Ham vs Nye, Post Debate Analysis

I watched the big debate last night with much enthusiasm and have to say it was definitely worthwhile. Creationists have been trying to get their message out for years, and here was the perfect opportunity to catch the public’s attention.

Overall I think Ken Ham had the better presentation, was better equipped, and made some important points. Bill Nye looked confused at times, kept repeating himself, couldn’t grasp the difference between operational science and historical science, and apparently missed some of the evidence presented by Ham.

My criticism of Ham is that he had an opportunity to hit a grand slam, but instead hit a game-winning ground rule double. Hey, a wins a win, right? Seriously, I thought he had the better debate, but he didn’t take advantage of the opportunities Nye tossed him. For example, Nye kept begging for examples of creationist predictions and evidence for a young earth. Nye himself offered evidence for an old earth by invoking the Bristlecone Pine, ice cores, human skulls, and Tiktaalik. All of these evidences have been refuted on Answers in Genesis’ website- some for years! But Ham kept passing on them each and every time they were brought up. That was confusing to me because Answers in Genesis is there to offer answers to these very questions. In fact after the debate others cited the same lack of scientific evidence as a weakness of Ham as well. I would have liked to have seen Ham mention Russell Humphreys’ creationist predictions about the magnetic fields of Mercury, Neptune and Uranus, which were much more successful than the secular predictions. Ham also could have brought up fossil soft tissue and the existence of comets, both of which are evidence for a young earth and universe.

Now in fairness, Ham he did offer several predictions based on the Bible, as well as evidence for a young earth, but they were seemingly ignored by Nye. Ham presented the creationist tree of life model, calling it an orchard, in which there are multiple trees in which individual kinds of animals have speciated over time (all dogs come from a single wolf-like ancestor). This was in contrast to Darwin’s tree of life, which has been refuted by science. He also showed how all people are one blood and descended from one man and one woman, which is supported by the scientific evidence, while the evolutionist model of five races has long since disproven.

I think the best thing Nye did for himself and the evolutionist community was insult and belittle Ham by constantly referring to him as “Ham and his followers”, or “Ham’s model of origins”. I’m sure this is an effective tactic, although it’s very disingenuous, misleading and false. The use of ridicule can be very effective in persuading people to oppose those you’re trying to demonize, and Nye did this well. The problem is that he had to resort to these tactics because he offered little of substance and couldn’t refute Ham’s main points.

Some of Ham’s main points were 1) we can trust Scripture, 2) it’s impossible for either evolutionists or creationists to prove the age of the earth and universe, 3) some terms like science have been hijacked by evolutionists, 4) the term evolution is a bait-and-switch, and 5) there’s a difference between operational science and historical science.

I like that Ham kept going back to the reliability of Scripture and that the Bible has answers that evolutionists like Nye don’t have. Ham kept driving home the point that radiocarbon dating, starlight, rocks, fossils, and the like can’t be used to prove the age of the earth or universe because there are too many assumptions that must be believed by faith. No one was there to observe the past, so it’s impossible to know if such conclusions are correct. Operational science- which builds aircraft, cures diseases and creates technology- works in the present and can be observed and repeated with experiments, but this can’t be done with historical science which tries to conclude what happened in the distant past based on what we can observe now. He explained that evolutionists define evolution as science, but that’s not what science is; science is about knowledge, and it’s useful for observing and testing results via the scientific method. He showed how evolutionists refer to any type of change as evolution- such as the change in beak size in Darwin’s finches, or the different species of dogs, and then call that evolution… even though those variations have nothing to do with changing a fish into a human.

Overall I’m glad this issue has come into the public spotlight. Most people aren’t familiar with any of these issues, so it’s a good start at promoting awareness.

One last criticism of Nye is that he’s been quoted as saying, “Your whole world is just gonna be a mystery [if you don’t believe in evolution]”. However it was Nye saying things like consciousness, the origin of life, and other areas of science are a mystery for evolutionists. I found that very amusing.

If you saw the debate or have something to add I’d love to get your thoughts and perspective, pros or cons for either side.

10 thoughts on “Ham vs Nye, Post Debate Analysis

  1. What would be your response to Bill Nye’s claim there hasn’t been enough time for speciation (we would have to have new species coming into existence every day) in the creationist model?

    • Good question. Firstly I’d say that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. There’s been plenty of time for all of today’s organisms to have speciated since they came off Noah’s Ark. In fact organisms have had 4,000 years to do so, and that’s a long time.

