Bill Nye

How Really to Debate Creationists: Bill Nye versus Ken Ham


Jesus on a Dinosaur
Dinosaurs of Eden

Yesterday, Ken Ham, nutty founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum in Kentucky debated Bill Nye, the Science Guy on the evidence for Young Earth Creationism versus that for Evolutionary Science. A lot of media outlets, e.g., the DailyBeast and Slate, are tut-tutting Nye for participating in a debate that provided Ham a platform from which to spread his nonsense. Sadly, it is true that rank demagoguery has a much easier time being entertaining than does a careful exposition of science. But there is a way to beat Creationists at their own game—mockery. More on that in a moment.

I got to know Ken Ham when I reported on the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. I noted in my reports from the conference, "Creation Summer Camp" and "The Myth of Millions of Years," that the Ham was the author a lavishly illustrated children's book, The Dinosaurs of Eden. In that book, children garbed in biblically appropriate duds frolic with pet dinosaurs and their parents saddle some up to ride and carry cargo.

At the Mega-Conference, I learned that Noah's ark carried at least 1,000 different species of dinosaurs and (paradoxically) all dinosaur fossils were all created from being buried by Noah's flood. In addition, starlight appearing to travel millions of light years (more than 6,000 years since Creation) can be explained by the fact that God created a "mature" universe. The Young Earth creationists also decried the Intelligent Design creationists for being too namby pamby. Ham asserted that the Big Bang must be rejected as inaccurate because Genesis explains that God created the Earth and the waters on the third day and THEN the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day.

So how to beat back this kind of nonsense? I humbly suggest the approach I took when Michael Shermer and I debated Discovery Institute intelligent designers Stephen Meyer and George Gilder back at the 2008 Freedomfest. See the YouTube of my ten minutes of opening remarks, "Intelligent Design by Purple Space Squids," as nicely illustrated by Memosphere below:

Of course, my Purple Space Squid disquisition was aimed at the claims of intelligent design proponents who pretend to be interested in scientific investigations. My talk clearly did not persaude Meyer and Gilder, but by show of hands Shermer and I did win the debate at Freedomfest. So don't try to knock down each individual assertion of mountebanks like Ham during such a "debate," but instead concentrate on the goal of explaining by entertaining with a bit of mockery thrown in. You will gratify your intellectual friends; annoy your enemies; and perhaps persuade some of the confused to take a deeper look into the scads of evidence for biological evolution.