who are mistakenly recognised as “authorities”!

      Even assuming that a creationist starts from religious tradition and the belief that “God exist and created the world just as it is only a few thousand years ago” it does not follow that his position relies entirely on faith.

      It must do. There is no way to arrive at that conclusion other than blind-faith or copying from others using mistaken assumptions based on blind faith.

      He has no doubt added substantially to these initial assumptions many observations and a lot of reasoning. Together these constitute a significant part of what his position relies on today.

      Many creationists incorporate misinformation and dis-information circulated by the likes of Ham of the historical mistaken views of the pre 1990s RCC. Any “observations are directed and cherry-picked in association with spoon-fed misconceptions – usually in the form of “I – with my ‘superior’ faith-thinking, can’t understand this, so – god-must-have-did-it”!

      Of course someone may counter that his position still rests on faith and therefore in that sense ultimately relies entirely on faith. If you remove faith the entire thing comes down like a house of cards, or even better, drains down the tub.

      It does, – but faith-thinking defends those mistakes by promoting and preaching fallacious thinking as a “superior” means of acquiring knowledge. Preachers then tangle up the issues in obfuscation, irrationality, and fallacious ill-defined verbosity.

      But this assumes a linear and one way progression from initial assumptions -faith in this case- to the more robust creationist position which includes all of their observations and reasoning since. I suspect there is no such linear one way progression.

      The preaching and indoctrination build all sorts of social emotional attachments, personal relationships, social status, and invested personal commitments into the religious memes. (Think of those in the “Clergy Project”.)

      Instead a creationist’s understanding should evolve with their observations and reasoning, and where it doesn’t or does so poorly, a problem besides faith may best explain what’s going on.

      The additional “problem” is the personal and social relationships with fellow “faith-thinkers” who will shun or apply social pressure on dissenters. Their imaginary “eternal life in paradise/Hell is on the line along with that of the apostate along with the threat of dissent spreading.

      That is what I considered the important part of my first post i.e. other issues besides faith are better workhorses in the study of why people believe crazy things.

      The emotional aspects are important, but they are part of the faith-based indoctrination process which generates the vicious circles and the circular thinking.

      There are probably other senses in which his position can be said to rely entirely on faith, but I think at least some will be covered by the above in one way or another.

      I think we have covered those now.

      • In reply to #40 by Alan4discussion:

        Thanks for indulging my skepticism Alan. I’ve been unsatisfied lately with many of the explanations offered for peoples behavior and beliefs. They often seem to be just-so stories to me.

        But I do think a lot of what you’re saying is useful and close to the truth.

        -cheers

  20. *”Through the scientific method we can increase our confidence in those ideas that survive their encounter with observations of reality.” *

    Therein lays a problem – there will be hundreds, if not thousands, who will testify that they have observed miracles or had encounters with god, and a lot of them will have a show of hands that will say others were there when it happened and they saw it, too! The evidence has to be harder than merely observed.

    However, I am delighted that Nye will debate with Ham because it is only by meeting the arguments, such as they are, head on an demolishing them in hard evidence, can rational thinking dominate.Let Ham have the air he wants so Nye has a public forum wherein he can extinguish Ham’s fire. To have refused the debate would have been interpreted by those who are open to rational persuasion that Nye lacked confidence in his evidence, and we don’t want the other side to seize on that to support their erroneous claims.!

  21. I have found through experience that discussion with religious zealots, Ham is certainly one of them, yields little more than a stage for them to unload more nonsense on the gullible. Although I don’t feel the debate with Ham is a good idea, especially not for Bill, I wish him well and will be nervously awaiting the results. I’m in your corner, Bill….

  22. At NO TIME should we ever give up on these debates. By not engaging in debates with creationists, we give them the slight edge up in their corner and they use this in forwarding their interests and propaganda against the uneducated and ignorant. What better way to convince a child that ‘GOD’ is on their side than to show that the science people are too afraid to step up to the plate.

