Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins in Today’s Modern, Scientific Era? The Ham-Nye Debate

Last night I watched the entire Ken Ham-Bill Nye debate.  I haven't seen anything like it in awhile.  Tell me if I'm wrong.  It was the biggest creation-evolution debate since the Scopes Trial.  Millions watched on CNN, MSNBC, and various online sites.  No creationist has been given this type of forum in decades.  It's about time, and I hope it happens again.

I've debated two full fledged debates -- one a single night like this debate, and another in a four night, three hour per night session.  I've coached debate some in our school.  I've watched many debates.  I think I understand debating.  Who won the debate?  I'm going to give you my take on that.  I think that I'm willing to give it to the winner, even if I don't take his side.  From what I'm reading on the internet, most say that Bill Nye won the debate.  I understand that from the perspective that he was the more dynamic, aggressive communicator.  On sheer rhetoric, Bill Nye won the debate, but to judge the debate, we have to start with what they debated.

This was not a creation-evolution debate per se.  They were debating, "Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins in Today's Modern, Scientific Era?"  With that as the title, the burden of proof fell on Ken Ham, because he's the one who thinks that creation is a viable model of origins in today's modern, scientific era, so he argued the positive.  The negative, the one attempting to disprove or cast doubt upon that positive assertion, was Bill Nye.  Ham's positive was not a high bar to reach.  He didn't have to prove creationism.  He didn't have to disprove evolution.  He only needed to prove that creation was a viable model.  With that low requirement for Ham, it would be difficult for Nye to win the debate.

When thinking about this debate, think about a court room.  The defense only need prove reasonable doubt.  It doesn't need to prove innocence.   That's very much like this debate.  Creation didn't need to defeat evolution.  However, in a court of law, if someone were to prove innocence, he would definitely win the case.  Or even further, he could prove who actually did commit the crime.

All Ham had to do was show that creationism was a viable model of origins.  So if he were to prove that creation was more viable than evolution, he would be surpassing his burden of proof.  If he proved evolution false and creation true, that would be even more of a victory -- he wasn't being required to meet that burden.

If someone does not judge the debate, like I've laid it out, then he won't get the right decision for who won.  I understand that in a debate like this, there is the court of public opinion.  The public isn't always or even normally going to judge rightly the winner.  Sometimes the public will favor the person who it likes, or the one who was more interesting, even the one who has less evidence, but is more bombastic and emotional and in fact uses repeated logical fallacies.  Ridicule, for instance, can sway public opinion.

However, when judging evidence, like a jury, style or emotional appeal isn't supposed to enter into the decision.  Sometimes it will.  It's why you want a lawyer who does both:  brings the best evidence and then presents it in a convincing, winning way.

I listen for actual arguments that relate to the actual debate topic.  Everything else is just white noise or a distraction.  Let me give an example of that.   I estimate that over ten times Nye responded to Ham by saying that what he was saying was "troubling."  Ham didn't say anything like that to Nye.  All those times that Nye said "troubling" perhaps influenced listeners, especially those that went into the debate supporting Nye, but does it really make any difference at all that Nye is "troubled"?  And he never, ever explained why he was troubled.

You might have noticed that while Nye talked, that Ham stood or sat on the side and gave no reaction to him.  However, when Ham talked, Nye sometimes stayed up and made facial expressions about Ham, sometime to the audience, in a disrespectful way.  I would call that kind of practice "bush league."  But it can impact people's thinking about who won the debate.  It shouldn't, but it does.  It won't in my judgment, because that's not how a debate should be judged.  Points should be taken off for that kind of behavior.

Ham easily won the debate.  Why?  Or, How?  He met and surpassed the burden of proof necessary for their pre-agreed debate subject.  How can I make that judgment?  Nye hardly answered, or even attempted to answer, Ham's arguments.  Ham had little time to make many arguments, but when he did, and when he asked Nye questions, Nye didn't answer them.  On the other hand, Ham answered every one of Nye's arguments.  And he only needed to give a viable alternative to what evolution says.   He did.  It's certainly possible that Nye and others didn't like Ham's answers or responses, but he answered, and they were viable answers.  I believe that he actually went further than his burden of proof and showed creationism to be a more viable alternative than evolution.  Why do I think that?

I took no notes on the debate.  Maybe I'll go back and watch it again some time and take notes.  However, both men were clear enough that I can remember without notes their arguments.


There was a coin flip and Ham started the main speech -- thirty minutes for both men.  In order to prove viability of creationism as a scientific explanation of origins, Ham explained the difference between what he titled observable science and historical science.  He showed how that even atheist scientists divide science like that.  Science technically is observation and then experimentation.  Ham asserted that he and Nye were the same in observational science, which is why creation scientists were involved in many useful inventions of technology, a point he came back later to say that modern science was founded by creationists.   Creationism wouldn't stifle any kind of technological growth and development.  He showed how that you can't treat historical science, which is the science of origins, the same way as observable science.  Ham explained at how that naturalistic and creationist science were based upon two presuppositions, two models.  Everything necessary to judge both was in the present, the here and now, and the two were both a matter of interpretation.

Then Ham gave the scientific bullet points in a creationist model.  He explained the most basic, that it's obvious that the present must come from the intelligent and complex, that fits the biblical model.   Everything starts with knowledge, including the debate itself, which must operate according to the laws of logic borrowed from a Christian worldview.  Everything in the universe comes from information, beginning with information, DNA, and genetic code.

