Ham on Nye: last-minute articles and video on tonight’s debate

Remember that tonight is the big debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, which promises to be a lot more entertaining than the Super Bowl.  So make your nachos, crack a brewski, and watch the debate (livestreamed here) at 7 pm U.S. Eastern Standard Time (that’s midnight in England, 11 a.m. in Sydney). The topic is this: “Is creation a viable model of origins?”

As I’ve mentioned, I don’t think this debate is a good idea for Nye. First, the issue is settled: evolution is a fact. Issues that are more congenial for real debate—that provoke true thought—are those involving opinion rather than pure fact, issues like politics, abortion, war, and so on. Second, giving creationists a place on the platform with evolutionists (or respected science educators like Nye) simply gives creationism credibility. It’s like putting a famous geologist up against a flat-earther to debate the question, “Is the earth really flat?” What’s the point?

Further, these debates are exercises not in education but in rhetoric, and that’s not the way for the public to adjudicate scientific issues. I have been a bit worried that Nye simply isn’t sufficiently “up” on the data supporting evolution, though (despite his t.v. experience), sufficiently eloquent to debate a preacher like Ham. Finally, if Nye wants to really promote evolution, I’d urge him not to debate creationists, but to write articles and speak to the public—singly, and not in a debate forum—about evolution. That’s what most of the rest of us do when we’re in “public education” mode.

If that weren’t enough, this event is going to make money to support creationism. The proceeds, except, I suspect, minus whatever fee Nye gets, will go to support the Creation Museum, and Ham as well as other creationist organizations are selling DVDs of the video. Even if Nye somehow “wins” the debate, the dosh will still go to support what he hates: peddling lies about science to kids.

Meanwhile, the Lexington Herald-Leader, a paper in Kentucky, has published this cartoon by Joel Pett, and it’s not favorable to Ham’s side:


In the meantime, if you want to do some last-minute boning up, Professor Ceiling Cat has done the legwork for you, finding something to read or watch with each of his four paws:


Alan Boyle, the science editor of NBC News, has a piece on “Will evolution debate blow up in the Science Guy’s face? It’s debatable?” Like many of these pieces (and I’ve talked to four reporters about this in the last week), it’s concerned largely with scientists and others who don’t think Nye—or any science educator or scientist—should be debating creationists.

Boyle quotes Professor C.C. in extenso, repeating my opinion that Nye shouldn’t be debating any creationist. But I was most interested in the principal’s preparation:

[Nye] said he’s been preparing for the debate by consulting with experts via email and studying how Ham and other creationists have stated their case in past forums. . . Ham is preparing as well — in consultation with creation-minded colleagues who have Ph.D.s, such as molecular biologist Georgia Purdum and geologist Andrew Snelling. Like Nye, Ham is researching his opponent’s past statements on evolution. And like Nye, Ham says he’s doing this debate to reach the next generation.

Consulting experts by email is not, to my mind, the best way to prepare for such a debate, though it’s good to read what Ham has said in the past.

Ham also notes that he’s had only one formal creation/evolution debate in his career; this is a deliberate attempt to lower expectations.

Finally, I was interested that criticism of this debate has come not just from people like me, but from advocates of Intelligent Design:

Even among folks who insist there’s evidence that the universe was designed by some sort of intelligent being, such views don’t always sit well. Stephen Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and the author of “Darwin’s Doubt” sees pluses as well as minuses to Tuesday’s debate.

“It’s a plus because it generates interest in the topic,” Meyer told NBC News. “It’s a minus because it inhibits an understanding of the complexity of the issue.”

Meyer worries that the debate over evolution will be portrayed as Darwinian materialism vs. biblical literalism — leaving out such ideas as theistic evolution, old-earth creationism and his own perspective, intelligent design. “It would be really terrific if the proponents of the mainstream Darwinian view of origins engaged some of the other critics of their theory, who see evidence of design in nature but are not biblical fundamentalists,” he said.

It would be great if we could somehow get the young-earth creationists to go up against the IDers, deflecting their attention from us. But given that IDers have allowed young-earth creationists like Paul Nelson into their tent, that seems unlikely.

Boyle will be in Kentucky for the debate, and I presume will file a piece afterwards. Stay tuned.