    I was recently reminded by a patient that I was a closet Atheist, more interested in keeping to myself and my relations with people neutral than stepping up for my own known truths. This re-lit the fire under me that the more quiet we are and the more we only engage with creationists in these closed circles the less chance we have of getting the truth out to the masses. I don’t need to convert as badly as the Christians do as much as just make someone question their beliefs. The loss of faith comes from asking questions and getting no true answers. MORE debates but these need to get into the mainstream and not just advertised in our smaller circles.

  23. In reply to NUMBER 6 by Fritz. Ham believes in the money: If Ham is only doing it for the cash, then he is in big trouble with his God. The so-called good book warns that the love of money is the root of all evil (1Timothy 6:10).

  24. “Legitimizing” is a concern in academic circles. In creationist circles, Ken Ham is already legitimate, and Bill Nye doesn’t have a CV to protect, so he is the perfect guy to do this. Betcha 10 bucks that in 20 years, there will someone on this board saying “Ya know, what got me thinking was this debate I saw between Ken Ham and Bill Nye when I was a kid.”

  25. Here is my take. Bill Nye is the smartest guy in the debate. I’m sure he watched the previous debates with Ham and is plenty prepared. I have total faith (sorry) he will make Ham seem like a caveman.

  26. Why would someone be posed to this debate if Nye is going to destroy Ham? The argument that it calls attention to Ham is disingenuous. Ham has a large following, and if anyone were to be drawn to this debate out of curiosity wouldn’t slam-dunking him be the best thing? I think there is fear because Nye is out of his league here. Dawkins ought to be the one debating, but he seems to think defending his worldview against creationists is beneath him. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

  27. Many from the scientific community are upset that this debate is taking place. They claim the debate has long since been won so it should not continue. I understand that the scientific community already accepts evolution but the public does not.

    46% of Americans reject evolution in favor of something akin to Young Earth Creationism. That’s almost half of us. Science educators are failing to do their jobs when they hide away at the university or only accept speaking engagements at secular events.

    Bill’s expertise is in the public communication of science. I believe good things will come of this. I fully support his efforts to reach out to the public in this manner.

    • In reply to #48 by JonPerry:

      They claim the debate has long since been won so it should not continue.

      The point, it seems to me, is not that “the debate has long since been won.” Rather, it is that a faith-based religion cannot rationally be placed on an equal footing with empirically-proven scientific fact. In the past, we had an excuse. We did not have the methods and the knowledge we have now. The point is that in this wondrous age, science has shown us that there need never have been a debate at all.

  28. Just watched an hour of the debate; VERY disappointed with Bill Nye. Expected Ham to be repetitious but Nye was just as tedious, IMO. He failed to challenge Ham on blatant lies (the age of the Earth has only been calculated from meteorites!! and radiometric dating methods are completely inaccurate and disagree with each other). NO, they don’t!
    Also he missed some obvious biblical nonsense like “On the fourth day God created the stars” yet he “let there be light” on the first day. Then again, getting into argument about such nonsense wouldn’t help Nye’s cause I suppose.
    Bill Nye repeated too often ‘The wonder of science’ in the same way that Ham repeated ‘The wonder of creation’, Frustrating.

    Hitchens could have done a number on Ham but sadly, Nye is no Hitchens…

  29. To summarize the debate –

    I believe based on a mountain of evidence from lots of sources and diverse scientific disciplines.

    I believe based on one book written during the Bonze Age by some nomadic herders.

  30. Just watched the debate…the distinction between observational and historical science is an interesting one. It seems that as neither creation nor evolution can be falsified – then they naturally fall into the latter category.

    • In reply to #54 by juster:

      Just watched the debate…the distinction between observational and historical science is an interesting one. It seems that as neither creation nor evolution can be falsified – then they naturally fall into the latter category.

      I’d love to see Ken Ham as a juror. “But that is historical science. We can’t really know how it happened”

    • In reply to #54 by juster:

      Just watched the debate…the distinction between observational and historical science is an interesting one.

      Not really! Historical science is observational science from more than an instant ago, as recorded in human records – or in nature, – for future reference.

      It seems that as neither creation nor evolution can be falsified -

      … But only in the eyes of those who have no idea of what a scientific falsification process and methodology are! (and of course those with preconceived dishonest agendas.)

      http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Falsifiability.html

      Falsifiability or refutability is the logical possibility that an assertion could be shown false by a particular observation or physical experiment. That something is “falsifiable” does not mean it is false; rather, it means that if the statement were false, then its falsehood could be demonstrated.

