My 100% guaranteed pick on tonight’s Creationism vs. Evolution debate

In tonight’s much ballyhooed Creation vs. Science debate, viewers sitting in front of their computers will watch Bill Nye (representing playful but serious science) and Ken Ham (representing strident religious fundamentalism and practiced con artistry) vigorously debate the veracity of the theory of evolution.

My big prediction? The mind of literally nobody who watches the debate will change one iota. Bill Nye will make infinitely more sense; Ken Ham … well, won’t. But, greatly compensating for his steadfast irrationality, Ken Ham will be passionate, articulate, winningly confident, and generally convincing in the way of people who’ve made very successful public careers pouring syrup on bullshit and selling it as snow cones.

Viewers will know the one thing after the debate that they knew before it began: that no one can prove there is a God, and that no one can prove there isn’t.

Survey says: Boring. Because nobody changes that truth.

[UPDATE: A hilarious 40-second recap of the whole debate.]

 

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • jcfried

    How completely counterproductive. Our faith is supposed to be in God rather than in our interpretation of the Bible. As a Christian I believe that creationism has done more to drive people away from God than any atheist could hope. And as a physicist i am saddened that Bill Nye for whom i have great respect has entangled himself in this nonsense thereby giving the Creationist a platform to spout empty rhetoric.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      You know, I know that’s what people say: that Bill Nye is cheapening the whole case for evolution by doing this. But I think he has a lot of good reasons to feel like it’s time for someone, in a widely-viewed public forum, to step up and do their best to destroy the argument for creationism, and make the case for science. People think he’s doing it for showmanship and celebrity and all that. But I don’t think he is. I think he’s doing it for the young people he knows will be out there somewhere watching. I think that’s his real passion; I think that’s the audience he’s meaning to serve.

      • Matt

        Bill Nye is just like that. I grew up watching his science programs. He makes science easy to understand and sparks excitement about it.

      • lymis

        It’s also something that will go on record and if it’s at all compelling, it will remain available, like the transcripts of the Scopes trial. So even if it’s a draw that changes nobody’s mind tonight, it will be something people will shake their heads at in a generation or so.

    • http://www.greggdeselms.com/ Gregg L. DesElms

      First, jcfried, what John (Shore) said, in response to what you wrote.

      Second, I’ve long said that the world of hard science has been missing a big opportunity by refusing to “lower itself” to at least discussing it in the classroom. It’s been so talked about in the news that to refuse to even bring it up in hard science class is just ignoring the elephant in the room.

      However, I don’t advocate that it be brought-up so it can be taught; rather, it should be brought-up in hard science class because it’s being proffered as another “theory” of how everything began, and hard science needs to acknowledge that, and then explain why it’s wrong; why, in fact, it’s not a “theory,” at all; and then explain the difference between an actual theory and a mere hypothesis. The religious Right tends to use those two terms interchangeably, in largest measure because humans, just generally, tend to do that; to make that mistake: “Well, it’s MY theory that…” and then we go on to explain why we think soandso broke up with whomever, etc.

      The religious Right calls evolution “just another theory,” as if it were, as theories go, on the same level as what they call the “theory of creationism” or “intelligent design”… neither of (the latter of) which are theories, at all. They are, rather, my hypothesis, and they barely even qualify as that… in largest measure because of their prima facie ridiculousness. Maybe if they’d stop claiming the world is 6,000 or fewer years old, their silliness would have at least a quarter of a chance at being a hypothesis. But, alas…

      SEE | http://youtu.be/NL4qEtTu2Yk

      …and there you go. The religious Right misuses the term “theory” to mean something that’s unproven; that’s merely speculative. But in modern science, the term “theory” refers to things that are described such that they testable and either provable or disprovable by means of universally-agreed-upon scientific rigor; characterized by repeatability and observability. From Wikipedia: “Scientific theories are distinguished from hypotheses, which are individual empirically testable conjectures, and scientific laws, which are descriptive accounts of how nature will behave under certain conditions.”

