Monday, January 20, 2014

What I Expect of The Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate

It recently came to my attention that Ken Ham and Bill Nye will be debating the wisdom of teaching creationism in the classroom. While I agree with Ken Ham that Christianity is the correct worldview, and that creation does deserve to be examined, I do not support his specific view of creation (young-earth creationism or "YEC"). I have critiqued arguments for this view (here, here, and here), along with Ken Ham's tactics (here and here). And other than remembering Bill Nye's TV show in the 90's and a recent anti-creationism video, I'm not too familiar with him. What I have to say here will focus more on the content to be debated and possible ways it could go (along with a couple I expect from Ham based on my familiarity of his past exchanges).

In a debate about the wisdom of teaching any scientific view that is not accepted by the scientific majority, evidence that the opposing theory has logical and observational legitimacy must be presented and critiqued. I expect that the majority of the debate between Ham and Nye will focus on the validity and scientific evidence for creation. While I believe that many creation theories do pose a huge challenge to evolutionary theory and have much better explanatory power than evolutionary theory, Ken Ham's version is not one of then, and I expect Ham to defend his particular view and not a general view of creation. I expect that when Ham presents the incorrect features of his view that do not represent other creation models, Nye will likely seize upon (explicitly or implicitly) those features to conclude that all creation models are incorrect. He may even take it further to claim that since Genesis 1 is wrong, scripture cannot be trusted, thus neither can the Gospel story. The debate is not about the truth of Christianity in general, though, so Nye may not bother with taking it this far. Of course, if Nye does not see all models of creation as dangerous, he could use the false claims of Ham to discredit only Ham's version (YEC), leaving the others alone.

Even though the debate topic specifically mentions creationism, Ham will need to show the deficiencies of the current theory being taught to show that there is a need for an alternative to be presented along side it. If Ham takes this route, Nye is going to be forced to defend the philosophically bankrupt (no ground for reason, morality, beauty, or reliability of the senses) and highly incomplete theory of naturalistic evolution against Ham's attacks. Ham will, I hope, demonstrate these deficiencies to show the lack of explanatory power of naturalistic evolution- thus the need to present another view to students that can account for those deficiencies. As a side note, Ham usually does not qualify "evolution" with the descriptor "naturalistic," thus lumping theistic evolution (also called "evolutionary creationism") into his critique. He also likes to add "billions of years" to "evolution" further placing old-earth creationism under his critique. I have addressed these egregious strawmen here.

Both Nye and Ham will have plenty of defeaters for the other's position along with the ability to answer those defeaters in their own view. This will count as negative evidence against the other view and positive evidence for their own view. Because of that I expect that people will be quite confused by the end of the debate. They may leave with indisputable evidence for and against both sides- not sure which to accept. This confusion is likely to become the focus of people's thoughts, and the original topic of whether creationism should be taught in the schools will either be lost or unresolved.

More importantly, though, Christians may leave with a shaken faith in the truth of the Genesis 1 account of the creation, and some with a shaken faith in Christianity as the true worldview. For those who are looking for a way to reconcile a literal and historical reading of Genesis 1 with the findings of science, I highly recommend that you visit Reasons to Believe (their statement about this debate can be found here). When I was confronted with the insurmountable evidence against my worldview, I discovered that it was due to my holding a false view of creation (YEC), not a false worldview in general (Christianity). That understanding caused me to recognize the need to abandon my incorrect understanding of creation and adopt the correct one. Now, when I'm confronted about creation and science I have the correct view to draw upon and maintain my case for the truth of the Christian worldview against critique.

*NEW* Here are some links to help you prepare for the challenges that will come in this debate:
Importance of Defining Terms
Positive Arguments vs. Negative Arguments
Can Religion Be Tested for Truth?
Should Christians Accept Secular Critique?
Reasons In And Out of a Worldview
Challenging One's Own Worldview

For more on science and faith issues from me, please see the all new Science and Faith page.

Other Good Pre-Debate Posts:
Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham: Continuing Our Long American Tradition of Spectacle and Culture War
*NEW* My (unsolicited) Advice for Bill Nye: Don't Teach The Dichotomy!
Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: The Debate of the Decade?
Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: Some Debate Considerations

Links Included In This Article:
A Very Good Creation That Undermines Christianity
Cartoons, Animal Death, and Theology
Dragons, Dinosaurs, and Design
Compromising The Kingdom
Unrecognized Agreement and Unity

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