      The claim is simply the assertion of a false dichotomy, pretending the two are equivalent. Evolution could be demonstrated to be false, but has been confirmed to happen thousands of times by observations and experiments.

      Creationist claims about biology have been consistently proved to be false, but “god-claims” are usually too vague to test, so are not “falsifiable”.

      then they naturally fall into the latter category.

      Reality is a continuum. No such separate categories exist.

  31. I understand all the arguments against debating creationists but the power of Bill Nye on young adults makes for a special case. So many grew up watching him in U.S middle schools (sketchy pedagogy but just a fact) that they will listen to him. I applaud the fact that he has become more outspoken. It would be nice if “The Magic of Reality” was required reading, but until then …

  32. Ug, Ken Ham basically think any evidence is wrong if the bible doesn’t support it. Stars more than 6000 light years away? Can’t be. The way to calculate the distance must be wrong or the speed of light must have been different back then. Radio metric dating can’t be right if it doesn’t match the bible so radiometric dating must be wrong or have different results 6000 years ago. Etc etc.

  33. Ham’s arguments seem to boil down to this: both science and religion rely on the same evidence, but because religion has (the Christian) God and ye ol` Bible on its side, religion is right. And because they can’t both be right, science, therefore, is wrong. Moreover, science, as properly interpreted at the Creation Museum, supports the Biblical account of Life.

    I gotta say, not even a hint of ham-fisted logic there, not a hint.

  34. I stayed up to watch the live stream of this on YouTbe and have to say, Bill Nye handed Ham his ass in a hat and he did it without being that great of a debater.

    I was surprised at how bad Ham was, (not having the facts on his side was a factor), and at how full on “the Bible says so” he was. All he could come up with was, “No one saw it, you don’t know”, over and over. It was a bit embarrassing.

    The final thing that made this a success was the reaction on social media. Several comments I saw on Twitter (#CreationDebate), were from Young Earth Creationists, genuinely questioning what they had been taught. Some saying their Pastors were liars, others that they may have been misled, but it probably wasn’t wilfully, even a couple that were now questioning their faith.

    I was originally as scepital as others, but this could turn out be the beginning of the end, for Creationism

  35. Nye might have pointed out the fundamentalists all cherry pick their belief systems every hour.
    They deny carbon dating, then go to a heart surgeon that uses MRIs.
    They claim Noah built a huge arc that science says would have broken apart, but travel in a 747 only because they trust the science that built it and maintains it, and the proven aerodynamics behind it.
    They pray for their child to remain safe in combat, then praise God when he comes back safe. If he’s killed, it was because God needed him.
    As Ham even admitted, nothing will ever sway his faith. Then what’s the point in even talking to a person like this. He’s off the grid.

  36. I’ve watched only up through Ham’s 30-minute sermon. Bill got off to a slow start, I thought, but the story about the bow tie paid off. Ham seemed to rely a lot on video clips of bible-thumpers who were also scientists (so they claimed), but all those demonstrated is that the human brain can hold wildly contradictory points of view and still function. The one I enjoyed most (LOL!) was the astronomer who said something like “nothing in observational astronomy is incompatible with a 6,000-year-old universe.”
    Looking forward to seeing the rest!
    Steve

  37. I am tired of reading about how it’s a bad idea to engage with creationists because it ostensibly “legitimizes” the debate. Guess what: a lot of people in this country really do believe the stuff Ham espouses. We need to engage so that their ridiculous ideas are exposed for what they are: completely incompatible with observation and centuries of scientific progress. If we don’t engage them and rather assume that our silence alone wins the argument, then more and more non-scientists will buy the argument that there is a conflict. We need to confront them and embarrass them using logic and evidence. The truth is on our side, so let’s meet their challenge–they have no shortage of funds and talent and will continue to produce large-budget and highly professional presentations. They are keyed in to current marketing strategies and we are fooling ourselves if we think we can just snub our noses at them and ignore it. It’s time to accept all challenges and bury their ideas! Momentum is on our side…..so I say GREAT JOB BILL NYE!!

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