Similar themes crop up in a piece by Kimberly Winston at the Religion News Service:Ham-on-Nye debate pits atheists, creationists.” The usual suspects oppose the debate:

“Scientists should not debate creationists. Period,” wrote Dan Arel on the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s website. “There is nothing to debate.”

Arel, a secular advocate, is echoing the position of Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist who has long refused to debate creationists.

“Winning is not what the creationists realistically aspire to,” Dawkins said in 2006. “For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at all. They need the publicity. We don’t. To the gullible public which is their natural constituency, it is enough that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist.”

But accommodationists also oppose it, though on different grounds:

“It is this huge stereotype that all Christians reject science and an event like this reinforces that stereotype,” said Deborah Haarsma, president of the BioLogos Foundation, an organization whose motto is “science and faith in harmony.” “It looks like science versus Christianity and it ignores the people who have accepted the science of evolution and have not let go of their faith. . .“A debate like this sets up a false choice” between science and religion for viewers, Haarsma said. “We don’t want them to have to choose.”

Well, if you’re intellectually consistent, you really do have to choose between superstition (and that includes what many at BioLogos espouse—theistic or God-guided evolution) and rationality. You don’t have to choose between science and religion only if you’re a pantheist or someone who maintains that God doesn’t really do anything; but if you’re a deist, a theist, or anyone who believes in a supernatural being or force that actually does something in the cosmos, you have to choose—or suffer cognitive dissonance.


PuffHo has two pieces on the debate. Reader Gunnar sent me this link to a short video, “Bill Nye explains why he’s agnostic,” with his characterization of the video: “Nye is pale, timid, and unconvincing in promoting science” as well as Gunnar’s warning: “Careful, this may produce nausea.  Sadly, a fail for our side.  Seems like he mainly wants to be known as a nice guy, rather than a science guy.”

Indeed, Nye is taking what I call the Weasel Approach: he’s an agnostic because he “can’t know” whether God exists.  Yes, and we also can’t know absolutely whether Bigfoot, Nessie, and UFOs exist, either, so is Nye “agnostic” about those issues, too? He should just admit he’s an atheist, which would be great for the cause, or not waffle in this way. In fact, the interviewer describes a much more cogent distinction between atheism and agnosticism.

But I urge you to watch Nye’s discussion of the ape-human “similarity of DNA” at the end, which starts about 2 minutes in. He completely screws that up, claiming that we have 2-3% genetic differences from  chimps, and asks whether organisms that had 0% ”chimp sequence” be like gods to us, even more intelligent than humans with DNA that resembles those of other apes.

That’s completely bogus. Not only is that diatribe without a point, but it’s wrong. Yes, we have DNA and protein-sequence similarity to chimps, but that doesn’t mean that if we replaced those similar amino acids or DNA bases with different ones, we could be “more” human, or as Nye hypothesizes, like “gods.”  But those genetic similarities do not mean that we carry “chimp DNA” that prevents us from being even more godlike and awesome. The similarities, insofar as they function in making proteins, are what makes us human, for being human involves some morphological and functional similarities with other apes.

Listen to this Nye’s discussion yourself; that confusing biobabble worries me that Nye doesn’t even understand what it means to say that humans have a certain genetic similarity to our close primate relatives.  And that suggests that he’s not knowledegable enough to have a give-and-take debate about modern evolutionary biology. Further, as Gunnar noted, Nye is neither eloquent nor especially convincing.

Finally, there’s another video as well as an article by David Freeman at PuffHo, “Bill Nye’s debate of creationist Ken Ham has some scientists bothered.”  In the three-minute video, Laci Green gives several reasons why Nye shouldn’t debate, and I’m with her.
The article by Freeman gives your host some publicity, and although it’s on PuffHo, I do like what they quoted (except for using the word “bl*g” for the site):

Dr. Jerry Coyne, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, called the debate “pointless and counterproductive” in an article posted on his popular blog, Why Evolution Is True.

“If Nye wants to further acceptance of evolution, he should just continue to write and talk about the issue on his own, and not debate creationists,” he wrote. “By so doing, he gives them credibility simply by appearing beside them on the platform.”

Coyne’s comments echo those made by Dr. Richard Dawkins, the world-renowned evolutionary biologist and a public intellectual who has made it his policy to reject invitations to debate creationists.