Ham then spent time on the existence of kinds.  Observation evinces kinds.  He debunked the evolutionary tree for a creationist orchard.  He gave recent secular, scientific study of the dog that said that dogs come from dogs, which fits the biblical model of kinds.  This also explains how Noah got all of the animals on the ark -- two of each kind, not each species.  This point rings true with listeners.  They don't observe evolution.  They see kinds.  Evolutionists expect people to bow to the evolutionary tree, when it is not observable.  At all.  It is complete fiction invented out of sheer cloth.  I'll come back to this for Nye's presentation.

Ham went further than was necessary by showing how that evolution was less based upon observable science as it was a religious philosophy.  Ham asked two questions of Nye, printed on the powerpoint slides, Nye just completely ignored.

It was Nye's responsibility to convince that creationism was not a viable model for origins.  Ham was completely respectful of Nye.  Nye was fully demeaning, totally condescending, of the Bible, Ham, Christians, and citizens of Kentucky through the entire debate.   Nye had a less than Jeopardy understanding of the Bible, manifested by some of his forays into discussing it, as if the Bible was written in English.

Nye compared what Ham called "historical science" to crime scene investigations.  It is true that there is comparison, but only in that CSI looks at present evidence to piece together the past based on certain presuppositions, like someone has been murdered.  However, and this is something Ham didn't take the time to point out, the past is very recent and even in CSI, the investigation is dependent on a lack of spoilage of or tampering with the evidence at the crime scene.  There are a lot of environmental factors that must be considered in the interpretation of present evidence of millennia old history.  A lot of spoilage and tampering has been done.  It's basically not the same as CSI, because of that.

Nye attacked young earth creationism through various dating methods:  layers of snow ice in the Arctic and trees measured to older than the flood by their rings.  He challenged the flood account with the Grand Canyon and some story about a big wooden boat that sunk.  He spent quite awhile talking about the reproduction of minnows -- a red herring really, that proved nothing.  Besides that, he said that creationism couldn't make predictions, even though Ham's presentation was all about predictions, a slide Ham showed at least twice, on the top saying, "predictions."  Nye also said that creationism would hurt innovation, technology, and the American economy.   With the best possible view of Nye's attempt, he didn't create even reasonable doubt that creation was at least a viable model of origins.  I have to say that I'm always amazed at how little evolutionists have to say that is challenging at all to accept their viewpoint.  I'm even hopeful for something better.  I think it might be because of almost zero challenge that they get to their views in their places of employment.  That's what made this debate so exceptional.  They are not open to challenge, which one would think is an important and vital basis of scientific knowledge.

During the rebuttal period, which was way too short, Nye tried to answer a couple of Ham's points.  A few stuck out to me.  One was like the glove in the OJ Simpson trial.  Nye said that lions could not have begun as vegetarians because of their sharp teeth.  Ham answered with examples like the fruit bat with wickedly sharp, vicious teeth to sink into a piece of fruit.  Nye talked about that with great condescension and then received his comeuppance.  Another was Nye explaining the contradiction of dating a piece of wood inside a different aged piece of basalt, by saying that a better explanation is that the basalt slid on top of the wood at some point, completing ignoring that the wood was IN the basalt.  Ham corrected him very respectfully, even though it was a buffoon type of error.  There was nothing like these two on the side of Ham.  So much for Nye answering anything that Ham said.  Those were his attempts.

On the other hand, Ham tried to answer everything he could, sometimes with very short answers, but if you wanted more, he would send you to the website with its articles, giving in depth answers.

In the end, any honest observer, who knows anything about debate, would have given this debate to Ken Ham.



I thought it was noteworthy and instructive how Mr. Nye used Old Earth creationist/Gap theorists against Mr. Ham as a divide and conquer tactic. Hopefully, OEC's will see how just how damaging their view is to orthodoxy.

Also, I noticed that Mr. Nye several times went after the inspiration and the preservation of the Scriptures, paraphrasing, "Ham believes in 3000 yr old scriptures translated a myriad of times and now into English."



Here is Pat Robertson demonstrating my first point.

d4v34x said...

"the reproduction of minnows -- a red herring"


Anonymous said...

I agree. Bill Nye was very condescending and ignored most of what Ken Ham asked him. Unfortunately, Nye is a media icon and most people would side with him. I look forward for the day when Jesus Christ rules and reigns and every tongue shall confess that He is LORD. Thanks for your article Pastor Brandenburg. I think it is great.

Paul Brownfield

George Calvas said...

Well written article.

This has been the MAJOR issue with Christendom in the world:

"Ham believes in 3000 yr. old scriptures translated a myriad of times and now into English."

The answer should have been an EMPHATIC, "Yes we do!" with a response such as...

"The Holy King James Bible is the very words of God, inspired by God and is the basis for teaching of religious, scientific, and historical truth. It is the pillar and ground of the truth concerning all matters of faith and practice, for there are no errors within its inspired text."

But alas, Christendom cannot even agree on the simple, therefore God and the Devil made sure through DIVISION of the church to lose the battles within this nation.


Bro. Calvas,

Actually, to be precise, "the house of God, which is the church of the living God,[is] the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15), not the The Holy King James Bible.

Nye it seems was being sarcastic and doesn't believe that God could inspire nor preserve His Words. I believe He has and they are the Greek words of the TR behind the KJV. The churches have recieved these words.