      A mere hypothesis, on the other hand, means EXACTLY what the religious Right means when it misuses the word “theory” to describe either creationism or intelligent design.

      The thing is, though, that the hard science community, by refusing to “lower itself” to even discussing it, is missing a huge opportunity in hard science classes to bring it up; to explain how the reglious Right is insensibly insisting that creationism and intelligent design are valid theories, and that evolution is merely another theory alongside either or both of creationism and/or intelligent design; to use it to differentiate, in the minds of students, the respective meanings of “theory” and “hypoethesis;” and to, in the process, show that only evolution withstands scientific rigor.

      At the same time, hard science (and secular humanism) need to stop being so dismissive and derisive of those of faith… even of those or ridiculous, far-Right-winged and Bible-thumping faith. It makes non-believers look petty, small, mean-spirited and grossly immature when they dismiss, out of hand, centuries of reasoned (if not reasonable) good-faith faith. Tibor Krausz, an atheist, took his fellow atheists to task over that very thing in an excellent piece, from last October, on the “Killing the Buddha” website. He wrote:

      — BEGIN KRAUSZ’s WORDS —
      “First a confession: I find most religious ideas patently absurd, if not outright ridiculous. I’ve seen no convincing argument about the existence of God, much less evidence of him, her or it. Wishy-washy mumbo jumbo about the need for “spirituality” grates on me. I’m an atheist, yes.

      “Now with that out of the way, here’s my gripe: I wish I were in better company.

      “Let me explain.

      “Judging by their lack of intellectual honesty and conceptual coherence, many of my fellow atheists appear to be rather sophomoric, no offense. Much of “new atheistic” discourse these days, so lovingly trotted out on social media from Facebook to YouTube, isn’t so much about taking a principled stance against religious obscurantism; rather, it has degenerated into a nonstop juvenile lampooning of the faithful for their foibles, real or imagined.”

      MORE | http://bit.ly/Hi3FEG

      — END KRAUSZ’s WORDS —

      It will be important, in this debate (which but 30 minutes away, as I type this), for Nye to not lower himself to doing that or anything even remotely like it; to show respect for belief, despite his disdain for it, just as my advocating addressing creationism and intelligent design in the hard science classroom as examples of what is not truly science would need to be in order to be credible… in order, in fact, to even be heard.

      Nye, if he allows his disdain for Ham, et al, to show, will not have a chance of even being heard by the religious Right; and that, in turn, may keep even those who agree with him from really and truly appreciating what he has to say.

      I think it could actually be interesting, but, like John, I kinda’ doubt it.

      We’ll see, obviously… staring in about a half hour.

      __________________________________
      Gregg L. DesElms
      Napa, California USA
      gregg at greggdeselms dot com

      Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
      Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

      • Shinjitsu

        Except for the reality that the myth “that all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form” is shorn of any demonstrable , quantifiable , empirical , testable or replicable evidence . The reasoning often proffered here is that this requires millions upon millions of years – which absolutely no one has actually observed since , well , it needs millions upon millions of years. Nevertheless the fossil record , which ought to demonstrate a string of infinitesimally progressive adjustments from one being to another over a course of millions of years , reveals the complete opposite . . . but it’s anticipated that ( one day , someday ) the “missing” fossils of those intermediate species are going to eventually be discovered . In short , the only evidence for evolution is the presumption of evolution . If that’s not lunatic fringe circular thinking , just what is ?

        • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

          One day I’m going to see a fundy troll who doesn’t insist on remaining anonymous. And when that day comes I will know that I can die a man fulfilled, for I would have seen everything.

        • AtalantaBethulia
        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          Oh, the noone of was there, so it can’t be true argument.
          But the myth of Adam and Eve must be true, because someone wrote it down.

    • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

      Oh, believe me, we do hope for it.

  • Brent DeBord

    One small criticism, and you are not the only reporter to make this mistake, but “creationism” is different from “creation-science”. Creationism simply means that one believes that the universe (multiverse, now?) was created. Creation-science is a very specific narrative of how creation supposedly occurred that flies in the face of evidence [and essentially calls the Creator who created such evidence a liar].