“Inevitably, when you turn down the invitation you will be accused of cowardice, or of inability to defend your own beliefs,” Dawkins wrote in a 2006 article entitled Why I Won’t Debate Creationists. “But that is better than supplying the creationists with what they crave: the oxygen of respectability in the world of real science.”

. . . Still, Coyne acknowledged his concern that Nye might run into trouble when he squares off against Ham at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. on Tuesday night. Coyne wrote on his blog that he was convinced Ham was preparing furiously for the “Ham on Nye” debate, adding that “I pray* that Nye is doing likewise.”

What’s the asterisk for? At the bottom of the post, Coyne–like Dawkins, an atheist–explained:

“I am praying metaphorically.”

I’ll be watching this, sans nachos, but probably with a good Lustau sherry and a fine cigar. Good luck to Nye, but I’m not hopeful.

Cat wants to eat Ham with his popcorn

h/t: Steven C., Roo, Gunnar, Steve


  1. Posted February 4, 2014 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I think I’ll go a bit against the tide of enthusiasm for Nye. I don’t think he actually did that great a job, with a fair number of science cock-ups akin to the one about the chimpanzees in the earlier interview video.

    In comparison with the complete joke that Ham was, Nye looked good. But I would want high school science teachers to have a better command of science than Nye showed tonight.

    His enthusiasm was good, and I could easily see how he could be excellent in a scripted TV program. But he just doesn’t have the chops to be able to do this type of extemporaneous speaking.

    We dodged a bullet tonight, but only because the other side was aiming at its own foot.



    • Filippo
      Posted February 4, 2014 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      ” . . . Nye looked good. But I would want high school science teachers to have a better command of science than Nye showed tonight.”

      I trust that there would be no strenuous objection to, and undue criticism of, the average high school science teacher rising to the occasion to debate Ham and his ilk, in the absence of a Dawkins, etc.

      • Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

        I still don’t think anybody should be engaging in these types of debates.


    • mordacious1
      Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Remember that Nye wasn’t speaking to scientists or the science literate. He was speaking to the Joe-six-pack voter and the moms in the southern states where there is a real movement by people like Ham to get this malarkey into public classrooms. He doesn’t need to be specific with the science. His job is to hopefully transmit some of that wonder and enthusiasm for science into the minds of parents and voters in the bible belt. I think he did okay.

      • Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:42 am | Permalink

        It wasn’t his level of specificity I’m objecting to. Indeed, I think he got bogged down in spots with details that should have stayed on the cutting room floor.

        I’m not particularly interested in re-watching it, but he had some outright scientific flubs of the same nature of his confusing the meaning of the differences between human and chimpanzee DNA. Glossing over the science in the interests of brevity is one thing; getting it worng is another entirely.


    • Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

      Just checked it out – I think he did pretty well, although I wasn’t too impressed by the accomadationism in the last post he answered, it’s hardly a big win to turn young earth creationists into old earth ones or ID proponents.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      “But I would want high school science teachers to have a better command of science than Nye showed tonight.”

      A bit of charity is in order, I think. Nye’s command of the science in question might be quite a bit better when he’s not in front of an audience of thousands.

      And I don’t know any scientist who doesn’t commit a boo boo or two when he’s discussing a field outside his expertise. That applies even more to a generalist like Nye.

      • Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

        That’s fair…but it also goes to show why it’s not a good idea to engage in this type of debate.


        • Greg Esres
          Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:50 am | Permalink


  2. Posted February 4, 2014 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    As someone pointed out at pharyngula, Nye went through the whole debate without ever calling the facility a “museum.”
    Well, I didn’t waste 21/2 hours – most entertaining. Ken is no debater

    • moarscienceplz
      Posted February 4, 2014 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      He’s more of a master… oh, never mind. ;-)

      • paxton
        Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        Which he probably regards as a grievous sin for which he has to continuously beg forgiveness from his lord and master…

  3. sponge bob
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Nye did a pretty good job.

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Noted that when the camera shut off, a good bit earlier than I would have expected given how such things are usually broadcast, Nye was still on stage, while Ham had departed maybe 30sec earlier, not seeming to have been rushed by anyone from either side of the stage. Given the mindset of the Hammophiles, Nye may have been the perfect person to joust with him, to be able to crack their veneer. I’m not expecting any sea change, but it’ll be interesting to see what the inevitable polls (exit polls?) turn up.

