New Republic publishes my debate analysis

FYI, The New Republic has published (with no alterations this time) my post mortem analysis of the Ham/Nye debate, which they’ve called “Bill Nye won last night’s creationism debate.” You may have already read it, but if you want the content here to keep being conveyed to a different audience over there, do give them a click.


  1. gbjames
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I gave them a click, but I think I’ll probably keep my comments here. Limited time.

    • Posted February 5, 2014 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      My “sediments” exactly….


      • Posted February 5, 2014 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        (But this time ’round…for some other TNR articles, it’s well worth engaging over there. b&)

  2. Posted February 5, 2014 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I liked that you used the word “opportunity” in this analysis. I believe that’s exactly what this was. Despite the obvious downsides of participating in a Creation “Museum” sponsored event, this *was* an opportunity to expose many, many creationists to real science – and many of them have never heard the other side. They don’t willingly single out educational material that doesn’t back their bias. Who knows how much influence Bill was able to actually wield, but I do already personally know of one creationist who was impressed by Bill Nye and who is thinking things over quite seriously right now. Fingers crossed! (P.S. – thanks for posting my “Time for Bill Nye and the Lying Guy” meme!)

  3. Greg Esres
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    When you make alterations to your post, is it at the New Republic’s request? Can you give an idea of the type of alteration they might require?

  4. Lianne Byram
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Glad to hear that Bill Nye did so well. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it.

  5. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I am annoyed by the mainstream media articles by “journalists” who feel obligated to stick to the neutral ‘he said she said’ line and treat both sides equally, even if one side is totally wackaloon.

    Exhibit A:
    Washington Post

    • papalinton
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      Reg, the neutrality of mainstream media might be neutral, but it is the commentary section following which gives an indication of how the two perspectives are viewed and treated that is the real test, at the street level at least. And the 900+ comments at Washington Post are decidedly in broad agreement with Nye. It is a really encouraging signal of the enormous pressure and challenges made at the social and community level for theists to justify their continued and obdurate persistence in holding to such primitive belief systems and to substantiate the ludicrous claims made on behalf or in the name of those systems.

      I think the groundswell in public sentiment is veritably shifting and religion no longer is being given the free ride it once expected.

  6. Posted February 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    You may be interested that we included your post as well, over on our Episcopal Cafe wrap-up of the debate “What Bill Nye got wrong”.

    (Don’t let the title fool you: we’re with the science argument here!!!)

    (The Rev.) Kurt C. Wiesner

  7. johnconstantinec
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Something that I realized after watching this was that Ham’s continuous referring to God and Jesus immediately nullifies the creationist demands to be included in science classrooms, as he acknowledge that it’s all religion and not science.

  8. Posted February 6, 2014 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    Done, and replied to some of the comments. 🙂

  9. James Conway
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Professor Coyne:

    I appreciated your debate wrap up and your previous article discussing the dangers of legitimizing the creationists via ‘debate’ on their turf. I think Nye used the opportunity well, but it does fit into the media dichotomous polar narrative of ‘point/counterpoint’ implying that evolution/creationism are two ‘sides’ of an opinion rather than fact vs fiction. There is also a danger that we legitimize ‘teach the controversy’ with these kinds of events.

    That said, I liked your wrap up. What I disliked in this particular article was your use of the term Christianist and your surprised citation of Christianity Today. The vast majority of Christians believe in evolution, the Catholic church has long held it to be true, the Orthodox church holds it to be true, and most mainline Protestants hold it to be true. ‘Evangelical’ is a nebulous term and hard to poll, but most self-identified evangelical Christians I know tend to believe in evolution. Christianity Today is also a well known liberal/mainline magazine and it’s likely it’s audience was inclined to support Nye.

    I note in these very comments an Episcopalian priest rooting for Nye, while I lament another comment claimed the ‘theists’ lost. Most theists-if we want to now include Jews, Muslims, and non-Christian faiths, as well as most Christians, also acknowledge evolution to be true.

    I can respectfully disagree with you regarding the theist/atheist debate, even if you view it as a fact/fiction dichotomy rather than a point/counterpoint dichotomy, but remember that there are a lot of devout Christians who also strongly back the scientific community on this and other issues.

    Your own colleague at U of C, my Core Bio prof, Tom Christensen proudly defended evolution to our class, and I occasionally see him at Mass. My fiancee’s parents are Methodist parents and both preached about evolution and fighting climate change from their pulpit, and she gave a great presentation at the invitation of Hyde Park Union Church near the university to discuss the impact of climate change on the Philippines. So many faithful Christians, I would argue a silent but increasingly vocal majority, are on the right side of this one.

    • Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but in the U.S. 46% of Americans believe in young-earth creationism, and those on the other side (only 15% of which believe in true scientific evolution) include the atheists, so it’s simply wrong to say that “the vast majority of Christians believe in evoution.” That’s just wrong, at least in the U.S. 23% of Catholics are in fact young-earth creationists too. Citing anecdotes instead of data (which I do in my evolution paper) is not the way to be convincing here. As for Muslims, well, that’s also wrong.

      • James Conway
        Posted February 7, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        Here is a link to the Pew study:

        Like I stated above, polling self identified evangelicals is a waste of time since the term no longer has any valuable meaning from a social science perspective.

        60% of American adults
        44% of black protestants (a number that is steadily rising)
        53% of Hispanic Catholics (ditto)
        68% of white Catholics
        78% of Mainline Protestants

        All SUPPORT evolution and reject creationism.

        I am simply stating that there are allies within the religious community that are willing to work with scientists to ensure the following objectives:

        -keep creationism out of our schools
        -keep church and state separate
        -increase science funding
        -fund stem cell and climate change science
        -continue to fund biological research

        These objectives cannot be achieved in a pluralistic society without the assistance of believers as well as non-believers. The liberals and moderates among us who support evolution as fact shouldn’t be lumped together with those that don’t.

        • gbjames
          Posted February 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          “The liberals and moderates among us who support evolution as fact shouldn’t be lumped together with those that don’t.”

          This depends entirely on context. When testifying in court about why the latest creationist intrusion needs to be blocked, yes, of course we are all allies.

          But we are not always allies. The unhappy fact is that many of us have found that our nice liberal and moderate believer friends are perfectly happy telling us to not publish certain cartoons.

          And, for the record, a great many of those “supporters” of evolution think that their invisible friend “guided” the process. Many of them think that somewhere along the line The Big Fellow™ winked and inserted a little special something into the process, making us humans just a bit different from them other animals. “Evolution” as understood by the Roman Catholic Church is not the same as evolution understood by evolutionary biologists.

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