Why the Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate May Not Be Such a Bad Thing

You may have heard that Bill Nye the Science Guy will be debating Creationist Ken Ham at the Creation Museum on February 4. The topic is “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” and the tickets were sold out almost immediately.

I’ve made it clear that I’m not a fan of the debate, and in the latest Humanist Network News, Brian Magee also explains why Nye is making a big mistake:

Even when Nye wins the debate — which is a certainty, given that he’s the only one who will be properly using scientific facts — he will have also lost because the episode will be a public relations coup for Ham and his creationist cohorts. He will be wrongly elevated no matter how silly he will look trying to explain away modern scientific findings with guesses made before the invention of the fork.

There will be some people of all persuasions who will enjoy this event, but it will not be the boost to science that Nye does so much otherwise to promote. The shared stage effect will likely have the opposite result, giving anti-science forces an unwarranted increase in their false credibility, making it even harder to do things like removing non-scientific claims from public school science classes.

This debate will not do anything for or against the veracity of evolutionary science, which is already settled. It will be a distraction and a delay to the goal of scientific acceptance Nye wants…

Maggie Ardiente, on the other hand, attempts to find the silver lining(s) in the debate:

The strategy to simply ignore intelligent design and hope it goes away is not going to work. If creationists are making inroads and changing people’s minds to allow for such nonsense, we can tug the pendulum back the other way and open people’s minds to real scientific evidence. Allowing intelligent design advocates to spread their message without strong rebuttals will gain more converts right under our nose.

Is a debate the best format for changing minds? Maybe not. But it’s already garnered national attention. It may not change the minds of people sitting in that auditorium, but the media coverage of the event just might be widespread enough for people to tune-in and make up their own minds.

At this point, that’s all we can hope for, really. If you want Creationists to change their mind, you have to at least expose them to evolution… and it’s not like a lot of the Ken Ham fans are finding good information about it in their Christian textbooks.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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