  5. Dale
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    I think that Nye kicked proverbial ass.
    I was as critical as any up front, but as it turned out, religion came across as pathetically inadequate.

    When Ham spoke, Nye eyed him grim faced, like a prosecutor would a felon.The audience questions drilled Ham on issues of falsifiability. Nye beat Ham at his own game, preaching the wonder of scientific mystery and exploration over canned explanations. We all know what canned Ham is. ;-)

    Most importantly, I think Ham thought that he lost. He walked off the stage and Nye walked forward to meet audience members coming up. And I think that Nye might have actually changed minds where Ham was left “preaching to the choir”.

    I think that Nye did good. Ham is really not left with a “debate” that he even wants to make money on. Every DVD he sells undermines his cause.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      10 to 1 that Ham sells the DVDs anyway. One, because he cares about making money more than he cares about anything else, including how foolish he looks. And two, because he cares about making money more than he cares about anything else, including how foolish he looks.

      • Dale
        Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        Check! None the less, each DVD is memetic virus. I think that Nye actually did a brilliant job as an educator. You could tell in Ham’s expressions, after the first flashy presentation, his argument collapsed. Nye just kept teaching the audience stuff they didn’t know.

      • Posted February 4, 2014 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

        And AIG can cook the Ham before serving it … you know how different a sausage from the pork?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 5, 2014 at 5:08 am | Permalink

        He will probably present himself as the good Christian unwavering in the face of facts.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted February 8, 2014 at 7:32 am | Permalink

          A good christian *is* unwavering in the face of the facts. That’s the whole problem!

      • Amelia Schuler
        Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        Spot on. Ham is playing the long game. Tickets were sold, traffic to his website is up, visibility of his “museum” among the uninitiated is rising, he has a new DVD to sell complete with pre- and post-debate “analysis” about how Nye failed to engage him.

        In the end, Ham doesn’t care how many people think he lost the debate or that he’s a charlatan. He won’t lose sleep over the fact that more people find him oily and deceitful as long as there are *enough* people sending him money. Bill Nye’s goal was to illuminate. Ken Ham’s goal was to grow the consumer base for his niche market.

        In that sense, Ham already won when Bill Nye accepted to come. A snake oil salesman only cares that there are *enough* people who buy into his pitch; enough people willing to indulge his ego, enough people willing to part with their money or surrender their intellectual autonomy in exchange for a fairy tale. That is a real sort of power.

        • Posted February 5, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

          Do you think people like Ham, Chopra, Craig, Hovind etc. don’t actually believe what they are saying and just view their gullible audience as a market? I honestly don’t know, probably it differs between individuals.

          • gbjames
            Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

            If you’re going to be a successful con man, the place to start is believing the con yourself.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

              Exactly! Ham may not even be able to honestly answer what he believes. He just knows what he’s convinced himself for the con.

          • Amelia Schuler
            Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

            I think some of them do, but they are also businessmen who have made it their living to sell what they believe. If they weren’t good at it, they’d have to find a different line of work.

  6. Jonathan Smith
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Nye cooked the Ham plain and simple

  7. Max
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    I wish Nye had responded to Ham’s assertion that without God where did the laws of nature, and logic, etc. come from by asking Ham where God came from, and that if Ham’s answer is that God just always was and always is, that that’s not a valid answer.

    I also wish he brought up the Douglas Adams example of the puddle that assumed there was a designer because of how perfectly the hole it was in fit it.

    • eric
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      I like the answer he gave better. “Where did [your] God come from?” comes off as aggressively anti-theistic. OTOH “we don’t know, but scientists love looking at the world to find these things out” comes across to me as inspiring. Nye extended a metaphorical hand to young watchers, inviting them to become scientists. IMO that’s much better than attacking their beliefs, even if such beliefs are irrational.

  8. Dale
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    It took a high school science teacher type with a broad if not deep knowledge of science to take him down. Of course Ham takes the most radical fundamentalist view.

    And of course he’s in a bubble when he takes the “observational science” vs the “historical science” view. I think that it became clear that this meant that the rules of the universe were different 4000 years ago….way back when the stars were first created! ;-)

    I think that Ham is Spam.

