WWBD?: Bill Nye, Ken Ham, and When Smart People Say Dumb Things.

 

(Welcome to our first of many posts on the upcoming Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate. Not only are we going to have editorial posts, but Lord willing, we’re going to be covering the debate live. Stay tuned for details. This debate sold out in two minutes. Those are Super Bowl like numbers. Never fear, however, you can live stream the event for five dollars over at the Answers in Genesis site.)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I used to be a minister who hung out with atheists. When I first started this at Ohio State, I went through a crash course of trying to understand how atheists thought. I found out a lot of cool things and my misconceptions about atheists were corrected. They pushed me into studying science and eventually led me down the road to re-embracing the Catholic tradition.

On second thought, they may not approve of the latter.

One of the things I discovered during that time is the Internet has led to an atheist revolution. Every atheist from every corner of the world can now find instant community on blogs, social media, and YouTube channels. As I participated in these communities, I made good friends, learned a lot, and also came to realize that atheists could be very much like Christians.

Why? They are very good at manufacturing drama where none really should exist.

Take for example the hue and cry of Bill Nye (rhyme unintended) the Science Guy (rhyme intended) agreeing to debate Ken Ham at the Creation Museum.

Let’s sample some of the reactions, shall we?

First, is from a  friend of mine, Hemant Mehta and Patheos blogger. He gives a great summary of the events that led to this debate which you can read here.  Still, the title of the post sums up Internet Atheist reaction “Hey, Bill Nye, Why the Hell Would You Agree to Debate a Creationist?”

That sentiment was echoed all over the atheist internet including the comment section on PZ Myers’ famed blog.  Panda’s Thumb takes it to the realm of the blatantly offensive with this quote:

If it is true, I sincerely hope Mr. Nye will reconsider. There is nothing to debate, and a “debate” with Mr. Nye will only give Mr. Ham credibility that he does not deserve and increase not only his visibility but also his ability to attract investors. May I suggest that Mr. Nye take his cue from the noted Holocaust scholar, Deborah Lipstadt, who told the magazine Limmud,

Limmud’s organisers invited Lipstadt to participate in a panel discussion with [Holocaust denier David] Irving, she would refuse point blank. “I don’t debate Holocaust deniers. Putting him on a panel would mean someone lost their mind. He’s a liar – why give a liar a platform?”

For those of you not following along, the writer just compared Creationist to people who deny the Holocaust. Why is this a problem? Um, yeah, ask your Jewish friends how they’d feel about that.

Anyway, what would prompt Internet Atheists to such high drama and absurdest speech? Essentially, they think Bill Nye is not an evolutionary scientist and not a good debater. They’re afraid that Ham and his “debating tactics” will run the poor ole science guy through the buzz saw. Or, to put it more mildly, they believe, Ham and his followers are religious idiots who will never change their mind. Further, they fear, Nye is giving the Creationists “credibility” by going into the “dark heart,” the Creation Museum.

Let’s break this down. Apparently, they are already making excuses for Bill before he even steps into the ring. Frankly, I’d be pissed and tell them where they could stick their copy of Origin of the Species. Nye, however, seems unfazed. He seems confident, and ready to enjoy the experience. Word of advice, Internet Atheists, it doesn’t make your guy look good when you’re already making excuses for him. I’m sure the Science Guy will hold his own just fine.

Second, Nye is showing basic human decency, something that many people in our country have forgotten. He is truly loving his neighbor by giving Ham the dignity of addressing him as a fellow human being. Imagine that. Imagine if we all decided to start treating our ideological opponents with common decency. Indeed, one of the rules of logic (something that many Internet Atheist and Christians shut off when they turn on their computers) is that you always present your opponent’s position in the strongest possible light, in terms they, not you, recognize. Not only does this show respect, but it goes to show you’re not an arrogant d-bag who doesn’t take the time to read an opponent’s book once in awhile.

Finally, the assumption that people will “never” change their minds is inherently dangerous and a complete inability to understand human beings. People change their minds all the time. Take me, for example. Twenty years ago, I would have classified myself as a Young Earth Creationist in the vein of Ken Ham. Now, I’m someone who is in Theistic Evolution camp with some distinct qualifications.

However, I don’t think that YEC people are idiots anymore than I think Total Naturalists are idiots. They certainly aren’t liars and “Holocaust” deniers (good lord). People’s mind can change and so can what we know through science. As for the theory of evolution, I think it’s a great, provable, workable theory with the information that we have at our disposal. Could that change? Of course it can. Science is full of major seismic changes in our understanding. That is what true science does; it continually sifts the evidence

Until then, let’s stop the drama and name calling. I’m not saying, “Hey, let’s all hold hands and think we are the same.” We’re not. We have different beliefs and worldviews. Many times, they clash. Our survival as a society depends on respect in the way we dialogue with each other.

So, in other words, ask yourself this question: WWBND? (What would Bill Nye Do?)

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About Jonathan Ryan

Jonathan Ryan is a novelist, blogger and columnist. His novel, 3 Gates of the Dead, published by Open Road Media, is in bookstores everywhere. The sequel, Dark Bride, will be out in April 2015


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