    Thanks.

    • DonRappe

      I can only respond that your distinction is incorrect. Notice the ism on the end of the word you are misdefining.

    • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

      The topic of the debate is actually “Is creation a viable model of origins?” … not “creationISM” but rather “creation.” Of course Ham conflates the two, but I think there’s an important distinction to be made regarding “creationism” — here essentially Young Earth Creationism — and “creation” — the belief that God is ultimately behind the existence of everything. Creation is entirely compatible with science, creationism, especially in its YEC form, is entirely incompatible.

      • Jill

        Ah, if only sensibility would one day prevail.

    • http://www.greggdeselms.com/ Gregg L. DesElms

      “Creation science” is an oxymoron… sorta’ like “military intelligence,” or “civil war.” And whatever it is is included in the larger term “creationism.” Let’s not hairsplit to absurdity.

      For what it’s worth, I completely agree with John (Shore).

      I just hope Nye stays calm, doesn’t interrupt, and just presents the facts (in both his posits and rebuttals). He needs to come across as the more reasonable and rational one.

      This will be on YouTube, for free, for an unknown amount of time on the “Answers in Genesis” (AIG) YouTube channel (my guess is that the better Nye does, the shorter a period of time it’ll be there; though my original prediction was that it would be there for however long it takes the AIG people to begin shipping the paid DVDs).

      My recommendation is to get a free YouTube video downloader of some kind…

      This one ain’t half bad | http://bit.ly/MYR4Jj

      …so that we can have a record of it just in case Nye does well and the AIG folks edit it, or prematuurely delete it or something. Of course the audience in the room will be largely pro-AIG and anti-Nye, so that could color things.

      These things tend never to be as interesting as one hopes; though, that said, seriously, if Nye really well-prepared, there could be moments.

      __________________________________
      Gregg L. DesElms
      Napa, California USA
      gregg at greggdeselms dot com

      Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
      Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

  • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

    I think there might very well be people watching the debate who have never heard a clear explanation of what evolution actually is, and who might have their eyes opened just a bit to the truth. Debates don’t generally change minds, but they can offer important information to a wide audience. It’s my hope that Nye will be able to clearly convey what evolution IS and what it ISN’T as well as the overwhelming evidence we have supporting it. The Super Bowl was boring (or so I hear), but hopefully this debate live up to the hype.

  • mona

    Yep….I agree wholeheartedly, John.

  • http://godofevolution.com/ Tyler Francke

    Word, John. Word.

  • FishFinger

    It’s still nice that the creationists are the ones hosting the debate. Debate is always good.

    • Armorat

      YECs have been calling for “debate” for years, but science rarely ever stoops to answer. It’s hard to truly have a debate with someone whose entire “argument” is built on a mountain of mistruths and misinformation. Any unimpeachable fact you might bring to the table will not bring them towards compromise or agreement, it will only drive them further into their corner.

  • Keith Witty

    It was a good debate for science. Nye thrashed Ham. The point was not that someone be declared right or wrong (No one’s mind was going to change) but what was important for Nye was just allowing people the actual information. He resoundly declared that Science requires his position in order to have predictions, something Ham had no response to. Nye also admitted that he would happily change his mind with a shred of evidence for creation science. Ham would do no such thing.

  • Anton

    It’s unfortunate that important questions about science, knowledge, and humanity’s place in the universe only ever seem to be addressed in these kind of sideshows.

    My wife and I watched the debate. We wished Nye had done a better job of explaining what science is and isn’t, or at least covered the history of how people (believers and nonbelievers alike) initially established the scientific constructs of an old Earth and evolution by natural selection. My wife thought Nye’s opening arguments were very scattershot. “He didn’t win,” she says, “he just agreed with me, that’s all.”

    Nye did a good job of steering clear of criticizing religion, which would have alienated the crowd. But since religion is the foundation of creationism, I guess it’s really the elephant in the room.


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