  9. Scientifik
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I loved how Bill Nye addressed the consciousness question. We don’t know yet, but we do not assume the answer a priori, we are looking for it. And that’s why we need you people who are watching this. There are still mysteries waiting to be solved. Come to science, we need more scientists and engineers, consider becoming one. I am glad that he managed to get this general, but all-important, message across.

    • Dale
      Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Yes! In other words, scientists take explanations of ‘consciousness’ explicitly, and no one takes dualism seriously. We’re working on it….

  10. Walt Jones
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Ham convinced me – that there’s even less to his arguments than I thought. If science kept going back to the same source, I wouldn’t be reading this website. I bet that some of the faithful in the audience noticed the pattern and started to think about the authority of the bible.

    • Dale
      Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      Check! I think that despite his flashy prepared beginning, he only demonstrated how pathetic his literal translations of “the text” were. Nye kept ‘ham’mering him on his literal ‘english’ translation of a single book from a single religion. Nye found a way to appeal to other religious disaffected by xtianity. Where we are all universally affected by technology.

      Engineering with Nye’s ‘predictable’ results presses the reliability of the scientific message to the self interest of others. When Nye talked, the audience was listening to something that they hadn’t heard before, We should give him credit for being the ‘Science Guy’, after all.

  11. Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    So basically we found out that:

    1) Ken Ham is not as mighty debater as assumed before (YECs are people too! :D ).
    2) Nye is accomodo (no, not a comodo!).
    3) Debates like this could be entertaining (useful?).

    Next thing I want to know: the financial aspects of this brouhaha .. like how much Nye was paid, how much Ham & co got ….

    • Dale
      Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      “Nye is accomodo”

      Yes, I caught this too…still we’re working on ‘fundamental’ levels here. One thing at a time….any port in a storm….politically the right thing to do…pointed out Ham’s xtian alienation of anyone not xtian.

      • Achrachno
        Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

        “alienation of anyone not xtian.”

        Alienation of anyone not Protestant fundamentalist Xian.

      • Posted February 4, 2014 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

        So that is a tactical move for Nye?

        I was half-expecting Nye to use the outside-faith-test as a line of attack to Ham’s elite-xtianity. But that would alienate most of the audience (hammian xtians).

        well ..

  12. Hempenstein
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    We all have our things we wish Nye might have said, and I’m sure he has his own list. Two that I would have liked, but it’s probably best that he didn’t go into them since it would have taken too long were:

    1) The guy from Liberty U. If Ham had leaned on that more, Nye could have pointed out that at Liberty, all faculty have to annually affirm an oath essentially to interpret everything in light of the Babble. Doctrinal Statement, I think it’s called. Yes. Easily found by Googling Liberty University Doctrinal Statement. And then point out that real universities don’t require their faculty to affirm any oaths.

    2) Other evidence essentially for cross-checking geological time. The number of days/year as back-calculated based on the deceleration of the earth’s spin and the coral samples whose number of annual deposits is greater (by memory, something over 400d/yr) correlates with the age of the sediments they were found in as (by memory) indicated by certain isotope ratios. That work was from ca. 1961.

  13. Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I made a short blog in response to the “debate”. My summary is this: I’ll put it simply for you: To believe the Earth is only a few thousand years old is to deny every branch of science. You must deny and reject all of the scientific understandings and advancements based on clear and objective observation, experimentation, and analysis. Therefore you can no longer accept the treatment recommendations made by your doctor; nor undergo surgery for any medical condition. All of these things are based on reasoning which you find invalid.

    In the words of Richard Dawkins “Science. It works, bitches.”

  14. redlivingblue
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Eric Hovind has put a post-debate show on his youtube thread. Depressing. I think they do and say all this creationist stuff for money. Exhibit A is sitting in federal prison for tax evasion.

  15. Jimbo
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Nye did a really good job.

    I really liked the ice core images (wish he had shown the bands that illustrate how obvious each year is). I also wish he had added known human-witnessed events such as the ash layer from Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. The 7000 year old tree was a killer piece of evidence that he should have pressed Ham on. Everyone knows trees can be dated by counting rings. I was dying for him to ask Ham about how long he thought it took for a trilobite or a 600 year old tree to turn to solid stone (become fossilized or petrified)? 4000 years would seem a bit short. Or that those fossilized sea creatures can be found at 17,000 ft on mountains (tectonics). How long would that take, Ham? Nye had some other great evidence and anecdotes and came off as folksy and not nerdy. I loved the many references to fossil evidence and poor science education in the state of Kentucky.

