Ken Ham and Bill Nye: Who is on the Bible’s Side?

Ken Ham says that there is genuine scientific debate about “molecules to man” evolution. The very phrase that he uses shows that his real target isn’t evolutionary biology. He is trying to undermine Christianity and the Bible. He is trying on the one hand to deny that human beings are composed of molecules, something so undeniable that for Christians to reject it makes Christianity a laughing stock. And he is trying on the other hand to deny that God can turn molecules into human beings, despite that being a clear teaching of the story in Genesis.

Bill Nye, on the other hand, does not treat the Bible as though it is supposed to answer scientific questions, but neither does he suggest that it ought to be in a manner that brings the Christian faith into disrepute. And so it is arguable that he is the one who is treating the Bible better, if the choice is between him and Ken Ham.

As presumably everyone knows by now, the “Ham on Nye” debate is taking place later today. I won’t try to predict the outcome in terms of its impact. But one thing that is clear is that questions pertaining to evolution are settled through research in laboratories and on paleontological digs, investigating the genome and other relevant matters, not by who can score the most points in a debate.

My biggest hope in all this is to see lots of vocal Christian supporters of Bill Nye. There will be too many supporting Ken Ham simply because they think he represents “their team.” But that is only true if their team is “whoever wears the Christian label” and not “whoever is speaking the truth in this context.” Those who call themselves Christians do not always stand for truth – we should, but we do not. And non-Christians are not always opposed to the truth – especially in contexts in which there are Christians who have embraced lies and deceptions.

Will you be watching the debate live?

Here are some other things on the subject from around the web:

Biologos has a “pre-game analysis” along the lines of sports commentary.

Karl Giberson suggests that the “anti-science guy” automatically wins.

Questioning Answers in Genesis advises Bill Nye not to teach the false dichotomy. David Macmillan makes a similar point as he shares his past adherence to young-earth creationism. And Michael Zimmerman brings Evolution Weekend into the picture.

Peter Hess addresses Glenn Beck’s analogy between the debate and Galileo.

Jim Kidder has two post on the topic.

Jason Rosenhouse continues his discussion of probability and evolution.

RJS looks at the intersection between faith and neuroscience.

If you are interested in ancient Jewish “science” there is a free book you can read online.

Christian Piatt shared some church signs, including this one, which poses the same false dichotomy that motivates charlatans like Ken Ham:

 

  • Aziraphale

    To be fair to Ken Ham, I don’t think he’s denying that God can turn molecules into human beings. He’s denying that the unaided action of the laws of nature can do so. And as regards the first step, from non-living molecules to life, I would say he’s not been proved wrong (though I expect that he will be).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      But the very act of pretending that the entirety of the evidence for evolution of organisms can be set aside because of uncertainty about abiogenesis is itself a bait-and-switch move.

  • Julie Anne

    Ken Ham loses credibility for me when implies that one cannot be a Christian without believing in the literal 6-day creation. This is not a primary doctrinal issue and he seems to make it one.

    • John Jacob Jinglheimer

      If you pay attention to the debate he says the opposite. He states that he’s not saying they aren’t Christian because of what the criteria are to actually be a Christian doesn’t hinge on believing the literal 6-day creation.

      • Julie Anne

        Sorry, I disagree. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He also says in articles that if you don’t believe in YEC, then you logically cannot believe the rest of the Bible as infallible or trustworthy. I don’t have links handy, but I have found them. One was on an article in which he was addressing college students.

        Ham places a lot of focus on students at college. Sadly, this is where college students learn through their science class that YEC is not compatible with what they are taught and it can rock their faith – especially if the implied message is that you cannot be a Christian if you believe other than YEC. I’m saying this from experience. The YEC debate was the initial point at which my daughter questioned her faith, and has since abandoned. (I learned this several years after the fact.)

  • Sven2547

    In addition to Ham’s grotesque distortion of theology is his utter disregard for the scientific method. AIG’s website even states, in the “About Us” section:

    By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record.

    When you automatically dismiss evidence that contradicts (your rigid and unusual interpretation of) scripture, you can’t even pretend to be approaching the subject material objectively. The man is a charlatan, nothing more.

  • Jim Stump

    FYI, the “NCSE” link in your post is actually to the BioLogos website

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks for pointing that out. I fixed it.

  • guest

    I can’t watch the debate as I’ll be asleep, being in the UK.
    I find it mindboggling that this debate is generating so much publicity. As if it will prove anything! The proof of evolution isn’t abour whether Bill Nye can outtalk Ken Ham, it’s about the hundreds of transitional fossils like Tiktalik and all the new feathered dinosaurs they’ve dug up in China, as well as the DNA evidence of common descent and things like retroviruses. The proof of evolution is easy to find; the fossils are all documented on Wikipedia. I don’t see why a debate is needed. Anyone who wants to learn about evolution and has access to google can do so.
    Besides which, Genesis makes no senses as an origin story. If molecules into man over billions of years is incredible, how much more incredible is it to say that a man can be *poofed* into being in an instant, from dust? And then God has to make him a woman from his own rib (why not from dust as well?) because the all-knowing creator has not anticipated that his creation might become lonely….and he offers Adam the animals for companions first- I guess the edict against bestiality hadn’t yet been written. This idea of a literal tree of knowlege, whose fruit actually makes you self-aware- surely anyone can tell that that’s straight from a fairytale? If Adam named all the animals, why are we still naming them now?
    Don’t get me wrong, Genesis as a story is pretty good. The garden of Eden is an iconic image. It’s inspired some beutiful artwork. It just isn’t real.

  • Barry Wallace

    I think an apropos companion sign to the billboard above would say, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo: You’ve Got to Be Kidding — Everyone Else”

  • Joe

    And he is trying on the other hand to deny that God can turn molecules into human beings, despite that being a clear teaching of the story in Genesis.

    There are lots of clear teachings in the story of Genesis. So to avoid undermining Christianity and the Bible we can pretend like there are not clear teachings whenever we feel like it. And then we can say other things are clear teachings if we don’t like some guy named Ken Ham, and then suddenly it’s undermining Christianity and the Bible again when Ken Ham does it We never undermine Christianity and the Bible, only Ken Ham does. And that’s just Genesis. Lots of other clear teachings are in the rest of the Bible too. Basically if we don’t like the teachings, then they are not so clear. And if we don’t like Ken Ham then they are the clearest thing ever. And we are allowed to decide which ones are clear, but Ken Ham isn’t.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I don’t think that is a helpful approach at all. The Bible says multiple things, and no one should be saying “the Bible clearly states” except perhaps ironically when pointing out to someone who likes saying that sort of thing that the Bible is equally clear in saying something different.

      • Joe

        Okay. Wouldn’t be the first time my irony meter wasn’t working right. Probably won’t be the last either!

  • Artur Sebastian Rosman

    This whole debate is a sorry media sideshow that detracts from the substantial dialogue going on between science and religion. Here is a list of where you can engage this dialogue:

    http://cosmostheinlost.com/2013/09/30/top-10-list-turned-supernova-science-religion/


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