      Changes in the environment spur changes, so when the animals first stepped off the ark and spread out over the face of the earth, they would have encountered new environments that forced them to adapt. They would have had a tremendous amount of gene variability to begin with. A wolf-like animal coming off the ark, for example, would have been able to rapidly produce dingoes, foxes, coyotes and all the various breeds of dogs we see today. There are many examples where scientists are “surprised”, “impressed” or “intrigued” at how fast animals change, “evolve”, or speciate. I’ve written on a few of them- “Evolution Takes a Road Trip” is a good one, and if you take a look at the article below from The Scientist, you’ll see the following quotes:

      “The case of the cliff swallows is the latest in a growing body of research that suggests evolution can happen on much shorter timescales than previously imagined, especially in human-altered landscapes. Indeed, over the past decade or so, scores of studies have demonstrated that by introducing novel selection pressures, human incursions into natural ecosystems—from industrial pollution to commercial-scale harvesting of fish and other animals—can drive the evolution of organisms before our very eyes.”

      “It’s been a sea change in thinking,” says Steven Brady, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University. “We now know that evolution doesn’t just affect changes over very long periods of time, but affects changes over timescales we see in our lifetimes.”

      “And Brown’s work on traffic-dodging cliff swallows is not the only evidence suggesting that roads, in particular, are drivers of rapid evolution. Last year, Brady demonstrated that deicing salt and other pollutants running off of the roads that wind through the forests of northeastern Connecticut have resulted in noticeable adaptations in the spotted salamanders that hatch and grow up in roadside vernal pools.”

      Take a look at the article below from Live Science to see how lizards released and stranded on islands changed in just seven years.

      One thing that was kind of neat is that some of these scientists are entering into partnerships to work with citizen scientists to track trait changes across large areas by creating “an evolutionary observatory of sorts, where people go out and measure how the traits of organisms in their backyards are changing over time.”




  2. I also saw the debate. I’ve had a couple days now to mull it over. I feel that Ken stayed true to himself and argued his point without trying to make himself into something he is not. I do feel there were missed opportunities. You list several. Yet it is difficult to be up front and in the spotlight like that and retain enough composure to think fast under the pressure.

    Ken’s five-minute opening was superb. He nailed the timing. He was engaging and forceful, his pacing was excellent, and it was a good opening. Bill talked too long about his bow tie. Ken’s opening was brilliant.

    I was worried at first about Ken’s 30-minute talk. He seemed to be drifting at first, but in the end he brought the threads together and even managed to weave in the gospel message of salvation. Good for him.

    During the Q&A Ken sometimes seemed to be talking in sound bytes, presenting canned snippets of content that didn’t always seem to me to directly address the question being asked. This is not uncommon in debates, and Bill probably did the same thing.

    When it was all over, I found myself not even really thinking in terms of winner and loser. Maybe it was format chosen for the event, but for some reason even now I am not really keen on talking in terms of Ken winning, or of Bill winning. I guess I can’t really articulate why precisely I feel that way.

    The decorum was excellent. I was very, very pleased at how the debate was managed. There was none of the acrimonious interrupting that one sees so often on talk-show debates. The moderator did great work, and Bill and Ken made their cases politely. No yelling. No screaming. Just polite discussion.

    It was a good event, and it’s already led to some discussion with friends that I would not otherwise have the opportunity to have with them.

    • Thanks Jonathan, I concur with your sentiments wholeheartedly, especially on “who won and who lost the debate?” My thought on that is that it’s not about who wins or who loses; it’s about the gospel message and winning hearts for Christ.

  3. I think you know that from my perspective, Nye hit it out of the park. I particularly liked what he had to say about historical evidence vs observational/experimental evidence. I find it ironic that people like Ham are quick point out that “you weren’t there so you don’t know,” but are willing to throw that logic out the window when it comes to the Bible. It makes no logical sense to me that you couldn’t say that exact same thing about everything in the bible–none of us were around for the flood, Adam and Eve, the tower of Babel, the garden of Eden, or anything else that allegedly transpired in the bible. The only account of those things are written in a book–how is that any better than radiocarbon dating? The only thing that comes remotely close to substantial “proof” of anything is evidence of flooding–but using Ham’s historical evidence fallacy, there’s no way to ever verify or prove that any evidence of flooding we find on the planet was the flood spoken of in scripture.