    I thought he got too technical with radioisotopes, the cosmic microwave background, etc. He shouldn’t have banged on about fish sex (irrelevant). The ark construction was weak (God was helping Noah). One fossil out of order in the geologic column would hardly make me accept God. Lastly, I thought selling science as important to keep the US competitive with the world was completely irrelevant to the discussion. Lastly, we all cringe at the argument that scientists who are Christians proves science and religion are compatible.

    That said, I liked it. Ham looked pretty uncomfortable.

    • Filippo
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      “Lastly, I thought selling science as important to keep the US competitive with the world was completely irrelevant to the discussion.”

      I agree that it was irrelevant, but Amuricuns get monumentally beat over the head with the economic competitiveness thang by media pundits, economists and corporate god Movers-and-Shakers, and even creationists want their children/students to get “good jobs,” eh?

  16. Peter Ozzie Jones
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    Bill Nye was brave, if foolhardy, to step into that lions’ den knowing what happened to Daniel’s accusers in Ken Ham’s book (Daniel 6:24 if you want the gory details).

    I was interested because there’s an awful lot of ham in my extended family and in this sea of Christianity that tries its best to drown me.

    Our First People, who have been in Australia for more than 50,000 years, would also choke on all that YEC. No wonder he skedaddled to the US!

    • Posted February 5, 2014 at 3:34 am | Permalink

      Well, the indigenous peoples of the Americas have been there for at least 13,000 years, possibly much longer, so I’m not sure Ham is better of in the U.S.


      • papalinton
        Posted February 5, 2014 at 4:11 am | Permalink

        And human ancestors have been in Africa for millions of years at last count, and Homo sapiens sapiens have been on that continent for some 100,000 years at least.

        I suspect this debate will have a telling effect on the demise of creationism, in all its various incarnations including IDiotism. And I think it will be as telling as the Scopes and the Kitzmiller vs Dover School Board trials.

        Good on you Mr Nye. A job well done.

  17. Posted February 5, 2014 at 3:30 am | Permalink

    John Loftus throws down the gauntlet for Jerry et al! Bill Nye Won His Debate Against Ken Ham: More Evolutionists Should Debate Creationists:

    Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and PZ Myers are all wrong. I call upon them to change their minds. Yes, evolution is a fact. It is beyond dispute. But if we want to change the minds of deeply imbedded Christians within their communities who will never consider evolution then we need to go where they are found. And debates on creation are the perfect solution. We must do it for the children. We must do it for the youths in the grip of this religious indoctrination who can see for themselves when watching a debate. Consider it another way to educate the American youths of the future so we can be a leader in the science of the future. If you still refuse to debate creationists then stop hindering other evolutionists like Bill Nye who buck the social pressure you provide. Stop discouraging evolutionists from debating creationists, please.

    Loftus also reports that the Christianity Today online poll is overwhelmingly in favour of Nye:
    Viewers Poll by Christianity Today: Bill Nye Slaughtered Ken Ham
    . But we all know how reliable online polls are … 


    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 3:42 am | Permalink

      Here’s a post-debate interview with Nye. ( scroll down ).


    • eric
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Welly, Nye showed it can be done well. But he’s also a trained TV speaker. That’s a different skill than being a good scientist, and being the latter doesn’t make you the former. I’m not putting down Dawkins’ or anyone else’s rhetorical skills, just saying that “Nye did it” is not a good argument that scientific experts in evolution in general can do it.

      Ham is also a YEC bible-thumper, and I have to echo Jason Rosenhouse’s commentary and say that one reason this debate went so well is because – when placed up against real science – YEC bible-thumping comes off looking really unscientific. Debating a cagey and intellectually dishonest or deceitful IDer – i.e. someone who avoids bible references altogether and instead uses Behe or Dembski flawed arguments – may be an entirely different barrel of monkeys. Just because Ham came off looking like an unscientific bible thumper doesn’t mean some more cagey creationist would.

      • Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        This is true, but did you catch how Ham was using some Dembski-inspired arguments? All of that bafflegab about “language” and how matter cannot create the language of life or what not.

    • Richard Olson
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      From an article that identifies 5 Christian Right yahoo’s presently leading in their ’14 Congressional campaigns — hoping the polling results change by November.

