It's Okay That Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham

The Science Guy Bill Nye is going to debate Ken Ham at the Creation Museum in Kentucky on February 4th. Ham believes the universe is not more than 6,000 years old and that there was a world-wide flood that took place about 4,500 years ago. He believes the animals saved by a guy named Noah in his ark can explain biological diversity. Ham also believes dinosaurs co-existed with humans. Ham, in other words, is a crack pot. He represents the absolute worst kind of creationist there is, although they are all wrong. Scientists from Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, and a whole host of atheist bloggers are saying Bill Nye shouldn't debate Ham. Here are some reasons why:

1) It will legitimize Ham and his views just by debating him.
2) It will also help financially support Ham's Creation Museum.
3) Ham's supporters won't be convinced. In their eyes Nye will lose the debate no matter how well he does.

There may be other reasons but these seem paramount.

These points are all granted. I don't dispute them. So there are good reasons to think Bill Nye should not debate Ken Ham.

However, there are some good reasons to think it's okay that Bill Nye debates Ken Ham.

First, although Nye is already quite famous, after the debate is over Christians (mostly youths) who watch his entertaining and educational science programs will never see him in any other light. They will always see him as an evolutionist. Basically he is letting his Christian audience know he is an evolutionist. They may not have known this about him before. And if they like how he does science in his programs it may cause them to doubt why they believe the Bible over science.

Second, there are a lot of Christians who accept creationism who have never considered the evidence before. All they know is that God created the universe. So they will learn about the evidence for perhaps the first time. Furthermore, what many of them have never considered before is just how extreme Ham's views really are. The debate will marginalize Ham to some extent among Christians themselves. I'm sure of this. So he will lose some respect among some Christians and perhaps even some supporters, even as he gains more respect from others along with their support. I suspect the net gain for Ham at best will be zero, and at worst it will be in the negative column.

Third, it will be educational. I once heard a program where someone from the Flat Earth Society defended that crack-pot belief. It amazed me. I never knew how this thesis was defended in today's world. It was educational in the sense that it gave me a glimpse into how otherwise intelligent people can defend really dumb ideas. It made me realize just how badly we need science. Once people see Ham in action they may think the same thing.

Fourth, I have never heard a debate where an atheist didn't make at least one good strong point that could, if studied further, lead believers to doubt. Not one. Not even when people think the atheist lost the debate. I know this will be the case with Nye based on other debates I've watched.

Fifth, creationism is losing the real debate in the peer-reviewed scientific journals, college classrooms and laboratories. It is doomed to fail. No matter how well or poorly Nye does, nothing will change about that. The case for evolution is not dependent on how Nye does. It's just a debate. So as far as I'm concerned he can do what he wants for his own personal reasons. I wish him well and hope his goals are achieved.

Now, do these five reasons outweigh the reasons against this debate? You be the judge. I personally look forward to watching it.

There are other reasons. In a different context I've defended debates before in a post titled, In Defense of Debates. In a similar manner I've also argued that Atheists Always Win in Debates. See what you think of them and whether they apply in this particular case.

But I have some advice for Bill Nye. The whole reason Ken Ham believes what he does is because he believes the Bible (that is, his idiosyncratic pre-scientific interpretation of it). There is no science that could convince him or his staunchest supporters otherwise, just as there is no science that could convince a well-read flat earther either. Bill Nye probably lacks the expertise to do this, but if he really wants to change some minds then he must attack the Bible to some degree. So I recommend Nye reads just one additional book in preparation for his debate, this one written by Robert Price and Edwin Suominen: Evolving out of Eden.