    Why can we trust scripture? I’ve never been given a compelling reason for this. In fact, the very idea of a book that’s been re-translated numerous times by numerous people from and into numerous languages sounds rather dubious. Think of how one single word can change the meaning or context of a sentence. But somehow EVERYONE who’s ever translated the bible has gotten it perfectly right, every single time? Not to mention the fact that the bible was written by men. Human men. Fallible men. So why is scripture reliable? Or why is it more reliable than science? Because it’s the word of God? How do I know that? Because the bible says that it is? How can Ham or anyone else actually prove that scripture is the literal word of God?

    • Ryan, you ask a good question about why we can trust scripture. I want to come back to that, but first here is a link to something I wrote yesterday on the historical science issue. There’s a weatherman in Cincinnati who wrote a blog post touch on that issue, and mine is in response to his. Here’s the link:


      FWIW, I don’t throw the logic out the window, as you say. I admit my assumption that scripture is trustworthy. That’s a key assumption that I make. I admit it. If my assumption is wrong, then so is everything truly important that I believe in.

      So why believe scripture? I’m going to get personal here and just answer for myself. First though, think a bit about moon-landing deniers. They exist. There are people who deny the moon landings. Keep that in the back of your mind for a moment.

      Why did I first begin to believe the Bible? Because my parents taught me it was true. Think about it. That’s really the way it is with anything. We learn from our parents. Then as we grow up we must decide whether to keep on believing what we have learned.

      My son learned of the moon landings from me. I told him so. I told him we went to the moon. As he grew up and went to school, he eventually was exposed to the deniers. Why did he keep the faith? It ultimately comes down to what was probably an unconscious decision on his part that my story about the moon landings was a good fit for the evidence he is encountering as he moves through life.

      It is the same way for me with scripture. I first believed because my mother taught me. I continue to believe because the facts on the ground fit what I read in the Bible. I have been exposed to creation deniers, and what they say doesn’t gel with the evidence that I see. I read my son’s high-school textbook sections on origins. The case presented in those sections was weak and not explanatory of the world I see around me.

      Many of us wish we could do the equivalent of mixing two chemicals together in a test-tube and prove the truth of the Bible. We can’t. Even scripture itself recognizes that point when in Romans chapter 10 we read these words: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

      We don’t come to believe in God by doing science and working our way back to him. (Well, perhaps some people have in fact done it that way). We begin with God and the proof is in the working out of that belief in our lives.

      Acknowledging the assumptions is the key. They are why both sides argue so much. We argue over our differing interpretations that grow out of our differing assumptions. And it gets worse! Regardless of what side of the issue one is on, to begin to think that one’s assumptions are incorrect is to face the reality of making major life changes. If the Big Bang and subsequent evolution are correct, then I need to change my ways and discard values such as honesty and integrity and focus more on getting whatever I can get while the getting is good, because it’s all over once I die. Conversely, someone on the other side of the issue is confronted with the possibility of having to acknowledge and submit to a creator. Hence the resistance to switching sides, and the preference to always make new evidence fit into the worldview one currently holds.

      Wow. What a long blather the above is. Maybe I should turn it into a blog post. LOL!

    • Nye got on base, but didn’t hit it out of the park. He was befuddled and perplexed much of the time, finally resorting to emotional pleas about how unfair Biblical creation is to those who don’t accept it. Ham actually answered many of Nye’s questions, but Nye kept asking for examples of scientific support for creationism, even after Ham answered them. Nye asked about ice cores, and Ham gave an example of World War II fighters that were lost in Greenland and then recovered in the 1980s buried beneath 260 feet of ice and snow since 1942. Logic tells us that the fighters are not millions of years old. Yet Nye was “completely unsatisfied”. Ham gave scientific examples to back up his claims, such as the Coconino-Hermit boundary, radioactive decay, wood material (dated 44-45,000 years) vs. basalt (dated 45 million years), the lava dome at Mt. St. Helens dated at .35 million years to 2.8 million, the hundreds of dating methods contradicting billions of years, etc.

      Nye’s lack of understanding about historical vs. observational science should be embarrassing. Ham spoon fed him, yet Nye still didn’t get it. This tells me that indoctrination and a biased worldview blinds people to the obvious. I know elementary school students who understand the difference. To suggest that there’s no difference between the two defies logic. What one believes about the past has nothing to do with new discoveries and building technology in the present based on observation and experimentation. The laws of physics don’t cease based on what we believe about the past.

