What I Wish I Could Have Heard in the Nye-Ham Debate
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On February 4, 2014 a debate was held in Petersburg, Kentucky between scientist and entertainer Bill Nye (often known as “the Science Guy”) and Ken Ham, creationist and founder of the Creation Museum, where the discussion was held. The topic was: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” The debate was sparked by claims Nye made in 2012 that teaching creationism damages America’s competitiveness when it comes to scientific and technological advancement. Much of the debate addressed this issue rather than the question under consideration. The debate was viewed live by millions of people across the world and watched online in the days after the debate by millions more. On the whole, the debate was informative and well-presented. Both men maintained cordiality and a respectful tone with each other in spite of their serious disagreements over their topic. While I enjoyed watching this historic event, I found myself throughout the experience wishing that both men had dealt with some issues that neither chose to address. I am not a scientist, but from the little I have studied on this subject I offer a few points I wish I could have heard discussed in this important debate.
Good Science. Much of the debate was more about whether a “good scientist” can be a creationist or not. Mr. Ham repeatedly noted accomplished scientists in the fields of medicine and space technology who accept creationist models for the age of the universe and human origins. Mr. Nye contends that for America to stay competitive schools must reject creationist models. This is an interesting assertion. “The Scientific Method” demands the acceptance of only principles that are observable and repeatable. If evolutionary theories that claim life came from the chance accident of matter becoming life are indeed “scientific” then we must be able to observe and repeat these events in the laboratory. This has not happened! By definition, therefore, it is clear that such assumptions are matters of faith not science.
How Can Chance “Design” Something? As Mr. Nye attempted to explain his concept of evolutionary mechanisms which he believes account for the present complexity of life, he made a common blunder that evolutionists are often unable to avoid. Mr. Nye could not even describe his concept of evolution without using language that reflects a Creator. He spoke of evolution rejecting “bad designs.” A “design” infers a designer. I wish Mr. Ham would have pointed this out to him.
The Bible is a Book Translated into “American English.” Throughout the debate Mr. Nye continued to assert that the Bible cannot be trusted because it is now translated into “American English” (as he put it) “300 centuries” after its composition. This presumes that the Hebrew text somehow claims something different than translations that have been done in “American English.” It also gives the impression that the original wording may have been lost over the centuries. While it is true that we do not possess the original manuscript of the Genesis account written by the hand of Moses, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls we now possess manuscripts of the Hebrew text of Genesis that date to as early as 100 BC.1 The Hebrew text of these manuscripts make the same claims about the creation account rendered in all sound formal equivalence translations done in modern English.
“Where Is Man on the Chart?” A powerful moment came at one point in the debate when I believe Mr. Ham missed a great opportunity. Mr. Nye showed a chart displaying numerous skulls from around the world displaying great variability. Some looked more ape-like, while others looked more human. Mr. Nye then asked “where is man on the chart?” Even when Nye pressed him again, Mr. Ham did not address the chart. I wish Mr. Ham had addressed the great uncertainly that exists in classification of fossilized skull remains. A. W. Mehlert, in a study entitled “Homo Erectus ‘to’ Modern Man: Evolution or Human Variability?” makes a compelling case that skeletal remains proposed by evolutionists to represent imagined transitions from ape to man likely represent natural variability that exists within human beings.2 Even modern observation demonstrates tremendous variability among human populations with respect to the size, formation, and body appearance of individuals who all are still human beings.
The Age of the Universe. Mr. Ham showed a chart offering numerous methods of dating the earth. He claimed that 90% of these methods “contradict” the theories that place the age of the universe at billions of years. I wish Mr. Ham would have explained some of these methods. Physicist, Russell Humphreys PhD., in a study he wrote entitled “Evidence for a Young World,” offered 14 such methods.3 Most compelling among these are:
- Galaxies wind themselves up too fast. Stars within galaxies spin around the galactic center faster the farther they get away from the center. At current rates after only 100 million years any galaxy would form “a featureless disc of stars instead of its present spiral shape.” Evolutionists call this the “winding-up dilemma” and have yet to offer a satisfactory explanation.
- The earth’s magnetic field is decaying too fast. The energy stored in the earth’s magnetic field is decaying at a measurable rate. If evolutionary claims that the earth is billions of years old are correct the magnetic field should have decayed long ago.
- Too much carbon 14 in deep geologic strata. Carbon 14 has a half-life of 5,700 years. As such no carbon 14 should exist in geologic strata imagined to be millions of years old. Even so, carbon 14 does exist in strata evolutionist try to date at millions or billions of years old.
