#HamOnNye Post-Debate Round-Up

#HamOnNye Post-Debate Round-Up February 5, 2014

Lots of bloggers and news outlets are reflecting on the debate last night, which most agree that Bill Nye won. Below is a collection of what I have come across. But first, here is the debate for those who missed it and want to watch it online:

Josh Rosenau of the NCSE reflected in detail on how Bill Nye won the debate.

Biologos has several of its fellows commenting and reflecting in a single post.

P. Z. Myers and Jerry Coyne both note that a poll by Christianity Christian Today suggests that Christians feel strongly that Bill Nye won. I suspect that more Christians were hoping Nye would win than most atheists would believe. I wonder how many people who give Ken Ham kinds of answers on surveys are actually being dishonest, afraid that their answer might get back to their church leaders and get them in trouble. Perhaps the state of science acceptance is better than the state of acknowledgement of science acceptance.

Matt Stopera has a photographic round-up of questions from young-earth creationists, most of which illustrate their appalling level of scientific illiteracy.

Ken Schenck was left depressed by the whole thing. I don't agree with his “naturalism is a presupposition” point. If scientists suddenly found that there were indeed fossils in places where current evolutionary theory says they could not be, then the theory would have to change. That is the point I summed up in the meme image I made and shared yesterday. Even atheist scientists who disliked the Big Bang theory because it reminded them too much of Genesis came to embrace it, because of the evidence, just as most Christians did with the age of the Earth when the geological evidence began to pile up (pun intended).

Rachel Held Evans shared some of her previous posts related to evolution and Christianity.

Tyler Francke reflects on how Ken Ham makes Christianity look bad.

Kurt Willems offered an ebook mediating between Evangelicals and evolution. Tim Gombis shared materials by John Walton.

Jeff Carter offered insightful comments on Ham's contradictory claims about science.

Hemant Mehta asks if the debate was worth it. John Loftus thinks it was and would like to see many more debates of this sort. Jason Rosenhouse explains why he thinks that young-earth creationism has to be approached differently than Holocaust-denial.

Tom Foreman, the debate moderator, reflected on the experience.

Brandon Robertson emphasized that Ken Ham does not speak for him.

Johnny Scaramanga had a piece published in the New Statesman.

Joel Watts thinks Al Mohler's supposedly post-debate comments must have been written even before the debate took place. Travis Mamone also reflected on the debate.

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  • Daniel Webb

    That picture you posted is the biggest nail in the coffin of Ken Ham’s claim that he cares one iota about science.
    How can someone actually participate in science if they’re completely sure that no evidence could ever prove them wrong about their assertion?

    • Sven2547

      Indeed, as I’m fond of pointing out, AIG’s own website says (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.

      They toss out contradictory evidence as an explicit policy. You’re totally right: they can’t even pretend to be scientific when this is their process.

      • “Only the madman is absolutely sure.” ~Robert Anton Wilson

  • Jakeithus

    I mostly agree with Ken Schenck, in that the whole thing is pretty much depressing.

    Nothing is wrong with the “naturalism is a presupposition” statement, the problem is how he ends up using the term evolution. Chances are, Nye and most scientists would change their opinion on any number of scientific theories if the evidence pointed elsewhere. I think Schenck has fallen into the trap of conflating evolution with materialism/atheism, in the same way that Ham finds YEC and Christianity to be one and the same, neither of which are the case. Where I think he’s right is that when it comes to challenging worldviews themselves, I don’t think evidence is solely enough for either side, because how we read the evidence depends too much on our presuppositional framework to begin with.

    • Ryan VenHuizen

      Well said.

    • Ken Schenck

      I didn’t mean to conflate the two, since my goal is to create a space among my readers for the possibility of theistic evolution. The ox is slow, but the earth is patient… 🙂

  • Ken Schenck

    I agree that he would support modifying the form of the theory. I agree that at some point he would even support coming up with a different theory. What I don’t think he is prepared to change is the assumption of naturalism, that some natural theory explains the data (rather than a supernaturalist one).

    • Thanks for the clarification, Ken! I’m not sure how that affects his scientific conclusions, however. I am not persuaded that science is set up in such a way that it can look for evidence that God is behind a storm, or that its focus on the natural processes at work in phenomena has done anything other than increase our understanding of them.

      • Ken Schenck

        I completely agree.

    • arcseconds

      It would be interesting to ask Nye whether anything would persuade him to drop naturalism.

      I’ve no idea what level of commitment Nye has to naturalism (or materialism), but for a true empiricist there would be some evidence that would convince them, if not in the existence of God exactly, that there was some powerful intelligent being that created the world (meeting such a being and observing them create another world would change one’s view pretty radically for example). It’s pretty easy to give a level of evidence that should convince anyone of the existence of ghosts, too, or psychic powers, or any of the usual supernatural or paranormal phenomena.

      What may happen, of course, is that rather than accept that there’s a realm of the supernatural which isn’t constituted of matter and doesn’t obey the normal natural laws and leave it at that, is that they might start asking ‘well, is there something that they are composed of? are there laws that they do obey?’.

      • TomS

        I would consider dropping “naturalism” if there were there an alternative.

  • LorenHaas

    Beep, Beep, Beep! Back up the bus. The poll was done by “Christian Today” not “Christianity Today”, which is a completly different animal.

    • Thanks for pointing that out. I went back and fixed it. What sort of species/kind is Christian Today?

  • Wolverine

    Note that Matt Stopera also did a “photographic round-up” of evolutionists’ questions to creationists. Or rather, a few questions and much self-satisfied derision

  • Pixie5

    Dr, McGrath,

    I think a good article could be made out of the fact that Ken Ham unwittingly said that he DOES NOT believe in the biblical creation in terms of cosmology. He made the (false) distinction between observable science and historical science. The example of observational science is the earth seen from space. But as many know that description of the earth and the cosmos DOES NOT fit in with the Bible AT ALL.

    The Bible describes:

    1. A flat circular earth surround by ocean on all sides (some creationists
    claim that a verse referring to “the circle of the earth” means that the writer
    knew that the earth was round. But it says “circle” not sphere)

    2. A solid dome over the earth called the “firmament” which separated “the
    waters above” from “the waters below” meaning sky and ocean. The sun, moon and
    the stars are suspended in this solid dome and above it is a “storehouse of
    rain” that God let loose periodically. Above that is a literal physical

    Obviously the idea of outer space and the vast distances of it would not have
    even occured to the writers of the bible. But when modern Christians read the
    bible they read into it modern science instead of what is written. Ironically
    they believe that they are taking the bible literally.

    A perfect example is when Ken Ham said that a verse describing the heavens stretched out meant that it was describing an expanding universe. But it says “stretched out LIKE A TENT OVER the earth.” In other words an enclosure. A tent can only stretch so far and it was describing the firmament, NOT OUTER SPACE.

    One big proof we have that this is EXACTLY how they envisioned the Universe
    is that we have actual maps from the Ancient Near East depicting this

    Ironically the Flat Earth Society (which still exists based in my
    hometown..WINCE) are actually right in terms of how to interpret the cosmology
    of the bible. But even most creationists don’t go that far although they expect
    everyone to take the rest of the Genesis literally. While I am willing to
    acknowledge that most people are unaware of this, the Ken Ham’s of the world
    do..and yet STILL ignore it or explain it away.

    I know you are a Bible scholar and would know more about this than I do. It would be interesting if you did a post about this in more detail.

    • Thanks for this suggestion. I plan on turning this idea into a blog post sometime soon – I just haven’t found the time yet!