      With historical science, one can never verify or confirm the conclusions- even believed with no doubts. With observational science, however, we can observe and verify the results and find out if the conclusions are correct. Ken Ham was brilliant in explaining the difference; he even used text from evolutionists to explain this when he presented a slide on historical geology from a Earth Science textbook. It demonstrated that there’s a difference between what they call “historical geology” and “physical geology”. They make the distinction that “Historical geology tries to establish a timeline of the vast number of physical and biological changes that have occurred in the past… We study physical geology before historical geology because we must first understand how the Earth works before we try to unravel its past.” So for anyone to deny that there’s a difference is absurd and illogical. Ham is right that many evolutionists are confused about this difference. We observe things in the present, and then assume that what happens in the present also happened in the past- that’s belief, not science.

      Ken Ham challenged Nye to name “one piece of technology that could only have been developed starting with a belief in molecules-to-man evolution?” Nye couldn’t do this.

      Creationists don’t throw the logic, “you weren’t there so you don’t know” out the window when it comes to the Bible. The Bible makes it clear that we should not have a “blind faith”. It says we should always be prepared to give a reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15). Our faith should be based on logic and sound reasoning. But you’re right that none of us were around for Biblical events. You asked how evidence from the Bible is better than radiocarbon dating, and I’ll answer by asking a question: How is evidence from a newspaper article better than radiocarbon dating? How do you know that Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 and not 340,000 to 2.8 million years ago? Do you accept the evidence from eye-witness testimonies, video clips, newspaper articles, and magazines, or do you reject such evidence as unscientific and only accept the “scientific” evidence? If you reject the radiometric dating, then that makes you unscientific and anti-science, right? Creationists, in this example, will side with the “anti-scientific” evidence, and we’ll be right, while the “real scientists” are forced to stand by the “scientific” evidence and must believe Mt. St. Helens erupted at least 340,000 years ago. I find that line of logic totally unacceptable. This Mt. St. Helens example demonstrates how we can accept the Bible and other sources as evidence over radiocarbon dating. If we have reliable sources, then we should accept those reliable sources over the “scientific evidence”. I know this makes no logical sense to evolutionists who believe we must accept the radiometric dating results. However I suggest that the Bible is a more reliable source than these dating techniques.

      You’re right that flooding is evidence that “supports” the Bible’s claims of Noah’s flood, and that such evidence doesn’t “prove” the Bible or Noah’s flood. Nothing in history can be proven, but we can provide evidence, and flooding is evidence. There’s also plenty of “extra” Biblical evidence to support the Bible. Don’t discount all the flood stories from other cultures. If Noah’s flood happened, then that’s exactly what we’d expect. Noah’s family, who experienced the flood, would pass the story from generation to generation, so it’s no surprise that we have flood stories from many cultures all over the earth, including natives from North and South America.

      No Christian is claiming that every Biblical translation is perfect. Yes, the Bible was written by fallible men, but so are peer reviewed science articles. At least the Bible is God inspired. You asked, why is the Bible more reliable than “science”, but this question is faulty. You’re hijacking the term “science”. Science doesn’t provide an interpretation of the evidence- fallible scientists do that. So, from a creationist perspective, science and the Bible are complimentary, not contradictory. The Bible’s claims are supported by scientific evidence. So it’s incorrect to pit the Bible against “science”.

      We can trust Scripture as reliable for a number of reasons: 1) There are no internal contradictions (in the original text). 2) Archaeological evidence supports the Bible’s claims, despite archaeologists actively trying to disprove the Bible. 3) Personal experience. 4) Scientific evidence already cited supports the Bible’s claims. 5) The fine-tuning argument is valid and supports the Bible. 6) The fact that there are so many religions and religious people in the world suggests that there’s something innate about religion. This would be expected if there was a God. 6) Biblical prophecies fulfilled. 7) The power of prayer.

      I think the perception is that Nye presented more evidence than Ham, and that Ham didn’t spend enough time on the scientific details. Ham drove home the points he wanted, but didn’t take Nye down when he had the opportunity. Of course there wasn’t a lot of time for Ham to rebut all of Nye’s claims satisfactorily, but that’s the nature of such debates. But the more I look at this, the less I think either of them came out on top. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms that can be directed at both sides.

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