The Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate last night has been viewed over 740,000 times so far on YouTube, so clearly people have a dog in this fight. Asserting that the creation/ evolution debate stirs people up is quite the understatement, but this debate brings two well-known individuals together. Bill Nye really needs no introduction if you were around in the 1990s, since his show “Bill Nye the Science Guy” was shown in classrooms all across the country. Ken Ham, the president of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, has a strong following as well.
So, when I heard these two were going to debate creation and evolution, I was disappointed -disappointed because of the lack of perspectives present. Nye advocates a science-first position, one that diametrically opposes creationism; especially young-earth creationism. Ham, on the other hand, forwards a position that the earth is 6,000 years old and teaches a Genesis-as-history position. While I am glad to have Bill Nye as a part of this debate, I wish that there would have been a scientific expert present. I feel as though an astrophysicist with a PhD would have been a stronger choice (though his/ her mainstream appeal would be greatly less that of Nye). Similarly, having Ken Ham there is all fine, but I would have also preferred a Christian who believes in evolution or at least an old-earth creationist.
The viewpoint presented by the “token Christian guy” in this debate is regrettably the minority position amongst Christian intellectuals. Having a theistic evolutionist, or someone with a PhD in biblical archeology would have been more enlightening than simply Ham. Ham is a seasoned debater and someone who has devoted his life to seeking to provide a biblically-based response to many of science’s critiques of Christianity. However, as Nye rightly points out, there are many Christians that have a strong faith that do not share Ham’s chronology of the universe. Having their perspectives present in this debate would have contributed greatly to the question of whether or not creation can function in a scientific world.
Now, I must state that I wanted to applaud Ham for his position that the scientific community at large serves a belief system of naturalism. There is a strong power dynamic within the scientific community to safeguard and monopolize scientific reasoning by saying that religion and science cannot co-exist (religion is also equally culpable in this regard). However, Ham’s attacks against “scientism” are exaggerated as well. To say that only young-earth creationists should be teaching science to our young people is just irresponsible. Overall this debate engages many of the major disputes of creationists-evolutionists, but there remains a decided lack of representation by other viewpoints.
I must weigh-in personally now. As one who is working on a PhD in Theology while having a bachelor’s in biology from Ohio State, I have heard many of the arguments from this debate before. I will say that while I personally am not convinced that a young earth model of creation lines up with scientific data, I do hold to creationism. I feel that God created the cosmos. I also feel that it’s possible that God allowed evolution to happen. I think at the end of the day, however, it doesn’t really matter because the message to Christians in the Bible is Jesus and the salvation He brings, not the minutiae of species variegation. I think that when people wish to engage in the creation/ evolution or religion/science debate, they need to remember that science and religion are not necessarily opposites.
For a great perspective on the Nye/ Ham debate, see Peter Enns’s blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/01/bill-nye-vs-ken-ham-giving-credibility-to-nonsense-or-walking-into-an-apologetic-war-machine/