By JULIA DAVIS
It was the debate of the year. On Wednesday, Feb. 3, thousands tuned in on YouTube to watch the battle of creationism versus evolution. Bill Nye, famed science educator and television host, debated against creationist Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum and president of Answers in Genesis, a Christian outreach organization. The men debated for two and a half hours on the topic, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”
The main difference between the two debaters was that Nye used clear evidence to support his claim and was open to new ideas if evidence accompanied them, while Ham simply referred back to his personal interpretation of the Bible.
Ham based his debate platform on a literal interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Genesis. According to the book, the earth was created 6,000 years ago.
The fall of man brought about the great flood, and Noah brought two of each animal onto his ark. A majority of Ham’s argument explained what he feels is a misinterpretation of the word “science” and the difference between observational and historical science.
Ham feels that we cannot fully understand the past with science because were not there to witness it.
He ignored scientific evidence from radioactive decay that proves a drastically different age of the earth because the rocks are from the past. Ham believes in current scientific methods, but feels they do not apply to the past. According to Ham, we cannot prove what happened in the past with scientific methods, so we must rely on the Bible.
In Ham’s opening presentation, he offered no evidence for why his model of creation was a viable option for the origins of species.
Instead he focused on the critics of creationism and showed that scientists could be creations.
He spent too much time claiming that textbooks were imposing atheism on America’s children, rather than showing why one should support him in the first place.
While Ham avoided many of the scientific questions presented to him by citing the Bible, Nye was prepared with clear evidence against Ham’s claims.
To defend evolution, Nye cited the worldwide distribution of fossils, which supports animals evolving in specific regions of the earth, as opposed to Ham’s claim that animals headed out in pairs from the biblical ark in the Middle East. Nye’s debate platform was based on multiple counts of scientific evidence to support the evolutionary model and a 4.5 billion-year-old earth.
Nye questioned the likeliness of Ham’s views, such as a 500-foot wooden boat with eight people to care for 14,000 animals.
From his literal interpretation of The Book of Genesis, Ham claimed that all animals were vegetarians before the “fall.” According to Ham’s views, all animals were created in their original form and have not changed since their creation.
For example, Ham claimed lions were created with sharp teeth but ate plants and grasses before the sin of man. “I have not spent a lot of time with lions,” said Nye,” but I can tell they have teeth that really aren’t set up for broccoli.”
A main point of Nye’s platform was to encourage scientific discovery and exploration. Nye did not want people, especially children, to be limited by a creationist view of the earth. He expressed a major concern about Americans ignoring science. Americans will not be able to innovate, create and move forward without science, according to Nye.
The pivotal point in the debate was when both men were asked if any amount of evidence would cause them to change their mind. Ham firmly said no, while Nye answered that simple evidence would be enough.
With his blatant refusal to accept evidence, Ham sunk his own argument. He proved he was adamantly against any other type of belief or information. Why should anyone open themselves up to Ham’s view, when he made it clear that he would never consider anyone else’s, with or without evidence?
In a pre-debate interview with Huffington Post Live in January, Nye stated that he knew he was not going to change Ham’s mind.
Instead, he wanted to show people that creationist beliefs are still active and are a part of public school education in America. The real fear for Nye was creationism in school textbooks being taught to children as science.
According to a 2013 analysis by Pew Research Center, a third of Americans reject evolution and feel that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”
It’s this third of Americans that Nye appealed to during his presentation.
With Ham’s refusal to acknowledge any scientific evidence, the real beneficiaries to the debate were the viewers, who hopefully learned from the scientific evidence presented by Nye. He encouraged discovery and exploration and was open to new information and knowledge.
Nye clearly won by presenting a model with clear evidence and encouraging the expansion of one’s mind; discovering more from our earth. Unfortunately Ham limited himself to a single interpretation and welcomed no one’s views but his own.