      What I fear most is the obedience factor introduced into US elections by the presence of Winger Christianity. Nye-Ham debates seldom influence people in this group regardless of whether a Ham-type focuses a bit of light on the insanity of religious belief. The faith virus prevails anyway, which is why it is the pernicious thing that has to be disabled.

      You’ll notice the state in the story below is Ham country:

      ‘Matt Bevin, a self-employed businessman, is contesting the GOP primary for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s seat. Bevin, who describes his life as being “built on a bedrock of strong Christian values,” is now leading McConnell by 4 according to the most recent Rasmussen Report poll.

      Right-wing blogger and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson says Democrats are “squealing like a stuffed pig” because of polling data that shows Bevin leading Democrat Allison Grimes, while McConnell only draws out a statistical tie. “If the GOP does not gain the Senate in 2014, it will probably be because they lose Kentucky. They only lose Kentucky if Mitch McConnell is the Republican nominee,” says Erickson.

      Like all those on the far right, Bevin, who is a Southern Baptist, is obsessed with controlling all matters related to sex and abortion. Earlier this month, on the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Bevin penned an op-ed that read, “The fight for the unborn could not be any more important. Since that dark day in 1973, America has seen more than 55 million babies killed under the guise of ‘choice….Being pro-life is more than simply a slogan to us. It is a belief that every life, born and unborn, is so precious to our Creator, that it compels us to action.”

      In case you missed it the first time, he’s leading McConnell and the Democrats by a handy margin.’

  18. John O
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    I know many people on here, Jerry especially, stay away from Tw*tter, but the reaction on there, may have made this whole thing worthwhile…

    Several comments I saw at #CreationDebate, were from Young Earth Creationists, genuinely questioning what they had been taught. Some saying their Pastors were liars, others that they may have been misled, but it probably wasn’t wilfully, even a couple that were now questioning their faith.

    Thank the Ceiling Cat!

  19. twentynine
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    “If Nye wants to further acceptance of evolution, he should just continue to write and talk about the issue on his own, and not debate creationists,” he wrote. “By so doing, he gives them credibility simply by appearing beside them on the platform.”

    This is so wrong imo. Coyne and Dawkins can preach all they want, but their voices will never reach the creationists. Instead the creationists will listen to their ‘experts’ as they dissmantle Coyne’s and Dawkin’s arguments, which will usually mean mis-representation, lies and ignorance.

    The only way to change someone’s mind is to challenge them, and if they invite you to challenge their ideas, you should jump on it!

    People, from my experience, are pretty resonable, at least within the context their reason lives in, and the only way to change someone’s mind is to change its context, and that will never happen if you do what Coyne and Dawkins argue for, by ignoring them.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      Refusing to debate is not the same as ignoring.

      People in my former department ignored them, partly, I suppose, out of self-preservation. Spending your time engaging creationists and sophisticated theologians (how do you make the damn TM symbol?) is a deep hole, as we’ve seen from many of the 7000 posts here. When people are dealing with getting tenure, it’s something that there’s no time for, and how our host manages to keep an active research program going and do this to boot astonishes me.

      • gbjames
        Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:17 am | Permalink

        “how do you make the damn TM symbol?”

        On a Mac, Option-2. On a PC, lord knows.

        • Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

          On a Mac, Shift-Option-2 : ⇧⌥2

          ⌥2 gives €.

          But maybe that’s just a British keyboard.

          On a PC, Alt+Ctrl+T.


      • Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

        ™ => ™

        In case that comes out garbled, ampersand (shift-7), the word, “trade,” and a semicolon.

        And, yes. Not debating != ignoring. Jerry often doesn’t ignore Creationists, but he certainly doesn’t debate them.


        • Achrachno
          Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:03 am | Permalink

          “ampersand (shift-7), the word, “trade,” and a semicolon.”

          Can’t get much more simple and intuitive than that!

        • Hempenstein
          Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink


  20. onkelbob
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    For those who are interested Ars Technica covered the debate: link Ars is good for reading comments because the audience is allowed vote up or down comments. Because the audience is very savvy in regards to science, the creation-minded arguments get “disappeared” as the votes decide which comments stay and which are promoted.