An Expanding Universe and Redshifts. Mr Nye offered the current view among evolutionists of an expanding nature of the universe as evidence for his imagined “big bang theory.” This view relies on an interpretation of shifts in the light spectrum of objects farther from earth toward the red portion of the spectrum as an indication that they are moving away from one another. I would like to have heard Mr. Ham cite alternative interpretations of this phenomenon. Astronomer, Halton Arp, PhD., in two books Quasars, Redshifts and Controversies (Interstellar Media, Cambridge University Press, 1987) and Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science (Apeiron, Montreal, 1999) offered compelling data challenging the “big bang” interpretation of redshifts and proposing alternative explanations of this phenomenon. In a review of Arp’s books, entitled “A Different View of the Universe,” Bill Warraker and Andrew C. McIntosh suggest that “All of Arp’s findings could be accommodated into a 6,000-year framework, with the stars made on the fourth 24-hour day of Creation week.”4
Continental Drift. Mr. Ham was asked about the rate of continental drift and how this could harmonize with creation models. Mr. Ham acknowledged that he is not an expert on this, but cited creation models of plate tectonics that suggest rapid shifts separating an ancient single continent. I would like to have heard Mr. Ham explain this further. Geologist, Andrew Snelling PhD., in a study entitled “A Catastrophic Breakup: A Scientific Look at Catastrophic Plate Tectonics,” offers one of the more compelling models addressing this. Snelling suggests that the current shift and disbursement of continents could have resulted from a dramatic expulsion of underground water sources such as we still find in some underground aquifers. If this happened on a global scale it could have caused a sudden and dramatic sliding apart of the tectonic plates causing the continents to spread out suddenly rather than at a slow and gradual rate. This could be what the biblical account describes in recording at the commencement of the flood, “the fountains of the great deep were broken up” (Gen. 7:11).
The Widespread Existence of Fossils. Mr. Nye rejects the biblical account of a worldwide flood, but appeals to fossils as an evidence of his view of evolution. I would like to have heard Mr. Ham challenge Nye to explain why fossils exist to begin with. Mr. Nye cited the catastrophic events that created remarkable fossils of rhinoceros and other creatures in Nebraska, but he seemed to assume that every creature that dies leaves behind a fossil under ordinary circumstances. Josh McDowell and Don Stewart in their powerful book Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity (San Bernadino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1981) point out, “there are two agencies which tend to prevent fossilization of any animal—biological scavengers and weather” (196). The very presence of widespread fossilization infers a widespread catastrophic event—the flood of Noah. This is not to say that all fossils came from the flood, but all fossils are the result of some type of catastrophic event.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics and Evolution. In a question from a member of the audience Mr. Nye was asked why the second law of thermodynamics does not contradict theories of evolution. This fundamental law of nature demands that order goes to disorder unless energy is applied. Mr. Nye explained this law primarily in terms of its relation to energy and matter, and asserted that the second law of thermodynamics does not offer any contradiction to the modern theory of evolution, because he claimed that the earth is not a closed system because it is constantly receiving energy from the sun. I wish Mr. Ham had pointed out that this ignores the application of this law to the information systems necessary for the development of life. Energy provided by the sun does not provide an ordering mechanism for the information required for the development of life. That required a Creator.
Two Pivotal Questions. Two of the most significant moments of the debate came when Mr. Nye was asked two questions from those in the audience: 1) Where did the matter come from for the “big bang”? and 2) Where did consciousness come from? Mr. Nye was highly critical of creationists’ appeal to any point of faith in their explanations of origins, and yet he was perfectly content in saying, “we don’t know” to both questions. I wish Mr. Ham had pressed him on this. A naturalistic explanation of origins with no naturalistic explanation for the origin of matter or the origin of consciousness is a system of faith. The entire evolutionary theory of origins rests the basis of its system upon a faith that matter and consciousness can come about by chance. How is this any more “reasonable” than accepting the existence of a Creator who revealed an account of His own creative activity? Neither can be proven by observation, yet both involve faith.
1 The following manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls preserve the following sections of Genesis chapters one and two: 4QGeng (1:1-11, 13-22; 2:6-7 or 18-19); 4QGenb (1:1-27; 2:14-19); 4QGenh1 (1:8-10); 4QGenk (1:9, 14-16, 27-26; 2:1-3); 4QGen (1:18-21); 4QGend (1:18-27); 4QGenh2 (2:17-18).
2 A. W. Mehlert, “Homo erectus ‘to’ modern man: evolution or human variability?” Journal of Creation 8.1 (April 1994) 105-116 [online] http://creation.com/homo-erectus-to-modern-man-evolution-or-human-variability.
3 Dr. Russell Humphreys, “Evidence for a Young World.” Impact 384 ( June 2005) [online] http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2005/06/01/evidence-for-young-world.
4 Bill Warraker and Andrew C. McIntosh, “A Different View of the Universe.” Journal of Creation 14.3 (Dec. 2000) 46-50 [online] http://creation.com/a-different-view-of-the-universe.
5 Dr. Andrew Snelling, “A Catastrophic Breakup: A Scientific Look at Catastrophic Plate Tectonics.” Answers March 20, 2007 [online] http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n2/a-catastrophic-breakup.
To View the Debate: YouTube Video