  21. Achrachno
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I think this went very well. Bill did a fine job, despite a few minor imperfections. He aimed at the right target audience and kept his arguments to a level they could grasp.

    A VERY important point about this was revealed to me when I went searching for the debate and commentary on it using Google. I found that many conservative churches had special events to watch this debate!

    Fundamentalists and their children, who are seldom exposed to science advocacy, were exposed to it last night by Bill Nye. Bill got right past their carefully cultivated fences and into their Bible-based silos. They came to a church event expecting to see their mighty “man of God” defeat science, but instead saw a pleasant, non-threatening, science guy mop the floor with a slab of ham.

  22. gbjames
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I find that I’ve somewhat modified my attitude on debates like this following this one. I think Bill Nye has done our side considerable good in this case. Creationism is so pervasive in the public sphere these days, constantly intruding into public schools and political conversation that I no longer think it feasible to “starve them of the oxygen of respectability”. Creationism needs to be confronted in more places than just the courts.

    That said, debating is a form of performance art, not a place for “doing science”. But that only means that we need to encourage scientifically inclined performers to go out and do battle. I think Bill Nye succeeded because he has a long history of explaining science through performance and when you put that together with the idiocy of the other side’s position, you get a winning combination.

    Nye was interviewed on The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell last night and made a comment that stuck with me. It was something like “This isn’t graduate school science we’re talking about here. This is basic grade school material that I’d expect every kid graduating 8th grade to have.” IOW, you don’t have to be an expert in all domains of science to win at this. You can afford to make some factual errors. But someone’s got to confront these guys and when you have an opportunity to embarrass someone like Ken Ham in front of millions of viewers, the opportunity shouldn’t be missed.

    Finally, I don’t think this means that guys like Jerry or Richard Dawkins should just start jumping into debates with creationists. There is great benefit to targeting their power against the Sophisticated Theologians™ instead, as we saw some time back when Jerry debated John Haught. That debate was brilliant, IMO, because it hit the Sophisticated™ position directly with carefully reasoned argument, something that theologians (wrongly) imagine they excel at.

    We should be encouraging the Bill Nye’s (and Aaron Ra’s and others similarly inclined) to go after creationists in debates whenever possible.

    Sorry to be so lengthy in my comment.

    • gbjames
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      And sorry for the closing italic tag fail!

      • Posted February 5, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        The all-powerful paw of Professor Ceiling Cat has fixed the italic fail.

        • gbjames
          Posted February 5, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

          I bow in gratitude for the benevolence of The Cat.

        • JBlilie
          Posted February 5, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink


  23. JBlilie
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Lustau makes lovely sherry. I particularly enjoy their East India Solera. Like sipping a lazy summmer afternoon.

  24. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    late to the part… but: “Verra naise”!

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Sigh! My keyboard is messing with me:

      “Late to the party …but: “Verra naise!””

  25. David Duncan
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Andrew Snelling was mentioned. This YEC has a PhD from a reputable Australian university and has done work for mining companies and written for reputable journals. When he does this he speaks of ages of millions and billions of years. When he writes for his creationist buddies it all shrinks to about 6000 years. I never trust two faced people like that.

  26. Posted February 7, 2014 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    I *love* all the negative attention Young Earth Creationism is receiving right now, thanks to this debate. It’s constantly surprising to me how many people don’t really even know about YEC or how rampant it is in the US. I think it’s just as important to wake these people up as it is to try to reach the kids of YECs who are sheltered from real science.

6 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] […]

  2. […] science bloggers were opposed to the debate in principle, especially given it was on Ham’s home turf. But in the event, Nye did […]

  3. […] science bloggers were opposed to the debate in principle, especially given it was on Ham’s home turf. But in the event, Nye did […]

  4. […] to support creationism,” University of Chicago professor Jerry Coyne composed on his blog Why Evolution Is True . “The proceeds, other than, I presume, minus whatever charge Nye gets, will go to support […]

  5. […] there are many who assert that he should never have agreed to the debate at all. That even debating Ham was to elevate creationism to the level where it vies with evolution […]

  6. […] Some scientists criticized Nye for taking part in the debate, saying it gave credibility and funding to creationists. “Nye’s appearance will be giving money to organizations who try to subvert the mission Nye has had all his life: science education, particularly of kids,” Jerry Coyne, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, wrote on his blog. […]

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